Thorough cleaning and uniform slicing go a long way toward creating evenly dried, flavorful food in the dehydrator, but a few tips and trips and tricks can help you complete the prep quickly. Always use fresh, blemish-free fruit, vegetables and meat for dehydrating; bacteria thrives in the temperature gradient between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, so food safety is paramount when dehydrating.
Rinse fruit and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water, rubbing your fingers over the skin to dislodge any debris. Use a vegetables brush when rinsing if you have one, particularly when cleaning food with wrinkles or crevices. Do not rinse meat.
Remove the stems, seeds and cores from fruits and vegetables then steam them for 10 minutes before dehydrating. Steaming kills bacteria.
Slice the food uniformly so the pieces dry at approximately the same rate. All food pieces should measure 1/4 inch thick or less. Space the pieces of food at least 1/4 inch apart on the drying trays. This allows air to circulate around each piece.
Follow time and temperature guidelines included with the dehydrator. You can also find trustworthy guidelines at university extension websites, such as that hosted by the University of Georgia Center for Home Food Preservation.
Record exact drying times for future reference. Even when following time and temperature guidelines, you'll find that the same foods can dry at different rates. Recording the drying times takes the guesswork out of dehydrating.
Spray fruits and vegetables that oxidize quickly, such as apples and bananas, with lemon water before dehydrating to prevent browning. Dehydrators with the fan at the back of the unit dry food more effectively than those with fans at the top of the unit.