Having a food dehydrator is wonderful for making homemade chips and crackers, drying nuts, crafting fruit leather, incubating yogurt and even drying flowers for crafts. But before you can start dehydrating, you need to know how the device works. Ronco includes complete instructions for its dehydrators with purchase, but if you accidentally threw away your manual, no need to fear. The Ronco Food Dehydrator is surprisingly simple to operate.
Pick and Prep Your Food
Whether you're following a recipe or experimenting with making your own dried fruit, your first step will be to pick out fresh, fully ripe produce for the final product to be satisfactory. Wash all produce, and check to make sure each piece is free of decay, bruises and mold. These issues and imperfections won't just affect a single piece of produce, but can taint the entire batch.
Pre-Treat Your Batch
Blanching produce before dehydration is the next step and will help maintain the color and flavor of your fruits and vegetables as they dry. Lemon juice, sodium bisulfate and citric acid can also be used to maintain color and nutritional value. You can also blanch fruit in syrup to lightly sweeten the dried versions. Following blanching, be sure to remove all excess moisture before putting your food in the dehydrator tray.
Now you're ready to get rolling. Close the dehydrator with the trays in position. On the front of the dehydrator, there is a knob for setting the temperature of the dehydrator. The temperature you want to use varies by food type; check in with the recipe, if possible. In general, fruits should be dried at 135 degrees Fahrenheit, vegetables should be dried at 130 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, herbs should be dried at 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and meat should be dried at the highest possible temperature before being heated in the oven at 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Drying times will vary, depending on the batch and type of food; herbs can dry in as little as an hour, while grapes can take over a day before drying into raisins.
Check The Level Of Dryness
Drying times in the dehydrator will vary by the size and type of the batch, so you'll need to regularly check in on your dehydrating food. Finished dry fruits should be leathery and without moisture; vegetables should be brittle and meat jerky should be tough.
Now that you've got a hearty supply of dehydrated foods, it's time to clean your dehydrator trays before storing. Soak the trays in warm water and mild detergent. Unplug the base of the dehydrator before cleaning inside, a process that should be done only with a gentle damp cloth.
Jaime is a writer living in New York City.