Top 10 Reasons to Get a Food Dehydrator

by Ann Marie Michaels on December 11, 2009

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Nourishing Traditions

Why do you need a dehydrator? It’s not something I ever thought I’d need in my kitchen. Right after I got my copy of Sally Fallon Morell’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook, my first two purchases were a bunch of starter cultures (kombucha scoby, sourdough starter, yogurt starter, kefir grains) and an Excalibur dehydrator.

Little did I know the dehdyrator would be one of the best investments I ever made on my journey of cooking traditional food.

It was Christmastime two years ago. I told my husband he didn’t need to buy me anything (a relief for him!) and I went online and ordered my dehydrator.

Talk about a fun Christmas. Suddenly my kitchen was no longer a kitchen — it was a laboratory. I had science projects on every counter and in every cupboard.

A Dehydrator is a Smart Investment

Far and away, the best investment I made in my commitment to cooking wholesome traditional food for my family has been my Excalibur dehydrator. I learned early on that buying and preparing foods in bulk saves me time and money.

It’s not like you have to have a dehydrator. In Nourishing Traditions, Sally says you can use an oven at the lowest setting. However my oven only goes down to 170 degrees, which destroys the enzymes. Plus, I don’t like running my oven all the time — especially during summertime.

I know lots of people who have been cooking traditional or slow food for years who don’t own a dehydrator, and frankly, I don’t know how they do it.

The truth is, traditional cooking requires planning and preparation in advance. If stuff isn’t done ahead, you’re not going to use it. You’re going to pick up the phone and order a pizza.

And soaking and drying in bulk makes it so much easier. Why soak and dry a small batch of nuts when you can do a LOT at one time? You save money when you buy in bulk and you save time by doing bigger batches.

This is why I really recommend getting a larger dehydrator. The 4-tray may be cheaper but in the long run, you’ll save more time and money by getting one with more trays. I got the Exaclibur dehydrator with 9 trays and it has been wonderful.

Top 10 Reasons to Get a Dehydrator

Here are my top 10 reasons to go ahead and get that dehydrator you’ve been wanting. If this post helps you convince your significant other or yourself that you deserve (and NEED) a dehydrator, I’ve done my job. You may want to just email this post to your husband or share it on his Facebook wall — a “hint, hint” to your honey. Or give Santa a ring up at the North Pole and tell him this is the ticket.

1. Dry soaked nuts and seeds.

Nuts and seeds have enzyme inhibitors. Soaking deactivates the enzyme inhibitors. Drying nuts and seeds in a dehydrator allows you to dry at a low temperature, which keeps all the enzymes alive, making soaked and dried nuts and seeds a living food.

I now buy all my nuts in bulk, soak them in large sprouting jars, and dry them big batches in my dehydrator. I store them in glass jars in the cupboard and use them whenever needed. Whether I’m making Christmas pecan pie (Healthy Texas Holiday Pecan Pie recipe coming next week — check back!) or pesto in summer, or using sunflower seeds on a salad, it’s wonderful to know you can just grab a jar out of the cupboard.

2. Dry soaked oats.

Why would you want to dry soaked oats? For soaked oatmeal cookies! Oatmeal is very high in phytic acid which blocks mineral absorption. Click here for my recipe for soaked oatmeal cookies.

3. Make grass-fed beef or bison jerky.

Jerky is one of my family’s favorite snacks. I love it because it is portable and super nutrient-dense.

The Native American Indians owed their optimal health in part to dried bison jerky, which was one of the mainstays of their diet. Jerky is also very economical. You can get the toughest cuts of meat cheap — they make great jerky.

Click here for my recipe for homemade beef jerky.

Beef Jerky

4. Make yogurt.

It’s much cheaper to use a dehydrator at home and make your own yogurt than to buy organic yogurt at the store. Plus you can make raw yogurt from raw milk. For yogurt starters, see my resources page.

5. Let your bread or pizza dough rise.

I am getting into breadmaking big time next year (be prepared for lots of recipes!) It takes time for bread dough or pizza dough to rise and by using a dehydrator, you can really speed up the breadmaking process. You can also use the dehydrator to proof sourdough.

6. Keep your cultures and ferments warm during winter.

If your kitchen is cool, leaving those oats soaking on the counter top is not a good idea. As Sally Fallon Morell always says, to properly prepare grains, we need 3 things: warmth, acidity, and time.

If the warm water you’re soaking your flour in goes cold after 20 minutes, what’s the point of doing it? Just stick your ferments in a food dehydrator set at the perfect temperature and you’ll be sure to end up with properly cultured, nutritious foods.

Kombucha mushroom

7. Dry herbs from your garden or from the farmer’s market.

Herbs are easy to grow and many of them are great dried. Basil, thyme, oregano, sage, bay leaves — all can be dried and saved in jars. And the herbs you grow and dry yourself will be organic and much fresher than spices you buy at the store.

Thyme

8. Dry fresh fruits and vegetables from your garden or from the farmer’s market.

Drying tomatoes is a much better way to preserve nutrients than canning. Dried tomatoes can be thrown into a stew or chili.

I haven’t tried it yet but fruit leather is a classic kid’s snack. It’s much more economical to make your own than buying it at the store. I’m also going to work on a recipe for coconut oil banana chips. My daughter is addicted to the ones from Trader Joe’s — but I’d like to create a version with no added sugar.

9. Make raw sprouted flour crackers.

My recipe for sprouted flour crackers is so delicious (if I do say so myself)! I modified it from a recipe from Peggy Sutton at To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co. She spent a lot of time perfecting it — which is why it comes out so good.

I love sprouted flour crackers because they’re super nutritious, go great with cheese or salami or pate, and they’re a wonderful portable snack. Click here for my recipe for sprouted flour crackers.

You can dry the sprouted flour crackers on low heat in the oven but if you use the dehydrator, you can get the heat lower and preserve all the enzymes.

10. Make raw sprouted flour granola.

Giving up extruded boxed cereal is hard for most people. I was never a big lover of cold cereal (Pop Tarts were my vice) but it is nice to have something quick and easy to make for breakfast.

I love making huge batches of this sprouted flour granola. It keeps for weeks in the cupboard. It’s an easy portable snack for a toddler or busy adult, and it’s something my husband can help himself to if I am too busy to make eggs in the morning. And it’s a nice change of pace from regular old oatmeal. Plus it incorporates coconut oil, which I’m always looking for ways to sneak into food. Click here for my recipe for sprouted flour granola.

Where To Buy a Dehydrator

Check out my resources page for where to buy a dehydrator.

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{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

Cheryl Lee December 11, 2009 at 11:39 PM

Awesome giveaway Anne Marie. Thanks!

Reply

Susan B December 12, 2009 at 12:24 AM

What is the best temperature to

1. have bread rise
2. make your kombucha/dairy kefir/water kefir/other ferments?

Thanks!

Susan

Reply

Julie @ Cultures for Health December 12, 2009 at 1:19 AM

Susan,

Both bread dough and cultured foods generally do quite well in the 70-80 degree range. When using an Excalibur Dehydrator for these tasks, you want to turn the dial until it barely turns on. At that level the temperature in the dehydrator generally stays in the mid to high 70′s.

Julie
http://www.culturesforhealth.com
.-= Julie @ Cultures for Health´s last blog ..Pickling Lime Now Available =-.

Reply

The Nourished Canuck December 12, 2009 at 3:00 AM

How do you make yoghurt in the dehydrator?
.-= The Nourished Canuck´s last blog ..‘Make and Process’: MARGARINE/SPREADS VS. BUTTER =-.

Reply

Julie @ Cultures for Health December 12, 2009 at 3:55 AM

If you’re using a heat loving (thermophilic) culture, dehydrators can be set at 110 degrees (just like a yogurt maker) so you can just set your jars of yogurt inside with a loose cover and let them incubate (I use canning jars). This eliminates the need for a separate yogurt maker.

If you’re using a low-temperature (aka mesophilic, counter top, room temp) yogurt culture, you can just barely turn the dehydrator on which will give you a lightly warm spot for your yogurt to culture when your house is on the cold side.

Julie
http://www.culturesforhealth.com
.-= Julie @ Cultures for Health´s last blog ..Pickling Lime Now Available =-.

Reply

Elizabeth from The Nourished Life December 12, 2009 at 9:51 AM

Well, Ann Marie, I imagine your post did its job: I’m dying for a food dehydrator now. My kitchen gets really cold in the winter (we heat our home with a wood stove, so it’s not always running full heat), so this would really come in handing for fermenting/soaking food at the right temp during the winter. Same for yogurt. I use the cooler method, which works well for me most of the time, but in the winter everything cools off a lot faster and it’s hard to keep it at the right temp for a long period of time. And dried apples? Yum……

And yes, I entered the giveaway. ;)
.-= Elizabeth from The Nourished Life´s last blog ..From Kefir to Yogurt: Raw Milk is Good, Cultured is Better! =-.

Reply

coconutfreek July 24, 2011 at 6:58 AM

how do you dry apples? just peel, slice and dehydrate? or do you soak them in something. I suppose ascorbic acid does kep the color, but I was wondering if you soak in cinnamon sweetened water or anything like that. I might check out your site later here and you might have info, in case you don’t read this. Its an old thread.

Reply

Kim Forshee-Chigges December 12, 2009 at 10:57 AM

I would love to win this! I would put it to great use!!

kim@http://kimshomebrewedlife.blogspot.com/
.-= Kim Forshee-Chigges´s last blog ..Megabus.com giving away 100,000 seats 1/6/10-3/20/10 =-.

Reply

Soli December 12, 2009 at 11:19 AM

I’ve been wanting a food dehydrator anyway, and this is the perfect size for me since I’m pretty much doing it all just for me. And reading the comments I am also glad I haven’t started my filmjölk culture yet. Likely the house isn’t warm enough for it.
.-= Soli´s last blog ..I know what I am doing this weekend =-.

Reply

Betsy December 12, 2009 at 1:19 PM

Julie, thanks for those tips about temps for yogurt and bread. I’ll have to test mine at that setting – as soon as my almonds finish drying!

Just in time, too. I’m making fresh starter for sourdough bread right now. :)

And, by the way, I love my Excalibur. I just planted an herb garden so I’m hoping to get a lot more use out of it between that and the tips here.

Reply

Unplanned Cooking December 12, 2009 at 9:32 PM

I really want to get one! My grandma used to have one, and she used fruit to make natural fruit roll ups for us, which we loved.
.-= Unplanned Cooking´s last blog ..Family time =-.

Reply

Heather December 13, 2009 at 1:23 AM

Hi!
Thank you for providing this info! I have been looking for a way to reliably ferment foods in my mildy chilly Seattle kitchen. A dehydrator may be just what I was looking for!
Thanks for providing a wealth of information on the Nourishing Traditions/Weston Price “lifestyle”!

Reply

Mary Przybyla December 13, 2009 at 2:56 PM

I have no experience with a dehydrator and understand that the Excalibur is a very good one. It should give me the best possible chance with my first “experiments”. Thanks for the opportunity.
I am an e-mail subscriber.

Reply

tonya wise December 17, 2009 at 11:43 PM

my whole family loves soaked/dehydrated almonds! So crunchy!

Reply

Michelle February 7, 2010 at 2:38 PM

HI Anne Marie, I almost have dh convinced to buy one of these. He just wants to make sure that the cost savings is worth it. I have assured him that it is, but he is the wise one in the family and just wants to make sure ;-) We have a large family, and dry nuts constantly in our oven at 170 degrees. (nevermind the fact this is too high a temp ;-) Tell me it has got to be better to dry in dehydrator verses a gas oven running for 12 hours to dry three trays of nuts!

Thanks for your help
.-= Michelle´s last blog ..Fill Thou My Life =-.

Reply

Leah August 6, 2010 at 11:45 PM

Maybe, just maybe I will send this post link to my husbands email…:)
.-= Leah´s last blog ..Created To Be His Help Meet- Chapter 1 =-.

Reply

LeahS July 20, 2011 at 10:25 AM

I already want one sooooo badly. I do have one on semi-permanent loan from my super nice neighbor!

Reply

coconutfreek July 24, 2011 at 6:55 AM

this is such an old thread, I’m not sure anyone will see it. but what is the difference or benefit of having an excalibor dehydrator vs. the round dehydrator.? I can’t remember the brand name right now, its probably the most popular dehydrator. Just wondering if it really pays to spend the $$$ on excalibor. thanks in advance.

Reply

cheeseslave December 11, 2011 at 7:43 AM

I know I’m a little late in answering this. Those round dehydrators are fine if you don’t do a lot of dehydrating. I use my dehydrator a lot which is why I invested in the Excalibur

Reply

Truecrimequeen April 5, 2012 at 10:00 AM

I have owned a Stalton round Dehydrator and I now own an Excalibur. I would never recommend one of the round ones, it fell apart on me in just a few months, was loud, hard to clean and didn’t produce near the quality a Excalibur does.

Reply

Christine January 21, 2012 at 2:18 PM

Any thoughts on the polycarbonate shelves? I was hoping for stainless steel, but can’t find any.

Reply

kelli February 15, 2012 at 6:18 AM

I was wondering the same thing Christine. Seems every blog out there recommends the Excalibur, but nobody mentions the toxic plastic fumes. Would love to hear thoughts or ideas…

Reply

Christine February 15, 2012 at 5:07 PM

I came across one with metal shelves (LEM dehydrator) on amazon and basspro. The ratings on the latter website were 4.4 out of 5 from 15 men. More expensive, about $60 more, but it does have 10 shelves instead of 9 and it has a timer. More information to consider…

Reply

Sheridan July 7, 2012 at 11:03 PM

I’m enjoying this older post! I just had a thought to put my kombucha in the dehydrator (once the soaked cashews were finished!) as it’s cold here this winter in my kitchen. It was a boost of confidence when I Googled this to find your post! Thank you! :)

Reply

megan September 21, 2013 at 4:24 PM

Your link to your resources doesn’t bring up any where to buy a dehydrator? I want to invest in a quality one and would love your insight. Thanks:)

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