Solar dehydrator

A recent discussion on the Yahoo SolarCooking forum brought up the topic of solar dehydrators. A few clicks later brought me to this section of builditsolar and this explanatory video.

I have a suitably large piece of glass that’s been sitting idle for years and plenty of scrap plywood, so I thought I’d research a bit more to see what else was needed. That lead me to the trays and various liners. Here is what the ones from an Excalibur brand dehydrator looks like.

Both materials need to be food grade quality. (Yes, I know folks have used wood and window screens for years, but this is just the road I choose to take. YMMV) The Excalibur trays are made of hard polycarbonate and the polyscreen of “FDA approved food-grade materials.” You can buy them directly from Excalibur for $10 and $3.75 respectively. If I
ordered 5 of each, it comes out to ~$69 +tax & shipping. That’s getting close to the price of one of their basic 4 tray dehydrators.

So I searched for alternatives. An hour later and the best I could find were these cooling racks & silicone baking sheets.

For $40 I would have 6 trays and 4 sheets. Many things I plan to dehydrate would fit fine on the racks themselves without any danger of falling through the gaps. But things like fruit leather (fruit roll-ups), corn, peas, etc. need something like the silicon sheets.

Somewhere around this time my young niece and nephew saw me browsing through solar dehydrator designs on my iPad. Of course they wanted to know what they were. I did my best to explain and they (mostly my niece) listened with mild interest. But when I mentioned that we could make fruit leather…well, the interest level rocketed and plans to mix all sorts of fruit flavors started flying. Needless to say this project moved up a few levels.

I knew my lack of woodworking skills was going to mean a long development (thinking through) time, so I went back to shopping the 4 tray Excalibur. There are less expensive dehydrator brands out there, but my gut reaction was they wouldn’t work as well. JMO. Another hour going through eBay, Amazon, etc. resulted in finding a company in AZ that would ship it to CA for $106 total. I also ordered four of the $5 silicon sheets needed to make fruit leather. I’m eagerly awaiting the start of a new cooking adventure. It won’t be totally solar-less because I plan to use my parabolic cooker to gently cook some of the fruit to be used in the fruit leather.

If you’re like me and don’t know much about dehydrating food, these videos might be of interest to you.