Gear Review: Nesco FD-35 Food Dehydrator

It has been a month since I spent the night outside.  I’ve been getting restless and need something camping related to ease my mind.  What better than to prepare for my next trip?  So I pulled the food dryer out a couple of days ago and have been running it almost non-stop.  I’ve put away some spaghetti sauce, vegetables, and fruit.  Not a lot, because my dryer is rather slow, which leads me to the subject of this article.

CIMG0200I purchased my Nesco a couple of months ago from Amazon for $50 (including two fruit roll sheets) after a moderate amount of internet research.  This was to be my first foray into food drying and I didn’t want to invest too much money into the program until I figured out if I had a future in it.  Honestly, I wish I had stumbled onto Phil Werner’s excellent site (Sectionhiker.com) first, for he led me to Sarah Kirkconnel (Trail Cooking) who in turn recommends the L’Equip Food Dehydrator.  To make a long story short, I wish I had invested the extra money for the better quality dehydrator.

To be fair, the Nesco does the job, but it is slow and it’s maximum capacity is well below that of the L’Equip.  The Nesco can handle up to 7 trays, while the L’Equip is advertised to support up to 20 trays at once!  Also, my model does not have adjustable temperature.  I thought I ordered one of the adjustable ones, but I must have been feeling extra cheap when I pressed the order button.  Oh well.  Operating this dryer is as easy as it gets.  Load the food, stack the trays, put on the cover, and turn it on.  Then you wait.  Of course drying is meant to be a slow process, but with the limited capacity of the Nesco, as delivered with five trays, it seems to take forever.

CIMG0197Other than the capacity, my biggest gripe with this dryer is that it dries unevenly.  The lower trays dry faster and food near the center dries significantly faster.  This means that you have to check the food fairly often and rotate it.  Can you imagine checking each blueberry from a batch of three or four pints several times during the day?  Unfortunately I don’t have to imagine.  Again, this may be the case with any dryer, but the Nesco is not a start-and-forget machine.  The more uniform the food is, the less you have to fuss, but things like blueberries need regular attention unless you want half of them to be little desiccated pebbles that will take days to reconstitute.

CIMG0206Still, all is not lost.  The Nesco, as I said, does work and after a little trial and error I’m getting the hang of drying.  I’ve got a couple of days worth of fruit done and started messing with vegetables today.  The two little bags on the left are individual servings of salad with cabbage, carrots, and peppers.  With a little vinaigrette, that should be nice on the trail!  I’ll talk more about my food successes and failures in later articles.

One companion to your dryer that I recommend is a vacuum sealer.  I pulled mine out for the first time today and I love it.  Look for an article on that also in the near future.

So do I recommend the Nesco FD-35?  In a word, no!  It is serviceable, but unless money is really a factor you should spend a little more for something better.  I think one of Nesco’s higher end dryers would be fine, but I’ve got my eye on the L’Equip.  For those of you shopping, I definitely recommend a dryer with temperature control.  Also, look for a model with the highest capacity you can get.  If any of you can recommend another dryer, I’d love to hear about it.  Feel free to share your favorite recipes as well!

Shopping Guide:

Nesco Food Dehydrators on Amazon
L’Equip Food Dehydrators on Amazon

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Filed Under: GearGear for the HouseGear ReviewsTrail Food

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About the Author: Tucson, AZ Realtor & Investor. My true passions however are hiking and whisky (although generally not at the same time). If you have a question about any of these just drop me a line!

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