Humans have been dehydrating food for long-term storage for a millennia. Originally this was done only by sun-drying or smoking, but modern industrialization has enabled the use of nothing but heat and forced air, which has the advantage of introducing no foreign substances to the food nor removing any of the nutrition. It is also very scalable, with the same concept working at home as it does in large industrial operations.
The problem with commercially-dried products, however, is that the needs of mass production inherently mean that the food cannot be dried as is, and some items cannot be dried at all as they are too fragile or do not last long enough even when desiccated. Often salt, sugar, fat, and preservatives need to be added to ensure that commercial products last the months or years of time that may pass between when the product is made and when it is purchased or consumed. These additives are unhealthy, and they also drive up the cost of the food, meaning that those who rely on dried foods for snacks, packed lunches, or outdoor trips will find themselves spending a lot on food that isn’t as good as they’d like.
Fortunately, BioChef has developed the Arizona Sol in order to make home drying not just an option but an affordable one as well. The Arizona Sol, in either its 6 or 9 shelf forms, is small enough to fit into almost any kitchen and doesn’t draw much more power than an electric heater. It can accommodate all kinds of items and its BPA-free shelves are easy to clean in any dishwasher. Made from stainless steel, they can withstand thousands of runs without any damage or rust. Additionally, as they have no chemical coatings, they will not negatively impact the flavor of the food nor will they introduce anything which may trigger allergies or cause other problems.
The Arizona Sol works, in a fundamental way, similar to sun drying, hence the name. The Arizona Sol uses dry heat to cause the water in food to evaporate from the food, like a puddle in the sun. The Arizona Sol has an adjustable thermostat that heats the food from 95°-158° F, which is hot enough to remove the water without cooking the food. This means that the food is dehydrated without being cooked, ensuring that the nutrition and vitamins remain as they were when the food was fresh. This is of particular importance to those who enjoy “raw” foods since other than the removal of water, the foods do not change and remain in their raw, uncooked state.
The Arizona Sol is available in both 6 and 9 tray versions, enabling users to choose a size that fits with the amount of dried food they are likely to make. An automatic timer which runs up to 19.5 hours enables unattended use, which makes it ideal for “set it and forget it” style preparation and the drying of meats or wet vegetables which can take long periods of time. Because the shelves are removable, it is possible to place large or unusually shaped foods in them, although this will necessitate additional drying time since flat foods have a better ratio of their surface area to volume and thus dry more thoroughly in less time. Nonetheless, the ability to remove or change shelves will also help in proving dough or making yogurt.
What allows the Arizona Sol to stand out from other similar units is its flexibility and the fact that it offers such flexibility at a low price. Similar units tend to go for two or three times as much and have rigid, non-removable trays or limited heating and timing options. The Arizona Sol, meanwhile, offers removable shelves which are easy to clean and can be changed out for different items. For example, eggplants and tomatoes, which are very wet vegetables, can be dried using a mesh sheet in order to more quickly dry both sides or eliminate the need to turn them over halfway through the process. Trays and other surfaces help protect the heating elements and are designed to be removed for easy cleaning. All this in a product which costs about as much as a high-end microwave or toaster oven.
The only downsides to the Arizona Sol are those inherent in all food dehydrators of its size. The Arizona Sol is not warm or powerful enough for anything but small slices and cuts, meaning that dehydrating whole fruits or large cuts of meat is not an option, nor is anything that needs to remain either frozen or at high temperatures to prevent the growth of bacteria. This means that the Arizona Sol is ideal for many kinds of fruits, vegetables, and baked goods, but is less than ideal for anything but the smallest cuts of meat and jerky. Additionally, it is both loud and hot, as would be expected from a device that has heating elements and fans running for hours at a time. As such it may be less than ideal for kitchens where there is a lot of traffic or that are adjacent to more widely-used rooms.
Overall, though, the Arizona Sol is an excellent option for those who love dried fruits and vegetables but hate the high prices and limited selections available in most dehydrators. In addition, the Arizona Sol is best for those who need to only make small batches of dried foods, although the 9-shelf version is sufficient to make enough dried fruit for the whole family for a weekend camping trip. It is not large or powerful enough for those who want to make their own jerky in large quantities nor those who want to produce enough over the weekend to satisfy one’s cravings all week. Additionally, it is limited to small, flat foods for the most part, and it will be necessary to slice things very finely in order to get the best results. However, this is more than enough for most users and provided you are prepared with a solution for the noise and heat inherent in the process, you will be able to enjoy dried fruits and vegetables full of nutrition and vitamins for years with this machine.
- Performance - 7.9/107.9/10
- Ease of Use - 7.6/107.6/10
- Design - 7.5/107.5/10
- Features - 7.6/107.6/10