The Prepared Homestead Kitchen: Top Appliances, Part 4

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Years ago, I began dehydrating food. At first I didn’t think it really mattered which dehydrator I used — they were all pretty much the same, right? I bought a mid-priced round dehydrator and was on my way!

As my food dehydrating progressed, I began running into snags – the food was dehydrating at different rates depending on which trays were closest to the fan, large foods (like plums) couldn’t fit between the trays, dehydrating was taking a LONG time since the air wasn’t reaching all the food at once, and I could only use this appliance for one thing – dehydrating fruits and vegetables.

I like all my appliances to have at least two uses in my kitchen, preferably more than that — I call it permaculture in the kitchen (in case you don’t know, stacking functions is a permaculture principle). So my research began: Could I find a dehydrator that would solve the problems and give me more uses? Indeed, I could, and it came in the form of the Excalibur Dehydrator

With the position of the fan at the back of the unit, every tray has equal access to the air – no need to rotate trays and it made for quicker drying. The trays are removable, meaning I can decide how many I want in at a time and how much space I want between them, making larger items (plums, flowers, etc.) easy to dry.

The best thing is the multiple uses I’ve discovered! This has become my yogurt-maker, dough proofer (when it’s really cold in the kitchen and I don’t feel like waiting hours for bread), butter warmer instead of the microwave, egg incubator (yes, we hatched chicks in it last year and it worked great!), and herb dehydrator.

One of the things I really appreciate about the Excalibur is not only its versatility, but its range of temperature. As many raw foodists know, there is a temperature you never want “living” food to go over (we are not raw foodists, but some people will appreciate this feature). Additionally, when making jerky, meat requires a minimum temperature to stay within the “safe” range according to the USDA; the Excalibur ensures this.

With the lack of consistency of many bottom-fan dehydrators, its difficult to control the temperature of every tray — the bottom trays will be hotter, the top ones will be too cool. The Excalibur has a temperature-controlled environment that stays within 5 degrees of the setting you choose — all trays and food are equally heated because the position of the fan is at the back of the unit.

The entire appliance is also very easy to clean; this is an important element of any appliance. If things are too complicated, I find myself avoiding it no matter how handy it is. Because all the trays are removable, it’s easy to access the interior and give it a quick wipe down. The trays come clean easily with a damp cloth, but if there is stubborn residue, they are dishwasher safe (top shelf only).

This last year, I was able to preserve hops, apples, and raspberries through making a puree and drying fruit leather. I made kale chips, dehydrated onions, dried mint and basil, zucchini, plums, and lavender.

Yogurt was a common sight in my Excalibur up until our goats’ milk supply slowed down — we’re too busy drinking it to make yogurt right now. This is one of the appliances I really appreciate particularly in the summer/harvesting months. In addition to all of this, we even used the Excalibur to incubate chicks!

If I lose electricity at any point, I will sadly miss my Excalibur, but until that point, it will get many hours of use! If you have invested in a dehydrator, but it’s not an Excalibur I recommend setting aside some money and investing in this multi-functional appliance. It is hands-down the best dehydrator available!

Look for the next post concerning homestead appliances. Until then, happy homesteading!

Photo by Linde Mitzel

Sean and Monica Mitzel homestead with their family on 40 acres and are using permaculture techniques and strategies for the property. The property will eventually become a demonstration and education site where they raise dairy goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, and ducks. The Mitzels have planted more then 50 productive trees and enjoy wildcrafting, propagating mushrooms, and raising and training livestock guardian dogs. Listen to The Courageous Life Podcast and to learn more about the Mitzels, visit The Prepared Homestead. Read all of their MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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