Should you buy a dehydrator?

I was chopping up a round of turkey hearts on Wednesday, and realized that I should talk dehydrators. Not makes and models–I have one by Nesco that I bought because it was reasonably well rated on Amazon and not too expensive. I didn’t do extensive research.

Consider the following questions: Are you cheap? Are you a control freak? Does your dog have dietary restrictions? Do you have room to store a lightweight but fairly bulky kitchen appliance? Does your dog eat a good number of treats?

The more of those you answered yes to, the more you should just do it.

I don’t go to any considerable trouble with dehydrator recipes. What I’m looking to replace is store bought pure meat treats, because I KNOW what meat Silas can eat. Additional ingredients, like flour or eggs or whatever, are more sketchy for him. My process is: buy meat, chop up meat, dehydrate meat. If that skeeves you, you can boil the meat first, or start it in the oven.

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Here’s the mathy part, if you’re interested:

Before the dehydrator, I was buying roughly four bags of treats a month. (We do a lot of training and counterconditioning.) A three to four ounce bag of freeze dried meat treats, in the brand we bought most often and a variety that Silas could eat, was $10. We’ll split the difference and call it 3.5oz for $10, or $2.8/oz.

My dehydrator cost me around $60. We’ll get to that in a second.

Today, I dehydrated two pounds of turkey hearts. This took me roughly 30 minutes of chopping and yielded 7 ounces of treats, plus a few ounces of fatty bits that Silas ate as-is. (Fat doesn’t dehydrate, it just makes your treats greasy. Take that into account when you’re buying meat. More fat is more waste.) The whole turkey hearts cost $3.50. So, $0.50 an ounce for the finished treats.

Using the math for just turkey hearts, which are a default for us, the dehydrator paid for itself 100% at around 28 ounces of treats, or in slightly less than two months. Anything beyond two months is saving me something like $30 a month, if I can get through the whole month without buying treats. If your dog can eat treats that aren’t insanely expensive, your numbers won’t be so impressive.

Costs that are not factored in here: electricity for the dehydrator, gas for the car to go buy either treats or ingredients, or my labor. I also did go back and buy some liners for the dehydrator trays, but I’m too lazy to look up what I paid for them. It wasn’t more than $10 or so, and they’re more of an easy-clean-up luxury addition than an essential.

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Non-math:

These treats are apparently DELICIOUS, even to a non chowhound like Silas. Dehydrating makes everything better, apparently. I even dehydrated turkey hot dogs for him, which he hates plain, and he loved them. (Please watch the quantity with dehydrated treats. You would be amazed at how quickly your dog can eat way too much hotdog or liver. Don’t ask me how I know.)

I know exactly what is in them, what surfaces they have touched, and how and when they were prepared.

I can make them as large or as small as I like. This is the finished product I usually shoot for:

Treats

So, there you go. The low-down on dehydrating.

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7 thoughts on “Should you buy a dehydrator?

  1. I miss my dehydrator. I had one (a Nesco) for years and used it exclusively to make dog treats. When I moved to a much smaller cottage I had to do some serious pruning of my overstocked kitchen and the dehydrator, which took a lot of storage space, had to go. If you have the space to store one it’s a great addition.

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  2. I wish I knew where to get turkey hearts in bulk. That’d be a staple in our dehydrator, too… We do a lot of chicken hearts though. I used to buy a lot of Zuke’s training treats, and it’s been months since I’ve gotten those now that we’re using the dehydrator on a regular basis!

    I will say though that the cheap dehydrator doesn’t seem so great for human-grade jerky treats. I failed pretty fantastically at a round of beef jerky that eventually just all went into the trash. Maybe it’s my technique… I dunno.

    Also, I’m very curious about how long your treats can be stored? We put ours in the fridge and they’re usually consumed within a few weeks… but I don’t really know what the shelf life of these preservative-free treats are. I stopped dehydrating turkey dogs because those seem to be too fatty to dehydrate properly, so they were getting *moldy* within a couple weeks, even in the fridge. Ew.

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    1. I have to go to our specialty dog-food store to get turkey hearts, and they’ve been pretty hit or miss there, lately. Turkey organs of any kind, in fact, are pretty limited to November-December in the regular grocer.

      I don’t know about the storage, honestly. I dehydrated two pounds of turkey hearts on Wednesday, and I’ll be amazed if I still have any of them left by Tuesday. We are using SO MANY treats right now, trying to get Mr. Paranoid less scared of/reactive to our sidewalk noises. I’ve had to cut out all of the commercial treats entirely. Our last two boxes of Tiny Stars, which seemed reasonably digestible for him, smelled like rancid oil from day 1, and nothing else he can eat is remotely economical. I will say that I *don’t* keep mine in the fridge. I cut off every speck of fat and dry them to be basically as hard as little rocks, and they keep fine for a week (which is as long as they last) at room temperature. Our fridge seems to run dampish, so I’m afraid they would spoil faster in than out.

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    1. The tray liners are WONDERFUL. We have two kinds–one is just a tighter mesh, and one is solid. The solid ones are really essential if you want to dehydrate liver, but the mesh ones work better for everything else. The solid blocks the airflow a little bit, but they’re easy to clean.

      I haven’t tried making much human food in our dehydrator. We meant to, but I keep it humming with dog treats.

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  3. Pamela from Something Wagging pointed me your way because I’d mentioned interest in a dehydrator. This information is really helpful to me, I’m seriously thinking of looking into getting one. Thank you!

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  4. Great post! It is so worth having a dehydrator for pets and yourself. We use our dehydrators for everything. Dog snacks, jerky, healthy snacks, crackers, preserving food from our garden, etc.. I don’t know what I did without one. I have a cheap one that’s ok and use when I have to, but the investment into the excalibur is so worth it because of height adjustment (and it’s not necessarily plastic like so many others) http://www.excaliburdehydrator.com/?acc=07cdfd23373b17c6b337251c22b7ea57

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