A Food Dehydrator Review – How to Compare Food Dehydrator Products and Features

When evaluating and reviewing food dehydrators, the below product features and functionality should be considered and compared across different units and brands. One way to compare different brands of food dehydrators, that contain similar features, is to evaluate the food dehydrators on a price per square foot of drying area (total price divided by total drying area) while also considering the brand, reputation and product reviews of the dehydrator units that are being considered.

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You can evaluate different brands of food dehydrators Bottled and jarred packaged goods, which have different product features, using the same price per square foot of total drying area and then personally decide if additional features are worth the extra cost per square foot.

o Total Drying or Dehydrating Area – How much space does the dehydrator have to dry food? The total dehydrating area is expressed in square feet and is calculated as follows: The product of a) the number of drying drays multiplied by the size of the drying trays (length by width in inches) divided by b) 144 square inches. As an example, if a dehydrator has 9 drying trays that are 15 inches by 15 inches each, then the total drying area equals 14.1 square feet (15 multiplied by 15 multiplied by 9 = 2,025, 2,025 divided by 144 equals 14.1). Obviously, the total dehydrating area determines how much food you can dry at one time. The total drying area should be adequate for the largest amount of food you will dry during a twenty-four hour period. As a rough rule of thumb, approximately one pound of food can be dried per square foot of drying area. However, this amount will vary depending on the type of food being dried, the thickness of the food slices and the food’s water content.

o Air Flow – Dehydrators remove moisture from food via heat and air flows. Food dehydrator air flows are designed either horizontally or vertically. Horizontal air flow food dehydrators have their heating element and fan located on one side of the dehydrator. The drying trays that hold the food are arranged like drawers inside the food dehydrator. Typically, horizontal air flow dehydrators are better at dehydrating different types of food at the same time as the horizontal air current mixes the food flavors less than vertical air flow dehydrators. Also, horizontal air flow dehydrators better prevent food juices from dripping down onto the heating element, thus making cleaning easier.

Vertical air flow dehydrators have their heating element and fan located at the base of the dehydrator. The drying trays that hold the food are stacked on top of the base. Because the drying trays and food are stacked on top of the heating element, drying temperatures can vary between the top and bottom food drying trays. Vertical air flow dehydrators may require a swapping of top and bottom drying trays, during the dehydrating process, so that an even drying effect is achieved across all the food and drying trays.

o Thermostat – A thermostat is a device used to regulate the temperature of a heating or cooling system so that the system’s temperature is maintained near a desired, chosen amount. A thermostat does this by switching heating or cooling systems on or off, as needed, to maintain the desired temperature. A food dehydrator’s adjustable thermostat should have a good range of drying temperatures, typically 85 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit, to handle different types and amounts of food.

A food dehydrator without a thermostat will dehydrate at a constant, unchanging heat, but at a potentially increasing temperature inside the dehydrator. This can cause case hardening; food with a dry outside but with moisture and potentially bacteria on the inside.

o Watts – The energy consumed or used by a dehydrator is measured in watts, similar to that of the light bulb. The watt power of a food dehydrator should be considered in relation to the total drying area. More drying trays and larger dehydrator dimensions should require more watts used by the dehydrator to ensure adequate food dehydration. You can compare the energy used or needed between different dehydrators by comparing the watts per square foot of total drying area. Simply divide the watts of the dehydrator unit by the total drying area to obtain the watts per square foot.

This guide is for prospective operators of food enterprises (food establishments, retail food stores, food warehouses, and food processors) desiring to open a food business in either their local city, county or state jurisdiction. This is a general overview and may not be all inclusive of the codes and ordinances in your locality. It is good to note that though this document will more than likely cover most if not all requirements for starting a food business in your jurisdiction, it would be in your best interest to familiarize yourself with the codes and regulations of your local city, county and/or state.

A Food Establishment application can be obtained at your local city or county health department. If you plan to manufacture foods and package for retail sale you may be required to obtain a food manufacturer’s license from your state regulatory agency. If you plan to distribute your product outside of your state lines a federal license may also have to be obtained. It is recommended that you submit a fully completed application and fees at least one month prior to your anticipated opening date. This gives the local authority the needed lead time to process it and schedule any needed pre-opening inspections. Again, make sure that you provide ALL information required on the application. Incomplete applications may delay your approval.

Food permits are generally in effect for one year from the date of issue and are renewable each year thereafter when the appropriate fee is paid and as long as the establishment remains in compliance with applicable Health codes and regulations.