Tips for dehydrating food

Deb Lindsey/For the Washington Post - A quick trip through a dehydrator softens zucchini and gives it a pastalike texture.

Some dehydrating advice from Deanna DeLong, author of “How to Dry Foods”:

■ For the ultimate machine and a great investment, consider the Gardenmaster Pro by Nesco.

VIENNA, VA, JANUARY 9, 2013: Winter salad of shaved cucumber, radish and endive with lemon vinaigrette. Dishware courtesy of Crate & Barrel. (Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post)

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■ When choosing a dehydrator, look for a fan, a thermostat and multiple heating elements. Removable, dishwasher-safe racks are great, too.

■ Don’t buy a mini dehydrator. They are not practical, not even for one person (think one apple every five hours).

■ Use the dehydrator smartly. “Small batches are best for high humidity. Make a dehydrator work with the climate. If it’s hot, sit it on the back porch so it’s not heating the house.” To keep from slowing it down, run it in the coolest part of the house.

■ Never mix fresh with a batch of partially dry; it slows down the process, and overall quality will suffer.

■ Whether using the sun, oven, or dehydrator, you’re finished when produce is leathery and pliable with no pockets of moisture. “Squishy [produce] will mold unless it goes in the freezer.”

■ Store dry foods sealed in a cool, dry place. There’s no rush to rehydrate; home-dried vegetables can last up to six months and home-dried fruits are good for one year. If you see signs of mold or smell fermenting, discard.

■ If drying meats, make sure to fully cook them before drying, and set dehydrator to at least 140 degrees.

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