We did it. We bought a dehydrator. We shopped, we compared, we deliberated and finally decided on the Model 3926T from Excalibur.
Why Excalibur? Because they are an American company and have a stellar reputation. This particular model has 9 large trays which translates to 15 square feet of drying area. The 7-inch fan has an on/off switch and is place vertically on the back wall of the unit. Having the fan in this position rather than on top facilitates even distribution of air flow to all the trays. This model also includes a 26 hour timer ...very convenient! All this and a 10-year warranty, I think we got a great deal.
A surprise bonus that I did not think about until I read the manual is that I will be able to raise bread in the dehydrator. Sure I know a dehydrator is warm and all you need is a warm place to raise bread. But the design of the Excalibur allows me to raise up to four loaves at a time. You just remove the trays and place a pan of hot water at the bottom. Then arrange your loaf pans on a tray, and slide it into place just above the pan of water. Cover the loaves with a cloth to keep them from drying out and close the door. Set the thermostat on 115 degrees and go on about your business. The hot water keeps the air moist and the dehydrator maintains a constant ideal temperature. In summertime, this is not a big issue but in wintertime we keep the house at 65 degrees so I have had to use the oven to raise bread. Using the Excalibur for this purpose will be much more efficient.
One of the options we considered before we bought the Excalibur was a look-alike model currently advertised through Cabella's. The unit LOOKS like the Excalibur and supposedly ships from Excalibur, but the reviews were mixed. When I was looking at it last week, there were four reviews ...two that said basically it was 'a good product for the price' and that they would recommend it and two that complained of a a pungent odor of plastic when they used it. One person said his whole house smelled like he just opened a dozen brand new shower curtains and he would definitely NOT recommend it. The difference in price between the unit Cabella's was selling the real deal from Excalibur was $100. I'm not sure if the Cabella's model would have cost shipping, I don't remember. But shipping was free through Excalibur and, in light of the mixed reviews, we decided to spend the extra hundred and buy from Excalibur. We are not disappointed.
For the first drying session, I set the unit up in the kitchen, preheated it to 135 degrees and let it run while I peeled, cored and pared three pounds of apples. By the time the apples were ready, the dehydrator had been warm and running for 45 minutes. I am happy to say that that there was absolutely no odor of warm plastic as mentioned in the reviews on the unit from Cabella's. I definitely think we made a good decision.
Three pounds of apples loosely spread in a single layer took up only four trays. Since I was not using all the trays, I set them at approximately even intervals from top to bottom just to keep the airflow as equal as possible on all trays.
The book says 7-15 hours at 135 degrees for dried apples. The more humid the environment, the longer the drying time. We're in Texas, folks, so relatively high humidity is a given. We also had a rain storm last night so the humidity might be higher than normal. But I set the timer for 9 hours and we'll see what we get.