Echolife Australia Food Dehydrator Buying Guide
A dehydrator is a specialised appliance that removes moisture from food at very low temperatures. Our four-part guide explains the why, how, and which dehydrator is right for you.
Do you grow your own food and are worried about your garden's harvest spoiling if you can't use it all, or not use it fast enough?
Do you love those store-bought dried apple slices but find them too pricey?
Are you looking for an appliance to round out your kitchen’s capabilities?
Whatever the reason for your curiosity, you’ve come to the right place! This four-part guide will walk you through what food dehydration is and what you can do with a dehydrator, how to choose one, and the range of dehydrators we stock - finishing with a summary and handy checklist you can return to us so we can pair you with the best machine for your needs:
- Part One: some background on dehydration
- Part Two: which model is right for me?
- Part Three: a quick overview of our range
- Part Four: a simplified summary
- Checklist and contact
What is a dehydrator, and why use one?
A food dehydrator (sometimes called food dryer) removes moisture from food at very low temperatures, which gives food a much longer shelf life. The low temperature is key to preserving a high nutritional profile in the dehydrated food.
Dehydrators are also the ideal kitchen appliance to make recipes that require a constant low temperature for a longer period of time (like yoghurt).
Why not use a conventional oven?
A conventional oven will generally not have a low-enough temperature range to do what a dehydrator does.
Dehydrators are also built from the ground up to distribute airflow evenly, be economical to run and they offer much more shelf-space than your average kitchen oven. In other words, they will be better at drying food and won’t cost very much (on average between 4.5 and 6.5 cents per hour*).
Why dehydrate food?
Dehydration is an old food preservation method: by removing moisture, food can last for much longer than if it was kept fresh. There are many reasons to have one at home!
With a dehydrator you can nourish yourself differently, replicate recipes which may be commercially available but too pricey and/or filled with preservatives and colourings you’d rather avoid.
Having a dehydrator is also a great way to save on your food bills: you can buy produce in bulk or when it is on special, without fear of spoilage or waste.
Compared to other methods of food preservation it is quick and easy. If you have fruit-bearing trees in your garden, you will be able to take advantage of their crop without having to make a large batch of jam to use it all up.
It is also very versatile! With a dehydrator you can think beyond humble banana chips (although these are very delicious) and use it to:
- make your own yoghurt (be sure to look for a machine with a thermostat range starting at 35ºC)
- make sprouted crackers and breads
- prepare meals for your next camping trip or hike
- make your own corn chips or healthier alternatives to store-bought potato chips (think kale, sweet potato, carrot, beetroot,...)
- raise bread and pastries
- dry herbs and spices
- make fruit and vegetable powders
- make breakfast granola, raw muffins and cookies
- make dried fruit rings, fruit balls, and fruit leathers
- make fish or meat jerky
- make pet treats
- prepare soups and casseroles
- dry flowers and make pot-pourri
You can of course eat what you dehydrate on its own (like fruit or veggie chips), but you can also rehydrate produce and add it to dishes as needed (to rehydrate simply place in filtered water for a few hours).
All dehydrators come with an instruction manual and drying guide, which will help you be on your way. Echolife also stocks recipe books if you need extra inspiration!
Preserving food easily
You might be evaluating other food preservation methods alongside dehydration, such as canning or freezing.
Canning is a proven method to preserve foods for long periods of time but different canning methods have to be practised depending on each food’s pH (low pH foods like meats, seafood and non-pickled vegetables have to be processed with pressure canning instead of a boiling water bath). Canning also heats food at a higher temperature than a dehydrator, requires supervision and specialised equipment like jars and lids.
Freezing is another effective method for preserving foods but a freezer and its contents take up space - dehydrated foods reduce in size and can be stored very effectively in your existing cupboards.
Based on ease of use and convenience, we lean towards dehydrating as our food preservation method of choice.
A word on safety
It is very important to check your dehydrated food for any remaining moisture as under-drying will lead to mould growth and spoilage. With these simple tips this can be avoided:
- Follow your instruction manual guidelines: they have been written with food safety in mind.
- To check for moisture: break or tear a piece and squeeze - if any liquid or moisture comes to the surface, return the food to the dehydrator.
- Another method for checking for remaining moisture is to place your dehydrated food in a ziplock bag. Leave for a minutes, and if you notice droplets inside the bag return the food to the dehydrator.
- When in doubt, over-dry rather than under-dry.
You know more about dehydrating and you have decided you need a food dehydrator in your life. Great! But which one?
Baby steps or full control
First, you need to think about how you want to use the dehydrator and what you will be making.
Will you mostly be making fruit leathers and fruit chips for the kids’ lunch boxes? Then you are likely to want a model that has set programs so you don’t have to think about what temperature to select every time. The EziDri Snackmaker would be a good match for you.
Are you always trying different recipes, or follow a raw food diet and have precise dietary requirements? Then you might prefer to have full control over the thermostat every time. This is available to you with the whole Excalibur range as well as L’Equip.
Timer or no timer
Again, if you often make the same recipes and their drying time can span a whole afternoon or nightsleep, you can load your dehydrator, go to bed and check on it in the morning. The L'Equip LD528CT is a 4 Tray No Timer model at an excellent price point and you can expand its capacity to 12 trays in total.
A timer will come in handy if you have a busy kitchen or are running a business and good time management is of the essence. With a timer model, you can load the trays, set the desired drying time and walk away. All timer models stop automatically at the end of the drying cycle you have set.
A digital timer with two temperature and two time zones gives you the most advanced options and flexibility and can speed up the drying process. This is especially important when you are dehydrating commercially and making more involved recipes. We stock three models with digital timers: two with a 48 hour timer, and one with a whopping 99 hour timer.
The list below shows the average drying cycle for popular recipes and foods*:
- Banana, rhubarb and watermelon: up to 10 hours
- Apples, berries, peaches: up to 16 hours
- Figs and grapes: up to 30 hours
- Cucumber, capsicums, onion, mushrooms and eggplant: up to 8 hours
- Celery, carrots and corn: up to 10 hours
- Summer squash and broccoli: up to 14 hours
- Jerky: 4 to 6 hours (not counting prep time like brine curing which can last 6 to 12 hours)
*Taken from the Excalibur Drying Guide. Please keep in mind the times indicated above are averages only: many factors influence the required length of a drying cycle including how thick slices/pieces are, and the ambient humidity in your kitchen.
How many trays?
We generally go by number of family members and how many times per week you are thinking of using the dehydrator to recommend a size.
For beginners or families of two, we usually recommend starting with a smaller model (4 to 6 trays).
The more family members, the more frequently you are likely to use the dehydrator, so the more trays we recommend: for a family of 4 we usually recommend 9 tray models.
Of course there are no hard and fast rules and you can start your dehydrating journey with a larger model!
Do I need non-stick sheets?
Yes, we think so. If you want to make fruit or yoghurt roll-ups, they're a must otherwise your mixture is simply going to drip through the holes of the trays.
We also find that leaving a non-stick sheet at the bottom of your dehydrator to act as a drip-tray speeds up cleaning.
If you're drying herbs and small light things, you can also 'sandwich' them between two non-stick sheets so they don't fly off and stay put nicely during the drying cycle.
Excalibur is the only brand that offers a choice with their non-stick sheets: Teflon or silicone-coated. The Teflon-coated sheets don't release fumes at the low temperatures the dehydrators operate, but for those who want to avoid it silicone sheets will be a good option. Please keep in mind there is a difference in how they perform (flipping food during the drying cycle is recommended with a silicone sheet).
We stock dehydrators in various materials, for various needs.
Most of the dehydrators in our catalogue are made from FDA-approved polycarbonate, a material proven not to release fumes at low temperatures. These will give many years (sometimes decades) of loyal service, and are our best-selling models.
Some dehydrators have a durable stainless steel casing and trays: these models are sturdier and you can steam-clean steel trays for extra peace of mind (this is especially handy if you make jerky on a regular basis).
One model in the Excalibur range is made entirely from stainless steel (with glass doors): the Commercial 10 Tray model, which weighs nearly 30 kg and has to be sent via special courier! This model is most commonly used by businesses and has been designed with a 99 hour digital timer. We have also sold it to passionate customers for home use, but keep in mind it is bulky and heavy!
Across all brands we stock, all the parts that are in actual contact with food are BPA-free.
Each brand has its own proprietary technologies and individual approach to dehydration, resulting in different designs and features.
Excalibur dehydrators are all designed with horizontal airflow, and their fan is positioned at the back of the unit.
EziDri dehydrators work with a vertical airflow, drawn from a round base and distributed to the trays above it. Ezidri used to be sold under the name ‘Harvest Maid’, and some customers who have a 20 year old Harvest Maid dehydrator base still come to us to buy spare trays and accessories - a testament to their longevity!
L’Equip dehydrators also work with vertical airflow and offer the most varied technologies of all our dehydrator catalogue: a model that is fitted with an air filter, and a model that uses infra-red technology.
EziDri and L’Equip dehydrators are customisable: you can purchase extra trays to increase their capacity, something you cannot do with Excalibur dehydrators.
Every dehydrator we sell comes with an Australian warranty and spare parts are available through special order:
Take a look at this simple table - it gives a quick recap of each brand’s range (you can also download the table in PDF form here).
|Australian warranty||All models*: 2 Year Domestic / 1 Year Commercial; *10 Tray: 1 Year Domestic + Commercial||All models: 2 Year Domestic / 1 Year Commercial||All models: 7 Year Domestic|
|Number of trays||5 / 9 / 10||5 (can add more)||4 / 5 / 6 (can add more)|
Yes: 26 hour / 48 hour digital / 99 hour digital
No Timer models also available
Yes: 48 hour digital
No Timer models also available
|Yes: 24 hour / 24 hour digital / 99 hour digital|
All models: 41°C to 74°C
Digital models: 35°C to 74°C
Snackmaker: 3 preset settings (Low/Medium/High)
Ultra: yes 30ºC to 63ºC
Ultra Digital: yes 30ºC to 70ºC
|All models: 34ºC or 35ºC to 70ºC|
|Power||400 to 600 W||500 to 1,000 W||500 to 530 W|
|Echolife's price||Up to 14% off||5% off||Up to 22% off|
|Shipping||Free standard delivery||Free standard delivery||Free standard delivery|
We’ve put together a short checklist to help guide you through your requirements: you can fill it out here and we will get back to you to confirm which model we think suits you best!
As always, we are here to help so don’t hesitate to email or call us for further advice or questions.
All the best on your food dehydrating journey!