Seeking Dehydration Inspiration
March 31, 2014

I used some gift money to buya food dehydrator. Curiosity and fun aside, I hope this will give me useful, tasty ingredients and help me reduce waste.

I’ve been reading “Made At Home: Curing and Smoking: from Dry Curing to Air Curing and Hot Smoking to Cold Smoking” by Dick Strawbridge and James Strawbridge.
I used the book’s guidelines on salting, amount of salt to water e.t.c. to brine my beef before roasting. It tasted great but I can’t be sure whether that was because of the good quality meat, the brining or the fact that I used a thermometer to check doneness for the first time.

In any case I’d like to try some of the other methods discussed in the book such as air drying. This is where the dehydrator might come in. The book only makes brief mention of food dehydrators:

“…A more controlled way to air dry indoors is to buy an electric dehydrator or food dryer. Both appliances will speed up the natural process of moisture being drawn out of your produce. The fact that they are controllable means you can predict when your food is done, which is a significant advantage compared to letting the natural flow of air do the drying. These specialist gadgets create the perfect environment for drying. With internal ventilation and the ability to adjust the temperature they are great for meat and vegetables…”

So dehydrators are a controlled way of doing air drying indoors. But surely the two methods are not interchangeable because, apart from anything else, a ham, for example, would not fit on one of the dehydrator’s trays. I’ve also heard of people trying to make chorizo in dehydrators and it just not being right.

So forget air drying large pieces of meat. I just want to preserve smaller items for snacking and convenient cooking.

So far I’ve dried onions, mushrooms and tomatoes. The onions and mushrooms are great rehydrated and added to pasta or jacket potatoes. I haven’t tried the tomatoes yet and am worried I over-dried them.

I’m in need of inspiration to reassure myself that I haven’t bought an over-priced plate-warmer.

I still want to discover:

  • Which foods do or don’t dehydrate well.
  • Recipes for marinades/pickle (I don’t trust the one in the manual because it refers to “big spoons” – how precise).
  • In what circumstances, if any, can meat and fish be dried raw.
  • Which temperatures are best for which foods.
  • What’s the relationship between curing, air drying, dehydrator use, temperature, P.H. and bacteria control.
  • How to tell when dehydration is sufficient.

Crispy tomatoes anyone?