Dehydration is an ages-old method of preserving food that is simple and effective. A dehydrator allows you to remove the moisture from food that causes spoilage while retaining the taste and nutrition of the food. Dehydrated food is also highly portable so you can take it with you wherever you go. Foods like beef jerky or dried fruits and vegetables can be enjoyed as a healthy snack at home, camping trips, or any place where fresh food isn’t readily available.
Food dehydrators are becoming increasingly popular kitchen appliances since more people are becoming aware of the health implications of eating food prepared with additives. Dehydrating food lets you preserve healthy seasonal fruits and vegetables to enjoy all year long.
Solar vs Electric Dehydrators
The biggest difference between an electric and solar dehydrator is the energy source. While the electric unit requires electricity to operate, a solar powered dehydrator uses heat from the sun and surrounding air to dry food. That means that the best time to use a solar food dryer will be when sunshine is available. The dehydration process can also be affected by the amount of humidity in the air. Food will dehydrate faster in areas with low humidity.
Both electric and solar dehydrators are available in a variety of styles. Electric dehydrators come in a variety of sizes and capacities and include a variety of features that make dehydrating food more precise and convenient. Automatic timers and temperature controls allow users to dehydrate a wide variety of foods without repeatedly checking to see if the food is dry. More expensive models that use a horizontal air flow system dry foods more evenly than those with vertical air flow without requiring the trays to be rotated throughout the drying process.
Solar dehydrators vary more in structure and materials and lack the features that make dehydrating different foods precise. Most are made of light mesh that allow the warmth of the sun and the surrounding air to dehydrate the food. There are also more elaborate models that use an indirect heat source and/or glass to create higher temperatures within the unit. A number of factors will determine whether a solar dehydrator or a more conventional electric model is best.
Pros and Cons of Solar Dehydrators
A solar food dehydrator brings simplicity and energy-efficiency to the practice of dehydrating foods. The units are lightweight and more affordable than the electric models. Solar dehydrators work outdoors without the heat and noise electric dehydrators often produce in the kitchen. Since a solar food dryer uses the sun’s energy to dehydrate foods, the units are highly energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly.
There are also some drawbacks to using a solar dehydrator. The drying process is not precise and there is no controlling the heat from the sun so meat and poultry cannot be safely dried. For some foods, drying may take several days and you have to bring the food indoors to prevent the absorption of moisture at night. Due to their lightweight construction, a solar food dehydrator doesn’t last as long as an electric unit made from metal.
What About Electric Dehydrators?
Electric dehydrators are more robust and allow the user precise control over the dehydrating process. Variable temperature settings make it possible to dry foods at optimum temperatures, including meat and poultry. Stackable trays allow users to dehydrate large quantities of food at one time, keeping energy use to a minimum and requiring less time and effort to dehydrate large batches of food.
The drawbacks of electric dehydrators include a higher cost, use of electricity and noisy operation. Some users lack the necessary counter space to keep an electric dehydrator in their kitchen. The decision between solar vs electric comes down to the preferences of the user and the types of foods that will be dried.