Do you have a problem with food sticking to dehydrator trays? Here are 5 ways to prevent it, and what to do if you find yourself with a ruined batch.
It can be disheartening to spend time preparing fruit for drying and then find that it has glued itself to your dehydrator trays. These five tips will keep food from sticking to dehydrator trays and make cleanup effortless. Read on, where we discuss how to get stuck on food off of your dehydrator trays as well.
Do not slice your food too thin
The standard cut thickness that works for most fruit or vegetables is 1/4 inch (6 mm). However, the higher the water content of a given fruit or vegetable, the larger it should be sliced because it will shrink more in the dehydration process. Using a mandolin (Amazon) to regulate the size of the cuts can help.
Produce like tomatoes, pear, plum, mango, peach, nectarine and watermelon fall under this rule. These may be easier to dry on solid trays, non-stick sheets, (Amazon) or parchment paper.
Turn the food after an hour
Sometimes turning the food is all it needs to prevent sticking. If you leave the food in the dehydrator for an hour or two, the outside will start to get dry and slightly firm. It will not be wet to the touch. When this happens, turn the pieces over. The crust that developed should not stick to the trays.
Use plastic mesh screens
Plastic mesh screens (Amazon)are sold as accessories for dehydrator trays. They work well for small items that will fall through the cracks. They are also great for sticky food. When food sticks to them, you can easily bend the screen, and it will usually pop right off. These screens are made with a flexible plastic that is not as rigid as the trays themselves, so if something does stick, their flexibility prevents sticking.
Use parchment paper
Dried apples, pears, pineapple, bananas and other fruit pop right off the paper when the drying is complete. Use a good-quality, thick parchment paper, so food will release from it without tearing.
Consider cooking spray
I’ve heard cooking spray like Pam can be used on trays if you spray lightly. Make sure to use the non-flavored kind. If you do not like to use anything in a spray can, moisten your fingers with oil and rub on the trays or pour on a paper towel then wipe a thin coating on the dehydrator trays.
Be aware that introducing even this small amount of oil will shorten the shelf life of your dried foods and with long-term use, it will stick to your trays. If you are not storing the food for a long time, cooking spray is probably okay.
What about wax paper, foil and plastic wrap?
Bottom line: you can either spend a little extra on non-stick parchment paper, buy the solid liners for the trays in your unit (far cheaper in the long run), or add a bit of cooking spray.
Wax paper, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil restrict the airflow of your machine and do not work. The food will not be ruined if you use these methods, your machine will not be able to work efficiently, and the dehydrating batch will take longer to dry.
Oh No! How to Remove Food Already Stuck to the Trays
For hard trays (like the white Nesco trays)
This happens to the best of us, even those that have been dehydrating for years. Gently press the back side of the tray, and it will help lift the stuck on food so it can pop off. With the Excalibur Dehydrator, the tray mesh is removable and can be easily bent so food will often pop right off.
Put the dehydrator trays in the freezer
Sometimes, the food may need firming up a bit, and making it cold can help. Put the tray in the freezer for an hour. Check while it is still cold and using your fingers to push gently from underneath the tray to pop off the food.
Let the food return to room temperature and evaluate, you may have to dehydrate this food again.
Gently mist the food
If you have overdried the food, a gentle misting may help. With a spray bottle and purified water, mist the slices just enough to wet the pieces. Allow them to stand for a few minutes until they release from the tray. This food will need to re-dried, so use solid trays, mesh tray inserts or parchment paper, for the second round.
If food is sticking to the parchment paper, get a wet a paper towel and place it under the parchment paper. This moisture will usually loosen up the paper without rehydrating the food and it will release.
Scrape off and make powder
Sometimes, you can’t save the batch. If all else fails, use a strong bristled brush or sturdy spatula, to scrape the food into a bowl or pan. You can re-dry it, and grind it for a powder to use in spice blends and cooking.