Raw Food Equipment Questions: Dehydrators

by Susan on October 15, 2009

pumpkin bread

Pumpkin Seed Flat Bread

Often I am asked to recommend equipment, especially dehydrators. As soon as our store is up, I will be able to point you there. But in the meantime, I will share with you what I know. There are many different types of equipment out there, I only have experience with what I have used. I would love for you to comment on what blenders, dehydrators, etc. you are using, how you like them and how you feel they perform.

I will start with dehydrators. Many people like the Excalibur. It is a great dehydrator and was the second type I bought. I am now on my third. I also have an American Harvest. It was my first dehydrator. I now use the TSM dehydrator. There are big differences in all of these dehydrators. These are some of the options you will want to consider when choosing your dehydrator.

Temperature Control: It is very important to have a dehydrator that has temperature control. We don’t want to heat foods above 116 degrees while dehydrating to retain the optimal nutritional value.

Shelf Configuration: While the American Harvest is a good dehydrator when dehydrating smaller pieces, the circular shape makes it more difficult to use when making flat breads, etc. Mine also doesn’t have shelf spacers, I don’t even know if they have them. You are limited to making food that is only 1″ high. Some of the breads, etc need more space than that. You also couldn’t put a pie crust in because you just don’t have the space with the circular dehydrators. Both the Excalibur and the Sausage Maker have removable shelves that are square, giving you the most flexibility and options.

Timers: This is an option that I really use. I can set the timer, go to bed and not worry about something getting over-dried. It is an option that adds more expense but I think it is well worth it. Before I had a timer, I had considered using a lamp timer. Never tried it but I think it could work.

Size: A 4 or 5 shelf dehydrator gives you quite a bit of room. If you are going to do a lot of dehydrating you might want to consider a bigger unit. I outgrew my 5 shelf very fast. That said, I do try to use my dehydrator very economically. I will make more than one thing at a time and also heat up soup or melt coconut oil while other things are processing. I really like the extra room. I also spend a lot of time working on recipes for the web site and up coming cookbook, so mine gets a lot of use.

Noise: I have found the Excalibur to be loud. The Sausage Maker is almost silent. If this is something you need to consider, I would highly recommend the extra cost for the sausage maker. If you get the Excalibur and find the noise unpleasant, you can always put it in another room, or even the basement, if you have the space.

I would love to hear your comments on what you use, why you like it and how it has performed for you. As we venture into the colder months, I know I will be using mine more!

Print Friendly

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Caleb October 15, 2009 at 9:22 am

Is the Sausage Maker quieter than the Excalibur? When I bought mine I was sold on it because the horizontal trays. I was told with dehydrators like the the American Harvest required rotating the trays because the fan was at the bottom. I actually never thought of flat breads at the time, but now for that reason I am even happier with my Excalibur.

Susan October 15, 2009 at 9:39 am

The sausage maker (funny name) is almost silent. I love that.

Kerry October 15, 2009 at 9:48 am

I love my Excalibur, though I agree, it is way noisy. The design is great – easy to clean and use. The trays are square which makes them incredibly easy to take in and out. I’ve only had mine for about two weeks (5 drawers) but I’ve gone dried fruit crazy. Best so far, surprisingly were oranges. Also have done tomatoes, pears, apples and bananas – all delicious.

mandy October 15, 2009 at 10:07 am

I have an American Harvest as well, was in the market for an excaliber and my mother in law told me she had one in the closet. It was still in it’s box, never been used. I like it, it definitely does the job. I just wish it had spacers, I want to make bigger things and can’t. I have found some little mini silicone quiche molds and use those for quiches and pies, it works well. I also have made mini carrot cakes in a tiny bundt mold but had to only fill half way or so to fit…so I’m working with it! My next one will have removeable shelves..but can’t complain..it was free!

Akemi - Yes to Me October 15, 2009 at 10:22 am

This is interesting. I was about to buy Excalibur, but if it’s noisy, maybe not.
Never heard of sausage maker (Hey, I’m a vegan!). Where is the heat source? In the back like Excalibur? Does it keep the shelves dark like Excalibur? Is the temperature set right and stable? Is it easy to clean?

Susan October 15, 2009 at 10:26 am

The fan is in the back, it is very quiet, the shelves are all removable and it is dark inside. You can click on the link in the post to see more. It is quite a bit more but I really love it.

Akemi - Yes to Me October 15, 2009 at 10:50 am

I checked their website and called them too right now :)
It sounds good. The only remaining Q about sausage maker is: is the thermostat calibrated properly? Have you checked the temp inside by independent thermometer? Often, machines are out of calibration by 10 degrees or so.

Mary Turtle October 15, 2009 at 11:46 am

Since I have none of the necessary equipment I am really interested in getting everyone’s input on the dehydrators. If I decide to buy one at least I’ll have lots of guidance in what to buy. Thanks, everyone, for your opinions.

Eco Mama October 15, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Susan,
Have you heard of the Good4U Dehydrator? I’m curious about that–it’s supposed to be quieter than the Excalibur and better customer service. I have the 9 tray Excalibur and have yet to really embrace it.

As for other equipment, I LOVE my Blendtec blender and my Breville juicer.

When is your cookbook coming out? I’m so excited!!
xo
Eco Mama

Susan October 15, 2009 at 12:32 pm

I wonder about how efficient it is with out that front door. And can you put bigger things in it? I can’t find a lot of information.

evergreen October 15, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Your Pumpkin Seed Flat Bread looks awesome:)…must try it on my next ‘D’ day!

My one and only dehydrator is the the 9 tray Excalibur. I’ve had it for about a year and a half and I love it! I did buy an appliance timer for it, but have yet to use it. I am able to keep it in a spare room, so I can close the door if the noise or scents from it bother anyone else. It is easy to clean, and to flip and rotate the trays.

Does the Sausage Maker perform better than the Excalibur? I love the fact that it is stainless steel:)

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) October 15, 2009 at 3:10 pm

This: I have found the Excalibur to be loud.
I totally agree!! And when I mention this to people they are like, oh but you’ll get used to it. Sort of, I have. But not completely and when I finally shut it off I am like ahhh, peace again in my home. It sounds like a freight train to me, really. Even in a 2000+ sq ft home when I am on the other side, I can still hear it. But I do love the results. Also following u now on twitter :) Sorry that I always dont comment on your posts here but I also read…cuz we are both Minnetonka ladies :)

Marillyn @ just-making-noise October 15, 2009 at 3:37 pm

I need to buy a new dehydrator soon myself. I have a used Coffee Maker brand that has been great for the last 3 years, but it is getting ready to poop out on me. Thank you for posting your thoughts and experiences with dehydrators. I really want to get the Excalibur and I don’t think the noise will bother me, but it is good to know about that!

I know I don’t post much, but I do enjoy your blog. I would love to have you as a guest on my blog sometime. I like a variety of recipes… vegan, raw, veggie & meats. I believe in a balance of everything.. that’s just my opinion :o)

Pure2Raw Twins October 15, 2009 at 9:04 pm

O have 2 Excaliburs and love them, but they are a little loud. I have never heard of Harvest Essentials, I might just look into that when ready to get another one, thanks!

Trevor October 15, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Awesome, practical article. Thanks!

Eco Mama October 16, 2009 at 4:51 pm

The doors are built in (with the good4u) and I can’t find a lot of info either….just a couple of positive things on raw message boards. They have spacers so that you can still put big things in and supposedly really good customer service. And they’re supposed to be much quieter than the excalibur. I’m very curious!!
xo
Eco Mama

Michelle October 18, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Susan – really glad you posted this as this was a question I had.

The only dehydrator I was familiar with is the American Harvest. That is what my mom had when we were growing up and I remember her using every year at harvest time quite a bit. (I think she had about 10 shelves for hers)

She created her own “filters/screens” for the trays by buying the plastic canvas material used for arts and crafts. Those came in useful for both things that were smaller in size as well as making it very easy to remove the food from once dehydrated.

I was wondering how useful it was though because of it’s circular shape with the “venting” through the center so I could see how a square one would be much more beneficial (as well as the tray height you mention).

Thanks again for this post!

Zachary Domike November 17, 2009 at 4:30 pm

We are very happy with the raw diet, & believe live enzymes greatly improve assimilation. I listened to my friends, and bought the Excalibur Dehydrator. Being very enthusiastic, I also borrowed a round Ezidri (AKA Harvest Maid or Harvester?), and made up double batches of everything. As I have a thermometer, I was able to check the max & min temperatures of each machine.

The Excalibur temps averaged the set temp of 114*F 45*C but got up to 125*F 54*C. As the Excalibur website, & Dr. Cousens piece explains, they allow wide temperature fluctuations. The Ezidri (made in NZ) kept an even temp, varying by only one degree.

I went an extra step and sprouted a collection of beans and seeds and dehydrated in each machine. Only the Ezidri samples were able to continue sprouting after dehydration, which shows that the enzymes were still alive. I returned the Excalibur I had bought, and will work with the round shape of the Ezidri, happy to keep my enzymes alive.

I am mystified by Dr. Cousens suggestion that temps above 115*F 45*C are only acceptable in the Excalibur; my sprouts died above that temp, which is not ideal. The Excalibur was apparently designed for beef jerky, not for raw foods. I am concerned that many Raw Foodies are buying a dehydrator that is killing the key enzymes, which will reduce the effectiveness of the whole Raw Movement.

From your page, most issues are addressed, but my experiments proved the reverse of the Excalibur claims. No doubt that square shape is more convenient, but air does not move evenly in squares! The Excalibur will be a fine machine, once they use a more precise thermostat, and put in a baffle so that the temperatures are less variable at different parts of the tray. Until then, round crackers with a hole-in-the-middle!

Susan November 17, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Unless you have a more sophisticated (commercial) oven thermometer, the actual thermometer that you are using to measure the temperature can be off by 20 degrees. I have one and have marked on my own dehydrator where the temp needs to be set.

Nancy Zare, WellnessWiz December 4, 2009 at 11:06 am

I started with an American Harvester and when it malfunctioned, I purchased an 8-drawer VegiKiln. It has a temperature control, no timer, and is very quiet. If cost is a contributing factor, then consider this company. The drawers are plastic, and there are no spacers. However, the drawers are removable, so dehydrating larger items works. I’m extremely pleased with this dehydrator.

~Veggie Mystic~ February 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Greetings!

I am very happy with my 10 tray dehydrator from Raw Guru. It is a Good4U and in comparison with an Excalibur is supposedly quieter.
It has a timer, temp control and I bought it when they were offering a special of the 10 non-stick sheets… something that will up the price considerably. It also came with a rack spacer so you can make foods that are taller. There is a comparison chart that shows all the pros and cons of the different brands… oh … and it was less expensive than an EX…

http://www.rawguru.com/store/raw-food/good4u_10tray_dehydrator.html

Blessings,
Veggie Mystic

Tal May 2, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Hello,
Thanks for this great post, I too am in need of info about dehydrators. I looked at the enlarged image of the temp. controls — on the smaller model I don’t see any numbers — it says low at one end end high at the other; the larger model indicates 90º at one end and 165º at the other, which, when divided by the number of segments on the dial, does not even give a whole number. Isn’t it difficult to figure out the exact temp. this way?
My other comment refers to a matter of principle (for me) rather than a practical consideration; even if ignoring the name, I am not sure I could buy from a company that has a “butchering” link as an integral part of its site. I didn’t have the guts (no pun intended) to click it, but nevertheless will probably not buy it for this reason, though the silence is very tempting.
Tal

Susan May 3, 2010 at 7:48 am

Tal…I think that saying the butchering link is an integral part of their site is going little far. It is one of the 28 links that they have. We carry the TSM dehydrator, not the sausage maker dehydrator. I realize it is semantics but I did not want to have a dehydrator in my kitchen with a dancing sausage on it, and I don’t. I do not eat meat. But I don’t judge those that do. I am very against farming animals, but if people are butchering their own…they have already eliminated a huge problem in the industry, which is the horrible conditions on feed lots. It is a personal decision. I happen to think it is the best dehydrator on the market and appreciate that they are making a dehydrator for those of us who aren’t meat eaters.

As far as the temp, I just used a thermometer and marked the dial. Very easy. Also, it is made from stainless, not plastic which doesn’t break, is much easier to clean and will not off gas anything.

rose July 7, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Has anyone had experience with “LEM” stainless steel dehydrators? I just noticed these online especially Ebay. They look very similar to TSM but a bit cheaper. Any info. appreciated.

Susan July 7, 2010 at 5:54 pm

I am checking into it for you. Just from the photo, I don’t think it is build as well as the TSM. The TSM comes apart and you can completely take the heating element off the back. But…I will find out more information for you.

rose July 8, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Thanks! I really appreciate it. Beautiful website too!

Cayley July 19, 2010 at 3:47 pm

I’ve noticed some of your recipes say to dehydrate at 145 degrees for a period of time, then reduce to 115.. can you explain this? How is this still raw?

Susan July 19, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Yes…we talk about that a lot. We start the dehydration at a higher temperature when the food is wet. The food temperature never gets close close to the air temperature. Starting at a higher temperature shortens your dehydration time and gets the water out of the food faster, which helps prevent fermentation. The food temperature stays well below the 116 degrees so yes, it is still raw. You can read more about it here: http://www.rawmazing.com/articles/dehydration-questions/

Cayley July 21, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Thanks, Susan. I just found your site this week and I must say, it’s just beautiful… and informative!!! Thanks for the link on that other article on dehydrators. I noticed someone else had the same question I had in the comments:

“*What* are those a picture of in that article????” I’m going to guess a crust to the white chocolate dark chocolate raspberry tart??

Cayley July 21, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Oh, I also wanted to say that your pictures of your food are absolutely gorgeous. Who wouldn’t want to eat raw with those beautiful pics to look at?? Do you take them yourself?

Susan July 21, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Cayley, the pictures are the base for the cookies that will be in the new dessert cookbook. You can see more information about that here: Rawmazing Dessert Cookbook. And yes, I do all the food photography. I have a photography site here: Susan Powers Photography

Cayley July 21, 2010 at 10:09 pm

You are sooo talented!!! Gorgeous photos and such delightful recipes!! What an artist!

Mykie August 21, 2010 at 7:48 pm

I eat a mostly raw, vegan diet and I am just geting started dehydrating some of my tomatoes from my garden. I was very unhappy to find that most dehydrators have plastic trays. I go out of my way to avoid contaminating my food with toxins that can be absorbed from plastics, especially under heat, however moderate. Has anyone looked into this issue, and can anyone recommend a dehydrator that is made of really food safe materials?

Susan August 21, 2010 at 10:19 pm

The TSM can be ordered with food grade stainless steel shelves.

Veronica February 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Like Mykie, I also have concerns abt dehydrating in or on plastic. I wonder if anyone else shares these concerns and what they’ve found in their research. I’ve been looking at the TSM and other stainless steel dehydrators for that reason.

Susan February 6, 2011 at 6:31 pm

The TSM is a wonderful dehydrator. It is the one that I use and support.

kim February 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm

The universe is really directing me to raw food… I NEED to invest in a dehydrator, but do not have the money for a stainless TSM one. : ( I am a freak with plastic worries and wanted your advice if you are on a very limited budget (stay at home mom, spending all our money on organic food, buying from farmers, raw milk, etc). Would you go without a dehydrator until you can afford the stainless, or settle for a plastic one? Would it be TSM’s plastic one or Excalibur? THANK YOU, i hope to be a frequent visitor to your site…

Lisa Reynoso July 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm

We recently (this month) purchased an Excalibur Deluxe 9 tray. It’s currently got 5 trays of blueberries in it, and last night it also had those cherry tart shells and some flax seed crackers drying in it (used up the whole dehydrator!). We are very happy with it and don’t mind the noise at all.

Before we got it, we ordered a different brand from Amazon, and we didn’t even get to try it. The sides were bowed out, so the trays wouldn’t stay in place, so we were able to get free return shipping, which is good, because we wouldn’t have liked it. The trays had a lip to make the door, which would have made it impossible to remove them for taller items, so I’m glad it was defective!

robin April 28, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Susan, I am looking for a stainless steel dehydrator and noticed you were going to check into the one by LEM and how it compares to the TSM because it is much less expensive. That was some time ago, so hopefully you are still answering questions on here and will have an answer for me.

Susan April 29, 2013 at 9:55 am

Robin, I honestly haven’t had a chance to try it.

Leave a Comment

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: