In the previous post about dehydrator pros and cons, I promised to go over some of the electric dehydrator accessories for the Nesco™ and Excalibur™ brands. Both dehydrators have special non-stick sheets available that simply slip onto your trays, like an insert. First I'll tackle the Nesco™'s solid sheets and mesh sheets — what they are and why you should consider using them.
The "Clean-a-Screen" inserts are a real time-saver in the clean-up department. I pretty much use them all the time. These sheets are not solid: they are mesh-patterned so as to let the air circulate. The sugars from the fruits turn sticky and remain (for the most part) on the sheets, as designed. They also help prevent your food from falling into the tray below. Foods shrink as they dehydrate — especially sliced celery!
The solid sheets are fantastic for fruit roll-ups, also known as fruit leathers. You really have no choice but to use a solid sheet because of the runny-nature of the fruit mix after blending. Check out our fruit roll-up instructions here. The solid sheets are also great for "tomato leathers" which can later have water added to make a tomato sauce.
The Nesco food dehydrator has many accessories available. Check out Amazon and eBay for great buys. The sheets are usually sold as a 2-pack and they are really reasonably priced. Please make sure that you are purchasing the correct size (diameter) sheets and/or trays for your particular model!
Nesco offer extra stackable trays so you can add to your starter model, along with Jerky Gun kits. As to how many trays to stack? I wouldn't go over 8 or 9; you'll lose the effect of the heat and your foods will take longer to dry (and not dehydrate at the proper rate).
Over time, you'll discover that your sheets may stain a little from the beta carotene from carrots (or dark juices from berries). I have this suggestion: For foods that do stain, set a few sheets aside and use them specifically for when you are dehydrating "the stainers."
The Excalibur™ dehydrators also have the same kind of sheets, but square. Their brand is called "ParaFlexx" and they designate them as "non-stick drying sheets" for making fruit roll-ups too.
Excalibur™ also offer Jerky supplies and spices! Again, check out Amazon and eBay for price comparisons.
If you don't want to spend money on solid sheets for either dehydrator, take a look at these photos where I have used cling-film (Saran™ wrap) to make a "solid" sheet for fruit roll-ups. On the Nesco™ dehydrators, always cut (or puncture) the film to make a hole in the center so that the air can circulate properly — do NOT leave the tray centers covered! Nesco™ dehydrators have their air-circulating fans located at the top in the lid — the air needs to be able to travel up and down. On the Excalibur™ brands, the fan is rear-mounted so the air flows sideways and you don't need to worry as much about the trays having solid sheets on them.
Take a look at the photo below on how to make a sheet out of parchment paper. Great for sticky items! Don't forget to cut out the center hole too for air circulation on the Nesco™. Just draw around the edge, trim on the inside of the line, fold over twice, cut off the center in an arc to mimic a quarter-circle. That's it!
To be honest, I'd rather purchase the proper parts. This way, I'm not continually throwing away plastic cling-wrap and parchment paper after each use and spending lots of time making the sheets ... ask yourself how much is your time worth? The initial investment is soon recouped.
In my next post I'll go over the "Six Simple Steps" of dehydrating food for long-term storage.
To read all of Susan's posts, please visit this page on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.
Since December of 2010, Susan Gast has operated Easy Food Dehydrating, a website dedicated to dehydrating fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooked meats. Susan teaches you how to safely store your goodies too—for long-term food storage. Keep your food pantry full—whatever the reason or season!