Fruit leathers - they are like fruit roll-ups at your local grocery, only much better (and better for you)!
Gravel - this is what is referred to as dehydrated ground meat, because it sort of resembles gravel (it tastes better than it sounds)!
Conditioning - this is when you allow any
remaining moisture to equalize. You do this by removing your cooled fruit
from the trays and temporarily storing in an air tight container at room
temperature for a couple of days.
Case hardening - this is when your food item dries thoroughly on the outside, but the inside still has moisture. This is usually caused by dehydrating at too high of a temperature.
Keep your dehydrator clean.
Keep your work area clean.
I always use gloves when prepping food and also when packaging.
Don't add trays of raw food to partially dehydrated foods.
Wash all food thoroughly before dehydrating.
Don't overlap food when filling your trays.
You may need to rotate your trays.
Fruit leather should be about the consistency of applesauce when pouring onto trays.
Figure out a good system. When doing large amounts this is extremely important.
Don't dehydrate sweet and savory in the same batch, unless you happen to like onion flavored apples.
Warm up your dehydrator for meats.
How long something takes to dehydrate depends on so many factors...what temperature, the humidity, how large the food items are, the water content of the food item, how full your trays are, etc. This is why you see such a huge time range. When in doubt, dehydrate longer.
Getting ground meat into uniform pieces before dehydrating can be a challenge. I use a pastry cutter. Cook your meat up, let cool some, and then use the pastry cutter to cut it up into smaller pieces. It works like a charm!
Never use white sugar in your fruit leathers because it can crystallize and mess the texture all up. Instead use honey, corn syrup, liquid stevia, or even brown sugar to sweeten.
Preventing oxidation - you can soak your produce in a lemon juice/water mixture, but I prefer spraying the food. Soaking can get some items soggy (like bananas). For me, spraying is just a much quicker option.
Let items cool completely before storing.
Keep fruit leathers in the refrigerator or freezer, especially if you used a non stick spray on your dehydrator sheets. (The oil can turn rancid when not kept cool).
Keep meats and fruit leathers in the freezer to extend the shelf life.
Vacuum seal your food to extend the shelf life.
Oxygen, light, heat, and moisture are things that are never good for stored dehydrated foods. Avoid those things and your shelf life will greatly improve.
Let fruits "condition" before storing.
I will not give you advice on exactly how long the shelf life is on certain foods, please consult your dehydrator manual.
I usually dehydrate fruits and vegetables the first hour or two at 135 degrees, then I turn it down to 120 degrees. This helps prevent nutrient loss and less chance of "case hardening".
Never raise your temperature to try and dehydrate something faster, this also can cause case hardening.
I dehydrate fruit leathers at a lower temperature - usually 110 degrees.
I dehydrate meats at the recommend temperature for my dehydrator, which is 155 degrees.
Always test your food for doneness by removing a piece and letting cool completely. Break apart looking for any sign of moisture.
If in doubt of doneness, dehydrate longer.
Other than fruit leathers, you can't really over dehydrate.
Other uses of your Excalibur Dehydrator
Raising bread dough.
Helping to heat the house (it sure warms up the kitchen).