Sun Drying... This is the original dehydration method. Some commercial food processors continue to use it, but trying it at home is more trouble than it's worth. Sun drying demands near-perfect low humidity conditions and temperatures in the high 80s to assure a reasonable amount of success. And even if you manage to meet these rather difficult requirements, food dried in the sun will take several days as compared to several hours in a dehydrator. Because sun drying takes so long, the food produced is of lower quality and nutritional value. Food is at the mercy of insects, dirt, and the elements. It is the least expensive way to dehydrate food and it can accommodate large quantities at one time.
Solar Drying... Promoted during World War II, solar drying is somewhat more efficient than traditional sun drying because of the increased temperatures. It also refined the drying process by (a) a tracking system to follow the sun, (b) a venting system to control the temperature, (c) enough space for construction and efficient operation, and (d) a back-up system to provide an alternative heat source and a fan to circulate air. However, despite these apparent improvements, it is still unpredictable, slow, time-consuming, and offers no assurance of food quality.
Air & Shade Drying... Spoilage is a significant problem with both these methods of food preservation. Because of the lack of the sun's heat, drying times are extended greatly. As a result, the time required to dry the food product is dry for a period of time that can range from several days to weeks. If you ever have time to spare, you might want to experiment with one unique form of air drying called "string drying." Slices of produce are strung on long pieces of string and hung from nails or rafters in a warm room. One of the most popular foods dried this way was whole string beans, or "leather britches."
Oven Drying... Although many people use standard, convection, and microwave ovens for drying food, oven drying, on the whole, is very "iffy." While generally a vast improvement over some of the older methods of dehydrating, scorching is usually a major problem. Also, food frequently comes out more brittle, darker in texture, and less tasty. Often times, normal oven usage is interrupted for long periods of time and the energy cost is usually substantially greater than an electric food dehydrator. Remember that standard, convection, and microwave ovens were manufactured for purposes other than dehydrating; therefore, oven drying is usually unsuccessful.
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