I've been researching food dehydrators a lot lately. I've decided they're overpriced, even if they're nice and/or very effective. Some of them cost twice as much as a kitchen stove.
Yeah, they don't all cost anywhere near that much, but most of them are still overpriced. The round stackable ones are currently usually between about $40 and $120. The rectangular ones with trays like ovens usually cost between $150 and $400, although there are some that are less expensive, and some that are quite a bit more expensive.
Here's what a typical dehydrator is: A container with trays, a fan, and low heat, which normally ranges between somewhere around 95° F. and 165° F. some of them have timers that automatically shut them off after a time (usually 12 to 24 hours). They usually take between 300 and 1000 watts.
Stainless steel tays for dehydrators tend to cost about $11 a tray. They're only available when the trays are rectangular, as far as I've seen.
I thought aboht making my own instead for a while, using a vented wooden box lined inside with reflective foil, one or more infrared heat lamps, fans, and oven trays with silicone mats.
But, I have another idea! I live in a semi-arid climate with lots of sun during the growing season. Sun-drying food shouldn't, in theory, be particularly difficult. However, we should be able to speed up the process significantly, without a lot of effort. Here's the idea:
* Focus primarily on fruit leathers, vegetable leathers, and sauce leathers. We can basically stew and juice the tomatoes before dehydrating, and dehydrate the paste, or we can do it raw, without juicing it.
* Add extra salt to the sauces where that wouldn't hurt. Salt should help to bring water out of the sauce, so it can evaporate more easily, and help it preserve better during the drying process.
* Get a high velocity fan (like the sort used to dry floors) to blow on the dehydrating leathers. This should speed things up a lot. The food just needs to be anchored into place somehow. Yes, the fan would be operating outdoors, only on days without rain, and the fan would probably be sheltered by shade. Such a fan might work well for dehydrating indoors. I read that someone dried dishes with one, rather quickly. Anyway, the reason for doing leathers is so they stick and don't blow away with high velocity currents easily.
* Potentially dry stuff in the shade for a better (not necessarily faster) result.
* If it would deter cats and insects (I'm not sure if it would), you could add some vinegar. This would probably help preserve it better as it dried, too.
Anyway, we could do a whole lot of fruit leather at once, this way! We could dehydrate it on parchment paper, or silicone mats, or even tempered glass cutting boards.
Location: SW Idaho, USA
USDA hardiness zone: 6
Elevation: 2,260 feet Profile post