Gardners, preppers, hunters, and frugal spenders all benefit from owning a high-quality food dehydrator. Much of the volume of foods is water, and that water can be removed to conserve space and prevent spoilage. Connoisseurs of meat snacks will often dream of creating their own artisanal jerky, and the best way to do it is with a good dehydrator.
After much research, I recently abandoned my tradition of making my own dehydrators and purchased LEM’s 10-tray stainless steel model. Well designed DIY dehydrators can work great, but there are some advantages to the commercial versions. My primary concern was space, and the stainless cabinet wastes none. You can pack an incredible amount of food in one of these, which is important for the avid gardener or hunter needing to put away a large quantity of food in a relatively short time.
I’ve used many LEM products over the years, and have always been impressed with the quality and durability of their products. Some reviewers have been critical of the price point, but I make two different counter-arguments. First, your choice of retailer matters. Shop around and you can often find a better deal. Second, “you get what you pay for.” You can get a much, much cheaper dehydrator, but those tend to run at a uniform low temperature, fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, and hold a very low volume of food. If you plan to make 6 ounces of jerky twice a year, then you’ll likely be happy with one of those plastic stack up jobs. If you are serious about “putting food by,” you’ll want to go ahead and invest in a professional quality product.
With this model, you set the temperature and time. This is incredibly convenient since you can leave your meats, fruits, herbs, and vegetables to dry while you go and do something else. You don’t have to worry about overdrying or under drying the food once you “dial in” the correct time and temperature. My homemade dehydrators always relied on adjustable vents and a thermometer to control temperature manually, and the digital thermostat is vastly more convenient. The stainless steel construction is rugged and easy to clean.
Nothing is perfect, and of course, this dehydrator is no exception. My biggest beef (pun intended) is that the temperature tops out at 155-degrees Fahrenheit, and that is ten degrees below what the USDA recommends for killing all known bugs in meat. Millions of pounds of jerky have been prepared below these hot temperatures over the years, but it would be nice to hit the 165-degree target if you desire to do so. Germaphobic jerky makers may want to start off in a very hot oven and hit the 165-degree mark, then transfer the meat to the dehydrator for drying. The trays are made from a fairly heavy gauge of wire, which creates quarter-inch openings. This creates good airflow (vital for good, even dehydration), but makes it difficult to handle small particles such as chopped herbs. I’ve had very good luck using Teflon sheets designed for the purpose to cover each tray before dehydrating.
All in all, I give the LEM 10-tray dehydrator five stars out of five. It is well designed and well built.