So wow. I'm doing my first food tech giveaway. Woot!!
Given my predilection for raw snackage and desserts, it's a real pity that I haven't actually tried making any raw treats myself. I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to raw delights and let me tell you - everything there is so YUM looking.
Anyway, you generally need two big food tech tools to make raw treats at home: a food processor and a dehydrator. Given that I didn't have either of those, it's really not a surprise that I bought most of my raw treats and baked most of my home-made treats.
I'm a college kid and Harvard is expensive, y'all.
$250 for an Excalibur Dehydrator? I think not.
That's the cost of a whole textbook (yes, the life of a science concentrator is a sad, penniless existence - ink on paper sure costs a lot these days).
Anyway, affordability was the main reason why I didn't try my hand at dehydrating foods. I thought that all dehydrators were in the three digits, but I was wrong. Sure, the fancy-schmancy dehydrators with huge capacities and cool functions and whatnot (what, can they talk to you? Wash themselves? Produce manna?) probably do all cost an arm and a leg.
But there's also an option for those of us with budgets.
The Ronco 5-Tray Food Dehydrator retails for only $39.98, which is really reasonable for a food tech gadget!
It comes with five dehydrating trays, but you can expand it to hold seven trays if you have a lot of stuff to dehydrate. Each tray, the base, and the lid are wrapped in plastic and it comes with a little recipe book with some suggestions, recipes, and tips for dehydrating safely/properly.
I searched and searched, but... no assembly instructions. Uh-oh.
Luckily, they trays and lid are dishwasher safe (not the base, though, as that has the warming unit in it). I'm really glad about the dishwasher safe thing, because that's also something that I just tested out, as I didn't see if explicitly written out anywhere. Anyway, it turned out well!
Assembly was also super-easy - there's nothing to screw together or properly build. You just stack the trays on top of each other and put the lid on the very top. There's also no on/off switch (it's a really simple machine) so you just plug it in when you want it on and unplug it when you want it off.
I was really excited about trying to dehydrate some peas, since I love freeze-dried peas. Unfortunately the wholes on the tray are too big for peas (they fall right through, which ended up being a messy experiment) even though the recipe booklet says that you can dehydrate peas.
I guess you need to line the trays with dehydrator paper then (it doesn't come with any and I didn't have any, but I looked it up and you can buy a herb screen for $14.99 from Ronco or you can find dehydrator paper starting at around $27 for 100 sheets on Amazon).
So I settled for chopping up some bell peppers that I had in the fridge and dehydrating those instead.
I was really surprised by how aromatic they became! Within an hour my entire apartment smelled like red peppers. If you're making raw granola, fruit leathers, raw desserts, or raw bread, I can imagine that this would be quite pleasant.
Since I'm not a huge bell pepper fan (that's why I used them - because they'd been sitting in my fridge for a while and I wasn't going to use them otherwise) I would dehydrate bell peppers again. Apparently dehydration takes about 2-3 days and, while I would happily smell bread or granola for 2-3 days, smelling bell pepper for 2-3 days straight didn't delight me or my roommate.
Anyway, here's a quick summary of what I thought.
* Way more affordable than other models on the market
* Easy to assemble
* Easy to operate
* Gets the basic job done
* Dishwasher safe
* Very fragrant, fills the house (pro if sweet, yummy smells)
* Big holes in the trays are impractical for dehydrating small stuff (you have to buy dehydrator paper)
* The base is difficult to clean when things fall/drip through, since you can't submerge it in water
* No assembly/machine-care instructions
* No on-off switch
* No fan to evenly distribute the warmth, so you have to keep rotating the trays every few hours (and that for a few days)
* Very fragrant, fills the house (con if bell peppers)
Basically, it's a great starter dehydrator, or if you only dehydrate things now and then. If you can't/don't want to drop a lot of money on a machine that you won't use particularly often, then this is your machine!
If you're dehydrating a lot (like if you're trying to start a small raw foods company, or if you're making raw foods every day) a more expensive machine with those extra functions (fan, smaller gaps in the trays, etc.) might be a better option.
Alright, now that you've read my comprehensive review, here's your chance to win your own Ronco Food Dehydrator!