Before you start using that brand new dehydrator, you probably want to know what you can use to line the trays and protect them. Luckily, there are several options available, one being to purchase a dehydrator liner. But other materials you likely already have in your home can be used instead and produce the same results.
In this article, we will be giving you a breakdown of the multiple types of materials you can use to line your dehydrator. Each material has been tested and approved to operate in any dehydrator safely. With the information provided, you’ll be able to accurately find which dehydrator tray works with which type of food you’ll be dehydrating.
Why Do You Need To Line Your Dehydrator Trays?
A dehydrator comes with trays to help sort foods for dehydrating. Their function is to properly space out each piece of food to ensure each dries properly. However, most dehydrator trays are not made from non-stick materials. They are similar to non-stick baking sheets and without a liner, food may stick and create a mess.
Liners also help ensure the dehydration process. Adding a liner helps repel excess liquid from foods, allowing for quicker evaporation. Liners also keep individual pieces from sticking to each other, further encouraging proper dehydration.
Proper dehydration is essential for long term storage. Plus, sufficiently dried foods taste better since the flavored is appropriately preserved. Not to mention, adequate dehydration creates food that’s safe to eat! Even a small amount of misplaced food can lead to uneven dehydration and potential issues within the food.
Most notably, any retained moisture can lead to mold growth.
What Are Dehydrator Liners Made From?
Dehydrator liners come in a wide variety of materials, each with its own function. No dehydrator liner fits all types of foods. For example, when drying meats or fruits, it’s likely that fat or water will drip onto the tray. Liners work to catch the liquid, allowing it to evaporate from the tray.
Hence, it’s essential to understand the different materials and how they affect each type of food.
Most dehydrator liners are made from materials with non-stick properties, such as repellents, that create this protective layer between the food and the tray. Other materials used to craft dehydrator liners include plastic, tissues, fibers, or even wax.
5 Products To Use for Lining Dehydrator Trays
1. Plastic Mesh
Plastic mesh is a plastic resin designed for dehydrators. Many consider it an ideal solution for use as a dehydrating tray liner. It’s favored features include being easy to clean, BPA-free, and reusable. Plus, it’s easy to cut and mold to the shape of your dehydrator.
The mesh is made from one of the following three chemicals; polypropylene, polyethylene, or polytetrafluoroethylene resin. Using a unique netted design, the tray allows air and liquid to circulate freely, which helps the dehydration process. The netted design is also suitable for all types of dehydrated foods, including pet food, fruits, meats, nuts, and jerky.
It functions by separating small pieces of food in the dehydration tray. This makes it easier for each piece to dry at the same rate (provided each piece is around the same size and thickness).
Plastic mesh is suitable for drying extremely sticky foods. This includes glucose in fruits, fats in meats, and even wet pet foods and treats. The plastic also helps rid of excess moisture and increases airflow, ensuring the food is fully and equally dehydrated on every side.
2. Parchment Paper
Parchment paper is made from cellulose fiber that is sourced from fir trees, cotton, or flax. It features a small layer of a “release agent” that not only prevents foods from sticking to it, but prevents it from catching fire, as well.
To use parchment paper, it must be cut into sheets. This can often be a benefit since it offers control over how much is used. However, parchment paper is designed for single use and cannot be safely reused.
Parchment paper is suitable for dehydrating at high temperatures. It’s an ideal liner for foods that need to be dehydrated above 150 degrees Fahrenheit, such as meat, fish, and jerky.
3. Paper Towels
Paper towels are made from ground-up cellulose, commonly collected from wood, cotton, or other plant matter. These absorbent, disposable towel-replacements excel at sucking up fat and preventing huge messes.
Note: Using paper towels in a dehydrator is not recommended by all manufacturers. Review your owner’s manual for operation and safety tips before using paper towels in your unit.
Paper towels are most effective when you put down a few layers, as each sheet holds a limited amount of liquid. To avoid soggy paper towels, we suggest using at least three layers.
Paper towels are ideal for dehydrating foods with a high moisture content. They’ll absorb most of the moisture and keep liquids from pooling at the bottom of the tray, which is very helpful when dehydrating fruits and meats, in particular.
4. Wax Paper
Wax paper, also known as paraffin tissue paper, is made from soybean. It is dipped in non-stick wax to prevent food particles from sticking. The material is strong enough to keep a watertight seal. This allows dehydrated food to stay either juicy or crunchy without getting soggy.
The main downsides are that it isn’t reusable and comes in large rolls you must cut. But this also means it can be cut into any shape or size depending on what you are dehydrating. This also guarantees the paper will fit onto the tray each time.
Although, there have also been reports that dehydrating liquid foods using wax paper can result in foods acquiring a waxy taste.
Wax paper is only ideal for foods that require short dehydration times at low temperatures. This is because wax on the paper will start to melt in too hot of conditions. For comparison, it’s more appropriately used for tasks like raising bread and drying herbs.
5. Teflex Sheets
Also known as paraflex sheets, Teflex sheets are made from Teflon. The material is characterized by soft, reinforced fiber. It’s non-stick properties make it a great choice for lining dehydrator trays with.
The sheets come in either pre-cut square pieces or rolled up – similar to plastic wrap. Teflex sheets must be measured and cut to fit your tray, and unfortunately, the paper is not reusable. Additionally, Teflex sheets are very thin, which may cause them to roll up if weight isn’t distributed evenly.
Teflex sheets are suitable for dehydrating at any temperature and ideal for any form of dehydrating. They’re also washable, and thus, reusable. However, they are a bit pricey than other types of sheets.
Additional Reasons To Use Liners on Dehydrator Trays
Dehydrator liners do more than prevent food from sticking and make cleanup easier. They also help prolong the life of your dehydrator even after repeated use.
Furthermore, when liners are not used, it’s easy for a small line of bacteria to end up sticking to the trays. This will also require you to know how to sanitize your machine thoroughly and maintain a regular cleaning schedule.
Another reason to use liners is that it prevents liquid from dripping down onto multi-tier trays. Sticky foods such as fruits or juicy foods like meats tend to release liquid as they dehydrate. That leads us to another reason: liners prevent fats and oils from meats or cheese from congealing on the lower tray.
Overall, using liners on dehydrator trays makes the entire dehydrating process simpler, more enjoyable, and more efficient.
What Liners To Avoid Using on Dehydrator Trays
When searching the web, there will be a handful of DIY tray liner ideas. While they may be effective, you should be aware that some of them have potential drawbacks.
Here is what we’ve found:
1. Plastic Wrap
Plastic wrap is a non-stick solution to lining trays. It is suitable when making fruit leathers at extremely low temperatures. Furthermore, it can also be a viable solution as the plastic wrap is flexible and adheres to most dehydrator trays. However, the risk involved is that chemicals from the liner can seep into the food.
2. ZipLock Bags
Another DIY is to cut and use ZipLock bags. While this method works at low temperatures, it’s not safe in the long run. Chemicals from the ziplock bags can seep into food and stick to the trays.
3. Noir Sheets
Noir sheets are made from seaweed and are known to be an effective tray liner. On the upside, they successfully prevent foods from sticking as long as the foods don’t release many liquids. However, the downside is that they taste transfer seaweed into the food.
Dehydrator liners help produce better results when dehydrating foods. However, it can be difficult to choose the best option. In general, to choose the correct type of liner for the job, it’s critical to know the proper temperatures needed for dehydrating certain foods.
Aside from that, it’s also important to understand what tray liners fit with each type of food.