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Using Dehydrators

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Why do we dehydrate foods:

  • Dehydration is the process of removing water from food. Why would we do this?  There are several reasons.  It extends the shelf life of your food. You can create breads, crackers and chips, thus satisfying the “crunch” factor that is often missed by those who choose to follow a raw food diet.  You can also use your dehydrator to warm foods.  Dehydrated foods intensify in flavor, color, and can add different textures to your meals as well.
  • One thing to remember is that when you eat dehydrated foods, be sure to drink plenty of fluids.

When will I use a dehydrator with raw foods?

  • To “slow bake” raw breads, sprouted or otherwise.
  • To thicken sauces.  You can make a “reduction” just like you do in the cooking world in your dehydrator.  Simply place your sauce in a glass, uncovered dish, setting the temp at around 105 degrees for 2-3 hours.
  • To warm foods while maintaining its “enzymatic integrity.” Such as raw soups.
  • To soften coconut oil and raw cacao butter gently.
  • To speed up the marinating of vegetables.  Place your thinly cut veggies and marinating sauce in a covered glass container and dehydrate for 1-2 hours.  It will speed up the process intensifying the flavors, softening the veggies and giving it a cooked appearance.
  • To make crackers, breads and cookies.

What can I dehydrate?

  • Drying is a wonderful way to keep your abundance of homegrown fruit or farmer’s market finds for months after the harvest is over.  Always package your dried fruits in a tightly sealed container and store in a cool, dry space for optimum shelf life.
  • Using a food dehydrator is suitable for a variety of foods including:
    • Fruits
    • Vegetable
    • Herbs
    • Seeds
    • Cheese
    • Yogurt
    • Raw cookies / bars
    • Raw dishes
  • Drying Herbs: Here are some really easy tips to keep in mind when drying herbs to use in your everyday cooking! You’ll love how they bring out the flavor in your favorite foods and dishes!
    1. Remember that the best time to harvest most herbs for drying is just before the flowers first open when they are just about to bud. Consider gathering your herbs in the early morning after the dew has evaporated and you will minimize wilting.
    2. Trim off any dead or discolored plant parts and rinse your precious herbs in cool water and gently shake them to remove excess moisture – be careful not to bruise the leaves!
    3. Always follow the instructions on your food dehydrator. If you are using the Excalibur Dehydrator, preheat the Excalibur with the thermostat set at 95ºF – 115ºF. Remember that the Excalibur has an adjustable thermostat that allows you to choose the correct temperature for your herbs.
    4. Always store your dehydrated herbs in air tight containers free from moisture and sunlight. You don’t want sunlight reaching your herbs as it will fade the color and weaken the flavoring oil.

What temperature do I dehydrate at?

  • In recent research by The Excalibur Dehydrator Company  they suggest that it is actually better to begin the dehydration process at 145 degrees F for the initial stage of the drying process. The reasoning is that as the food is dehydrating, it literally “sweats out” the moisture it contains. By doing this we are inhibiting bacterial growth by reducing the time the food spends in the dehydrator.
  • So in many recipes, you might notice that they start the dehydration temperature a higher temperature around 145 degrees and then the temperature is reduced down to 105-115 degrees after a few hours (will be indicated on the recipe).  I know what many of you are thinking….”Am I killing the valuable enzymes?”  The answer is NO, the food is still considered raw, the nutrition and the enzymes are still in tact.  Should a recipe call for this process make sure you don’t forget to turn the temperature back down, otherwise you will indeed lose all the benefits of being raw.  The process of starting at a higher temperature is so that the bulk of moisture can be removed, thus speeding up the over all dry time and preventing fermentation.  Because there is so much moisture in the beginning the food doesn’t heat up, it stays fairly cool.
  • Key to remember – Do not dehydrate above 115 degrees, unless you following the formula above.  

How long do I dehydrate my foods?

  • There isn’t a set answer on this when it comes to complex recipes.  It mainly depends on your personal preference on what the over all out come will be.  For example, take a cracker recipe… you can turn that recipe into a bread recipe if you wanted just by removing the mixture from the dehydrator before it gets to crispy.  Keep in mind if you have oils in your recipe it may never get really crispy anyway.   Oils don’t release moisture.  I made a lot of different raw cookies that don’t require dehydration at all but sometimes I will put them in there just to create a crunch on the outer skin.  Refer to the paragraph above regarding how you can speed up your drying time. Be sure to let your food cool for 10-20 minutes, before sealing in an airtight container.
  • Key to remember – When all the moisture is removed from your food, you have a much longer shelf life.  If you remove your food before it’s completely dry and moisture remains,  it won’t last as long and has a chance of fermenting a lot sooner.

Can I dehydrate different foods at the same time?

  • I don’t recommend dehydrating savory foods with sweet foods.  The flavors could influence one another. Nothing like a sweet chocolate cookie with a hint of garlic?!  It’s along the same concept of your cutting board.  You should always have one side designated for savory foods (garlic, etc.) and the other side for your sweet ingredients.   

What dehydrator should I buy?

  • Again, I am going to share my personal preference, again based off of experience.  I am 100% sold on the Excalibur 9 tray dehydrator.  The Excalibur has the Parallexx Horizontal-Airflow Drying System, which evenly distributes air, eliminating “hot” spots.  The Excalibur also has a thermostat that controls the temperature.  It uses mesh and  Teflex sheets.  These are non-stick sheets that are used whenever the food to be dehydrated is of a more liquid-like consistency that could spill through the plastic net sheet that is consistently used on the dehydrator tray.  I have heard a few arguments to where some people feel that this machine is too large.  My response to that is that it doesn’t have to become part of your kitchen decor.  For instance,  I have mine in the laundry room.  The gentle hum that comes from it doesn’t bother me at all.  But if that is a bother, find another room or spot that you can use it in rather than your kitchen counter.
  • I recommend the Excalibur

Tips and Tricks to remember:

  1. Remember to slice or dice your food uniformly and thinly so that you maintain even dehydration.
  2. Start your dehydration at 145 degrees for 1-2 hrs, then turn down to 105 degrees.
  3. If you don’t have teflex sheets you can use parchment paper or brown paper bags.
  4. Check your foods periodically as they are drying.  Test flavors and textures to get the desired outcome.
  5. Keep your dehydrator clean!
  6. Try to maximize its use and load all the trays.  You can dry different types of foods at the same time but remember to keep sweets and savory foods separate.
  7. Always start with fresh, good quality food.
  8. Cool all dehydrated food before storing. Choose airtight containers or plastic freezer bags to keep moisture out.
  9. A key element in learning how to dehydrate foods is to recognize that the smaller the pieces, the faster they will dehydrate. Also, a food high in fructose, like fruit, will be leathery when it is finished with the dehydrating process.

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20 thoughts on “Using Dehydrators

  1. Miri says:

    Hi Amie! I got my dehydrator finally :-) it traveled oceans of time to get to me heehee . Thanks you ( and Bob ) so much ! So far i have made : yoghurt leathers, apple leather, dried fruits ( mangoes, chico, pineapple, lanka ) all turned out fairly good. Im working on Dragon fruit next. I did dried veggies ( im gonna need advice on this though ) next- like tomorrow im drying some mint and oregano- should i dry them at separate times? I hope its not a bother, i may be pestering quite often :-)

    LOVE your new site!

    Miri

    • amie-sue says:

      Miri!!! so wonderful to hear from you!

      Goodness, that took forever for that dehydrator to get to you but regardless, I am glad you got it and are using it. :) Ask all the questions that you can fire at me. If I don’t know the answer, I will help you find it.

      It sounds like you have been busy already dehydrating all sorts of goodies. How exciting. To answer your question about dehydrating the mint and oregano at the same time or not….you can do them at the same time. Do on separate trays though. It shouldn’t be a problem at all. They won’t take very long either. The only time I really throw a word of caution out is dehydrating a sweet item and a savory item at the same time. It is possible for the strong pungent aromas of the savory foods to infuse into the sweet foods. Does that make sense? In the end, it might be ok but not a risk I want to take. So what I am saying is that I don’t recommend dehydrating garlic cloves on one sheet and pineapple on the other. :) Let me know how things turn out for you! amie sue

      • Miri says:

        Hi Amie Sue!
        Thanks for the herb advice- i did a couple, oregano, mint, tarragon in separate trays and they dried up nicely, stored them in jars :-)
        My apple leather didnt come out quite well, i pureed fresh apples and mixed in some raw honey , spread them out then baked for around 12 hours it didnt come together? Too much honey? So i scaped it and made it into candy instead . How to make leathers?
        Thanks! Im trying out your peanut butter cookie recipe next :-)

        Miri

        • amie-sue says:

          Good evening Miri,
          I am so glad to hear that your herbs turned out. :) Though I am sorry to hear about your fruit leather. Can you explain a bit more to me as to what you did and how it turned out? I have one recipe posted for banana crepes / leathers. Under recipes click on breads / wraps. I just made some apple wraps but I haven’t published it because I need to take a picture. I will do that tomorrow! But give me some more details so I can help trouble shoot this.

          I hope you love the peanut butter cookie as much as I do! YUM!!!

  2. Irina says:

    Hi Amie-Sue,
    I made some of your honey oat bread and stored the bread pieces in an airtight container. But now 5 days later the container is getting “foggy,” would that mean that the bread is not dry enough. Should I move it into the fridge. I am very new to the raw diet, so thank you very much for all your recepis.

    • amie-sue says:

      Hello Irina,

      Shelf life and storage: My personal recommendation would be to store this bread in an air-tight container, in the fridge, for 3-5 days. The more moisture that is left in your bread, the shorter the shelf life. Therefore, shelf life will vary with your drying technique. Whenever I make this bread, it never lasts very long enough to spoil. Keep in mind, the whole purpose of eating a raw diet is to eat foods at their peek of freshness, so don’t expect this bread to have a long expiration date.

      Irina, I don’t know how much moisture was left in your bread after you dehydrated it, nor do I know if it has spoiled at this time. If it were me, I would open the bag and take a good whiff. Does it smell bad? Yeasty (even though it doesn’t have yeast in it… looking to see if there is a sour smell to it). Do you see signs of mold? Taste it? Does it taste sour? If yes to any of these questions, throw it away. You are going to have to be the judge of it. I am sorry that I don’t have a better answer. Have a great day, amie sue

  3. Irina says:

    Amie-Sue,
    Thanks for you reply. It tastes, smells and looks just fine. I will keep in mind your recommendations though. Thanks.

  4. Sandra Christmas says:

    Last week I decided to start doing the raw food diet. It seems like a lot of work but I know it is better for my health. I am lost with all the reading but I am going to start with the soups first and work my way through. I am a great cook and I figure in a year I will be blowing though all this. Do you have any advice you can give me on being a beginner??? I am so lost and can you tell me the easiest way to start and some of the dishes I should start off with. I am so happy I found your sight and the food dishes on here is wonderful . HELP!!! Thank you

  5. Min says:

    Hi Amie. I am new raw baking. I don’t have a dehydrator currently, is it possible to use the over on low heat with your bread recipes? Thanks. Cheers Min

    • amie-sue says:

      Hello Min… I haven’t tried it myself so I can’t be sure, but I am guessing it could be ok. It most likely won’t be “raw” once done, so keep that in mind. Keep the heat as low as possible and crack the oven door during the process. You will have to watch the bread and test often. Let me know if you try it. Have a wonderful evening, amie sue

  6. Paul says:

    Hi, I really want to start making these raw breads and other things at home, which dehydrator should I start with?

    • amie-sue says:

      Hi Paul… if you look at my store which you can find the link at the bottom of the left side menu bar… there is a section with the Excalibur dehydrators. I LOVE and use those. amie sue

  7. Mary says:

    I just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing. I am new at the raw food diet lifestyle and have so much to learn, and your site is so helpful!!First thing on my list is a dehydrator as I love my spicy food :)
    Thanx again for this wonderful informative site <3

    • amie-sue says:

      Thank you Mary. It blesses me to know that you are finding great inspiration throughout my site. I hope that you continue to do so. I am always her e if you have any questions. Have a great day, amie sue

  8. Irma says:

    Hi, I just got my dehydrator but I feel a little overwhelmed. I don’t know how to organize myself. Do you leave yours unattended? Do you run it at night? How do you organize yourself? For example on a receipe that needs to be first dehydrate at 145 for 5 hours and then 10 more hours at 105. Thanks!

    • amie-sue says:

      Good evening Irma…

      First thing first…. YAY!!! I am so glad that you made the investment. You will find it to a be a great tool to have in your kitchen. :)

      Secondly… Please don’t get overwhelmed, you will quickly get the hang of using the dehydrator and will find it so fun as new recipes open up to you. Can you share with me what machine and model you got?

      I have been using a dehydrator almost daily for the past 7 years… I do leave mine unattended, whether that be during the day or at night. You would never want to dry a food at 145 degrees for 5 hours if you wish for it to remain raw. I sometimes do 145 degrees for 1 hour if it has a high moisture content, such as my raw breads.

      As you begin to learn how to make dishes with your machine I might suggest that you start you experiments when you have a day off (If possible) so you don’t feel rushed, overwhelmed or worried. But I surely don’t want you to feel that you have to peek in your machine every 30 minutes to see how it is doing either.

      Since you are brand new to using a dehydrator, why not start with soaking and dehydrating nuts and/or seeds? This is very simple to do but it will break you in with great ease. Read this link… if you need some help with that. http://nouveauraw.com/soaking-nuts-seeds-and-grains/. You don’t have to worry about them over-drying so you won’t need to worry about when the machine has to turned off, if you know what I mean. Follow the directions for soaking, then dry them as instructed. You could place them in the machine in the evening and wake up to dried nuts / seeds or you can start the process in the morning and they should be done by late evening. Just depends on how full the machine is, the climate and so forth.

      Now, should you start with a recipe that tells you to dry at 145 degrees for 1 hour, then reduce the temp to 115 degrees (F)… I would turn the unit on, then set a timer (on your phone, stove, etc) once it goes off, reduce the heat. It is important that you watch the time when you have the temp up that high. Should you forget and the food dries the whole time at that heat, it won’t be raw anymore.

      I don’t know you schedule or lifestyle but get in the habit of fully reading a recipe all the way through so you can plan out the time it takes to make and dry the item. Ask yourself… Can it be drying while I am at work? Can it dry while I am sleeping? and so forth. It’s not a good idea to start a food dehydrating, then turn it off while still moist, let it sit while you are gone from the house, then come home and restart the machine backup. This can lead to bacteria growing on the food.

      Deep breath Irma… no stress, no worrying… enjoy the process and reap the rewards of delicious nutrient dense foods! I hope this helped. Please let me know. amie sue

      • Irma says:

        Thank you Amie-sue!
        I bought a TSM D-10 dehydrator. I decided on this one because it is less noisy.
        Everything you said was very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to answer my question and help me.
        There are so many things that I love about your site: recipes, pictures, the information you put, and that you are always there to help, thanks again!

        • amie-sue says:

          Your welcome Irma… glad that I was able to help. I haven’t seen the TSM in person. One day if you would like to, I would love to hear a review from you as to what you think about it. :) Have a blessed weekend. amie sue

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