The Nesco FD-61 WHC is a product of Nesco/American Harvest, considered as among the leaders in the food dehydrator sector, especially with its three-decade history. The food dehydrators are, according to the company, equipped with technology guarantees to dehydrate food easier and faster, as well as more evenly. The technology includes the Converge-a-Flow air flow and heating element features, both of which are essential in effective food dehydration.
Keep in mind that the Nesco FD-61 is a home use food dehydrator only so its features and functions aren’t likely to cope with the commercial demands of large restaurants, dried food manufacturers, and the like.
When used properly, however, it’s among the must-have kitchen appliances for large households, small catering businesses, and avid campers, among others. Keep in mind, too, that food dehydration involves preliminary steps, such as cleaning, slicing and placing the food into the drying trays so it involves a bit of work.
This is an easy-to-use food dehydrator, partly thanks to its pre-assembled quality. But you’re still well-advised to read the instructions manual for its proper use and maintenance to get the best results. You will also get tips and tricks to enjoy great-tasting beef jerky, dried fruits and vegetables, and fruit rolls, especially about using the jerky gun.
The fruits and vegetables, for example, should be sliced to the right thickness before being placed on the trays for dehydration. The meat, which can be beef, pork or venison in various lean meat-and-fat ratio, should ideally be marinated for a few hours to concentrate the flavors. The marinated meat can then be placed into the jerky gun and squirted into your desired thickness, which can be 1-inch thick strips or thin sticks.
Even the jerky spices are already included in the package! You can use the spices according to your preferred level of saltiness and flavors but be sure to marinate the meat for two hours, at least, in the refrigerator to ensure concentrated flavors. You may also use your own marinade mix, such as when you and your family already have a favorite flavor profile.
Tip: Add liquid smoke and hot sauce, among other spices, to personalize the jerky spices that came with the food dehydrator. You will also find hundreds of marinade recipes on the Internet so don’t be afraid to experiment.
The temperature gauge can be adjusted to provide the optimum temperature for a wide range of fruits for dehydration. You can use the Nesco FD-61 for dehydrating fruits, vegetables, nuts, and herbs as well as several types of meat including pork, venison, and beef. You will find the optimum drying temperature and time for each type of food on the instruction manual so check with it first.
But don’t just rely on the thermostat and timer of the food dehydrator since you must check the progress of your current batch. You will likely have to rotate the shelves, too, a flaw in its overall design since many of the best food dehydrators doesn’t require said task. You may even have to adjust the temperature and time in case the drying isn’t going as planned.
You may or may not spray cooking oil on the trays depending on the type of food for dehydration. In the case of jerky, many users say it’s best to spray the trays with cooking oil to ensure that the meat doesn’t stick. You should also consider putting the temperature at the highest setting for 3-4 hours for the best drying results, followed by placing the jerky on kitchen towels, patting the oil, and placing them in a vacuum seal bag.
The trays are easy to clean, too. You can either wash them by hand – place under hot running water, scrub with mild detergent, and rinse – or wash them in the dishwasher. You should never wash the top part of the dehydrator as this is where the heating elements and drying fan are located – otherwise, the entire food dehydrator will be of little to no use when these parts are damaged by water.
Food dehydration is faster, too, with the Nesco FD-61. Instead of the days, it takes to dehydrate food the old-fashioned way, you should have delicious jerky within the day. The combination of the 500-watt heating element and air flow fan doesn’t just make dehydration more effective but more efficient in time and cost, too.
The Nesco FD-61 has the following advantages:
- Built-in heat source and fan are located on the lid
- Dial for controlling the drying temperature with range from 95°F to 160°F
- Dial also turns on the food dehydrator
- Temperature reminder for different food printed on top of the unit
- All-in-one unit already comes with the tools needed for food dehydration including the five stackable trays, solid fruit roll sheet for liquids, and clean-a-screen trays
- Jerky gun with three attachments – one for sheets and two for tubes
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Affordable unit, especially when you consider that it’s far more economical to make your own dried fruits and vegetables, fruit rolls, and jerky than buying ready-made ones from the supermarket
The Nesco FD-61 has its share of disadvantages, too:
- The occasional need for rotating the shelves can be inconvenient
- The food dehydrator can sometimes run hot when operated at high settings, thus, the need to occasionally lift the lid
- The tray can also be a challenge to fit into the dishwasher, a complaint made by a few customers
The Nesco FD-61 isn’t the best food dehydrator in the industry today because of the need for rotating the shelves and lifting the lid to prevent overheating (i.e., damage to the unit).
These are flaws in the design that can turn off many interested individuals especially since there are many food dehydrators with overheating protection and even heat distribution features. But when you consider its advantages, especially its effective and efficient functions in food dehydration, it’s a product well worth its affordable price.
The bottom line: If you’re looking for a budget-friendly, easy-to-use food dehydrator, then the Nesco FD-61 is a good choice. You will find that its cons are outweighed by its pros after a few uses.