Dehydrator Woes

This is a post about dehydrators. All summer, as I posted one entry after another on canning, I had a nagging feeling that the blog was no longer a true representation of what was happening in my kitchen. We dehydrate about as third as much as we can, and I’ve been wanting to share my experiences with tomatoes, peaches, pears, and peppers.

Then my dehydrator died.

Here’s my old Nesco, a “Snackmaster Express,” Model FD-61:

I couldn’t quite decide what to do when it died. Not only was it only a couple of years old, but the nature of its death left me with safety concerns. One night I put in several trays of halved cherry tomatoes. The next morning, I came down, and not only was the dehydrator not on, but the tomatoes were crispy. This was worrisome, as cherry tomatoes usually take a couple of days. My suspicion was that the unit had gotten hot, or perhaps had suffered some sort of electrical short .

So I called the Nesco Corporation. Just to be clear, I have never received any products or compensation from Nesco or any other dehydrator manufacturer. This is just me, writing as a consumer. The customer service rep on the other end of the line was less than helpful, telling me that they could take a look at it to see what went wrong, but it would cost me almost as much as a new unit, and she couldn’t guarantee that they would find anything. But what really ticked me off was that she didn’t seem concerned—at all—about the possibility of electrical problems or overheating.

At this point, I had two trays of half-dehydrated peppers, some crunchy cherry tomatoes, and a whole lot of things that needed to be dried floating around my kitchen. Should I step up and purchase a fancy Excalibur, expensive but reliable? Suck it up and buy another headpiece for the Nesco? Try a new brand altogether?

This is when I had a VHS/Betamax moment. The thing about Nescos is that you can purchase additional trays to fit under the same headpiece. It dawned on me that if I simply bought a new dehydrator, instead of a new headpiece, I would only spend $20 more and would end up with a massive, 10-tray dehydrator. And amazon.com had the slightly more powerful model for the same price as the one that had died on me.

I therefore became a participant in a phenomenon that historians of science and technology have been describing for a long time. I bought a new product that I don’t even like that much because it’s compatible with my existing components. Here’s the  new dehydrator, a “professional” model, FD-75PR:


And here’s my massive combo dehydrator:


I promptly used it to dry massive amounts of peppers, following the fantastic instructions at Well Preserved:


But despite the fact that I now have ten trays (exciting!), I’m still not sure how much faith I have in the safety and reliability of Nesco dehydrators. If any of you have had similar problems, can you please let me know? If there’s genuinely a safety issue, Nesco needs to be made aware of it.

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6 comments to Dehydrator Woes

  • Amy

    I have the same model as your replacement, and while I am sure I do not do as much dehydrating as it sounds like you do, I have never had a problem with it. I have even run it for a couple of days straight and had no over heating or electrical issues thus far. I also have noted that the top where the heating element and fan does not get nearly as hot as I predicted it could, so that made me feel better about it when I first purchased it. I will keep an eye on mine and let you know if anything amiss happens for me.

  • I think I have the same model as your new one (looks the same anyway); I’ve had it for 2 years and use it quite a lot without any issues. I suppose, when they die, they die big – but, yes, overheating and/or electrical problems are a bit scary, especially as mine frequently runs overnight. But nary a problem with mine so far (she knocks on wood).

  • I have an excalibur that I bought off craigslist. I’ve found that they sell fast on there but are often barely used. I guess people buy them thinking they’ll make jerky and then only do that once or twice. I’d say keep an eye out to replace the one you have.

  • Mia

    I just bought the one you replaced. I am using my neighbor’s trays since he isn’t currently using his dehydrator. He has the one that is the bottom of the line. I am using mine to dry tons of apples right now. But I wish it has an off button. That would make it safer.

  • I was going to be buying one in the next couple of weeks. I have a giant persimmon tree coming to bear and I swore last year that by this time I would have a dehydrator. This gives me something to consider!!

  • Now in the beginning I stated that you need to find out what you want to do with your food dehydrator. The first answer to the question I hope is dehydrate food with it and the second should be one of the following. I am going to do a lot of food dehydrator manufacturers or I am going to do a very small amount of food dehydrating.

    Thanks.

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