When people first “go raw”, they often very quickly become curious about whether to buy a dehydrator, and when you think of the many possibilities they offer of creating raw alternatives to cooked foods, a dehydrator does seem to be an indispensable piece of equipment in a raw kitchen.
There are mixed feelings among raw fooders about dehydrators. Some feel that dehydrating is too close to cooking for the foods to be truly “alive”, while others say that they could never have switched to or stayed on a raw diet without it.
I’ll share my own thoughts with you in a moment. First, let’s take a look at what a dehydrator is and what it does.
Dehydrators are designed to remove the water from food by heating it very gently to evaporate the moisture within it, thus preserving it (as with fruits), making flavours more concentrated, or for making the food crunchy or crispy, depending how long it has been dehydrated.
Most dehydrators have heat settings ranging from about 95°F to well in excess of the 118°F at which enzymes are killed. As enzymes are the “life force” of food, we obviously don’t want to heat anything above that temperature, as technically we would be cooking them. Raw fooders simply ignore the higher heat settings and keep the temperature to around 110-120°F. This is because the outside temperature is always slightly higher than the temperature inside the food, so having the temperature even as high as 125°F on the dial means that the food itself is below the all-important temperature of 118°F. It’s also important to know that if a dehydrator temperature is set too low, the food can begin to rot or ferment before it has dried, because it isn’t drying quickly enough.
The Excalibur company is the largest dehydrator company in the world. They also manufacture “Paraflexx” sheets, which are thin plastic-looking sheets made from Teflon but which are perfectly safe to use. These cover the clear mesh grid on the trays so that runny or heavy foods can dry without falling through the mesh or sticking to it, which would otherwise result in some complicated and fiddly washing-up! I usually recommend that people order Paraflexx sheets when buying their dehydrator as it saves a fortune on greaseproof paper, and it’s likely that they will be put to use very early in the experimenting stages.
For a long time the Excalibur was your only choice but now there is an alternative in the form of the Sedona Dehydrator made by Tribest. Unlike the Excalibur which is offered in a five-tray or a nine-tray model the Sedona comes as a nine-tray model only. It’s an elegant looking piece of equipment and has a modern all-digital control, a glass door that opens like a small oven and two fans; it looks great and is also very quiet as it works away dehydrating. This is the one that I now use.
At the cheaper end of the market there are smaller circular models. They do the job well, but are really only suitable for those who dehydrate sporadically, just for themselves or in smaller amounts, as the drying area is a lot smaller and typically there are fewer trays. Paraflexx sheets are not available for these dehydrators as they are made specifically for the Excalibur models, but some people purchase them individually and cut them to fit, taking some extra off around the edges to let the heat come through properly.
Now back to the question: do you need a dehydrator? Well, my own feelings have changed over the years. At first I never used one, but later I found that I was looking for more variety in my diet and found it invaluable for keeping friends and family happy and generally being more open to the diversity a raw food diet can offer. Eventually I upgraded from a 5-tray Excalibur to the 9-tray model because of the amount of use it was getting. Today I have a shiny new Sedona model in my kitchen, which I have to say I love. In winter time we tend to be looking for heavier foods like pizza, lasagne, crackers and cookies and with the kind of winter we’ve been having there’s more of a desire for these than normal!
From speaking to many hundreds of people about how a dehydrator has helped them, I would say that this is one of the best investments you can make if you’re aiming for an all-raw diet long-term.
Copyright © 2013 Karen Knowler
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