We don’t really get this as a question that often – but we should. For there is only one answer and knowing it will change your relationship with drying food:
Buy a mandoline.
I have a $20 hand slicer (the OXO Good Grips) that has 3 width adjustments. There is no replacement for this tool when it comes to drying food.
Consider that a slice of apple may go in to the dehydrator at 3mm (approximately 1/8th of an inch) thick. If the piece beside it is 4 mm (1/6th of an inch), it could take up to 33% longer to dehydrate. Unless your knife skills are accurate to a smaller margin than 1/25th of an inch, a mandoline is a giant time saver.
A mandoline starts saving you time because of the speed which you can accurately slice – but that’s just the beginning! Once your product is drying in the dehydrator, things dry evenly which takes away the need to constantly check each and every piece for doneness through the process. A quick visual scan will confirm that a tray is drying consistently and you won’t need to pull out each tray and remove individual pieces as they complete. This is a massive deal if you have a larger unit (our has 9 trays and more than 20 square feet to dehydrate with).
When using a mandoline, it’s essential to use extreme care. I’ve cut myself with them 3 times (all in the first 3 months of using one and only once when not using the guide) and each time was very painful. These tools, like chainsaws and nailguns, can save you a great deal of time but require unyielding focus and care to harness their power safely.
It takes some time to get comfortable with using this tool. I am amazed at how often I find myself using it (several times a day) and how much work it’s taken away from my use of knives in the kitchen. I could not dehydrate the amount of food we do without one.
What’s your essential tip for dehydrating to share with others?
This is part of a series of posts dedicated to the fundamentals of dehydrating and sharing tips that will ensure success as well as traps to avoid. Make sure to check out the comments as they add to the discussion. Additional information can be found through some of our posts on dehydrating or in our Facebook Group where a vibrant community with plenty of discussion can often be found!