Dehydrator Vs Smoker – What’s the Difference ?
People are often confused about whether to choose a smoker or a dehydrator. Both offer the option to make food and other items preserved. Both are ideal for increasing the longevity of food. Dehydrators preserve food and craft items in safe and nutritious ways.
A dehydrator is the means through which different types of food stuffs such as fruits, vegetables and purees can be preserved for a long time through the extraction of moisture. This also prevents microbes from growing on the food. On the other hand, a smoker has different uses– it smokes and retains the flavor of the food.
One of the oldest methods of preserving food items, dehydration using solar energy was popular in ancient times. With the advent of modern dehydrators, compact drying appliances for domestic and commercial use became available. This shortened the drying time and retained the basic character of the food product.
Smokers, on the other hand, evolved out of the method of food processing where products were smoked for preservation and increase in palatability through the addition of flavor and color.
While the drying action of a smoker is perfect for preserving the meat, traditional smokers using fuel impart natural preservatives as well.
Let us study how the difference between the two can influence your decisions to buy these appliances and how to make an informed decision.
Purpose of Food Dehydrator and a Smoker
Dehydrator: A food dehydrator is a kitchen appliance that can be employed for drying food, such as herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables, liquids, semi-liquids and even craft items and seeds for gardening. Drying the food extends its longevity and the dehydrator works on the principle of removing moisture from the food.
Dehydrators also decrease the growth of bacteria and minimize spoilage. Removing moisture can take a long time or just a few hours, depending on the capability of the dehydrator. Dehydrated foods change color, weight and shape compare to their original state.
Smoker: A smoker uses the most ancient food preservation methods arising from the development of cooking with fire. The only difference is that modern smokers use electricity instead! Interest in smoking meats even spurred the health food movement.
Smokers are fueled by electricity and though the food smoked is said to be lacking authenticity of flavor, computer controlled electric smokers permit setting up the smoker and letting it run dry till the food is ready for serving. An electronic smoker, like a dehydrator automates the processes for you. Smokers are generally ceramic, water, offset or drum smokers, powered by various fuel types including electricity.
Primary Differences Between a Dehydrator and a Smoker: How They Work
There are several differences in how the two appliances function. Let us examine the working of each in detail.
1) Method of Working
Food dehydrators initially used solar energy, featuring racks with distinct openings to permit better food protection during the drying process. Solar dehydrators used the natural heat movement of air and solar power to remove moisture content from foods.
Modern dehydrators went a step further, and are perfect for those who want consistent results and an even temperature for dehydrating. Electric dehydrators circulate warm air evenly, retaining the color, taste, nutrients and flavors of the food.
Electric smokers are a common part of modern kitchens and these devices are extremely easy to use. Get the best meat or vegetable dishes thanks to the electric smoker. It works quite simply. The start push button makes the smoker functional.
There are some smokers with switches too. Others have buttons. Intuitive push button control panel is digital, in case of most smokers. The temperature setting of an average smoker ranges from 100 to 275oF. The electric smoker ensures that food comes out exactly in the way you want it.
Dehydrators comprise a heating element, air vents, motor, and food trays. The heating elements namely the vents and the fan work to remove moisture from the food and circulate the air evenly.
The food is dehydrated, permitting the release of moisture from the food and into the dehydrator, where it is then pushed into the vents. The moisture is, therefore, removed from the food.
Two kinds of dehydrators exist, based on airflow. While air moves horizontally in the event of a rear mounted fan, vertical airflow dehydrators have fans located atop or at the base of the appliance from where it then releases air to circulate vertically.
In a smoker, the electricity is used to smoke the foods and the walls are insulated 100% to protect the food being prepared and retain the heat. The heat is thermostatically controlled so that meat jerky and other items can be properly smoked.
3) Function and Capacity
The design and size of the model determines the nature of the tray. While some dehydrators have removable and stackable trays, others have tray shelves which are rigid and irremovable. Electric dehydrators generally have circular drying racks.
The more advanced dehydrators even have rotating trays. The trays can be adjusted to ensure differences in ventilation. Multi-tiered trays permit different types and kinds of food and craft items to be dried at the same time.
Modern smokers have a 24-hour timer and an automatic shutoff. This ensures that the electricity bills are not high and the food is not overcooked or dried up to an excessive degree.
Slow smoking works just as well as easy grilling. Each cooking device comes with smoking racks and a main cooking surface. There is plenty of space for different kinds of barbecue items and meat products. The side wood chip loader beside the electric smoker enhances the flavor of the smoked foods.
Most food items are dehydrated between 95 and 150 degree F. Meats need an even higher temperature to destroy any bacterial growth. The food needs to be dehydrated at just the optimal temperature to prevent uneven drying, causing moist interiors and extra dry exteriors.
Dehydrated foods include fruits, cereals, breads, trail mixes, vegetables, dried meat, pureed fruit rolls, granola parts, soups, sauces and jerkies. There are different applications associated with the smoker, and you can use it to spice up the barbecue. Add vinegar, juice, or any beverage to the smoker and use it infuse moisture and flavor your food.
As far as smokers are concerned, the applications are different. Adjustable air dampers ensure that the device initiates a milder smoke level to yield the best taste. To get a stronger taste. You can leave the air damper closed and intensify the smoke levels within the device.
A removable drip tray at the base of the smoker ensures that smoked food is instantly prepared without making a mess. The electric smoker works to create delicious foods from old-fashioned barbecue items to pulled pork. Smoking small meats? Then you should opt for a cabinet smoker, which is smaller and simpler.
For large cookouts, you need a smoker that does not compromise on portability and space constraints either. Another factor that comes into play is the weather, whereby smokers cook at lower heats over long time periods, creating a problem in the winters.
Dehydrators ensure the fruits and other food items become leathery and dry throughout. Some vegetables may even be tough or crunchy following the dehydration process. Dehydrators are perfect for those who want to preserve food and other items.
Get healthy food by circulating warm air around stacked trays from metal gauze or slatted plastic, permitting even and simultaneous evaporation of water. Flavors get locked in and even intensified as a result.
Make ornamental dough items, craft items, potpourri and other decorations by dehydrating fruit wreaths, clay models and more. The dehydrator also works well for gardeners who want to dehydrate seeds and herbs. On account of the wide and varied uses and the adaptable functionality, dehydrators score over smokers in many ways.
Vertical as well as bullet smokers, drum smokers and water smokers are just some variants. Smokers can even double as efficient grills when top loading design is used. Horizontal smokers are offset type and are credited with being spacious.
Larger cooking chambers permit massive food quantities and come with accessories and customization. Typical digital smokers include units by noted brands like Bradley Smokers. Another great brand of electric smokers is the Masterbuilt which even comes with a built in probe that is digital for temperature monitoring. The digital panel can be controlled by remote control. This is perfect for all kinds of meat from beef to venison, turkey to chicken.
Dehydrators are the perfect appliance, whether you are a crafter, gardener, chef or outdoor person looking to store food. Whether you need it for a flower bouquet or a fruit roll, beef jerky or fish, there are innumerable uses of these dehydrators. Smokers, on the other hand, are best suited to preserving food while giving it a certain flavor. This brings us to the pros and cons of each of these appliances and the differences therein.
Pros of Dehydrators
There are many advantages associated with dehydrators, which make it an ideal appliance for beginners as well as advanced users in many ways.
1) Preserves Food, Destroys Microbes
Food dehydrators remove moisture from natural foods such as vegetables and fruits. This obstructs the growth of enzymes and leads to preservation of food, causing health benefits and leading to economic efficiency and ensures products do not worsen prior to eating. Food preservation goes hand-in-hand with nutritional value and conservation of items.
2) Save Money, Cut Down on Time
A food dehydrator saves cash in diverse ways. Limited time sales in grocery stores and special deals can be availed by purchasing in bulk when the fruits and vegetables are available during the season. As you don’t have to throw things away before they turn bad, a dehydrator is a wise investment in more ways than one.
3) Increases Longevity
Dehydrated foods do not spoil as rapidly as fresh fruits and vegetables. This enhances the longevity of food and preserves their color, taste, aroma and retains their nutritional value.
4) Fruit Tastes Sweet
The dehydration process leads to the intensification of sugar in fruits, so that they increase in sweetness. Fruits are easy to dehydrate as they store more moisture and so dehydrate more quickly. Excellent fruits to dehydrate include berries, apples, peaches, pears, apricots and cherries.
5) Healthy Snacks, Convenience of Use
Healthy and nutritionally sound snacks like dried fruits and beef jerky can be prepared with ease. Make trail mix and homemade yoghurt using your dehydrator. Whether you go camping or for a family gathering, a dehydrator is a useful appliance to have.
Another benefit of food dehydrators is their speed. They speed up food drying processes significantly. As faster drying means no chance of bacterial growth and increased incidence of better retention of color of food, this has more benefits than just improving efficiency levels. Some food dehydrators like the Nesco-American FD-1010 Gardenmaster dehydrator even dry food in hours and not days.
7) Compact Size
A dehydrator occupies far less space than spreading food over screens or stringing them and hanging them on threads. Dehydrators come in compact dimensions. For example, the Open Country FD-1022SK Gardenmaster Digital Dehydrator 1000 watts has dimensions of 15.5×15.5x 9.75 inches making it perfect in terms of portability and use for domestic and commercial purposes.
Dried foods are lightweight and easy to store. Dried foods weigh less than 10% of the weight of fresh food items. Electric dehydrators have speeded up the drying process, making it easy to remove moisture from foods even in the most humid conditions.
9) Economic Efficiency
Save yourself from purchasing food in excess. Conserve food and ensure economic efficiency. Dried food is not just a wonderful way to conserve items, but also save money.
Pros of Smokers
Smokers are a popular choice for increasing the flavor of food, by adding taste and color. Process of burning or smoldering items to flavor, cook or preserve food involves the use of a smoker, as opposed to drying which is the central process of a dehydrator.
1) Simple as a Hot Plate
Electric smokers smoke food in a way similar to a hot plate by conducting electricity and turning electrons to heat. High end electric smokers have an adjustable thermostat range so that you can get perfectly cooked food which is regulated for temperature. In contrast, the dehydrator at high temperatures dries unevenly. Electric smokers are easier to use.
2) Doubles as a Grill
A smoker can also work like a grill for your barbecues. This versatile appliance is great for making the best chicken, fish, turkey, venison and fish items. The electric smoker is easy to use with efficient cooking and easy recipes.
3) Retains the Taste of Food
Unlike a dehydrator, which dries food and robs it of its taste, a smoker enhances the taste of the food, It is easy to use and food tastes great at the end of it.
Smokers take up less space and tend to be more energy efficient because they don’t need much electricity or power to run. For those who want great tasting food, preserving its flavor, smoking is the best way to go.
5) Automatic Functioning
Electric smokers come with controls and you don’t have to refuel them or adjust the thermostat. Once the process has started, all you have to do is let it run. Components in the electric smoker carry out temperature regulation and this ensures it can work in even the most unfavorable weather conditions. On the other hand, dehydrators like the Open Country FD-1022SK are visibly impacted by changes in altitude and climate when it comes to functioning.
6) Multitasking Is Easy
Smoking is an easy, linear process and you can set food in a smoker to the desired temperature, begin the process and leave the appliance to switch off on its own. At the end of it, a well prepared meal awaits you.
7) Sheer Volumes of Food
The smallest smokers can rustle up food for a large family of 20 and some large sized smokers can even cater to the needs of a barbecue party all night long. You need one pound of meat per person while smoking, and that’s a lot of food.
8) Kills Bacteria, Retains Taste
Smoking kills bacteria and prevents fat from becoming rancid or mold from fermenting. It extends the shelf life of the product as well. Smell and flavor of smoked meats is appetizing. Smoking changes meat color and makes it appear redder and more attractive.
Cons of Dehydrators
But dehydrators are not picture perfect. There are certain drawbacks associated with this appliance which makes it essential to consider, while evaluating these units as against smokers:
1) Time Intensive
Once time has been dedicated to dehydrating foods, you have to carry the process through. Fresh foods are active and alive. Enzymes react to air as well as other factors. Vegetables have to be blanched and cooled. Fruits need to be dried after harvest. So you have to grow your own food for best results. If you stop in between the dehydration process, mold and microbes can infest your food.
2) Vitamins Loss
Another downside to food dehydrators is that they can lower the content of Vitamin A and C in fruits and vegetables. Dehydration exposes fruits to moisture loss and this eliminates essential vitamins in these items. To counteract the loss, you need to add sulphur to fruits and vegetables.
3) Dried Food Is Not as Tasty
If you are eating for taste rather than nutrition, a dehydrator is not a good choice, Dried fruits and vegetables as well as meats are exceptionally hard. They are not moisture rich so their appearance is not as fresh or attractive. The taste changes too. Moisture can cause dried foods to become leather-like and texture has considerably changed. Dried products rot before they soften, so there is no chance the food texture can return to its original state following dehydration.
Another deterrent is the cost. Many of the advanced models with automatic shutoff and timers charge for these privileges. Energy use is also high because electricity is used. Most dehydrators range from 600 to 1000 watts and cost a lot more than simple air or sun drying.
5) Storing the Dehydrator
Most dehydrators weigh anywhere from 8-10 pounds and therefore, they are not suited for those looking for lightweight, portable items to use in the kitchen.
Cons of Smokers
Smokers come with their own hassles. Let’s see what the drawbacks are:
1) Complicated Components
While food dehydrators come with a simple unit comprising tray, fan, motor and vent, the electric smoker has a lot more complicated features such as heating elements, thermostats and programmable timers. This is tougher to maintain and more likely to need replacement following constant use.
2) Tough to Move
Electric smokers are not portable or lightweight, though they are versatile.
3) Flexibility and Cooking Time
It takes less time to dehydrate as opposed to smoking food. Though electric smokers are safe, because they do not have open flames, they are a problem when it comes to portability.
4) Cost Factor
Electric smokers are cheaper than dehydrators and they also do not require much electricity. The only drawback is that over time, maintenance costs tend to pile up.
5) Cooking Can Be Difficult
The use of a smoker is not as simple as it seems. Low moisture content in the appliance makes it tough to keep food moist. It is difficult not to contaminate the flavor of the meat, or cooking the meat before it is optimally smoked.
6) Carcinogenic Content?
Studies show smoked foods may contain cancer causing agents. Smoking contaminates the food to develop PAH or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which can cause a risk of stomach cancer, according to some experts.
7) Limited Temperature Control
Some smokers do not have extensive temperature control. For example, Brinkmann smokers contain no adjustable vents. It can be difficult to control till one gets a hang of it. Some smokers lack insulation and are made of thin metal. This causes the smoker to lose heat in the winters.
Similarities: Dehydrators Vs Smokers
1) Methods of Food Preservation
Both the smoker and the dehydrator offer methods of food preservation. While smoking involves enhancing the taste of the food in a smoker, a dehydrator dries food thereby changing its taste, making it distinctive and different from fresh foods.
2) Food Nutrition
Both smoking and dehydrating preserve the food items and enhance its longevity and make for longer lasting food with extensive shelf life.
3) Electric Features
Both dehydrators and electric smokers preserve food faster than traditional methods like sun or air drying. Food preservation occurs in a matter of hours or just a couple of days.
Both smokers and dehydrators are compact compared to large ovens or cumbersome microwaves.
Which Is Best?
The dehydrator is the best because of a host of reasons detailed below.
1) Healthy Food
Food drying does not need additional salt, sugar or any other additives or preservatives. You also get more minerals, nutrients and fibers. This makes it easy to get a healthy snack fast whether it is venison jerky, dried bananas or chewy fruit leather.
2) Food Quality
Unlike smoking, where food can be compromised due to PAH or other reactions, dried food is easily the healthiest and best option for quality snacks that do not play with your health outcomes.
While dehydrated foods stay fresh for a year, but some reports have even found food longevity extends beyond that. Food research studies report that dehydrated foods like vegetables, rice and grains can even be stored for thirty years!
4) Delicious Food, Unlimited Recipes
There are many recipes that can be found for dehydrators online. Some models even come with detailed recipe cum instruction manuals making them easy to assemble, use and create. This increases the chance to have green and healthy food. For example, dried stevia can be the perfect sugar substitute for healthy snacking.
5) Versatile Performer
Before eating the newly created dry fruits, veggies and herbs, you can rehydrate them for anything from pies to cobblers. There are so many multifaceted uses of the dehydrator from drying seeds for gardening to dehydrating crafts and food items.
Food dehydrators are a handy tool to get the job done super fast. Food dehydrators are no longer bulky devices that take up a lot of counter space. The models are easy to store and use. They have compact footprints, and are just around 12 inches in diameter in most cases. This is just the size of a small rice cooker. Add to this is their expandability, capacity, limited power consumption, high levels of energy efficiency and adjustable thermostat range.
While smokers make for excellent units for a barbecue or a fruit preserving session, food dehydrators are all round performers that can be used to make everything from craft items to home based yoghurt. Trail mix and granola bars, cereals and breads can be dehydrated with ease. The additional advantage is that dehydrated food is easy to store, healthy to eat and perfect for preserving the nutritional value and content of food.
When it comes to technological sophistication, even here the dehydrator is light years ahead with even the most basic and affordable models offering features like digital timers and automatic shut off. All in all, when it comes to the battle between the smoker and the dehydrator, the latter is a clear winner.