I have tried several methods of drying:
1. I made myself an 8 tray homemade smoker.
This works fine, but it is a lot of work. It runs on propane gas with a cast iron pot above the grill for wood chips to make the smoke. Really good for jerky and turkeys but not of much use for drying food.
2. I have an old As Seen On TV round 5 tray. There are several brands of this now days for about $30 to $50. Works fine but it is very slow. It runs at preset 100 degrees temperature. It takes 20 to 24 hours to dry a set of 10 apples. Drys very even on every try if you rotate the trays every 2 hours. Good deal for very small jobs once a year.
3. Della© Countertop 550W Food Dehydrator w/ 10 Drying Racks Digital Temperature Control Timer, White
I decided to spend $87.50 and buy a more expensive one on Amazon so I could have a really nice dryer that worked fast. It is faster. Has 10 trays instead of 5 but even though they are square they still hold the same amount as the round tray. This bigger dryer dried the apples in about 10 hours not 24. On more expensive dryers, you can change the temperature from 104 degrees up to 150 degrees. That is a good feature do do jerky. However my Dalla did not work as well as the cheaper $30 As Seen on TV one for fruit. Trays do not dry even so even though you have a timer you still have to rotate the trays front to back as well as top to bottom every 2 hours and then it still does not dry even on the middle of the tray or front and back of tray. I ended up having to take off the dry fruit and combine what was left on the other trays 2 or 3 times to get it all done without over drying some of it. It has a fan but it is very noisy. Not worth $25 alone $87. Sent it back and I had to pay $27 for FEDEX to ship it back.... Click here to see my full Amazon Della Pro and Con Review.
4. We love dried fruit and jerky so much we decided to go all the way and purchased an Excalibur 2900 EC Economy 9 tray dehydrator for $150 from Walmart on line. That is the cheapest Excalibur they make. The others are really expensive!!! WOW!!!!!!!! That is all I need to say WOW!!! This dehydrator is everything it is advertised to be. The trays are almost twice as big as the Della. You can put 3 large sliced apples on each tray. As they say, you get what you pay for. It cost me a lot but it is very heavy duty and a wonderful dehydrator. The fan is quiet. It dries a set of apples in 8 hours. The trays dry perfectly even on each tray front to back and top of unit to bottom without having to rotate the trays. Trays are easy to clean. Very sturdy construction. Big pieces and little pieces still pretty well dry the same speed. No wonder all the people who rate dehydrators say that they rate EXCALIBUR #1 in every size and model or type comparison. THEY ARE #1 IN MY BOOK TOO!!!
MY RATING FOR THE DELLA FOOD DEHYDRATOR:
Here are some of the trays filled with different kinds of fruit and vegetables Raspberries, Peaches, Squash, Cherry Tomatoes, and Grapes.(Only 5 of the 9 trays are showing in this picture. The other 4 trays just have more tomatoes on them.)
When I dried all apples they all dried at the same time on every tray. However it was a little more work to dry different things in the same batch. They dried at different rates and the blue berries dripped down on my squash (but purple squash still tasted pretty good). But still it all dried evenly. I just had to take some out before the others.
Jerky dried evenly at 155 degrees. Most people make it 1/8th of an inch think but I like mine a little thicker than that so it is chewier. I found that the nine trays will hole about 5 pounds of meat sliced at 1/8 of an inch. Because mine is 1/4 in thick, I had lots of room left on each tray with this batch. I found out with my first batch that cheap meat does not get tender just because you dry it. I even put it back in a crock pot for 8 hours and then re-dried it. It was still tough. So this time I bought meat that was 50 cents a pound more (eye of round) and it was well worth the money. When you figure that jerky in the store is about $1 an ounce it really does not matter what cut of meat you use, it is still way cheaper than buying jerky in the store (and homemade has no added chemicals to hurt you). (Only showing 4 trays open here in this picture just so you can see how much room I left on each tray. All 9 trays have jerky on them).
I had some problems with registering it on line and the Excalibur Customer Service people were very unresponsive and never did resolve my problem of not being able to log in. All is well that ends well as they say. I love buying things from Walmart because you can take them back with no questions asked!
MY RATING FOR THE EXCILUBER FOOD DEHYDRATOR:
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LAST UPDATED 31 Oct 2016