Food dehydrator with Fan vs Without Fan – Which one to buy?
The most common warning you will probably hear while shopping for a dehydrator is to avoid one without a fan. It will not work well, according to the experts. It takes a long time to dehydrate, the user might feel. But at the end of it all, you need to be clear about whether you need to buy a dehydrator with a fan or one without a fan.
There are pros and cons to each type of unit and you need to be clear about what makes for the best choice, after a careful consideration of these. Not all dehydrators are the same. But neither are the needs or preferences of the customer alike. That is why you must take all factors into account while studying how to purchase the best food dehydrator for your needs. One of the most important considerations is the fan.
While food dehydration is a practice dating back to years ago and requires only heat and movement till now, modern designs and leading brands from Nesco to L’Equip and Excalibur have flooded the market with effective and convenient drying methods and new technology. While all dehydrators have a heating element, not all of them have fans.
Ronco and Living Foods Dehydrators are just some of the brands that do not have a fan. So, should we assume that just because a dehydrator has no fan, it is no good? This guide serves to answer this question and compare dehydrators that come equipped with fans to those without fans. Let’s learn more about the different pros and cons of choosing dehydrators with fans and without fans.
Dehydrators with or without Fans: What to Consider While Purchasing
While nearly all dehydrators have a fan and heating element, some lack a fan, though not the heating element.
Different Types of Fan Placements in Food Dehydrators
The three basic placements of the fan are on the top, the bottom, and at the side:
- Base Mounted Fans
- Top Mounted Fans
- Horizontally Located Fans
The placement of the fan and its heating element influences how evenly the food dehydrates, apart from two other functions. It also affects how quickly the food dries and how easy it is to clean. Each of the fan placements in food dehydrators have their benefits and drawbacks.
1) Base Mounted Fans
A food dehydrator with a fan and a heating element at the base such as the Presto 06300 is within an affordable price range and also ensures quick drying of the food.
But such dehydrators offer another problem namely how to clean the food that spills over it. Across time, the fan gets blocked and sticky and large crumbs even fall onto the heating elements. Another drawback is that besides being difficult to clean, such units do not have temperature control, they can simply be switched off and on.
2) Top Mounted Fans
The dehydrator with the fan and heating element on the top such as the Nesco Snackmaster Pro offer a unique benefit. This design ensures food crumbs and liquid does not spill over the fan or on the heating element. It has adjustable thermostat typically ranging from 95–160 degree F.
Change in design and adding of the temperature control may raise the price, but it ensures value for money, when it comes to easy maintenance and uniform, even drying.
3) Horizontally Located Fans
The Excalibur brand is the most common of the models, that come with horizontal air flow. It uses a horizontal fan and a heating element at the base of the dehydrator. It addresses issues such as ease of cleaning, maintenance and more. It offers uniform, even drying with air moving freely across the trays. When the air cools as it moves away from the fan, it spreads across the trays evenly.
In contrast, a dehydrator with a top or bottom mounted fan forces air to each tray. More air resistance results, when more trays are added. This causes air reaching the tray furthest enough to cool faster before it reaches the last tray. Further trays may have under-dried items as a result and manual tray rotation may even be required.
While food dehydrators with the heat source and fan at the back of the shelves ensure hot air blows across, and the food dried evenly, food dehydrators with vertical air flow and fans below or above move air up or down respectively.
Those with the unit at the base are second best as against vertical types with the fan at the top. On the other hand, they are harder to clean. The closer the fruit is to the heating element and fan, the more quickly it will dry. So, vertical models may require tray rotation and adjustment.
The price is on the heavy side, and the dehydrator requires careful operation. Unlike simple convection models, it is not easy to operate, or assemble.
Convection Models: Dehydrators without a Fan
Convection food dehydrators use no fans at all. These dehydrators have heat rising through the tray.
This eliminates the possibility of food contamination from dirt that fans may suck into the dehydrator. It also leads to less noise. Because there is not fan, convection heating is silent. Another benefit is the less use of electricity. Fans come with motors which have a wattage and consume a lot of electricity.
Convection dehydrators take twice as long to dry food items that are bulky. The hidden plus point is that during periods or in areas where there is high humidity, the longer the drying time, the more the flavor and quality of certain foods is compromised.
However, better food dehydrators have a thermostat to cycle the heat element on and off keeping the chamber where the trays are located within a target range of temperature. A dehydrator without a fan does not work well because it obstructs the distribution of moisture and removal of water content from the drying chamber. As a result, in warm and humid climates, fruits and sauces may even spoil before they can turn into leather, following dehydration.
Moreover, the heating element is at the base and works by causing the heat to gently rise through the food and drying it out. But by the time it reaches the top, the air becomes cool and trays higher up are under-dried while food in drays at the base can even be over-dehydrated, turning tough in the exterior and tender and moist in the center.
This is a sure indication food will spoil. On the other hand, in dehydrators with fans, the moisture is blown out of the appliance through vents. Additionally, the dry air comes right in. Exchange of moist for dry air also ensures food does not absorb water again, during the drying process.
The Question of Heat and Air Flow
Heat and air distribution are the two most important things to consider while drying food items. Uneven heating and air flow can cause food closer to the heat and air source to get drier faster. Trays located further from the heat and air source don’t have the same advantage. Uneven heat and airflow is an issue found in most economy stackable food dehydrators.
Stackable food dehydrators have heat source at the base of the unit, so trays at the bottom get a major share of heat and air flow. For those economy models which do not have a fan, trays need to be periodically rotated to avoid over or under-drying food. Shelf tray dehydrators slide out and work like regular trays in an oven. The fan and heating element is mounted at the back and warm air moves horizontally across the trays evenly.
Quality stackable food dehydrators like the Nesco FD 75A Food Dehydrator, 700 watts come with a patented frying system which prevents flavors from mixing and eliminate the need for tray rotation. Such models, of course, have fans.
The top mounted fan of this particular Nesco model, for example, has a strong motor and its position ensures liquid does not drip on the heating chamber. Warm air in these dehydrators travels through tunnel-type ducts at the core of the tray and distributes to each tray, thanks to the fan, much like a central air system delivering conditioned air to each house.
1) Range of Applications
On the other hand, dehydrators without a fan need diligent tray rotation especially if fleshy foods are being dehydrated. Some of the larger models with fans even allow other uses such as drying craft items, culturing yoghurt, or leavening bread. This is not possible with a convection model.
2) The Cleanliness Factor
In a convection model, heat is generated by an element at the base of the box. Though it is said the convection drying prevents the fan from sucking in dirt, this can easily be remedied by placing the fan-powered dehydrator in dust-free settings.
3) The Price Factor
Without a fan, food dried slowly and at different rates between top and base trays. Dehydrators without fans cannot be used to make fruit leather, according to some experts. But what these dehydrators lack for in features, they make up for in price. These dehydrators may be smaller, but they are cheaper.
4) Flavor Mixing and Uneven Drying
The differences between vertical and horizontal food dehydrators are important too. Food dried vertically the same taste when dehydrated together. So in a vertical food dehydrator, meat jerky and banana chips, for instance cannot be dried together.
It is also more likely to malfunction as food and liquid drips on the rear fan. Having a fan on the top eliminates these problems. If you have a large set of foods to be dehydrated or many different foods, the horizontal model is the best. Air does not pass from one tray to another so there is no flavor mixing. But when it comes to price, these models are expensive. Of course, the problem of flavor mixing and uneven drying is equally there in dehydrators without fans.
5) Range of Temperature
A dehydrator without a fan is generally an economy model. So dehydrators without a fan can take longer and yield poorer results in dehydrating food. Drying fruits, for example, becomes unpredictable and inefficient.
It does not have an adjustable thermostat generally. This creates another problem because different foods require differing temperatures. One temperature does not suit all food stuffs. For instance meat is dried in 145-155 degree F while fruits and veggies dehydrate well between 125-155 degree F. Temperature is critical while dehydrating food.
If it is too low, temperature can cause food to spoil while if it is too high, the surface of the food hardens, preventing moisture from escaping. Fan forced dehydrators provide superior temperature uniformity leading to rapid heating times.
Excalibur Dehydrators have the heat source and fan located at the back of the shelves. This eliminates the need for tray rotation. Large Garden model of this brand offers plenty of room for dough ornaments or craft potpourri or even homemade yoghurt.
At the opposite end of the continuum, is the Living Foods dehydrator which works through heat generated by the heating element at the lower end of the box, rising through the trays. Despite slower drying in humid conditions, these dehydrators have been used for a wide variety of applications such as softening honey or re-crisping popcorns.
The Presto food dehydrator has a vertical airflow. It is perfect for dehydrating small number of items. Drying times depend on portion size and content of water or moisture in the food. Again, Ronco is a brand which does not offer a fan.
The heat rises naturally and reaches a stable temperature of around 133 degree F. This can create the following problems- long drying times and difficulty in cleaning food stuck in the heating element.
With base mounted fans, the Converga-Flow system of the Nesco models offers variance of temperature and convenience of use, drying food in hours, not days. The Waring Pro dehydrator has several temperature settings such as fan only or cool air, and low, medium or high corresponding to 110, 140 and 175 degree F.
The fan blows hot air horizontally and yields good results. Excalibur’s Parallex Horizontal Airflow with Hyperwave Fluctuation Technology is the best. It draws in the cool air, heats it, allowing it to blow across the food and then leave the appliance.
Setting Up a Fan: the Question of Assembly
For many, a fan may seem burdensome to assemble. But it is actually very easy, as can be seen in the steps detailed below for assembling a fan for a Nesco Model.
Fans help to remove moisture. Some round and compact units having no fans take longer to dry. Two fans allow high speed when the drying process commences and low speed towards the end when less air needs to circulate. Fans range from 4.5 to 6 to even 8 inches. The latter is found on 1000 watt, 120V dehydrators.
1) The Issue of Power Usage
Food dehydrators which have a fan and heating element use anywhere between 300 to 100 watts. A good design allocated power between the heating element and fan motor for best performance and output. Fan size also varies between the models. So, electricity consumption is variable. However, dehydrators without fan definitely use less power.
2) Noise Factor
Another thing to consider is the noise. Horizontal flow dehydrators are the loudest, while convection models are silent.
Time Taken to Dry Food in Dehydrator with and without Fan
While the drying time depends on a lot of factors such as how thin the food is and hence the drying time, The lower the temperature, the longer the drying time. Higher humidity and greater water content also increase drying time. Finally the crispiness desired and the nature of the product also influences the drying time. But so does the fan. Tabulated below is the time taken to dry food using a dehydrator with a fan and without, so you can see. For example, apples take 7-15 hours at 135 degree F in a dehydrator with a fan and 24-36 hours in one without a fan.
|FRUITS(135 Degree F)||Time|
|Prune Plums||22-30 hours|
|OTHER (at 155-160 Degree F)||Time|
|Leather & Fruit Rolls||4-6 hours|
|Fish Jerky||12-14 hours|
|Herbs & Spices||2-4 hours|
|Orange Rind||12-24 hours|
|Brussels Sprout||24-36 hours|
Moreover, rotating the trays are not easy. They have to be rotated 2-4 hours and each tray has to be given a ¼ degree turn every time during rotation. The food dehydrator of the convection model has adjustable lid and base vents.
You will need to ensure these are secured and check if the food is dehydrated. Compare this to the convenience and quick drying time of a dehydrator with a fan, and you will see why dehydrators without fan are not the right choice!
Fan vs Convection Food Dehydrator Video Guide
All in all, dehydration is a complex process. A lot of variables come into play and the fan is one of them. When it comes to which dehydrator to buy, it is far wiser to purchase one with a fan than one without. The reasons for this range from ease of use to better dehydration using the fan powered models. At the end of the day, the ease with which you operate matters.
A convection model is a food dehydrator without a fan. It has a lot of advantages associated with it, but these are mostly economical. When it comes to true value for money, the fan powered dehydrator beats it hollow. This is why it is better to buy a dehydrator with a fan, and save yourself a lot of trouble.
If you are a beginner, the fan will ensure optimal drying so you don’t get frustrated or make errors. If you are an advanced user, the dehydrator with a fan is perfect for a wide number of applications besides drying such as pureeing, making home made yoghurt and more. Dehydrators with fans offer precision drying, faster and more reliable performance and results which are instantaneous.
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