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Image CreditI promised when I did my Vitamix review that I would do an Excalibur dehydrator review later, too — a few of you asked for it, because I had said how often I used it when I was talking about kitchen appliances I used most. So here it is!
About a year ago I started to think about doing more from-scratch cooking in my kitchen. I already did a lot, but I was specifically thinking about drying food — making jerky, drying fruits and vegetables, and possibly even creating fruit leathers. I started asking around and Excalibur kept coming up as the top name in dehydrators. I read it online and I heard it from everyone I talked to who used dehydrators regularly. I looked into it, but saw the price tag: around $200 for the 9-tray (and I wanted the 9-tray, the biggest model they have, because I don’t do anything halfway. ha.).
I got the idea in my head that I was going to get it for Christmas, one way or another. Ben begged me to wait, saying I would probably never use it. But I was determined to have it. It ended up that we needed to get rid of the microwave around this time, too, so I even had a permanent place to put it. In the end, I won, and we got it! (Later he said I used it so much that he suggested getting a second 9-tray so I could do even more and even sell sprouted grain to others — we have yet to do this, but way to admit he was wrong! lol.)
Early experiments were with dried fruit — making banana chips (which are dipped in a honey/ coconut oil solution; these were a ton of work and never got really hard like the store’s, so they weren’t worth it then. I have new ideas now on how to make it work better, maybe, but…didn’t go well then), drying apple slices with a little cinnamon on them (those were a hit!) and of course, making some jerky! The jerky never lasted long around here, but it was expensive to make so I didn’t do it very often.
Then we entered our grain-free phase, and realized when we went back to grains they would have to be sprouted. Have you checked the price of sprouted flour lately? It’s around $3/lb. No way I can afford that! Plus I like doing things myself (and I really need to control the sprouting process — more on that later). The dehydrator suddenly got a work out once I was sprouting and drying grain all the time!
I also used it as an incubator to make yogurt, and to dry herbs during the preservation season. Herbs and grains are the two biggest uses for my dehydrator. I like knowing that I can dry the food at a low temperature so that I don’t kill all the enzymes in it. My oven only goes down to 170, which is too hot to preserve the enzymes.
So why is the Excalibur so special? Well, most dehydrators are round and have trays which stack on top of each other. If you want to remove one tray, you must remove all the ones on top of it. They also have a hole in the center of the trays (reducing drying space), rather large openings, and the drying unit is at the bottom. None of this is ideal.
The Excalibur, on the other hand, is square. It has no hole in the center, meaning a ton of extra drying space (and you better believe I fill that thing pretty often — all nine trays!). All the trays slide out the front individually once the door is lifted off (which is so easy to remove, even one-handed, that my two-year-old can do it) so you can get only what you need. I can have some racks of basil, some of grain, some of fruit leather…and I can pull them out or switch them whenever I need to without disturbing the rest of them. And I have done this, so it’s a really nice feature.
Their screens have smaller holes in them so that although I probably should get fine mesh screens for drying grain (they sometimes fall through), I don’t have to. I really don’t lose much through the screens because their holes are so small. The grain has to turn at the exact right angle to get through. I love that! I don’t want to mess with extra equipment.
The drying unit is at the back of the machine, meaning that it flows through all the trays evenly, rather than coming up from the bottom. This means that drying time is more unified through the whole dehydrator and I don’t have to worry about switching and rearranging trays while drying. Love that too, because I often dry overnight!
On top, the Excalibur also has a temperature control dial that goes from 95 to 165. It also lists suggested temperatures for different projects (low temps for drying herbs, higher temps for making jerky). I’ve found I can adjust it as I need to though. For example, 95 was just too low for drying my basil — 2 days later and it wasn’t done. I turned it up to about 115, which is still low enough to preserve enzymes, and it was dry in only 8 hours or so.
There are a ton of projects I haven’t even gotten to yet. You can make purees of fruit or veggies and dry it into “crackers” or fruit leathers. It can be used, with trays removed, as an incubator for yogurt (I did that) or bread, to help the rise (haven’t tried that). Do you know how easy it is to keep the yogurt at a steady temperature in this thing? Otherwise you either have to buy a special yogurt maker (yet another piece of equipment…) or you have to get out coolers and towels and hot water and…yeah, I don’t want to mess with that. I just stick my glass jar of warm milk with the culture mixed in into the dehydrator, set it to the appropriate temp, and walk away for 4 – 8 hours. So simple.
I just love its versatility, I love that I can do more than one project at once, I love that it’s easy to clean (all the trays can be removed, or just some, or…whatever!). If you are sprouting and drying grain on a regular basis, you need this. Seriously.
And by the way….
Excalibur has graciously offered me the opportunity to give away one of their 5-tray models, the 3500!!
Yes, that’s right — one of my very, very lucky readers will get his or her very own Excalibur dehydrator!
Since this is a “big” giveaway, it’s not going to be easy. In fact, the final giveaway isn’t going to be until the first week of October, during my “blogiversary.” (I’ll have an entire week of giveaways for you then, so be sure to stick around for that! This one is the grand finale.)
Since it’s so big, I’m going to give out random extra entries over the next several weeks. These extra entries will be only for my most loyal readers — all of you lovely people who are here now. I want to favor your chances of winning over some random person who happens on my blog during the blogiversary week just to enter the giveaways.
So right now, you can earn FOUR extra entries into the giveaway. Here’s what you have to do:
1) Tell me that you are already a subscriber and a loyal reader
2) Fill out my reader survey (or tell me you already have)
3) “Like” me on Facebook
4) Join my forum and introduce yourself
There will be more opportunities, so keep looking for these! I will keep track of them all from now through the beginning of October, when the winner will be drawn. Good luck to you all!
Do you use a dehydrator? Which do you have, what do you use it for, and do you like it? Are you excited about potentially winning a dehydrator here?!
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