In the Prepography post entitled “Top 10 Food Dehydrating Tips“, I detailed the benefits of dehydrating your own food. One of the most important pieces of equipment for dehydrating in the modern era is the store-bought dehydrator. Shocking, I know! There could be several reasons why you haven’t already run out and purchased a new dehydrator based on my sage advice. The price of a new one could be outside your budget. You could be a cheapskate and don’t want to spend the money. or, you could be one of those industrious types that thinks you could build one cheaper, and better than one bought from a store. Well, this post is for you and will help you make a simple dehydrator.
In fact, you can make a simple dehydrator using nothing but household items. It will by no means be as good as a Nesco or Excalibur but it will; given time, patience and attention, get the job done. Gathering the parts to make a simple dehydrator will take longer than actually putting it together and making it operational.
WARNING: Your home-made dehydrator won’t be the subject of an ISO testing regime so make sure to use it only in a fire-safe area that you closely monitor during the dehydrating process.
Step 1: Select a large cardboard box. A suitable box should be able to stand on its end for easy access. Make sure not to use a plastic box as there may be the risk of off gassing when the dehydrator heats up or melting. Line the inside with aluminum foil using tape. Double sided tape works best for this step.
Step 2: Insert and mount your heat source, with the cord running through the side or back of the box. Try and keep the hole as small and insulated as possible, in order to cut down on heat loss. A word on the heat source, use a bulb that gives off heat. A 75w or 100w incandescent bulb works great. An LED, or CFL bulb won’t give off the necessary heat. Make sure there are no exposed wires in contact with the aluminum foil, as moisture may accumulate inside your box.
Step 3 (Optional): Insert and mount your fan. Place the fan opposite your heat source. Adding the fan to the process will help with the dehydrating process by circulating the warm air and helping remove moisture from your food.
Step 4: Cut holes in the sides of the box to slide your wooden slats or dowels through to place your racks on. Some suggest that you could use PVC for the rack supports but due to the possibility of off-gassing, my suggestion is to use wooden dowels, slats or a freestanding rack.
Step 5: Make vent holes at the top to allow the moisture to escape. You want to use numerous smaller holes, rather than fewer larger holes. The reason for this is that moisture will collect on the areas where there is no ventilation.
Step 6: Insert the cooking thermometer into the side of the box, at about the level of you rack supports. Ensure you can read your thermometer from the outside of the box. If you were to place the thermometer inside you would have to open the box to read it and would lose valuable heat in the process.
Step 7: Place your newly constructed dehydrator in a fire safe area.
Step 8: Place your food on the racks and mount inside your box.
Step 8: Close your box, turn on your new dehydrator and let the food dehydrate! Make sure to monitor your dehydrator for safety during the dehydration process.
Some notes on using your home made dehydrator. First and foremost, do not leave you dehydrator unattended; safety, safety, safety. The next thing is managing the heat. Different foods need to be dehydrated at different temperatures, for best results. The table below shows you the proper temperature for different foods:
|Fruit & Vegetables||130°-140° F|
|Meats||145° F or higher|
You can manage the heat inside the box, by leaving the box slightly open or closing it up.