The food dehydrator has become an essential appliance for those who want to preserve and store food for later consumption while maintaining the food’s nutritional benefits.
Having a dehydrator at home is an excellent way to save money and reduce food waste. Why?
A dehydrator is a valuable kitchen appliance because it removes all moisture from food and shrinks the size so it can be stored easily. The food maintains its flavors, so it’s tasty when you eat it.
You can use the dehydrator to dry foods such as beef for jerky, other meats, fish, fruit, vegetables, and even herbs. Dairy, eggs, avocado, and most store-bought cooked foods should not be dehydrated.
Dehydrating food can take many hours – sometimes more than a day, so people always ask, “Can I leave my food dehydrator on while I’m asleep?”
In this post, I’m addressing this issue to explain whether it’s safe to leave the dehydrator running during the night.
Is it Safe to Leave a Food Dehydrator on Overnight or Unattended?
Yes, it’s okay to leave the food dehydrator on overnight. The reason is that this appliance is designed for prolonged use because some foods take longer to dry out than others.
You can set up the dehydrator in the evening before bedtime and let it work through the night.
Foods like herbs take about 8 to 10 hours to dry. Some foods can take 24 to 36 hours to dry out completely. In that case, you need to let the dehydrator run unattended.
It is generally safe to leave food dehydrators unattended because most modern models have an automatic shutoff timer feature. This means the device turns off automatically once the drying cycle is complete.
There are two types of food dehydrators: the first has a fan that circulates hot air to remove any water and moisture from food. The second modern type is a convection dehydrator which is more energy-efficient.
As with any type of electrical kitchen appliance, there is always a minimal risk of leaving it on unattended. That’s why you need to check for safety recalls for your appliance regularly.
When leaving the food dehydrator on during the night, be sure to place it on a heat-proof platform. Then, check to make sure the appliance shows no signs of damage.
Place the food dehydrator in a ventilated area in your kitchen and remove any tea towels or flammable materials nearby. Remove nearby dishes, cookware, and water or liquids.
Can a Food Dehydrator Catch on Fire?
Any electrical kitchen appliance can technically catch fire, but this occurrence is very rare.
There have been instances of brands recalling their food dehydrators because they posed a fire hazard.
While electric food dehydrators are no more dangerous than other household equipment, it’s always vital to handle them properly.
This includes placing them on a permanent platform and keeping them away from flammable materials like towels and water. In addition, make sure the appliance is free of any safety recalls regularly.
Most of the components in the dehydrator are not flammable.
However, the machine has one or multiple fans to circulate the hot air and keep the temperature steady. These can get jammed or break down over time which can cause them to malfunction.
What Happens if You Leave Food in the Dehydrator too Long?
When food is exposed to higher temperatures for an extended period, it becomes inedible.
When you leave a meal in the dehydrator for longer than it should be, it will become too dehydrated. That is why it’s a good idea to double-check the recipe and use caution when preparing it.
If you dehydrate fruit for fruit leather, you need a certain amount of moisture, so you don’t want to over dehydrate them. But, when making kale chips or banana chips, you can get away with drying the fruit and veggies for longer.
Also, if you leave the food in the dehydrator too long, it loses all of its initial texture and becomes so small it’s hard to hold it without crumbling.
How Long Do You Leave a Dehydrator on?
You can leave the dehydrator on for a couple of days but it’s best to use the automatic shutoff function if you have it.
If the food dries in the dehydrator for too many hours, it becomes overly dry and hard to eat.
You should only run the dehydrator according to recipe instructions. Check the food to see how dry it is and if the appliance is running well.
Many dehydrators have an automatic shutoff function, so you can set it for a certain number of hours, after which the appliance turns itself off.
Place on dehydrating trays and dry until pliable at 135 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Fruits such as apples, bananas, peaches, and nectarines can take anywhere between 6-16 hours, so you might not need to run the appliance overnight.
But some fruit like pears, figs, apricots, and grapes can take longer, between 20 to 36 hours so you have no choice and must run the dehydrator day and night.
Meats take up to 12 hours, depending on their size and texture. Jerky, for example, dries in about 10 hours.
Some recipes like the fruit we mentioned require you to dehydrate the food for 36 hours, so that’s a day and a half or running the appliance.
It’s also possible to stop the dehydrator and then re-start it and continue the drying process later.
However, this can cause uneven dehydration and make the food inedible or improperly dehydrated, which can make one part drier than the other.
Can You Put Cheese in a Food Dehydrator?
No, you can’t put cheese and other dairy in the food dehydrator because you can get ill due to food poisoning.
Dehydrating all types of dairy products including cheese is dangerous because the food can develop bacteria which cause food poisoning and severe sickness.
However, if you consider the technical aspect, yes, you can dehydrate cheese.
Although it’s not a safe way to preserve cheese, you can cut up a block into smaller cubes. After they’ve cooled in the fridge, you can dry them with your food dehydrator for approximately 36 hours.
Can You Freeze Dehydrated Food?
Yes, you can freeze dehydrated food, and this makes it last longer than usual.
Dehydrated food must always be stored in airtight containers in a dry but cool place. If you don’t have much storage space, you can place dehydrated food in the freezer.
Tip: freeze-dried fruits like berries remain crispier if you freeze them.
How can you freeze dehydrated food? It’s a simple process:
Once you take food out of the dehydrator, let it cool on the countertop until there is no visible condensation. If there is still some moisture in the food, dehydrate it for some additional time until dry. Next, place the dehydrated foods into freezer bags and store them.
When you remove the dehydrated food from your freeze, you can wait for the condensation to evaporate from the bag’s exterior.
Depending on the food type, you can store dehydrated food in the freezer between 4 to 12 months.
Another factor to consider is the temperature at which you store it – the lower the temperature, the longer you can store it safely.
Tip: dried fruits can be stored at 60ºF for about 12 months, whereas if you store them at 80ºF, you can only store them for 6 months.
Can You Over Dehydrate Food?
Yes, you can over dehydrate your food in the sense that it loses its form and texture and crumbles or breaks apart.
However, technically, it’s almost impossible to ruin and over dehydrate food for storage. The drier a food item is, the better and longer it’s preserved.
But overdried and dehydrated food isn’t the tastiest, so it’s best not to over dehydrate it until it completely loses texture.
For example, if you leave the beef in the dehydrator for more than 10 hours, it can become extremely small and crumbles. Although it will still be edible and tasty, the texture is spoiled.
What are the signs that you’ve over dehydrated the food?
- Food crumbles and breaks apart
- It has an unpleasant smell
- Bad flavor
- The texture is changed
- Food is much smaller than normal
The temperature inside the dehydrator, as well as how long you keep the food inside the appliance, causes excessive dehydration.
Before running the appliance, check the recipes to see how long you should dry each particular food.
It’s possible to rehydrate foods that have been overly dehydrated if you want to, although this is typically more difficult than dehydrating and takes up lots of time.
Conclusion: Can you leave the food dehydrator on overnight?
Yes, you can, and it’s perfectly normal to leave the appliance unattended because some dehydration processes take longer than a day.
When running the appliance overnight, you must ensure that the dehydrator is located in a well-ventilated area of the kitchen on a platform, has no damage, and isn’t touching any nearby tea towels, dishes, or other appliances.
Keeping the food dehydrator away from flammable materials ensures the electrical device runs and operates all day and night safely.
The food dehydrator is the best way to preserve food for longer. It will help you store food with less space and preserve more nutrients. It’s a great way to use leftover fruits, vegetables, and meat. There’s nothing quite like homemade beef jerky or orange potpourri.