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When purchasing a dehydrator, you will want to know the wattage of the unit you're looking at. The higher the wattage, the shorter the drying time will be, in general. It's a good idea to choose a unit that's AT LEAST 700 watts. The most important feature to look for in a dehydrator is an adjustable thermostat. If it doesn't have it, you're pretty much limited to fruits and vegetables and/or excessive drying time for jerky. Forget herbs, the pre-set temperature is much too high and will bake the scent and flavor right out of them.
You will also want to choose an expandable unit, for which you can readily find additional stackable trays, screens and fruit roll inserts. If you intend on dehydrating corn, peas, chopped celery, and such, you MUST have screens, or else the vegetables will fall through the tray grates and fail to dry. If at some point you wish to make your own dry mix camp meals, you will certainly want to be able to get "fruit roll" inserts to spread cooked rice, beans, or sauces on to dry. As the name implies, they are actually meant to make homemade "Fruit Roll-Ups".
We have been extremely happy with our Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator . As the title says, it's a 700 watt unit, and it has an adjustable thermostat ranging from a low of 95 degrees for herbs, to 160 degrees for jerky. It comes with 5 plastic trays, but is expandable up to 13 trays. 2 screens and 2 fruit roll inserts are included. The additional trays, screens, and roll inserts are readily available at several online retailers, as well as in-store at Rural King and Cabela's (they are sold at Cabela's under the "Open Country" brand name).
To operate, simply prepare your food stuffs, place them in the trays stacking as you go, place on the lid, set the thermostat, plug it in, and you're on your way! It's completely fool proof (that is unless you forget to blanch your potatoes first and they all turn black......). Most vegetables require no preparation other than slicing/dicing, although there are a few exceptions, such as those potatoes I mentioned. Fruit is usually sliced, then briefly soaked in a mixture of water with lemon juice to avoid browning. Small leaved herbs like Thyme and Globe Basil can be put in right on the stems, and removed after drying. Jerky is a little more complicated, but the flavor can't be beat compared to store brands!
Dehydrating has gained popularity among gardeners and hunters in recent years. Home dehydrated goods can be stored in jars with oxygen absorber packets for a number of years without the use of electricity right in the pantry along with your home canned goods. There are even entire cookbooks now dedicated to creating dehydrated snacks, and entire meals from dehydrated ingredients. Look for that review later in the week!
BOTTOM LINE: 5 of 5 Stars. I would 110% recommend this product for casual everyday home use. It has dried dozens of batches of various veggies, all of my herbs and perhaps over a dozen pounds of jerky for us in the past two years we've had it. I would definitely recommend at least purchasing an additional set of 2 Clean-A-Screen and 2 Fruit Roll Sheets to start. Add-A-Tray also come in sets of two if you would like to expand. Again, this dehydrator will hold up to 13 at a time! (On a side note, this dehydrator has a 4.5 Star rating on Amazon.com and is the #1 Best Seller!)