Dehydration is the oldest form of food preservation

In Michigan an Electrical Food Dehydrator is needed.

Drying is the oldest form of food preservation. It goes back to when man first realized that by leaving seeds in the sun to dry made them lighter and easier to carry from place to place. However, in Michigan, sun drying is not practical because Michigan does not have humidity under 10%. So in Michigan, it is necessary to rely on a mechanical means to dry foods.

A food dehydrator is a small electrical device for drying foods inside. Generally, there is an electrical element for heat and a fan and vents to circulate the air for faster drying. Common places to find a food dehydrator are discount department stores, mail-order catalogs, the small appliance section of a department store, natural food stores, and seed and/or garden supply catalogs. The cost will vary depending upon the features available. Michigan State University Extension recommends comparison shopping because the price has nothing to do with the quality of the product.

There are two basic styles of food dehydrators. One style has horizontal air flow, while the other has vertical air flow. For the horizontal air flow units, the heating unit and fan are located on the side. The major advantages of this style are: it reduces the mixing of food flavors, allowing different foods to be dried at the same time; all the trays get equal heat penetration, and juices or liquids do not drip down onto the heating element causing undesirable flavors. The vertical air flow food dehydrator has the heating element and fan on the bottom. If different foods are dried at the same time, this style allows the flavors to mix; potentially allowing an undesirable flavor to develop and liquids can drip down onto the heating element.Some models have additional trays making them expandable. The additional trays are an added cost. Twelve square feet of drying space will dry about a half-bushel of produce. The major disadvantage of a food dehydrator is that limited capacity to dry produce.

There are a few features to look for in a food dehydrator include a double wall construction of metal or very high grade of plastic. Wood construction is not recommended due to being a fire hazard.

An enclosed heating element is a must. Other features are counter top design; a thermostat that will measure 85 degrees Fahrenheit to 160 degrees Fahrenheit., a fan or blower, a temperature regulating dial, a timer so when the drying is completed, the timer will shut the dehydrator off and prevent scorching of the product. Generally, there are four to 10 open mesh trays made of a sturdy plastic designed for easy cleaning. Look for the UL seal of approval and a one-year guarantee.

So…When you run out of canning jars and freezer space, consider drying foods to save on space and weight. 


Andress, Elizabeth, So Easy to Preserve, 2014, Cooperative Extension/The University of Georgia/Athens, Bulletin 989.

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