A dehydrator is an excellent option if you want a way to preserve food over the long term. These kitchen appliances dry out food placed within them, making it more flavorful and shelf-stable.
That said, it’s essential to understand how to use the machine properly, including what the temperature settings mean before you actually start dehydrating foods.
Your dehydrator goes to 150°F (65.6°C) and above because high temperatures are necessary if you want to dehydrate meats and fish and create jerkies out of them. Additionally, they are required to make delicious fruit leathers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends you only make jerky using meats that have been dried to a minimum of 160°F (71.1°C) or poultry that has been dried to 165°F (73.9°C). This is due to how bacteria present in meats react to heat.
Bacteria in meats must be destroyed before the dehydration process begins because once they dry, the microorganisms present become significantly more heat-resistant.
This means that temperatures that should otherwise kill them will instead have little to no impact.
Bacteria present in meats can cause significant illnesses in both humans and animals. If you make jerky out of meat that has gone bad, you risk ingesting harmful bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureus.
Meat and fish for jerkies should be treated to between 160°F (71.1°C) and 165°F (73.9°C) heat twice during the jerky making process.
The first is prior to dehydrating, which can be done in an oven or over a stove, and the second is during the actual dehydration process.
Dehydrator Temperature Cheat Sheet For Foods
Most dehydrators come with a drying guide printed on the body of the appliance, letting you know what temperatures a particular food should be dehydrated at. Some common foods to use with a dehydrator include:
Fruits: The ideal dehydration temperature depends on the fruit in question. In general, it ranges from 110°F (43.3°C) for fruits like apples and grapes to 165°F (73.9°C) for cherries.
Vegetables: Like with fruits, the ideal dehydration temperature for vegetables depends on the type of vegetable, with the average range being 110°F (43.3°C) for vegetables including asparagus and yams to 122°F (50°C) for harder vegetables.
Herbs and Spices: When drying herbs and spices, you have a larger range of temperatures to choose from, depending on the dehydrator you own. The generally accepted temperature range is between 95°F (35°C) to 115°F (46.1°C).
Proofing Dough: If you’re looking to proof dough quickly when making bread, you can use a dehydrator turned up to 110°F (43.3°C) to do so.
Making Yogurt: While you may not immediately think of using a dehydrator to do so, making yogurt in this appliance is possible. Your dehydrator should be kept at 105°F (40.6°C) to 110°F (43.3°C) when doing so.
Fruit Leathers and Fruit Rolls: Depending on the type of fruit you’re using, your dehydrator should be set between 135°F (57°C) and 165°F (73.9°C).
Nuts and Seeds: Like fruits and vegetables, the temperature at which nuts and seeds should be dehydrated depends on the type of nuts and seeds. A general temperature range is 95°F (35°C) to 150°F (65.6°C).
Sprouted Grains. When dehydrating sprouted grains, the temperature you set your dehydrator to depends on whether or not you want enzyme activity to continue post-dehydration. Activity stops 113°F (45°C), so you should keep that in mind. If this is not a concern, dehydrator temperature should be set between 145°F (62.8°C) and 150°F (65.6°C).
How To Make Fruit Leather In A Dehydrator
Fruit leathers and rolls are extremely easy to make if you have a dehydrator on hand.
There’s not much difference between these two treats – the only real difference is the thickness of the fruit puree layer you place in the dehydrator. A thinner layer produces fruit rolls, while a thicker layer creates fruit leathers.
Before you can start cooking, make sure you’ve chosen the right fruits for the job.
They should be ripe or even slightly overripe so that the final taste is stronger. You will also need to choose a flavor, or a combination of fruits, like strawberry rhubarb or raspberry banana, or just opt for a single fruit.
Once you’ve decided on the fruits you’re using, and whether you’re planning to make fruit leather or rolls, you can start the dehydration process. The steps you’ll need to follow are:
Wash and peel your fruits. If necessary, remove any pits present. You can either get rid of the peel or use it to boost the nutritious value of the final product.
Put all the fruit into a blender and add sugar. The proportion of sugar to fruit depends on how sweet you want the final fruit leather to be. Alternatively, you can avoid adding extra sweetener if you prefer a tarter fruit leather.
Squeeze half a lemon into the mixture, ensuring that none of the lemon seeds fall in. Then go ahead and blend the mixture in your blender until smooth.
Line your dehydrator with parchment paper and spread the blended fruit on top. The parchment paper ensures that you’ll be able to remove the fruit leather from the dehydrator easily, without anything sticking to the appliance.
Set the dehydrator between 140°F (60°C) and 165°F (73.9°C), depending on the fruits you’ve chosen. Run the dehydrator until the leather is ready. This can take between 4-12 hours, depending on the fruits used, so you’ll have to check whether it’s fully dry every few hours.
You’ll know that your fruit leather is ready when it has it has a deep, bold color and is non-sticky when you touch it. If it’s sticky, it’s a sign that the leather needs to dry for a bit longer. Once your product is ready, you can eat it immediately or store it for use later.
When storing it, cut the leather into strips and roll with the parchment paper still attached, which will prevent the leather from sticking to itself, easily allowing you to consume small portions. It should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry location.