10 Unusual Uses for a Food Dehydrator
A dehydrator is a practical tool that allows you to make the most of a variety of foods. But there are uses for dehydrators that go far beyond the culinary.
With this list, you can find ways to use your dehydrator for far more than food—although for some of these projects, you may want to clean your dehydrator before you go back to preparing food.
Here are ten more reasons to get a food dehydrator:
1. Fire starters: If you have a fireplace or you go camping on a regular basis, you know the benefit of having a few fire starters on hand—they can make getting a new fire burning far easier than trying to catch a larger log on fire. You can purchase fire starters at the store or collect some dried wood to use as fire starters.
But you can actually make some particularly good fire starters by drying large pieces of orange peel in your dehydrator. Once the peel is very dry with no remaining water, you can light it easily and you'll have a particularly good smell to your fire. The oils in the peel can burn for long enough to get a good fire going. When peeling any citrus fruit, cut the skins into strips (thicker is better) and dehydrate them until they're crispy.
2. Pet treats: Cleo Parker uses her dehydrator to make dog treats for her dog. Her dog has food allergies, making it tough to find treats that won't make him sick—but dehydrated sweet potatoes make for a tasty tidbit. Cleo says, "I just used my mandolin (manual slicer) to make slices and placed them on the dehydrator, just as if I were making dried apple slices."
Depending on your pet's taste, you can make a variety of different treats they can eat, beyond sweet potatoes. You can purchase meat odds and ends from some butchers—pieces that humans aren't too keen on, but that will, to a pet, be a great treat after a trip through the dehydrator.
3. Potpourri: It's amazing what a small bag of dried herbs and flowers can do for the scent of your dressers and closets. Traditionally, potpourri was made by tying bundles of herbs together and allowing them to dry over a period of weeks. With a dehydrator, that time can be a matter of days. It's just a matter of gathering the leaves and flowers of your favorite plants and drying them in your dehydrator—there are recipes to get the most scent out of different plant combinations, along with fixative elements and essential oils. The hard part is choosing which scent you want to make.
4. Cassette tape salvage: Sasha Kadey and his dad recently visited friends in South Africa, taking a dehydrator along with them. The dehydrator wasn't for food—instead, it was to restore old cassette tapes. The oxide coating on old tapes separates from the tape and, to restore them, you have to 'bake' the coating back on to the tape. To do so, your dehydrator needs to reach between 130 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Set the tapes on drying racks and let them bake for eight hours. Once they've cooled, you'll be able to play your tapes again, at least for a few months.
5. Herbal teas: To make herbal teas, you steep herbs in water, which isn't too hard. Getting the right herbs and ensuring that they'll make a strong cup of tea, though, can be a little harder. Dehydrating herbs makes for a better flavor, because it concentrates the herbs. It also allows you to save herbs for tea long after they're in season. To make the best tea, pick young and undamaged leaves or flowers from your favorite herbs and dry them completely. For some herbs, such as raspberry leaves, you may have to cure them before dehydrating them. Store your herbs in glass jars in a dark place until you're ready to use.
6. Dough rising: If you bake your own bread, or make pizza dough, a dehydrator can make a big difference in how long it takes for your dough to rise. Depending on the dehydrator model, you can set a bowl of dough inside, along with a shallow pan of water. At a temperature of about 115 degrees Fahrenheit, dough takes between half an hour and an hour to rise.
7. Paper making: For her craft projects, Jess Hartley relies on her dehydrator. She uses it to make her own paper and offers these instructions: "Make paper pulp in a blender from recycled junk mail, dried flowers, etc... drain, then spread thin on screens to form sheets." In order to dry the paper evenly, she uses her dehydrator. It allows her to dry the paper pulp gradually, at a low temperature.
8. Crafting supplies: Many craft projects call for everything from dried fruits to dried flowers. For instance, apple head dolls are a popular craft project. Each doll requires a dried apple, which is decorated to look like a wizened face. It's then attached to a body.
Dried seeds, flowers, pine cones, seed pods and other natural craft materials can be very useful and, with a dehydrator, you don't need to wait weeks for your materials to dry.
9. Humidifier: A dehydrator can do double duty as a humidifier if your home seems a little dry. If you set a few containers of water inside your dehydrator and turn it on—for most models, high works best, the water will evaporate. The air in your home will become more moist, without you needing to go and buy a separate humidifier.
10. Camping meals: John Farless combines his dehydrator and his leftovers to make backpacking meals. He says, "I have a solid insert that goes on my dehydrator racks so I can dehydrate soups and leftovers from dinners. I put the dehydrated meals in the freezer and keep them up to six months for backpacking." John doesn't use any recipes to make meals for camping, but just checks on his dehydrator regularly. He has found that it's easier to dehydrate meals without meat in them.