This article is from the Food Preserving FAQ, by Eric Decker firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
from Steven Kostur (Jan 1, 1996)
Some consumer book (or the other; name escapes me) suggested Waring's
Deluxe Food Dehydrator Model DF4171 $90-100 (no reasons were given).
An Organic Gardener 1995 (October?) suggested the Waring Deluxe Food
Dehydrator, or the Excalibur 2500 (US$189.95), Press-AIReizer
(US$249.95), and (IMHO) to a lesser degree the Vita-Mix Harvest-Savor
(US$89.95) and American Harvest Snackmaster (US$89.95). Such factors
as amount of control (fan speed, temperature), and how hard it is to
peel the stuff off the racks and IF you had to rotate the trays
(that latter ones you do) to get even drying.
[ Note from Jennifer Cagle : Vita mix no longer
makes or markets dehydrators. (March, 1996).
from Steven R. Tobin (pre-1996)
I just bought a Harvest Maid, also sold as American Harvest, and a
friend has had one for a couple years and really likes it. The main
thing is to look for one with a thermostat controlled heater. Do not
be suckered into one like the Ronco, that does not have a heater. It
took me 4 hours to dry a load of apples last night, while the other
kind (w/o heater) will take days to do the same job.
from Stuart Johnson (Jan 1, 1996)
We use an American Harvest. Have had very good results with meats
(jerky) and all types of fruits and vegetables.
from Lynn E Johnson-Conrad (Jan 2, 1996)
We have an American Harvester Snack Master (expandable to 12 trays).
It has a blower and a variable temperature setting marked for the
different types of foods. The Snack Master is about $65-70 with four
trays and extra trays are $24 for two. Ours was bought at a big
hardware store. For Christmas my husband bought me 6 new trays (that
he found on half price sale - yippee) so we will really be in shape
to dry when our garden goes nuts next summer. My only complaint is
that there is no on-off switch (power control is by plug and unplug)
and the noise of the fan, while not loud, can get to be annoying if
you are trying to hear someone in an adjoining room. My understanding
is that the Ronco model does not have a blower - so it takes a lot
longer to dry.
Beef jerky takes about 18-20 hours- but we like to do it very dry and
it starts out pretty wet from overnight marinating. We have done all
sorts of stuff in our Snackmaster and love it. Apples and banana chips
are our favourite and take about 12 hours. I recently dried 7 trays
full of late growth celery tops from our garden. That took about 16
hours to get the thin stalks dry. Tomatoes take about 10-12 hours. The
only thing I am not happy drying is herbs- I still prefer to do them
in paper sacks on top of the fridge. They take about 24 hours in the
dryer (very low temperatures) and about 48-72 on top of the fridge. We
have dried other vegetables for use in soups and stews. I have not
noticed any specific increase in our electric bill for the times we
were drying lots of tomatoes.
from Phil Rozanski (Jan 2, 1996)
I also have an American Harvest Snackmaster with 8 trays and have great
results with jerky (it takes 6 hours to dry) and anything else dried in
it. The nice thing about the model I have, is that the temperature is
adjustable and the foods are always dried uniformly. The other nice thing
is the price is very reasonable.
from Naomi Counides (Jan 12, 1996)
I have an Excalibur and I do not can tomatoes (hot sweaty work in
summer). I have usually about 25 plants. I slice them (unpeeled) and
load them into my dehydrator which I keep outside (who needs extra
heat in the house?) I make about 30 gallon bags of tomatoes. We use
them in the winter. We also dry fruit, herbs and other vegetables. It
gets used a lot more than my canner.
from Steve & Beth (Jan 1, 1996)
>What about the type advertised on TV (Ronco?) are they worthwhile?
All I know is on the advertisement for the Ronco Dehydrator they say
it take 1 1/2 days to dry beef jerky. In my Excalibur it only takes 6
hours. If you plan on getting a dehydrator and are going to use it
frequently do not buy cheap. Invest in something that you will be
happy with. Point of reference 16 years ago my dehydrator (5 shelves)
cost around $100.00.
from Naomi Counides (Nov 30, 1995)
Do you have a garden and fruit trees? The reason I ask is that the
amount of "raw" material to be processed influences size need
for dehydrator. I have a large garden etc and a nine tray electric
Excalibur. Here in Idaho it does not rain much in late summer so I
leave it outside. (Keeps the heat out of the house.) I use it
steadily, 24 hour a day and 7 days a week from late July through
September. When the air has a bit of chill, I take it inside and dry
apples (smells nice). In the main summer months I dry, rather than
can, tomatoes. The model I use can dry a half bushel of tomatoes in 24
hours, approximately. I also dry other vegetables, and fruits and make
leather. A nice feature on mine is the that the plastic tray and
plastic screen are separate pieces. This can make removal of
individual pieces much easier.
from Rick Buchanan (Dec 24, 1995)
I have a garden master with round stackable trays. It is much faster
than the models that look like microwaves. A friend of mine has the
VitaMix food saver. She likes it a lot and I think it is a better
machine than my garden master. The trays are a little smaller in
diameter than on the garden master, but the unit costs a whole lot
less than the garden master. Believe the VITAMIN will stack up to
about 23 trays. Have experience with the Excalibur (microwave
lookalike), and the round trayed garden master. If I had it to do over
I would buy the VITAMIN with all trays, grids, and liners. [See
note from Jennifer Cagle above.