Introduction To Dehydrating

Carolyn McBride
3 min readJan 26, 2023

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Are older models safe?

Author’s vintage dehydrator

My introduction to dehydrating came when I was gifted an older model dehydrator that had been in someone’s closet for years. They had lost the manual, couldn’t remember when they’d bought it but did remember that it had always worked well for them.

I’ve used it for years too. Working within its limitations, I’ve been happy with it.

My Ronco 184–04 has no thermostat and has 5 stackable trays. Its top temperature is 133℉. Not high enough for meat, but just fine for fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

I’ve used it quite successfully for at least 20 years for drying apple slices, orange slices, peach and pear slices, carrot sticks, broccoli, sliced mushrooms, homegrown basil and cilantro, sliced bananas, potato slices, pineapple slices, kale, and homegrown peas as well. (I know I’ve used it for more than these, but you get the idea)

Photo by Rayia Soderberg on Unsplash

It works through chimney convection principles. The electrical element in the bottom warms air, which rises, drying the food slices as it goes. The top dome has a rotating partial shield that can be moved to keep more of that warm air in, thereby reducing the drying time. Through common sense, I’ve never crowded the unit while working and always left a bit of a gap in the dome to allow the air to move. I have never had a problem.

Through extensive research, I discovered that while the older models of Ronco (which never had a stellar reputation among users) dehydrators were reliable, models manufactured after the 1990s were far more problematic.

So if you already have an older model dehydrator, or someone gives you their “cast off”, should you use it?

My advice is to determine what company manufactured it first. I had no information on mine, not even a company name on the bottom, so I had to do a lot of detective work. Thankfully, the internet made that easier.

Reviews are a terrific way to determine the usefulness of almost anything these days. Users will not hesitate to poke holes in the manufacturer’s claims and promises. If you don’t find an overwhelming number of complaints or reviews about your specific model, it’s quite likely safe to use.

Work with common sense though. Don’t crowd your machine, ensure the best airflow you can without opening any windows. Peel your fruits and vegetables, and slice them as evenly as you can to allow even drying. Put the dehydrator somewhere where you’ll be able to keep an eye on it. The kitchen counter will make it easier to monitor the dehydrator, as opposed to in the basement. These tips will help you use any older model dehydrator safely and successfully.

Next time, we’ll take a more in-depth look at how a good dehydrator and a little ingenuity can help your grocery dollars stretch further.

Have you dehydrated your food or herbs before? Tell me about it in the comments section!

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Carolyn McBride

I’m a self-sufficiency enthusiast, an author of novels & short stories, a reader, a gardener, lover of good chocolate, coffee & life in the woods.