This dehydrator is great. I've had the unit for almost a month now. So far I've dehydrated 20 pounds of "eye of round" for jerky. The recipe I used is at Recipezaar (can't post URL), recipe number 161262 (modified a bit to suite my taste, like I added about 1 tsp of onion powder and cut the liquid smoke about 25%). In fact I just did 10 of the 20 pounds yesterday. I've also dehydrated cantaloupe, kiwi slices, strawberries, grapes (come out as plump and juicy raisins), limes, oranges (those were more of an experiment), banana slices and watermelon (now that was interesting... sweet as candy), but back to the review.
I also got two sets of the Add-a-tray (two trays per package). It dries with all 8 trays just fine. I do rotate the trays about half way through, but I'm not sure I would really have to. The instructions say that the trays are top shelf dishwasher safe, but that would limit my dishwasher to only two trays per load, so I take my top rack out of the dishwasher and stand the trays vertically in the lower rack. I can get all eight trays and the base into the dishwasher at once. I figured that my water heater is only set to 125 degrees and I dry jerky at 165, so the trays shouldn't have any problem. Just make sure that you turn off any internal water heating the dishwasher my have and make sure that you turn off heated drying (use air dry). I just wait for the washer to stop, take out the trays and shake them off. Stack them, put on the power head and run it at 125 for 30 minutes. All nice, clean and dry.
Now for the hint that Nesco doesn't want me to share :) for fruit, you really need to use the Clean Screens, but at 8 bucks for a pair, you'll spend $32.00 (plus any shipping) to get enough for all 8 trays. I went to my local craft store (you know the one owned by Michael) and bought 16 sheets of plastic embroidery mesh (7 square mesh) that were 14" X 10" (the ones you would use to make those awful square Kleenex box covers). Take two sheets per tray and cut them out yourself with kitchen shears. Put them together butted up on the long side and then cut the perimeter to fit the tray and cut out the hole (1/2 of the hole in each sheet where they are butted up) for the center and then lay the two pieces into the tray. The sheets were $0.33 each, so 16 sheets only cost $5.28 and a bit of time to cut them out. Didn't really need them for the cantaloupe, but I'd still be cleaning kiwi and bananas off the trays if I hadn't used them. I throw them into the dishwasher with the trays and just run the whole load at once. All in all, this was a great buy and I'm glad I got it.
---- UPDATE 11 January 2010 ----
So, I've spent a few more months with my dry friend... that's a pun... :-)
This unit is now $49. I bought it and am happy with it at $70. Now, there is no reason not to give it a try!
About 3 months ago, I bought the jerky squeeze gun. I got it at BiMart in Oregon for $2 more than you can get it here at Amazon (the instant gratification thing). Available here. Search for Nesco BJX-5 American Harvest Jumbo Jerky Works Kit. My daughter and I make the round "slim-jim" type jerky every couple of months (about 4 lbs of 96% lean ground beef each time). The squeeze gun is as easy as using a caulking gun. Actually even better since you really don't need to be concerned about the aesthetic appearance of the final product... I mean we're taking jerky here and you can't eat caulk. I use the Nesco spicy mix with additional black pepper, powered garlic and cayenne pepper (lot's of cayenne pepper).
We've also, since buying it, done some fruit leather. Just used a jar of store bought apple sauce with a bit of added cinnamon. Next time, I think we'll put a bit of Splenda(r) in it just to "sweeten" the final product a bit. Tip... even using processed apple sauce, we put it through the blender to completely break it down into a slurry.
My "home made" clean screens are still preforming perfectly. Hope this update helps others.
---- UPDATE 20 January 2010 ----
Whoops... I see that the price is back up to $65. Well, still a fine product regardless.
---- UPDATE 2 January 2011 -----
Well, it's been a year and not so much an update as an opportunity to say Happy New Year to you all.
Just before Christmas, the Lovely Mrs. symo, got a really good deal on some rump roast (two 7 lb pieces). It was very lean and after slicing, was easy to cut the one strand of tough sinew out. Used the Mr. Yoshida's again, but this time cut it 2 parts to 1 part water. Then put it into a sauce pan and heated to high simmer (did not let it boil). Added red chili flakes, onion powder, garlic powder and some Ow Powder ([...]). Let the mixture cool to room temp. I'm still working/experimenting with the final amounts of Ow. Marinaded the slices for 12 hours. Had 6 of the eight trays loaded. On two trays, I sprinkled (liberally) with fine grind black pepper. Came out fantastic.
Now a word about the Ow Powder. If you go to their website and aren't scared, then go back there again :-) This is the hot of the hot. I found this stuff in Albuquerque, at the International Firey Foods Festival. At the festival, I dipped a dry wooden coffee stirrer into the powder. Once the tears stopped, I found that I could drink 3 12-ounce bottles of Budweiser in about 2.4 minutes :-)
For 3 cups of the marinade (2 parts Mr. Y and 1 part water and all the other "stuff" mentioned above), I added 1/4 teaspoon of Ow. Next time I'll probably go with 3/8 teaspoon. This stuff starts off slow, but you will get some fire at the end. It contains a mixture of chili peppers, one of which is bhut jolokia (Indian pepper that was put on the planet by the All Mighty for some sadistic purpose, I'm sure). They also have pure ground bhut jolokia, but I think your should look into a gas mask/respirator before ordering that.
And now a word about the slices. Got a slicer for my B-day in October. One of the various brands that sell for around $69 here and elsewhere (http://www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Smart-Electric-Food-Slicer/dp/B002JKX59C/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1294017780&sr=8-14). Now this is the way to go for sliced jerky. First time I used it, I cut the slices too thin and the marinade basically dissolved the meat into mush :-) Second time, I sliced the meat somewhere around 3/16. This thickness worked very well. Really, the slicer is a great add-on if you really want to do slab jerky vs. ground jerky.
Oh, oh, oh... just remembered. Also I've taken to starting my slab jerky at the 165 degree setting for about 2 hours and then backing it down to between the 115 and 125 and letting it go until dry. This will cause you to need to rotate the trays, but the results are really worth the extra effort.
So, there you have it. Updated report and a couple of extras thrown in for free :-)
---- UPDATE 14 January 2012 -----
I'm still dehydrating with my Nesco. Daughter has moved on to her own place (yea! for her... and for mother and I). The wife and I are contemplating a move to Ecuador for our retirement. We were down there in November and after a trip to the market in the plaza (Otavalo), we saw so many FRESH fruits and vegetables (some of the fruits I didn't even know) that we're excited to take the Nesco there.
I really haven't tried much more experimenting as everything is working great, just as I've described over the last 2 1/2 years. My original "homemade" clean screens look as good as they did on the day I made them. I still love cantaloupe with pepper sprinkled on it and we're going to do another sliced jerky batch tomorrow to take with me to Ecuador on Thursday (going for language school for a month).
--- Update to the update --- Well, I did make a big batch and took 3/4 of it to work... don't those people eat? By noon, it was gone. The 1/4 I had left was in the suitcase, until I found out that dried meat is on the list of what you can't take. Oh well, at least I'll have 1/4 pound to come home to :-)
This will probably be my last update to the original post, but don't think I won't be sticking around, just in case I learn something new. Thank you all for your feedback and I hope this finds you all well and happy with your Nesco dehydrator.
Happy New Year (Feliz Año Nuevo) to you all and may God bless.
---- UPDATE 2 January 2013 -----
Happy New Year to all of you! It's great to see that this thread is still active.
This coming weekend, we're going to do apples. Got a case as a present and plan on making some 3/8 slices (soaked in Fruit Fresh) for some yum chews.
Dehydrated this last year, 6 more batches of the sliced jerky and probably 8-9 batches of the ground jerky. Did some pineapple and other fruits. Everything working great. Didn't experiment too much on the jerky, as I really have my spices dialed in for the family and the guys at work... who, apparently still don't eat regularly, considering they way they go through the jerky. My original substitute clean screens are working perfectly.
Retirement is less than 90 days away (29 March 2013). I have now attended language school in Ecuador for two months (my wife has been for a month) and I have all my documents lined out for the Residency Visa. Mid April is the "fly away" time frame. Lynn will come next year (school contract thing).
I hope you all have a great time using this Nesco Dehydrator! Like I said before, I'll be spending less "active" time here, but even Ecuador has internet connections... I'll be keeping an eye on the discussions. Experiment, have fun, eat what you make, experiment some more.
I've had a great time in this thread and still want to know how long a million mangos take to dry :-)
---- UPDATE 9 January 2014 -----
Hope everyone had a great Christmas, and I bid you Happy New Year.
Well, the mid April "fly away" didn't exactly pan out... the company asked me to stay through May, so I did. However on 27 September 2013 I gathered everything I could in two suitcases, a briefcase and a backpack and set off for Ecuador. Submitted all my paperwork on 14 October and on 4 December was notified that my permanent visa was approved. So now I have my visa and my cedula (national identification document). I'm legal :-)
2013 found me doing more "slab" jerky than the ground type and I started experimenting again with fruits. The dehydrator is still working flawlessly, and I'm still amazed everytime I dry something with how well it does. Now I will be taking a respite from Nessy as I won't have my household goods shipped before this summer.
Keep dehydrating and enjoying the great results.