How to make a homemade food drier or dehydrator

July 28, 2015

Dried and dehydrated foods not only add unique flavours to dishes, they also help food last longer. Here's how to set up your own dried food station.

How to make a homemade food drier or dehydrator

Harness the power of the sun

  • Solar driers soak up the sun's rays and use it to speed up air circulation and reduce the moisture content of the air.
  • A solar drier reduces the risk of contamination by dust, insects and birds associated with simple outdoor drying.
  • Solar driers are especially useful where there's plenty of sunlight and relatively high humidity.

Build your own solar drier

  • The best solar driers use a box, covered by a glass or plastic panel, that's tilted to direct sunlight into the box.
  • The interior should be blackened or lined with aluminum foil to further increase temperature.
  • Put vents in the proper places. Remember that hot air rises, so vents at the top will let air escape while ones at the bottom will draw in fresh air. This causes a continuous flow of warm air that removes moisture from the food.
  • The key to successful solar drying is to check the box frequently.
  • If sunlight is blocked, even partially, the air inside the drier will cool, fail to circulate and become damp. The result is increased risk of deterioration of food.
  • Set the drier up in as dust-free a location as possible and away from pets and other animals.

Make a dehydrator

  1. To make a dehydrator, find a wooden box with space for several mesh or slatted trays.
  2. Place the heat source underneath at least 15 centimetres below the bottom tray. Leave the same space at the top to allow for the circulation of air.
  3. Make sure the heat source isn't in direct contact with the box or floor.
  4. Heating sources include electric food warmers, small heaters on the lowest setting and even ordinary light bulbs. Avoid devices that give off fumes.
  5. There must be a large vent at the bottom for air intake, and small ventilation holes near the top to allow the escape of warm moist air.
  6. Space trays 5 to 10 centimetres apart.
  7. A fan can be used to aid air circulation.
  8. Rotate trays midway through the drying process.

Driers for the stovetop

  • Driers designed for fuel stoves can also be used on electric and gas cooktops.
  • In this type of drier, the drying tray is separated from the direct heat of the cooktop by a dish of water seven to eight centimetres (three to 3 1/2 inches) deep.
  • Use all cooktop elements and keep them on as low a setting as possible.
  • As in other drying techniques, food must be spread in a single layer with space between the pieces.
  • Keep the water in the dish topped up to prevent scorching.

With your own home dehydrator or drier, you can add new flavours while keeping food for longer. Just remember to take care and watch out for signs of deterioration. That way, you'll know when your food's turning out just right.


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