Item: 5-Tray SMALL GARDEN-Excalibur 26 hour Timer #3526T
Overall Impression: Excalibur is known as the Cadillac of food dehydrators, and this model has sophisticated features while also being very easy to use.
For years I have heard tales of the magical Excalibur dehydrator and wondered whether it was worth the hype. The Excalibur is not an appliance to be taken lightly – in size or price – and I was curious how it would compare to lower-end dehydrators, as well as the practicality of owning one as an apartment dweller. It's not without drawbacks, but I am ready to declare my allegiance.
Characteristics and Specs: This 5-tray dehydrator has 8 square feet of tray area. Features include an on/off switch, an adjustable thermostat from 85°F to 145°F, and a 26-hour timer with automatic shutoff. It has a 5-inch fan in the back and runs at 440 watts. Dimensions are 17 x 19 x 8.5 inches and weight is 14 pounds.
Favorite details: The timer sets this 3526T model apart from many other dehydrators, including Excalibur's 3500 model. Although this feature adds $50 to the price of the 3500, I think it's incredibly useful and makes it possible to dehydrate foods while you're away from home or sleeping.
Potential problems: No problems noted so far, except I worry about potential mechanical and cosmetic effects of frequently moving the dehydrator in and out of storage and on and off the counter (see Good for small kitchens? below).
Splurge-worthy? Yes, if you use it regularly. It would be especially useful for home gardeners, CSA subscribers, or those with a regular surplus of produce.
Good for small kitchens? Those with limited space might have a hard time finding room to operate and/or store this. I live in a small apartment and this just fits on my largest countertop (which is a bit of a hassle when it's in use for many hours), and I have to store it in my apartment building's common storage area.
Although they are often associated with hardcore homesteaders and raw foodists, dehydrators are really quite useful for any home cook who wants an easy way to preserve food. More energy efficient than oven drying, dehydrating can also help prevent food waste and save money on packaged foods. Dried fruits, vegetables, and herbs are just the beginning. While testing the Excalibur, I discovered this low-heat appliance can also be used for making crackers (with juicer pulp!), drying pasta, raising bread, and making yogurt.
Most smaller and less expensive dehydrators have a cylinder design with stackable trays and a fan at the bottom, and it is often necessary to rotate the trays to get even drying. In contrast, the 5-Tray Excalibur is a large box with removable trays and a fan in the back, which evenly dehydrates the contents of each tray.
In addition to their large capacity, the trays are easy to slide in and out to add, check, and remove foods. Each tray comes with a BPA-free polyscreen insert, which can be used for drying most foods and is easy to clean with soap and water. To make foods like fruit leather, it is necessary to purchase separate ParaFlexx non-stick sheets (about $10 each), or to cover the polyscreen with parchment paper or plastic wrap. I haven't tried the ParaFlexx sheets yet, but fruit leather made on parchment turns out very well. To incubate yogurt and raise dough, you simply remove the trays.
Excalibur dehydrators have an on/off switch and adjustable thermostat – features that seem like they should be universal but surprisingly are not. This particular model also has a 26-hour timer with automatic shutoff. I find this to be extremely useful, as it allows me to dehydrate foods while away from home or in bed.
The only negative issue for me is the size of the appliance in relation to my small apartment. The dehydrator hogs up my largest countertop, and because there is no permanent place for it in my kitchen, I have to lug it back and forth from my apartment building's storage area. Another drawback in a small space is that it can be hard to escape the noise of the dehydrator fan. My work desk is next to the kitchen and it can be a bit much after several hours.
I have been having a lot of fun trying out new ingredients and recipes in the Excalibur dehydrator, and it has added a new dimension to the foods I eat. Although I have had to experiment with some drying temperatures and times, it has been pretty much foolproof. It works beautifully and definitely lives up to its reputation.
Find It! 5-Tray SMALL GARDEN-Excalibur 26 hour Timer #3526T, $249.95 at Excalibur
Related: Food Dehydrators: Is It Worth Buying One?
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Images: Emily Ho)