An important appliance for the Paleo kitchen is a good dehydrator. A dehydrator will allow you to make jerky and pemmican as well as dried fruits and vegetables. You can also make fruit leather and dehydrate nuts after soaking. You could even make yogurt! Paired with a vacuum sealer you can create packets to take on hikes or to simply extend the life of your dried foods. A dehydrator is a great gift for the Paleo diet follower.
My first dehydrator was a Ronco model, relatively inexpensive and sorry to say, not worth purchasing. I spent $30 and after 4 uses the trays started to warp and melt! You see, the dehydrator has no temperature control and for effective use you must rotate the trays every couple of hours. If you are drying jerky and running it overnight you can hardly wake up every two hours to rotate the trays. So, it was $30 in the garbage. I really liked drying my own foods, but I’d have to get a better piece of equipment.
In my research, I discovered that there are many dehydrators to choose from. There were three brands that I looked at closely since they are the top rated manufacturers: Excalibur, Nesco and L Equip. Each of these brands have several different models. I’ve focused on the most popular here.
The Best Dehydrators for the Paleo Kitchen
Dehydrators come is different shapes and sizes. There are square models that use space very efficiently. Then there are the round models which have a hole down the center to assist with the drying process, but also use up space. The location of the heating element may be important depending upon the brand. In the round models the heating element can be at the top or the bottom which may cause the trays closest to the heat source to dry more quickly. This means that the trays might need to be rotated. But the benefit of the round dehydrator is that they are expandable by adding more trays, while the square models are not. Typically the round models are less expensive than the square models.
This is probably the top of the line in home use dehydrators. The use of space is efficient since it is square with no holes in the middle of the trays. The heating element is at the back of the unit, which will evenly dry the contents of each tray. Excalibur has 5 and 9 tray models. The 9 trays make it easy to dehydrate a lot of food at once. If you participate in community supported agriculture (CSA) and get boxes of produce, you sometimes get more than you can use before it all spoils. This dehydrator will help you preserve the food and reduce waste. From what I’ve read, you might be wise to buy the larger model, if you can afford it, since you will want to dehydrate everything in sight! The description from Amazon.com:
The Excalibur Dehydrator allows you to dry anything evenly and efficiently. …. The Excalibur has a trademarked horizontal-airflow drying system which dries foods perfectly evenly on all the trays. Dehydrating is a great way to add a new way of consuming foods without damaging valuable nutrients which may be lost during high heat cooking! Dried foods are a great treat to snack on because they hold almost all of their nutritional value and flavor. This unit differs from other dehydrators because of its unique horizontal drying system in the rear of the unit. This provides a sure way to provide an even dehydration process as the warm air removes moisture and is pushed out the front of the machine. There is also no need to rotate trays because of the horizontal drying. Includes instruction manual with over 50 recipes!
- Adjustable Thermostat: 85-145°F
- 8-15 square feet of drying space
- 400-600 watts
- An optional 26-hour timer
- 10 Year Warranty (an additional $30)
The cost is $219.95 at Amazon.com with free shipping (prices may vary since publication of this review).
This is the model that I purchased since the Excalibur was out of my price range. I purchased the basic model (not the Snack Master as shown in the photo – I already had the jerky gun from the Ronco dehydrator). I find it to be well made, relatively easy to clean and it does a terrific job of drying jerky, fruit and nuts. I purchased two additional trays as well as two additional clean-a-screen liners for small food like herbs and fruit. The unit comes with two clean-a-screen liners and two fruit leather liners. From Amazon:
The patented converge-flow drying system ensures even drying, no need to rotate trays. With 700-watts of power food dries in hours, not days. The adjustable thermostat ranges from 95-to-160-degrees and provides greater flexibility and better results. Includes five trays but expands to 12 trays with LT-2SG add-a-tray accessories (sold separately). Also includes fruit roll up sheet, clean-a-screen. Contemporary granite vita-save exterior blocks light and helps retain more vitamins and nutrients.
- 500 watts of power
- Includes 5 trays
- Expandable to 12 trays ($13.69 for 2)
- Includes 2 fruit roll sheets and 2 clean-a-screens
- Top-mounted fan
- Air moves down, through and across trays
Price on Amazon for the Nesco FD-75PR 700-Watt Food Dehydrator: $49.88 (prices may vary since publication of this review).
For just a little more you can buy the Nesco American Harvest FD-61WHC Snackmaster Express Food Dehydrator, at $58.00, if you want the jerky kit.
For about $100 more you can buy a more powerful , versatile dehydrator, the Nesco Gardenmaster model. From Amazon:
Dry slices of fruit and vegetables, herbs and flowers, and strips of jerky with this easy-to-use dehydrator. The countertop appliance features a patented Converga-Flow drying system that forces heated air up the unit’s exterior pressurized chamber (not through the trays), then forces the air horizontally across each individual tray, converging at the center. This process ensures fast and even drying–no flavor mixing and no need to rotate the trays around during operation. Its powerful 1000-watt motor also helps ensure fast drying times for results in hours versus days. Furthermore, its opaque Vita-Save exterior blocks light to retain more of the food’s nutrients and vitamins during the drying process. A simple control knob adjusts the heat from 95 degrees to 150 degrees F to accommodate proper drying temperatures, and the base and drying trays can be completely immersed in water for easy cleaning. Accessories include eight trays, eight fruit roll sheets, eight clean-A-screens, original jerky spice and cure, and a 160-page soft-cover “How to Dry Foods” book by home-economist Deanna DeLong. The book contains lots of recipes, hints, and tips; covers the history, methods, and equipment for drying; and includes sections on fruit, fruit leathers, vegetables, herbs and spices, nuts and seeds, meat, and fish. The dehydrator and jerky maker measures 15 by 15 by 15-5/8 inches and carries a one-year limited warranty.
- 1000-watts of drying power
- 4.5″ Fan and 2400-RPM Motor
- Expandable to 30 trays
- Adjustable Thermostat (95°F to 150°F)
- Includes 8 each Trays, Fruit Roll Sheets, Clean a Screens
- Includes How to Dry Foods Book
Cost: $165 on Amazon.com (prices may vary since publication of this review).
The L Equip FilterPro dehydrator is also well rated and has the capability of making yogurt, something the other brands cannot do. It has a patented air filtration system as well as a “solid state” variable temperature control to ensure food dries uniformly and consistently. It features an LED time and temperature display and precise temperature control of 95°F to 156°F degrees.
- 6 Trays: 2 deep (for yogurt)/ 4 regular (expandable to 12 trays)
- 6 Mesh Screens, 2 Fruit Leather Trays, 4 Yogurt Cups
- Instruction Book with recipes
- “Clean Air” Filtration System
- 530 Watts
- Solid State Variable Temperature Control
- Micro-processor Controlled Heat Sensor (98F to 158F)
- Range: 95 to 158 Degrees F
- 24 Hour, Auto Shut Off timer
The price on Amazon: $143 (prices may vary since publication of this review).
The video on the L Equip website on how to make yogurt is interesting. I never considered using a dehydrator for yogurt before.
How to Choose a Dehydrator
So, how do you decide which dehydrator you will buy? Which dehydrator would make a great gift for the Paleo diet follower? One key is to consider how it will be used. If you have a family and will be using it frequently, you may want to consider buying the Excalibur. The raw foodists, who basically cook with the dehydrator, use it on a daily or nearly daily basis. If you are more like me and are using once a week or less, then one of the less expensive Nesco models will do just fine.
Lila’s Gingery and Garlicy Beef Jerky
As a bonus here is the jerky recipe I love to make. It’s very simple and tasty. You can modify and add other spices for your tastes. The beef needs to be very lean with all visible fat cut away. The fat can go rancid and cut short the shelf life of your jerky.
- 2 lbs bottom or top round grass fed beef or any other very lean cut
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 tsp. ginger powder
The meat I buy comes frozen, so I partially defrost the roast, trim the fat and slice it into 1/8” to 1/4” strips. Combine the dry ingredients in a glass container (I use are large Pyrex dish that has a lid). Add the beef and mix and rub the seasoning into the strips. Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. The “jerk” in jerky is from lightly jerking the strips as you lay them out on the rack of your dehydrator. I opt for a lower temperature setting (110°F) and a longer drying time. The recommendation is to keep the temperature below 145°F. I suggest following the direction that come with your dehydrator the first time you use it. With time you will be able to adjust time and temperature to suit your own taste.
So are you ready to dehydrate? If you’ve been wanting a dehydrator for a while and didn’t know which one to buy, I hope this review has helped you make a decision. And if you want to send someone a little hint of what you want for Christmas, you might just share this article with that someone. After all a dehydrator IS a great gift for the Paleo diet.
Do you already own a dehydrator? What model do you have and what do you like about it? What do you love to make in it? Please leave your reviews and comments below so that others may learn from your experience. Thank you!