Article published in Karen Knowler
's Successfully Raw
Dehydrators - the raw fooder's oven: To own, or not to own? That is the question.
There is a certain amount of controversy among raw food fans as to whether a dehydrator is a 'good' thing or not. For my own part, I say it's purely personal. If owning a dehydrator makes the difference between you choosing cooked or raw, or prevents you from feeling bored or deprived, then I'm all for it.
If you're still sitting on the fence about this one, hopefully what follows will enlighten you sufficiently to be able to make a decision as to whether a dehydrator is for you...
What is a dehydrator?
A dehydrator is typically an oven- shaped piece of equipment (you can
get round ones), usually powered by electricity, that gently dries food out - as opposed to cooking it - resulting in a crunchier and crispier version of the food than what went in. i.e. It keeps the food 'live' but the food tastes cooked.
How does it work?
There are currently two different methods of drying employed by the models on the market today. The first, and most popular, is the fan method, where warm air is generated within the machine and the fan at the rear distributes it evenly throughout the unit - this is the most effective. The second method uses a heating element, usually located at the base of the unit, which relies on the heat rising up through the trays to reach the top, drying each tray as it goes. Perhaps you can already see that the potential problem with this is that the lower trays dry more quickly than the top ones, so you need to rotate them!
Raw fooders who are conscious of the need to preserve enzymes (which is essentially what a live food diet is all about, right?!) generally don't set the thermostat above 105 deg F. As enzymes are killed at around 118 deg F and the temperature shown on the thermostat dial of an Excalibur is actually the temperature of the food
and NOT the air (which is up to 20 deg F higher and what is affecting it), it is good to keep it around 105 deg F to make sure enzymes are kept in tact. (There is an excellent elaboration on all of this on the Excalibur web site, click here
When should I buy one?
When you feel like you've eaten just one salad too many! ... OR ... when you really fancy something crunchy and crispy and nuts and seeds just don't hit the spot any more ... OR ... when you've spotted a raw recipe that you long to make but a dehydrator is required to make it - like my amazing raw pizza for example! ... OR ... when the cold weather hits and you want something more comforting and moreish than what's gone before.
But before you buy, of course you need to be sure that this is not a fad or a whim purchase. Investing in a dehydrator should ideally be a statement to yourself that you are taking a raw food lifestyle seriously (or at least to another level) and to be clear and happy that this is an investment in you and your health rather than yet another gadget that will get relegated to the garage or attic! You'll know when the time feels right...
Who should I consult when purchasing?
Ideally you want to buy from a company that is run by people who are themselves raw food enthusiasts. This is for a number of reasons, some obvious (like, they'll know how to use it!) and some not (they'll also know which one will be best for YOU and may even throw in a few recipes for free). Obviously I have a bias and direct people to my former company, The Fresh Network, but there are way more companies selling dehydrators now than ever before. As I said before though, best to go for a fellow raw food fan who cares about you and what you need more than the sale. There are plenty of people jumping on the raw food bandwagon who know very little about what they're selling, so beware!
I personally recommend the Excalibur dehydrators to just about everyone. Why? Because to my mind it is unrivalled in all departments. Also note that no other make comes with the special sheets that prevent the food from sticking to the trays. The Excalibur has these sheets specially made for them (previously known as Teflex, now known as Paraflexx) and while they do not come as standard and are an optional purchase, I highly recommend them as they are super-easy to clean and last for years - otherwise you'll be using copious amounts of greaseproof paper for the rest of your days!
One final word of advice:
Many people make the mistake of opting for the cheaper version, even within the Excalibur range, purely for price reasons. I did this myself. When I first started I bought a 5 tray Excalibur rather than a 9 tray because of the price difference and because I thought, "well, it's just me using it". The problem with this is that we all generally tend to make our food in batches, so what happens is that we load up our 5 tray to the max only to find that we're now stuck for the next 24+ hours waiting for that batch to dry before we can make any more recipes. Very frustrating! So best to just bite the bullet up front and buy the 9 tray, and I promise you won't regret it...
Next week - the exciting bit - how to get started!
© 2007 Karen Knowler
Karen Knowler, The Raw Food Coach publishes "Successfully Raw" - a free weekly eZine for raw food lovers everywhere. If you're ready to look good, feel great and create a raw life you love get your FREE tips, tools and recipes now at www.TheRawFoodCoach.com