Vented, interstitial trays stacked over a heating element and fan. Warm air flows through the structure, drawing out moisture from ingredients without cooking them.
Dehydration concentrates flavours, preserves food, and makes you feel just a little bit Blumenthal.
It’s difficult to know when you’ve got good at dehydration. Standard food vocab isn’t applicable: there’s no succulent, or juicy, or perfectly cooked, or fresh. The best feedback you can hope for is “Mmm, that’s dry. That’s really dry.” Still, the idea of home-desiccated strawberries, apricots and mushrooms is appealing, as a way to posh up yoghurt or flavour-inject a casserole. Lakeland’s circular dehydrator is plastic but not inelegant, with cobwebbed tiers vaguely reminiscent of the Galactic Senate from Star Wars, or at least the interior of the Welsh Assembly. There are five trays on which to array any fruit, veg and herbs you fancy; all you need do is slice and switch on. In practice, the process is not so cut and dried. Have you ever hand peeled 25 cherry tomatoes? It’s hard not to feel like life is passing you by. Slice size is a minefied, too. Too thin, you’ll end up with flavourless, disintegrating brittle. Too thick and you’ll be waiting for the rest of time. The listed drying time for a slice of banana is eight to 38 hours, a window so large you could put it on a cathedral. Luckily, I found everything was done in about seven (maybe I am good at this). Unstacking and inspecting the shriveled treasures feels less like cooking, more like pressing flowers or collecting beetles. Every specimen is shrunk to essentiality. You’re encouraged to box and label them, like a junior explorer. On tasting, the flavours are a revelation: tomatoes tangy, mushrooms more mushroomy, kale chips less annoying than expected. Some of the textures are Willy Wonka crazy: strawberries are crisp, bananas chewy. I find myself imagining jerkies, fruit leathers, raw crackers. What would happen if I stuck a cucumber in it? To be honest, the thing has a diameter the length of a Jack Russell so I’ll probably stick with a baking sheet and oven on its lowest setting. Still; I rate ya, dehydrator.