Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dehydrator decision

I used my parent's dehydrator last autumn to preserve part of my hot pepper abundance and at once saw the value and practicality of dehydrating food. The benefits are compounded by the limits of our smallish freezer and inability (for now) of buying a chest freezer.

A few weeks ago I took a great dehydrating class (through the Willy Street Coop by Polly Reott, master food preserver) where I pretty much decided to buy a dehydrator.

Now the decision is which one to buy. Please post your opinions and comments to my three questions below. If you are reading this by email, please go to the blog to post your answers so all can see! Thanks.

Vertical pros and cons

The obvious benefit to the vertical air-flow models is that there are stacking trays, which in some cases can be stacked pretty darn tall. This means that the dehydrator is always the right size for the job. My research (so far) is that vertical (round) dehydrators are cheaper to initially purchase.

However, the trays on the far side of the heating element receive cooler air, and often stacks need to be changed around. The vertical airflow also means that for the most part, you can't mix vegetables in the unit, because peppers below could flavor the tomatoes above.

Also, most vertical units are round. Geometrically speaking, most round and square units will take up about the same counter space but a square unit would provide more tray space.

Horizontal pros and cons

I went online to do some research. Polly highly recommended the "horizontal airflow" models such as the Excalibur they had at Willy West.

You can deduce two of the pro's by reading the cons above; less chance of flavor mixing with the horizontal air flow and more even heating.

However, these units have a fixed number of trays. And, horizontal airflow models tend to be pricier.

My needs

I expect to dehydrate peppers, tomatoes and herbs from my garden. But with one, a whole new world opens up. Crackers? Fruit? Squash?

So,  my three questions are:

  1. Would you recommend buying a round vertical or square horizontal airflow unit?
  2. If side airflow, I have to choose a size, generally 5- or 9-tray. What would you recommend for home use?
  3. With either choice, what brand do you recommend.