I recently received the Nesco Snackmaster Pro for Christmas and I have to say this is an impressive food dehydrator.
It circulates the air for even drying and it is easy to find accessories to use with it. There are a lot of kitchen gadgets out there but this is one that I know I am going to use consistently and it will help us eat better and save time and money.
You get the following great features:
- Made In The USA of high quality food grade plastic that is easy to clean and durable
- Comes with 5 trays but can be expanded to an amazing 12 trays. The replacement trays come in 2 packs so if you buy enough to get up to the 12 you will actually have 13 so you are either going to have an extra around just in case or you can see how it goes with an extra tray if you are dehydrating foods that are not especially juicy or that are not meat based.
- Includes 2 tray inserts for making your own fruit leather or fruit roll ups
- 2 Clean A Tray Inserts– These are intended for preventing foods from sticking on the standard trays or if you are drying really small foods. It is important to remember that really small foods are going to get a lot smaller as they dry so you want to make sure that they don’t drop through as they dry.
- Enough meat cure and spices to make 3 lbs of jerky
- An Actual Instruction and Recipe Book Worth Using!
You get a great booklet that explains drying times, recipes, and a ton of tips for success when it comes to drying foods. I love this attention to detail.
This booklet is enough to get someone started in dehydrating foods even if they have zero experience. I would go so far to say that you would not need to buy any other book if you pay attention to this booklet. It is rare for a company to actually offer such comprehensive instructions with a product.
Nesco makes a Jerky Works that allows you to turn ground up meats into jerky style sticks with ease.
This is a kit that is definitely worth it if you plan on doing a lot of jerky. I like that it allows you to make softer jerky and use less expensive meat. Hamburger is usually a lot cheaper than roasts and softer jerky is easier for some people to eat and digest.
If you can catch ground meat on sale then you can freeze it and use it to make jerky as you can. Meat has quite a bit of water in it so you might be surprised how much it shrinks up when you make it into jerky.
Make Sure To Follow Instructions Carefully For Making Jerky!
It is important to treat meat appropriately before drying to avoid making yourself sick or ruining the meat entirely. Nesco sells their own curing salts and spices or you can read up on how to do this yourself. Pink salt or “Prauge Powder” is required just like if you were making summer sausage. NEVER BE TEMPTED TO SKIP THIS STEP.
It might seem like a no brainer but I am going to say it anyway. Never dry meat and fruits and veggies at the same time. It is a good way to get food poisoning.
600 Watt Fan and Heating Unit
If you have ever had one of those dehydrators that only have a small heating coil at the bottom than I feel for you. That is the type I had years back and I can say that while it would dry, it did an uneven job. I found myself rotating trays and it took forever to dry apples.
Once you have a dehydrator that has a fan and temperature controls for different fruits, vegetables, and meats you will never go back. The Snackmaster has heat settings from 90 F-160 F that ensure that you get the highest quality, flavor, and nutrient retention from your foods. The higher temperatures ensure that you can maintain a temperature that will
Drying times vary a lot because water content of foods can vary a lot. Grapes from one store may have more water in them than the ones at your local farmers market for example.
Having more trays in your dehydrator can increase the overall time for everything to dry. For example apple rings take from 4-10 hrs to dry according to the included booklet. The humidity in your house can have an effect too.
Storing Dry Foods
After foods are completely dry, you should store them with moisture absorbers in tightly sealed jars. I like the jars with the rubber gaskets that you can use for canisters and you can get them in various sizes at kitchen supply stores. They are typically made in Italy and they are just great for so many things.
If you want to put back dried foods for a major SHTF situation then use moisture absorbers and vacuum seal them in reasonable package sizes for you and your family. Remember that dried fruits and veggies go a long way and during an emergency it is best to just open what you can use in a reasonable amount of time.
While a little food spoilage or waste during good times is something you can get away with, during hard times you want to stretch out your food supply as much as you can.
Put vacuum sealed foods in plastic totes or similar for protection from rodents, insects, and moisture.
Catching Foods On Sale and In Season
My first time using this dehydrator I got one of those big bags of bananas that they mark down to $2 so people can use them for banana bread or cooking up quick. I also got a couple of cored and peeled pineapples. Right now a pineapple can be had for $3 instead of $5.
I fit the whole bag of bananas and 1.5 pineapples on a total of 7 trays. I have to say I am very impressed with the flavor. This stuff is better than candy. I expected my banana chips to taste similar to what I have bought in the store in the past but they do not and that is great thing. I am impressed with how much just pure banana flavor is preserved in the banana chips you can do at home with the Nesco!
Both my husband and I have always been fans of the dried pineapple slices that you can get at health food stores in bulk. They are very candied and have extra sugar added though. I knew that drying pineapples with just a little dip in lemon juice and water was going to taste different.
I actually like our home dried ones better than the over sugared versions I have bought in the past. I think I could just eat dried fruits like this and a little dark chocolate for dessert for the rest of my life and be happy doing it!
Another thing I live about drying fruits is that it allows me to make treats that are okay for my diabetic father to eat. He used to love those pineapple rings too but had to give them up until I started dehydrating again.
The 2nd Batch
For my second load I did tangerines, pineapple, and more bananas. I used more lemon juice on the banana slices and let them soak for a minute. We will see if that prevents some of the browning. I only used a tablespoon of lemon juice in a cup of water for the first batch and they turned browner than I would have liked.
This time I used a 50-50 mix of water and lemon juice just to see. It was what I had on hand. I am sure that buying concentrated citric acid powder is cheaper but it also doesn’t offer the enhanced flavor.
Dried fruits can cost a lot of money and they are not always grown under conditions that are satisfactory. You are in control of the quality more because you can pick and choose what fruits and veggies you are drying. One of the rules of drying foods is that you should pick foods that don’t have a bunch of blemishes or signs of decay.
I know I used ripe bananas but they were good when I bought them and at the peak of sweetness. They just needed something done with them quickly. They were sound on the inside.
With dried fruits costing $0.75-$1.00 an ounce at the grocery store, I think I am going to be doing a lot more dehydrating.
While I don’t see myself drying flowers with this, if you do crafts then you can use this dehydrator to make potpourris and dry flowers for arrangements. The included booklet also offers instructions on how to make ornaments from dried dough.
Treats For Your Cat Or Dog
I like that Nesco includes pets in their book. There are some recipes to make healthy snacks and treats for your pets. If you spend a lot at the grocery store on dog or cat treats, then you can probably save some money or at least offer your furry family members a better quality and more nutritious snack.
One recipe that I had to laugh at was dried shrimp with catnip! Now talk about a fancy and relaxing treat!
Future Drying Projects
Wow this thing definitely has me plotting and planning the next few drying projects. I definitely want to get a lot of heirloom tomatoes and dry those. I can get them for about $1 lb in season. I love Cherokee Purple tomatoes but they do not keep well so you really have to either eat them, can them, or dry them fast.
I also want to put tomatoes through the sauce maker and then dry out the sauce for homemade tomato powder. Last time I bought organic tomato powder it was $20 a lb and I am pretty sure it comes from just regular beefsteak tomatoes.
Fruit roll ups will be a fun undertaking as well but I am going to need to buy a few more of the inserts to do that and the tomato sauce as well. I am considering trying to dry eggs. We will see how that goes. It seems like I could manage to dry out milk too if I had enough of the inserts.
Onions would be a good one to try drying too. There is a time of year when I can get 50 lbs of Vidalia onions for $25 or so at the Farmer’s Market and it would be good to have some dried and put back.
The Nesco Snackmaster Pro is an outstanding value and a good addition to any prepper palace or homestead. You can dry a lot of food at once and it offers temperature control so you get good results with everything from herbs and spices to meats.
The fact that the fan and heating unit is on the top instead of the bottom means you don’t have to worry about juices and foods dripping and falling onto a heating element. It can be really challenging to clean that type of dehydrator. Overall, the Nesco is my second best Christmas present because I also got a Great Pyrenees puppy and not much can top getting a puppy for Christmas!
What is your favorite things to dehydrate? Do you have any recipes that you use to incorporate what you dry? Please comment below and share with the Backdoor Survival Community!
Author Bio: Samantha Biggers lives on a mountain in North Carolina with her husband and pack of loyal hounds in a house her husband and she built themselves. When not writing she is working in their vineyard, raising Shetland sheep, or helping her husband with whatever the farm and vineyard can throw at them. She an be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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