“It better be able to make the whole meal at the touch of a button,” my husband said when he saw the Excalibur come out of its box.
It’s as big as a microwave, and as heavy. This is truly the extent of my counter space available for working. And yes, it’s always this messy. Clearly I’m comfortable with you all if I’m inviting you in without cleaning up a lot! Thanks for not minding the mess. 🙂
I had no idea it would be so huge. “You’ve got to start getting dimensions on these things before you order them!” poor husband tells me. Remember how big the Nutrimill is?
I do have the 9-tray, whereas the 5-tray model is a bit smaller.
Like the Nutrimill, the Excalibur has been banished to the downstairs bathroom, and then to a table in the laundry room with an extension cord. I don’t have that kind of counter space in the kitchen, and having the noise of a dehydrator running, even though the Excalibur is pleasantly quiet, isn’t something I want in my kitchen all the time.
I wasn’t interested in drying fruits that already flew all the way from California.
But I had to test it out, you know? 😉
What I Dried in My Excalibur Dehydrator
- Crispy Nuts: Walnuts, Almonds and Pecans
- Strawberries, Apples and Bananas
- Strawberry fruit rolls/fruit leather: I’ve perfected and even video taped my fruit leather, process:
- Soaked and Dehydrated Oats
- Soaked Granola
- Popeye and Protein Bars
- The soaked granola and Popeye bars are in the Healthy Snacks to Go ebook.
- Wheat Thin Crackers
- Incubated yogurt
- Raised bread (rose? rised? Maybe I can’t past tense that one!)
None of those last three went particularly well, actually. The crackers never got crispy after 14 hours, even though the Excalibur book lists most of their crackers recipes at 2-6 hours. The yogurt was no better than my cooler yogurt method, and in fact was a runny batch, although I don’t think that was the fault of the incubation temperature. The poor sourdough bread was destined to be flat and take forever, I’m afraid.
Here’s what the fruit looked like done:
Drying Crispy (Soaked) Nuts in the Excalibur
Two days was just too long to wait.
I was shocked when my first attempt using my Excalibur to make soaked and dehydrated almonds and walnuts took two full days. I used a lower temperature than I had in the past with my smaller Nesco Snackmaster because the Excalibur handbook spoke of “raw and living foods” for a temp of 105F. If the whole point of dehydrating crispy nuts instead of roasting them is to preserve living enzymes, I wanted to be sure everything stayed living!
Well. Although I started out at a higher temp (135F, I think – where is the paper on which I wrote this stuff down???) for a few hours, taking nuts down to 105F or even 115F is way too low and takes too long. Of course, I also had the dehydrator stuffed to the gills with 9 pounds of nuts and two trays of dehydrating soaked oats! When I dehydrated walnuts in the side by side dehydrator review, I kept them at 135F, and it took about 14 hours to be fully dry and crispy.
Here’s an interesting note: I checked the internal temp of the dehydrator today after it had been running for many hours, and it was 10 degrees less than the setting. Lenetta has found the same thing with her dehydrator. Anyone else find this?
Excalibur Customer Service
I know I was probably a little hard on the Excalibur when I compared it to the Nesco, but I expect a lot out of a product that costs a lot of money.
I would like to give major props to the Excalibur company for having spectacular customer service. I had a lovely conversation with Stephanie from Excalibur, and it was clear that she not only had a lot of knowledge of the product, but that she used it all the time herself and had a great deal of knowledge about healthy food, prepared traditionally. It’s neat that you can call for dehydrator support and receive nutritional support as well!
She instructed me to start soaked nuts at 135F for about 3 hours, then turn the dehydrator down to 115F for the remainder of the time, even if it’s two days.
The Excalibur test kitchen has run tests on soaked nuts (how cool is that, that the test kitchen even knows what soaking nuts and seeds is?) and found that the internal moisture content may still be evident even when the nuts are dry enough to pass the plastic bag/moisture test. For long term storage (months), you may want to keep your crispy nuts in the fridge or freezer.
Is a Dehydrator Green?
I know a lot of people probably wonder about the safety of heating food touching the plastic trays in a dehydrator. I called the Nesco company before I tried my friend’s Snackmaster out, and they said the same thing Excalibur did: the plastic is no. 5 polypropylene, BPA-free. For myself, I figure I can’t avoid everything, all the time.
I love that Excalibur is 100% a U.S. company with all products made right here in the USA. They also consider themselves a “green company” and recycle the end product and anything else they can.
Is the Excalibur Dehydrator Worth the Cost?
When looking at dehydrators, I figure there are two questions people normally ask:
- Will I use it enough?
- How much does it cost?
The Excalibur definitely has a price premium over some round ones like the Nesco Snackmaster, and when I first reviewed and compared them, I kind of came down in the middle, leaning toward the smaller one for price reasons.
Now that I have been using the Excalibur for over a year (and went without it for 5 months while we were changing houses) I kind of feel differently.
I love my Excalibur. I missed it and had it running within a few days after I got it back – would have been a few hours if I didn’t have a house full of boxes, two kids and an infant!
I decided not to bring it with us to my in-laws’ even though it was prime harvest/preserving season for two reasons:
- It’s humongous
- I figured I could do anything I would do in the dehydrator in the oven, and it would take longer, but that’s the price we pay for a temporary living situation
I was wrong.
It IS humongous, but as long as you have space for a card table in the basement, or a scrap of counter big enough anywhere, or even on the floor in the corner, if you are serious about dehydrating, I highly recommend it.
I made applesauce fruit rolls once in the fall with our 400 pounds of apples, and it was so frustrating. I had to keep checking them in the oven, trying to turn them to dry out evenly, and it took about twice as long as I expected. The whole time, I was worried about leaving them too long, because I know that even slightly burnt applesauce is just gross.
I still maintain that it is possible to dehydrate things in the oven, but I’m just not patient enough anymore. It tied up the oven far too long, and only fitting two trays’ worth bummed me out. I love to fill all 9 trays of my Excalibur!
I also can’t say enough about the convenience of the wide, flat trays vs. anything with a hole in the center for making crispy nuts or sprouted grain for flour. It saves 10 minutes on hands-on time per batch, I’d bet, because you can just schwoop all your nuts into a bag or jar by making a funnel out of the Excalibur’s tray liner, rather than using a ladle to scoop cup by cup.
I’m waiting with baited breath for bananas to go on sale somewhere so I can make my husband more banana chips for work, and I tried apple chips for the first time in December, and they are fantastic!
As far as some of the other negatives I listed in the side-by-side dehydrator review, I’ve figured out how to deal with most of them:
- No sides on shelves – too easy to knock nuts off when spreading This is totally not a big deal – the trays are so big, I don’t know why I even listed it as a deficit!
- The top shelf is almost too narrow vertically for a single layer of almonds
- Shelves seems flimsy; you really have to be careful when you carry them I carry 2-3 at a time down to the basement, and again, no big deal. I’ve never dropped anything (although I did drip strawberry puree all down the carpeted stairs after we sold our house but before we moved out. I wouldn’t make that up).
- SO BIG – it is mighty big, but it’s worth it! That’s one reason I always dehydrate in the basement. The other? It makes constant noise and would drive me nuts in the kitchen. I don’t like a lot of background noise.
- Heavy, especially with all the food in it. Tough to carry downstairs! Just carry the trays individually as they’re loaded. Duh.
- Potentially having to wash two layers, the netting and the black plastic shelf This is true, but first, I appreciate the netting layer for drying small things like sunflower seeds and sprouted grains, and second, I just don’t wash it every time. Dry things, nuts, whatever – I’m just going to use it right away again anyway!
So I’m a huge fan. If you want to keep up on nuts and dry even just a few fruits in the summer/fall, and if there’s any chance you’d use it with trays removed to rise bread or incubate yogurt, the Excalibur will be worth it!
Disclosure: I did receive this dehydrator as a review sample. It’s bigger than the giveaway because I’m the big bad blogger doing all the work. 😉 I was not compensated for a review, and anything I say about the Excalibur is very much my own opinion. Just wait until tomorrow…See my full disclosure statement here.