{UPDATED} How to Dehydrate without a Dehydrator

Since its publication way back in August of 2011, my “How to Dehydrate without a Dehydrator” post has continually surpassed any others in terms of page views. Since then, however, an ironic set of developments has occurred: I’ve become significantly less enamored of raw foodism, finding the culture rather militant and unhealthy for me considering my fraught history with food (Gena has more thoughts on approaching raw foods pragmatically); yet I’ve also honed my oven dehydration skills. Though I by no means dehydrate frequently or with fancy 3-day raw meal preparations, I do enjoy a batch of homemade banana chips or broccoli nibblers every so often, and experience greater success than ever with these recipes thanks to a more detailed process of oven-dehydration.

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Oven-dehydrated broccoli nibblers.

Before specifically outlining my oven-dehydration process, I’d like to share with you some helpful tidbits of dehydrating knowledge, courtesy of Dirt Candy Executive Chef Amanda Cohen in her phenomenal restaurant cookbook qua graphic novel.

Photo via Dirt Candy.

Photo via Dirt Candy.

–Tip #1: A dehydrator set at 120°F (an average dehydrating temperature) takes four times longer to dehydrate than an oven. That means that with any recipe whose directions specify dehydrating times with an actual dehydrator, you’ll need to divide that time by four if you’re dehydrating with your oven.
–Tip #2: Your oven needs to be on its lowest setting – 150°F or below – in order for it to function like a dehydrator. If this setting is not below 150°F on your oven, you can do the following: preheat your oven to 200°F, turn it off, place the food in the oven for an hour, then take out the food and repeat the process until dehydration has completed.
–Tip #3: Raw vegetables take 1-3 hours to dehydrate in the oven (4-12 hours in the dehydrator) since they are made up of mostly water. Oily foods like sauteed vegetables and nuts, on the other hand, require 6-12 hours of oven dehydration (24-48 hours in the dehydrator). I find that raw crackers, breads, desserts, and other raw food recipes that start as “batters” require 4-6 hours in he oven (16-24 hours in the dehydrator).
–Tip #4: Check out the Excalibur website for more specific tips and ideas regarding how to dehydrate fruits, veggies, herbs, nuts, and grains. You can apply most all of their tips to oven dehydrating.

Dehydrated sweet crackers.

Dehydrated sweet crackers.

With those tips in mind, here is an outline of my preferred oven-dehydration process:

How to Dehydrate without a Dehydrator {Updated}

You will need:

The food you’d like to dehydrate (raw cracker/bread batter, sliced fruit, cut veggies, fruit puree to make fruit leather, etc.)
Nonstick silicon baking mat such as a Silpat or parchment paper
Aluminum foil
Oven set at its lowest temperature (a toaster oven with a baking setting also works)

Preheat your oven to its lowest setting. If this is above 150°F, see Tip #2 above.

Place a silicon baking mat or parchment paper on an oven-safe cooling rack. Place your to-be-dehydrated food on the mat/parchment. If you are dehydrating simple fruit or veggies, place them next to each other at even intervals. If you are dehydrating something that needs to be spread on the mat/parchment (such as raw cracker batter or fruit puree), spread it out as evenly as possible so that it doesn’t dehydrate more in some spots than in others.

 Take a large sheet of aluminum foil and crumple it into an elongated, snake-like shape. Place the cooling rack full of food into the oven, and prop the oven door open ever so slightly with the foil snake. For even more effective dehydration, place a fan in front of the small oven door opening to ensure air circulation.

Updated Makeshift Dehydrator

Keep the food in the oven until it reaches your desired texture, flipping as necessary (raw crackers and other spreaded items need to be flipped once halfway through). See Tip #3 above for estimates on how long specific foods take to dehydrate in the oven.

Ta-da! You’ve successfully dehydrated without a dehydrator. Now go out and celebrate with all that money you didn’t spend on buying an unnecessary piece of equipment (but that you’ll probably end up shelling out anyway thanks to your increased energy bill…).

Tutorial submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

In solidarity, Ali.

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