The American Harvest, or Harvest Maid Food Dehydrator is a home appliance used to dry fruits, vegetables and meats. While models may vary, they each operate in a similar fashion. Round drying trays stack on top of the appliance's base. The removable trays allow the user to dry just one tray of food, or multiple trays. A lid sits on the top tray to hold in the heat. Food preparation for drying varies by food type. Some food requires pretreatment, such as an ascorbic acid soak, blanching or preheating. Pieces should be approximately ¼ inch thick for drying, yet this can vary.
Place the appliance on a sturdy counter, close to an electrical outlet. It takes hours for food to dry, therefore choose a location where the appliance can operate undisturbed. Don't use an extension cord; plug the appliance directly into the outlet when you are ready to turn it on.
Wash and dry the food trays, using warm water and dish soap.
Prepare the food according to a reliable recipe source, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food "Safety of Jerky" page or the Virginia Cooperative Extension's "Using Dehydration to Preserve Fruits, Vegetables, and Meats" website.
Arrange the pieces in a single layer, without overlapping, on the food trays. Confine similar sizes pieces and food types to individual trays. This lets you remove a tray that is finished, allowing other trays to continue drying.
Set the full food trays, one-atop-of-another, on the base on the appliance and cover the top tray with the lid. If you don't use all the trays, just add the trays with food, as you don't have to use all the food trays to operate the appliance.
Turn the heat dial to the temperature recommended by your recipe. This might be 135 to 140 degrees F. The dial is typically located on the base of the appliance.
Periodically check the progress of the drying. Refer to your recipe for drying times and indication of drying, for the specific food you are processing.