I wrote an article a few years ago that walked through the theory (i.e. WHY) of dehydrating food at different temperatures. I also gave a few examples but fell short with a definitive guide.
Here’s a quick guide, courtesy of the thermostat of our Excalibur Dehydrator:
- Herbs (95F/ 35C)
- Living Foods (105F / 41C)
- Raising Bread (110F / 43C)
- Making Yogurt (115F / 46C)
- Vegetables (125F / 52C)
- Fruits/ Fruit Rolls (135F / 57C)
- Meats/ Fish (155F / 68C)
- Jerky (155F / 68C)
While that’s a decent guideline, there’s a few things to keep in mind, including some fine print:
- The dehydrator gets warmer than those temperatures. A thermostat on an Excalibur is set for the surface area of the food (which will never equal the ambient temperature of the air around it). The actual temperature of the air fluctuates; at it’s highest it’s around 10 degrees higher than the numbers above (but the food is at the temperatures in the chart).
- Many want to keep the integrity of living food in tact and dehydrate everything at a lower setting. The disadvantage of doing so is that it can take much longer to dry things and be more expensive and some food (such as meat) isn’t safe at certain temperatures. When I dehydrate Ghost Peppers (they are SUPER hot) I generally don’t worry about the temperature as I’ll never eat enough dried Ghost Peppers to gain any significant nutritional value.
- Some food (especially meat and seafood) must be dried at an ambient temperature of 165F or more (the guide above says ’155F’ but the first bullet explains the variance). I share this because dehydrating allows us to safely experiment a lot – but there are certain safety precautions you should always follow (I always look to the National Center for Home Food Preservation for such guidance)
- Circulation is a vital component. Herbs will dry at 95 degrees (and even less) if they have free airflow. Jam them in a plastic bag and they won’t do what you’re hoping.
- The above are guidelines. Experimentation may reveal that you prefer different temperatures (I love to air dry mushrooms without added heat for example).
- The end result matters. I sometimes ferment dried hot peppers and dehydrate them at lower temperatures to keep as many of the nutrients/ bacteria in tact as possible.
- Lastly, you might not have an option. Many people dry food in dehydrators that don’t have a thermostat. It’s not the end of the world as long as you’re following their guidance (some of these units call for pre-cooking of meat in order to make jerky as an example).
What are your tips for ‘the right temperature’ when dehydrating?