Adventures with my New Food Dehydrator… What NOT To Do….

What NOT To Do — Food Dehydrating with Jenn
So I bought a food dehydrator yesterday at a yard sale and was so excited to get started! I had wanted one for a few years now but it was a WANT not a NEED and since I wasn`t willing to pay $50 new for a new one, I had to be patient and I was very quite pleased to finally find one in excellent condition for only $5! Yippee!!
I was first interested in getting a dehydrator after hearing good things from my sister-in-law and friends. The process retains almost 100% of the nutritional content of the food.  It seems like a nutritous and cost effective and convenient way to offer snacks to my family.
How Dehydrating Works 
Modern dehydrators produces basically the same food with about 75 percent of its moisture removed but with most of its vitamins and minerals still present. You basically cut the fruit, vegetables or meat and place them on the layered trays, plug it in and leave it for an extended period of time. Fruit leather is another popular recipe for Mom`s to use. 
Nutritious, Cost Effective & Convenient
Dried foods can be rather pricey in a store so this seemed like a preserve fresh, nutritious foods in my own home at a fraction of the cost. I was mostly interested to offer healthy snacks to my children including apples, pineapples, grapes, or cranberries banana chips. I have even toyed with making genuine beef jerky!
My Experience
The unit didn’t come with a user guide but there are tons of guides on-line so I did my homework, read the instructions from a few different ones and got straight to work making some fruit leather (aka healthy version of Fruit Roll Ups). I mixed up a simple variation on a recipe I found  using 4 cups of apple sauce, and then pureed 4 cups of canned pears with some pureed canned mango & strawberry applesauce for flavour. 
This is where it all went wrong… Fruit leather takes from 6 to 12 hours to ‘cook’ so I went to bed anticipating yummy treats in the morning.  I did notice an odd smell (not fruity or leathery) before I went to bed but foolish rookie me didn’t look to see what it was.. my mistake. Looking back, I think it was burning plastic.Image
The next morning, when I finally peeked in this morning, the bottom level of my hydrator was not only burnt, but melted! (see pic) I was shocked and also happy that it didn’t cause a fire. Close one. 
The other 3 layers were not burnt — level 2 from the bottom was actually perfectly done and the top top levels were still needed more time. I was feeling disappointed — not how I pictured this MarthaStewart-esque moment working out… 
So my inaugural attempt at fruit leather was a failure…. I salvaged one layer and put the other 2 in the over on low and managed to recover some more leather but am not happy with how it all turned out.  My daughter took one look at it and said `ewwww!` but my son did eat some so whether this is all worth it is still up for debate. This is what I want to share… 
Learn from my mistakes!  
Buy a good quality hydrator — it is not acceptable to me that a plastic tray built to be on a low heat for extended periods of time would melt but it did after about 15 hours of running. Bad quality and when I Googled this I found many others complaining of melting trays. 
You must rotate the trays!  
Apparentty, this is very important. Some models come with fans to keep heat and temperatures even and will prevent this I learned. 
I need your help! 
What are your experiences with hydrators? Do you find this a useful appliance and worth the effort? 
I still have 3 trays left and am undecided on whether to get rid of it or try again.. please share your knowledge with me so I can decide. 

About bargainhuntingmomma

As The Bargain Hunting Momma, I take pride in "Living Life Large on Less". I am a busy wife and mother who loves spreading the news about all the fantastic people, places and events happening in my community - Waterloo Region. Everyone deserves to 'live life large on less so my mission is share tips and ideas on how families can have fun, spend smart & get a bigger bang for their hard earned bucks. My Bargain Hunting Momma community shares ideas for affordable family fun, smart shopping on all purchases from groceries & learning how to do more while spending less. So what are we waiting for… let’s start saving!

7 responses »

  1. Jenn, I’d be leery of any food that has been in an enclosed space with melting/melted plastic. I’d be worried about carcinogens. I’d throw the food out. I don’t know anything about hydrators, but maybe they come with metal trays??

  2. Try again! Rotating the trays are a must! I do apples in it (dip in lemon juice first) and beef jerky all the time. You can even make banana chips which are so simple! I start mine in the morning so my stuff is done before I head to bed,.. I have never left it on over night cause im scared to… lots of times it gets very hot.

  3. My dad has an older dehydrator and the heating element is at the back and the plastic shelves pull out the front (like a mini oven). He’s never had any issues with his, and he does all his spices, dried fruits, etc. in his without any issues.

  4. I had one years ago, but was never happy with the results. I imagine newer models are better and more efficient. If you’re worried about cost, wait for one to come on sale (check out consumer digest for their “best buy”) and grab it! If you never have to buy another fruit roll-up, dried fruits, etc. again, it will pay for itself in the long run!

    Good luck!

  5. It looks like the Ronco I have. You can by plastic canvas sheets at any art store or on Amazon and cut them to fit your trays. You really do have to turn it and watch it pretty good. I recently put some leftover tomato paste on to dry into a leather to store and I left it too long and it burned. It would have been good if I had checked on it. 🙂 Have fun with your new dehydrator! Good score too! I’d love to have the wonderful Excaliber someday but I’ve used and loved my Ronco for years!. 🙂

  6. OH Dear, I just read how it melted! That can’t be good! The only time mine has melted was when it was on and one of the trays slipped down onto the coils. Please be careful with that!

  7. I bought this one. Second use the bottom tray melted. I would switch them around every 2 hours too. Also I had one which blew air and the trays cracked about 4 months in because I guess they became weak. Can’t I find a dehydrator which is good for under $100. Both were returned.

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