With the advent of celebrity chefs and the popularity of cooking shows came a universal accessibility to cooking techniques and equipment – The Hamilton Beach 32100a. While microwave dinners and take-out/delivery were the staples of the on-the-go individual and busy housewife, the quick fix meal of the modern day tends to be much more hands on.
Immersion blenders and standing mixers have taken the place of toasters and waffle irons, but one appliance hasn’t received enough attention yet. So, we have compiled this review of the Hamilton Beach 32100a Food Dehydrator.
Even with the dawn of Cook At Home subscription boxes, busy professionals, moms, and dads are finding ways to prepare homemade meals around their packed schedule. One of the shining stars in the arsenal of a busy cook is the beloved crockpot. Simply put the ingredients in, set the temperature and timer, and come back to eat in 3 to 9 hours.
But crockpots are hearty by nature, right?
I think of stews, chili, or maybe a rice dish when I break out my crockpot. Rarely am I making something truly nutritious when preparing a one-pot meal.
With this in mind, I present to you The Hamilton Beach 32100a Food Dehydrator. This multi-tasking countertop appliance is like the crockpot for all seasons.
Low heat air circulation is the key to dehydrating food, so by nature, the food dehydrator is perfect for people who are out the door in the morning. Most recipes take a few hours while some can take a day or more, but the idea is the same.
Simply put your ingredients on the food dehydrator trays, set the temperature and timer, and come back to eat in 3 to 9 hours (sound familiar?).
Bananas and jams can be laid out and dehydrated overnight for a healthy breakfast of banana chips and fruit roll-ups, lentils and mushrooms can be dried and preserved for months for when you need that extra something in your soup, and prepared meats make great snacks for that family road trip.
There are a few things to know about food dehydrators if you’re serious about purchasing one. While they all do the same job (for the most part), it’s how they accomplish the task that’s important.
Why Go Digital?
With so many options on the market, food dehydrators come in all shapes and sizes. One of the most important features a dehydrator has to offer is a digital display. Specifically a digital thermostat and timer.
There are plenty of electric dehydrators with manual thermostat dials. Some turn from low to high with numbers written on the side as a guide, some go up in increments that click to set to the temperature listed, and some are just preset to one constant temperature.
The problem with all of these options is that food dehydration, like all cooking, is a science. Recipes have specific temperatures and times to create certain textures and achieve certain flavors. A digital thermostat empowers you with accurate temperatures and the ability to reach the temperature you need.
Likewise, a digital timer is crucial to perfecting the art of food dehydration.
Many dehydrators do not even offer a timer. While many cooks get by just fine with a plug-in timer (you know, the kind you plug your Christmas lights into), I say it’s ludicrous to not offer this basic function on the digital display. The longer the time duration the better as some recipes take days to finish!
The Health Aspects
While food dehydrators are often banished by the everyday cook to the realm of health nuts and vegans, the truth is they make all kinds of delicious, decadent treats that are healthier than the store-bought alternatives.
Kale chips and fruit roll-ups are amongst the first things we think of when we hear the words food dehydrator. Let me be perfectly clear, I love kale chips and fruit roll-ups, but there is so much more on the table when using a dehydrator. Drying cacao for hot chocolate, getting a dough to rise for a pizza, or even drying hops to brew your own beer, the possibilities are endless.
It’s not about the ingredients. It’s about the process.
Even when you’re making jerky you’re using a healthy food dehydrator. Why? Because you know everything about the food you are putting in your body.
There are no chemical preservatives, flavor additives, food coloring, or crazily named carcinogens that we will never be able to pronounce. For this reason, the food dehydrator is a shining example of why home cooked food is the best cooked food.
If you’re interested in dehydrating meat there are a few factors to look for in a dehydrator.
Whether you’re making jerky for your next camping trip or preparing some flavor bombs for your next hearty stew, you should always get your meats up to 165 degrees Fahrenheit according to the USDA. Making sure that your dehydrator can achieve this temperature is imperative to the process.
While some cooks will argue the temperatures on certain meats, no one will argue the importance of the timer. Some food dehydrators go up to 99 hours and 59 minutes which, honestly, seems like overkill. However, a long duration timer is necessary for drying meats as many recipes take over 12 hours (and sometimes days!).
Dehydration for Herbivores
On the contrary, dehydrating fruits and vegetables require low temperatures with even air circulation. The reason for this is that high temperatures tend to form an impenetrable wall on the outer skins of fruit and vegetables.
Once this happens, there’s nowhere for the juices and liquids inside to go. Ultimately, you end up with chewy banana chips and gooey lentils that are prime for mold and spoilage.
Always make sure that your dehydrator can get down to at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit to properly dry your non-meat ingredients. And, like dehydrating meat, a timer that is capable of at least 48 hours is ideal for handling a large variety of recipes.
Herbs and Other Fine Things
There are loads upon loads of other uses for food dehydrators, some are not even food related. However, some of the main alternative uses include an herbs dehydrator for the spice rack, potpourri for your olfactory enjoyment, and hops for brewing beer.
With all of the possibilities, you never know when you will expand your usage into new and exciting territories. For that reason, it’s best to find a dehydrator that gives you full control over a wide range of temperatures and timer settings. It’s also important to have versatile trays that are stackable and provide you with ample drying space.
Eventually, you will find recipes that require the same time and temperatures. When you do, you’ll want to have separate trays to dry them at the same time.
This model is great for gardeners, hunters, foragers, and chefs. It’s also great for moms, dads, singles, and couples. Listen, if you eat food, this is a great model for you.
All praises aside, this model may not have the highest power rating, it may not offer the most drying space, and, to be completely honest, it may not be the best machine on the market, but it has one big thing working in its favor, versatility.
This digital food dehydrator has a bottom mounted fan that provides more than adequate air circulation for the amount of drying space it offers. It has a wide range of temperature settings and a timer that will go for 2 days. The bottom line is that it can effectively perform any task you would ever ask from a food dehydrator. And here are the specs to prove it:
Features: 500W bottom mount fan with continuous airflow, 5 stackable trays, adjustable digital thermostat with a range from 100-116 degrees Fahrenheit, 48-hour timer with auto shut off, see-through lid, 1 fine mesh sheet, 1 solid sheet for fruit rolls
Reviews: 4 out of 5 stars
Pros: This machine was praised online for its easy to use digital controls. The ease of use also extends to the cleaning process as many reviewers loved the removable trays and easy to clean sheets. This model also received high marks for the accuracy of the thermostat.
Cons: Durability was the main complaint about this particular model. Some users stated that the plastic drying trays were flimsy and even fragile. Other users stated that the drying times were longer than expected. A handful of complaints pointed to the digital display showing an error code after only a few uses. However, these complaints seemed to be the exception to the norm.
Overall, the Hamilton Beach 32100a Food Dehydrator is a great all-around machine. If you want a reliable model that can easily perform basic dehydration recipes, this is a great option. The size of this model is great for cooking at home as it is compact and transportable.
In fact, it’s small enough to warrant some real estate on the kitchen counter if you’re using it regularly. If you’re not, it is easy to break down and store away.
For the more adventurous and experienced chefs, this model may not have everything you’ll need. After all, it is designed for home use not commercial. However, there are some very important features on this device that warrant further investigation.
Continuous Airflow and Why We Want It
The Hamilton Beach 32100a advertises it’s 500W fan and heating element with a continuous airflow technology. This is crucial to the process of drying food for a number of reasons.
- Airflow is the most important factor in drying, much more so than heat. While some recipes do require higher heat temperatures, all recipes need continuous and even airflow.
- Constant airflow eliminates the need to rotate trays during the drying cycle. This means you can dry food while you sleep, while you’re at work, or even while you’re on vacation. This is all possible because of the timer with auto shut off.
- Airflow is the best defense against mold and spoilage because it keeps liquids moving out and away from the ingredients.
Let’s Talk About Trays
Because airflow is such an important part of the drying process, it is also important to use trays that don’t obstruct the air during operation. The Hamilton Beach 32100a has five stackable trays that are vented to encourage airflow. The center column draws air from the bottom mounted fan and distributes it horizontally across each individual tray.
Who’s Using These Things?
Literally, anyone who requires food to live should be using these! They’re great for gardeners who need something to do with their large harvests, hunters who hog the freezer with their meat all year long, and foragers who’ve brought home pounds of mushrooms. They’re also great for campers, backpackers, weekend warriors, and anyone who likes to eat.
The thing about food dehydrators is that they open up a whole new world of flavors. Fruits are sweeter, vegetables are more flavorful, and meats are richer and more intense. They’re good for your health and require very little effort on our part.
Finally, they’re better for the environment. Simply making snacks at home will reduce your annual trash totals drastically. Every batch of banana chips, raisins, or dried mushrooms, for example, saves on plastic packaging and labels. It might not seem like a lot, but it sure adds up.
In the end, there is very little reason that this model wouldn’t make a great countertop food dehydrator for your kitchen.
A wide range of temperature settings, versatility in storage space, easy to use operations, and tons of positive reviews make this a safe bet for almost any home cook. Of course, there are many dehydrators out there that go above and beyond this model, and many that fall short.
Overall, the conclusion from our review of the Hamilton Beach 32100a food dehydrator is that it is a slightly above par machine. More specifically, it is a well-rounded machine that gets the job done. If you’re looking for bells and whistles or a high-profile aesthetic you may want to look elsewhere, but for the typical household, this model will be more than adequate.