Food dehydration is a culinary art that has been around for ages and continues to evolve as time goes. It focuses on the elimination of water content from food to increase their shelf life. Over the years, there have been several dehydration methods, and most of them lean on the existing technology.
Presently, we have advanced cooking equipment, which comes with an edge of versatility due to their multi-functionality. Among them is the air fryer. As a cooking enthusiast, you may ponder; can I use an air fryer as a food dehydrator? It is a worthy question to look at, especially if you have or planning to have this cooker grace your kitchen countertop.
To answer the question, we will first focus on the air fryer to understand what it is and how it works.
What is the Air Fryer?
An air fryer is a cooking appliance that is gradually gaining popularity due to its associated health benefits. The benefits come about as it does not use oil in meal preparation. Despite its name, it does not fry foods; rather, it cooks by blowing a current of hot air.
One thing you can appreciate about using the air fryer is the ease of use, where you take advantage of its guaranteed safety. It also does not take much space on your counter, and the prepared meals have a distinct browning and crunchy texture.
Learn More: 13 Disadvantages of Air Fryer
Now let us get back to the issue of hand, where we look at the air fryer’s food dehydration capability.
Can I Dehydrate Food in an Air Fryer?
Yes, you can dehydrate food in an air fryer, which is a simple process if you have experience using this cooker. Some models have a mode dedicated to this form of meal preparation.
Food dehydration is a delicate process, especially for preservation, as even a little bit of moisture can work against your efforts. There are several foods that you can rid of their moisture content for future use, including fruits, vegetables, meats such as beef and fish, and many more.
How to Dehydrate Food in an Air Fryer
Step 1: Preparation of Your Meal before Dehydration
The first step is very critical and will significantly determine the results of your food preparation. The preparation varies depending on the food you want to dehydrate. For example, if it is vegetables, you can start by slicing them into thin slices for the dehydration process to be effective.
For meats such as beef, fish, or poultry, you can get extra creative to enhance the taste. You can marinate the meat in brine or a mixture of spices like garlic, ginger, and vinegar – improving their life.
The marination can also work for fruits such as mango, as they absorb the spices very well. You can let the food slices rest in the marinade for 30 minutes for vegetables and fruits and up to 2 hours for meats. You can re-use the marinade from vegetables to make broth. For meat, you should discard the marinade.
Step 2: Preheat the Air Fryer
Preheating the air fryer is a critical step if you want the best results. You can preheat it for up to 5-6 minutes before you introduce your meals. Meanwhile, you can dab off the excess moisture on your food from the marinade and lay them on a dehydrator tray.
Step 3: Put Food inside the Cooker
Once the cooker preheats well, you now put your meal inside the cooking chamber. As mentioned, dehydration is a delicate process and needs you to be keen on the timing and temperatures. The dehydration process is quite slow for vegetables and fruits, and it can take around 4 hours to remove all moisture content at 40-42 degrees Celsius completely.
For meats, you set the temperature at around 75-80 degrees and the preparation duration at 90-120 minutes. Some air fryers have a dehydration setting, which makes them easy to use, promising you an excellent dehydrating process.
Step 4: Remove Food from the Air Fryer
When done dehydrating your food, you can check its texture to see if it meets your preferences. If not, you can let it dehydrate for a few minutes. If well done, let it rest for a few minutes as it cools before packaging it in an airtight container or a zip lock bag and put it in the refrigerator.
The good thing with dehydrated foods is that they will stay for long without going bad. With refrigeration as a preservative booster, your food will serve you for a long, especially if it is in bulk.
Things to Pay Attention When Dehydrating Using An Air Fryer
Using an air fryer for dehydration is a straightforward process, as we can see from the highlighted steps, and becomes easier if it has the dehydration setting. Here are key things to pay attention to when using the air fryer if you want to have the best moisture-free meals.
Clean Before and After Use
The air fryer is small in size, which makes it excellent in the use of space. However, the downside of its build is that it is quite hard to clean. Despite the difficulty in cleaning, you have to ensure it is clean before and after use.
As a cooking enthusiast, you should appreciate the role hygiene plays in the kitchen and have every cooking utility in the best sanitation state. A dirty air fryer can be a cause of illnesses, in addition to stenches, which may affect the quality of your food.
When you dehydrate meats, you have to clean the tray because if you cook other meats on the tray, you risk infections; as per the number one rule of cooking meat, never let raw and cooked meat mix.
Look at the State of Your Food
Dehydration’s main role is to prevent your food from spoilage, and it plays a good role in it. However, there is no need for dehydration if your food is already spoilt; that beats logic. Inspect the food before putting it into the air fryer, and if spoilt, you discard it.
Take note of the smell, color, and texture. If there is any deviation from the normal, dispose of it.
Putting Food in the Air Fryer
When dehydrating food in the air fryer, do not overload the dehydration tray. A thing to know is that the moisture-ridding process comes through the exposure of the food to the hot air currents. As such, there needs to be ample space for ideal exposure to the currents.
It means you should not overstuff the tray with food pieces, or else there will be some residual moisture in the food. In this vein, you should slice the food into thin slices and have some space between them for a fast and efficient drying process.
The Use of Additives
You can use some condiments such as spices before dehydration in the preparation step, though it is optional. The additives enhance the taste, as moisture removal does away with most of the food’s flavor. Some of the additives, like vinegar, coriander, black pepper, and salt, will improve the preservation of meats like beef, poultry, and pork.
Be creative with the condiments and bring different spice shakers depending on how you want the outcome’s flavor.
Preheating the Air Fryer
Some air fryer users complain about the cooking result, saying it did not meet their expectations. The problem is not the cooker; it is the users who forgot the essential step of pre-heating. The air fryer does not work like other cookers such as the microwave, where you just put your food in the cooking chamber and wait for results.
You first preheat it for around 5-7 minutes to make it ready before you introduce your meals. It ensures the air is circulating, and there is enough heat to remove moisture from your meat or veggies.
Ideal Options for Dehydrating Your Food
Aside from the air fryer, there are other appliances that you can use to dehydrate your food. The number one item to consider is the dehydrator, which is solely for this purpose. It has many advantages over the air fryer, like having a lot of space to accommodate a large food capacity.
It also has a low energy consumption of 300 to 1000 watts. This is a very economical value as compared to the air fryer’s 1000 to 1500 wattage. The dehydrators are also easy to use when considering they have the sole function of removing water content from your food.
There are microwaves which can do the dehydration perfectly. They have the dehydrating mode and are also easy to use.
Dehydration is one of the cooking techniques you need to know, which helps preserve your food. The air fryer is an excellent appliance to dehydrate your food, and in a few steps, your food is ready for storage.
When using the air fryer, take note of variables such as temperature and duration. Meats will need higher temperatures but shorter durations. The temperature should be low for vegetables and fruits, though they need a lengthier cooking time. Never forget to preheat the air fryer for excellent results.