Thinking about whether it’s possible to dehydrate food in an air fryer after all both circulate air?
It’s true that some air fryers can be used as a dehydrator. Some air fryers have this setting pre-programmed in, and others allow you to reduce the heat setting enough so that you don’t cook the food.
In this article, we’ll be discussing what to look for in your air fryer to determine whether or not it’s suitable for dehydrating foods or what air fryer is best to buy with dehydration in mind.
What Is An Air Fryer?
Air Fryers are a popular alternative appliance to using a deep-fat fryer at home. Only needing one tablespoon of oil, an air fryer can bake your food in a way that produces a similar crispy outside to deep-frying.
Air Fryers work like a convection oven which means it circulates the air making sure that the heat is distributed evenly throughout the food. This results in your food having an even texture and even cooking throughout.
The crispiness of the food comes from the hot air drying any surface moisture, allowing the food to cook and crisp at the same time.
Traditionally, air fryers tend to be used to make chips or other fried vegetables or meats and are a safer, healthier appliance to have in your home versus an oil fryer.
What Is A Food Dehydrator?
Food Dehydrators are used to slowly remove moisture from food to get it to a dehydrated state. This is done by circulating mild warm air to encourage slow evaporation of water.
Depending on the food this can take anywhere between 4-40 hours but this slow process ensures that the water can evaporate without cooking or browning the food.
The dehydration of food can make food more crunchy, brittle or chewy depending on what it is, it’s initial water content and how long you choose to dehydrate it for.
To allow the food to evenly dehydrate, dehydrators normally have mesh layers or shelves so that you can distribute thin layers of the food you are wanting to dehydrate.
The mesh shelves also allow the air to circulate more freely meaning you don’t have to turn over or move the dehydrating items during the process.
What’s The Difference Between An Air Fryer And A Dehydrator?
Air Fryers and Dehydrators both circulate air for even heat distribution, however, there are some major differences that distinguish them.
An air fryer works at a high temperature to allow the food to brown and get crispy quickly. A dehydrator is avoiding a colour change to happen and works at much more mild temperature; normally 40 – 42℃. This allows the food to dry without being cooked.
Because of these operating temperatures, the air fryer only takes 5-30 minutes to cook while a dehydrator can take a couple of hours or days for it to complete the drying process.
What Are The Benefits Of Dehydrating Food?
It has been shown that dehydrating food rather than cooking it, preserves the nutritional benefits of raw fruit and vegetables.
Dehydration as a ‘cooking’ method has grown in popularity with the raw vegan movement; there are now lots of recipes online on how to make ‘raw’ versions of crackers, breads, cakes that all use a dehydrator rather than a conventional oven.
Dehydration is also beneficial for preserving food and giving it a longer shelf life. Removing the water content prevents bacteria and mould growth which in turn slows down the decomposition of fresh produce.
A great example is dried fruit; once the moisture has been removed from fruit, that would normally last only a week or so, it can now last a couple of months.
How To Use An Air Fryer As A Dehydrator?
It is possible to use an air fryer as a dehydrator as it functions in a similar way by evenly distributing air. However, it is important to be aware of how your air fryer works and whether it is suitable.
Firstly, your air fryer needs to have a low heat setting. Any higher than 45℃ and the food will start to cook rather than dehydrate which doesn’t preserve it.
Having a good air venting system is also important as the water needs to effectively be released. If the water is trapped and contained within the unit then condensation will occur and the food will just reabsorb the moisture.
It is best to use either a steam rack or shelf if using an air fryer for dehydration. This will allow air to circulate underneath the food not just above it. Ideally, your air fryer needs to have enough space for you to thinly spread out the food.
If not, you will need to do it in smaller batches. If everything is too clustered then it won’t dehydrate as effectively.
Finally, make sure your air fryer can withstand long usage as it will be on for a good couple of hours rather than the usual 15-30 minutes.
Some air fryers do come with a dehydration setting but, regardless, use the same recipe or instructions as you would for a dehydrator. Use the same temperature and the same drying time and you should achieve similar results.
Best Air Fryers For Dehydrating Food
Here are some of my favourite air fryers, all of which can be used to dehydrate food;
Instant Pot Vortex
The Instant Pot Vortex is one of the most highly regarded air fryers on the market right now. The appliance is available in three different sizes and comes with 7 pre-programmed cooking techniques including dehydration and air frying.
The Cosori air fryer comes with additional features including a smart Wi-Fi enabled model. While it doesn’t have pre-programmed dehydration settings you can dehydrate inside this air fryer and the smart features make it significantly easier to do so.
This air fryer has been designed with its dehydration feature in mind and comes with tray inserts. The air fryer comes in one size 6.3 quarts and has a sleek digital front which enables you to easily access the multitude of pre-programmed cooking options.
Best Foods To Dehydrate
Fruits and vegetables often dehydrate the best, although meats and liquids can be dehydrated too. Slices of apples, stone fruits, berries, tomatoes, mushrooms, all work well as the dehydration process intensifies the flavour and texture while also preserving them.
As mentioned before, the raw vegan diet has enabled a lot more creative uses of dehydration that can use either a dehydrator or an air fryer.
Raw cakes, biscuits, crackers or even raw pizza dough can be dehydrated to add more texture and more firmness to the overall dish you are making. You can find many recipes online that will hopefully encourage you to experiment more with dehydration.