For my birthday and mother's day present, Hubs told me I could get a dehydrator this year. I had been eyeing the high-end Excalibur dehydrators, but found the Cabela's Heavy Duty Dehydrator that has 10 trays and seemed similar to the Exclaibur. I couldn't find any sort of comparison anywhere, and a question to Cabela's customer service went unanswered.
A few weeks ago, we received a coupon from Cabela's in the mail, so we decided to pull the trigger on buying the dehydrator. So far, I really like it! [No, Cabela's didn't give me anything to write this review. Since my question didn't get answered, I'm pretty sure they don't know I exist. But if they wanted to send me a little somethin'-somethin', I wouldn't be opposed...] Katie at Kitchen Stewardship has a great comparison today of the Excalibur Dehydrator Head to Head with the Nesco American Harvest Dehydrator, and I thought I'd weigh in with my comments on the Cabela's version. Note that I haven't actually used either the Excalibur or the Nesco, I'm just commenting based on what Katie said.
By the way, we received a Cabela's ad in the mail today that notes the same model will be on sale for $99.99! The sale runs Saturday, June 26 from 8AM to noon ONLY. The original price is $149.99, so that's a very good deal... better than what we paid with the coupon, grr. Ah, well, I've really been enjoying it the past few weeks, so I can't complain. You can check the web site here to see if there is a store near you - the sale is in-store only.
The Cabela's dehydrator differs from the Excalibur as follows:
* Size - the trays are smaller on the Cabela's, but there are also 10 trays versus nine for the Excalibur. The overall size is 13"x18.5" for the Cabela's with 11"x14.5" trays; and 16.5"x19" for the Excalibur with 15"x15" trays.
* Similar to the Nesco, the trays are "what you see is what you get" - there are no screens or liners. (Though the Nesco may come with fruit roll liners, or at least you can purchase them separately.) I have found a lot of things fall through the holes in the tray. Apparently, Cabela's does not manufacture any sort of a liner for these. I considered purchasing Excaliabur liners and cutting them down, though I'm not sure what they are made of, so that might not work. The instruction manual for the Cabela's one has a fruit roll recipe that references liners, but an internet search led me to learn that they are coated with teflon, anyway, so no thank you!
To make soaked oats, I simply cut some parchment paper to approximately the size and shape of my trays, less 3/4 of an inch or so on the edges so there would be some air flow. I have used (and re-used) these pieces several times and they're still doing fine. I plan to give them a good wipe with a dish rag next time I wash dishes, but I haven't bothered doing anything else besides brush them off so far.
* I haven't found it to be terribly noisy or that it warms the room too awful much - I have used it in my laundry room (that tends to be warm anyway) and mostly it stays in the spare bedroom.
* There is no cover or door for the front like the Excalibur has. Instead, the trays have a "front" to them, so when they're all closed, they basically create their own door. I haven't found this to be a problem. I even have used the dehydrator to raise dough, and just removed the trays so my bowl fit. I'll admit it didn't seem to raise in record time, but probably a bit more quickly than in my air-conditioned kitchen. Perhaps next time, I'll hang a towel over the front and anchor it with something heavy on top.
* After using it a few times, they trays seem to catch on each other, so that as I'm pulling one out, another seems to pull out with it. I'm not sure why, but so far, it is only a minor annoyance. If it gets to be a major annoyance, I'll contact Cabela's customer service and complain.
* It hasn't bothered me that the shelves don't have sides. I typically bring the trays to the kitchen, load them, and then return them two or three at a time, and I haven't spilled yet. (Wow, that is probably tempting fate...)
* Similar to the Excalibur, it is large and heavy. It isn't something I'd leave on my kitchen counter, which is why I don't, I guess.
* The Cabela's dehydrator does not come with a timer to shut itself off. However, we have a plug-in timer that we got at Wal-Mart or some such that would work fine if I needed something shut off at an inconvenient time. From what I have tried so far, though, I feel it is similar to a crock pot in that another couple of hours won't really hurt.
EDIT: I forgot to mention... I don't think the dehydrator gets as hot as it says it does. I ran it at 165, and put my probe thermometer in varying racks; it never registered above 135. I ran it at 135, and it stayed right about 120. Not sure if that's common to dehydrators or what, but it's a bit disconcerting.
Anybody have any questions or comments about dehydrators? I'm totally fascinated by them and looking forward to using the heck out of mine! I'm linking this post to Frugal Fridays at Life As Mom.
Also, for more kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Recipes.