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Dehydrator on overnite?

Hello Cindi -

You asked:

>I was wondering if any of you who own dehydrators start drying your
>food at night right before you go to bed and let it run overnight?  Would
>there be some sort of considerable fire hazard risk even if it were left in
>the proper spot in the kitchen or wherever (away from anything flammable)?
>Just wondering, since 12 hours is an awkward amount of time to work with
>since I have to start first thing in the morning.....

I use my dehydrators mostly to dehydrate cooked meats and cooked veggies.
I do some fruit leather and have futzed around with kiwi slices, breads,
and other stuff...but, the meats and veggies account for most dehydrator

There wasn't much info out there on drying cooked stuff when I started, so
I hunted around and finally got in touch with a professor who had been
doing a food preservation study at a university in California for 20 years
or so.  This wonderful guy (retired now, but still very enthusiastic about
his field of study!) spent a fair amount of his long-distance $ filling me
in on how to determine proper drying times for the cooked foods I wanted to
do.  Meats were my biggest concern, since most advice that I was getting
was on the need to make a good will and to become very familiar with the
early symptoms of botulism...

He told me about Dept. of Agriculture publications that list each of the
meats and gave their water content by weight.  He explained that I should
weigh each batch of cooked meat, calculate how much of the weight
represented water, and then dehydrate the batch until at least 80% of the
water's weight was gone.

Sounded like a lot of work for a guy who was setting out to dry enough
meats for some 350+ meals <g>.  I asked him if it mattered if MORE than 80%
of the moisture content was dehydrated out.  He said that 80% was the
minimum threshold to get good shelf life and that most commercial
operations like to be as efficient as possible, so that's where they stop.
It seems that going beyond 80% wouldn't hurt, and might even add a little
to the shelf life.

Believe me, being "commercially competitive" was NOT one of my
requirements!  I just dumped the stuff in and left it there till it turned
crunchy <VBG>.  Sometimes I got around to checking the next day and
sometimes it ran for days.  I was doing 13 different veggies and 2
different meats...and would stop to do fruit leather when my local grocery
stores would dump over ripe bananas and strawberries (by the case!) on me.
If things slowed down, I would dehydrate gallons of salsa.  I kept two
maxed-out (12-14 trays) AH dehydrators going for a month or two.  I usually
wouldn't bother to empty one batch until I had the next one cooked and
ready to go.  I paid absolutely zero attention to drying times...I would
just leave stuff in untill it "felt right"!

I never worried about fires.  We set the dehydrators up on a table in the
kitchen and I ran them off their own circuit breaker (no problems with
electricity, I just didn't want anything else to cause the dehydrators to
turn off in the middle of the night before the food got good and dry).  We
dehydrated all the food we needed with no problems at all.  In fact, we
dehydrated enough for two people for six months...and we only spent a week
under five months on the trail ('95).  My Scout Troop ate a lot of my
surplus this spring during a 50 miler on the Pinhoti trail here in Alabama.
Some is still in my freezer.

I loaned one of my dehydrators to my Scouts to play a little before the
Pinhoti trip.  They were doing up some cooked pinto beans and apparently
were careless in loading one of the trays.  It looks like one of the beans
dropped down the center hole after it got good and dry (not sticky
anymore).  It jammed the blower and the base unit overheated enough to blow
the internal fuse.  It deformed the plastic near the heating element, but
never caught fire or anything like that.  One of my engineer Assistant
Scoutmasters replaced the fuse (it was wired in) and the unit sorta works
now (bent out of shape and the blower scrapes).  The Troop bought me
another base unit, so I am saving the zapped one for spare parts.

With all that, I still would have no hesitation running my AH dehydrators
for days at a time (I think my personal record was the time I hit the trail
and left one running for 5 days...).

I would make SURE that I had a good smoke detector, though <VBG>.

Good luck!

y'all come,
            Charlie II

charlie2@ro.com    Huntsville,Al