I’ll admit – I am a bit of a queen of the gadgets. I think I get it from my dad who was always ahead of the game, arriving home with an Apple IIe desktop computer when it was newly released, then a CD player before most people even knew what they were. I love my i-products and like to be up-to-date at all times but when it comes to kitchen gadgets, I need to be fairly choosy, given we have zero counterspace in our very-funky-but-not-functional kitchen. Oh sure, I read up on all the latest gizmos and appliances but generally speaking, an appliance cannot be a one-trick-pony – it needs to earn its space in my cupboards or on my countertop.
This fall I made an exception when I was offered the chance to test a small appliance I have been eyeing for a while – a food dehydrator – I was fortunate enough to receive a Hamilton Beach 32100C food dehydrator of my very own. Whilst it could be argued that it *only* dehydrates food, I figure that because it is so versatile in the types of foods you can work with, it would definitely be worth checking out. As a two person household who sometimes don’t get through all their produce (we tend to get carried away at the market), I was interested in seeing if I could transform some vegetables into “chips” and preserve the goodness of fresh fruits for use in baking later.
The 32100C features:
- 5 stackable drying trays
- 1 fine-mesh sheet for drying small food like herbs
- 1 solid sheet for making fruit rolls
- a 48 hour timer with auto shutoff
- an adjustable digital thermostat
- a clear lid that lets you easily check on food
- a continuous airflow which provides even drying and eliminates the need to rotate trays
- 500 watts of power
- a digital thermostat that lets you adjust drying temperature (40-70° C/100-160° F)
I received this fairly late on in the fall so wasn’t able to really take advantage of dehydrating summer fruits but it certainly opens the door to many possibilities that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to achieve. The 32100C has five stackable trays (plastic for easy cleaning) meaning you can dehydrate more than one item at the same time. I had cranberries, blueberries and apples in there at the same time and it worked a treat. There is continuous airflow which means the drying is very even across the trays (so you don’t have to switch the trays around during the drying process). There are also two special trays offering added versatility – a very fine mesh tray which was perfect for tiny wild blueberries (and will be perfect for drying herbs when they are back in season in my back yard!), and a solid sheet where you can spread pureed fruits to make your very own fruit rollups (on my “to do” list!).
What I liked about the dehydrated fruits is how they are just that – dehydrated fruits.
No added sugar or oil (so the cranberries are nothing like the Craisin-type snacks you buy in the store) means you know exactly what you are getting. Dried fruits like the berries will rehydrate in a little liquid before you bake with them. The possibilities for dried fruits are endless and I cannot wait until more fruits are in season! I appreciated that I was able to dehydrate fresh cranberries when they were in season so now I’ll have them available to me in the depths of winter; and the blueberries I rescued from sure freezer-burn (that always happens to my fresh fruits when I freeze them. For smoothies that’s ok but not for baking. Dehydrating them is a great option for using them in baked goods. Too many apples in your market haul? No problem – turn them into apple chips or just dried apples (depending on how long you dehydrate them for). So much better (for you!) than *always* having to bake them into something! Note that cranberries need to be flash boiled until their skin splits otherwise they will take much longer than the suggested drying time.
The vegetables I’ve worked with have been mainly root vegetables – sweet potatoes, beets, turnips and parsnips – and I’ve enjoyed them as garnishes for soups and salads.
To slice them really thinly you do need a mandoline (I have the Swissmar V-Power Mandoline that you can find on Amazon here) and be aware that they will not taste like the root vegetable chips you buy at the store (which have been fried). You do need to thinly coat the chips in a little olive oil otherwise they will dry out and become chalky when they dehydrate but they will not taste quite like a fried, very thin chip.
I am really enjoying experimenting with this machine. It’s got little place on my “other appliances” table in our basement and you can often hear it humming away (it does make a little bit of noise so you may want it somewhere that’s not going to bother you). I love the fact that it’s giving me the option to preserve some of the foods that might otherwise go to waste in a different way from cooking, canning or preserving.
If you’re looking to dehydrate large quantities of anything (be aware that when you mandoline fruits and vegetables *one* of anything will produce many more slices than you realise!) this might not be the machine for you as it is fairly small but for regular home use, I think it’s perfect. Love that you can do, say an apple on one shelf, and berries on another or dehydrate that one leftover sweet potato at the same time as a parsnip or some beets. It’s the perfect way to combat food waste.
BUY the Hamilton Beach 32100C Food Dehydrator on Amazon (this link should bring you to the Amazon store geographically closest to you)
CANADIANS! WIN a Hamilton Beach Food Dehydrator thanks to Hamilton Beach. Details here.
Disclosure: I received a Hamilton Beach 32100C Food Dehydrator for review purposes. I have not received compensation for writing this post and only recommend products I have tried myself and love.
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