“Mmm, snacks,” says Homer Simpson, or he would if he were in GadgetGuy’s kitchen this week, as we’re trying out the BioChef Food Dehydrator, a massive box that allows you to turn your perfectly hydrated fruit, veggies, and proteins into dried snacks for eating later on.
Generally speaking, a dehydrator doesn’t really boast a lot of features.
It won’t check your mail and you can’t surf the web on it like you can a smartphone. You can’t print things on it, and unlike a lot of combination appliances, it’s not very useful for cooking and reheating pizza.
But you can take food and remove all the moisture from it, and you can do this with temperatures ranging from 35 to 68 degrees Celsius across eight trays for between one and 40 hours.
The BioChef Dehydrator does this by using a heating element and spreading that heat with a fan, drying out ingredients left on its trays, or conversely, rising things, similar to what Samsung’s Microwave Oven Combi does when its fermentation mode is in action.
Operation of the BioChef is pretty simple: set it up somehwere, plug the big box into the wall, and then load your trays with food. You don’t need to fill up every tray, and can easily get the box working with one or two trays if you so choose.
From here, switch the dehydrator on to warm it up, turn the knob to the right level of dehydration you’re after, and then punch in the time you’d like the process to go for.
Some of this will be trial and error, though this is one area where the manual helps, providing a chart that tells you how to turn fruit, veggies, and meat into the right consistency.
Once you’ve worked out how long the machine should be running for, punch it in on the old school three button controlled timer, and go away, coming back when you want to see how the food is going, or at the very end when the food has been dehydrated.
Just like that, the moisture can be removed from food and snacks can be made, the dehydration cooking the food in the process.
It does take some time, mind you, with between two and eight hours needed for a proper dry-out of the food, so don’t expect an instantaneous cook here.
One obvious downside of the BioChef is its size because, simply put, it’s massive. Eight trays means it has a lot of height, but it’s also very wide, covering almost the same width as our refrigerator.
This means that families or businesses without a lot of bench-space – or even a cupboard to put it on – will really struggle to find a place to keep this powered appliance.
Another negative mark for the food dehydrator comes in the form of the controls which are truly terrible.
Three buttons have you set and start the timer, but they feel like they were appropriated from a bad digital alarm clock circa 1980. You hold down one button and press a couple more, designating the time you want the box running for, and then hitting the select button to finish the timer.
Given the temperature selection is a knob with easy to read heat recommendations designated by colour, it’s a stark contrast, and one that we wish worked better.
The manual doesn’t help much here, with no instruction provided on this section, and really only useful in that it gives you a starting point for cooking temperatures and times.
If dried fruit and beef jerky are things that you wish you could make at home, the BioChef does work beautifully for these tasks, providing eight trays of dryer power with a timer running it all for you.
There are smaller and less expensive options, but if lots of dehydration is what you’re after, the BioChef 8 Tray delivers.