Halogen Ovens and and introducing Dehydrators

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Making cooking a breeze with this amazing Multi-Functional Halogen Oven from Ovation supplied for Amazon by 4YourHome.

 

If you dread the thought of cooking a Sunday dinner – what with all the pots and pans and washing up afterwards – then here is your solution. This halogen oven has a high and a low rack included, so you can cook multiple foods all at once! Featuring an adjustable temperature range of 65-250°C, you can now broil, roast, bake, slow cook or grill your way to culinary perfection. 4YourHome have made an excellent job of including every accessory needed. Continue reading

Fad or Fiction? The Hollywood set are certainly jumping on the Dried Food bandwagon. Whats it all about, is it worth investing in a Dehydrator? Modern life sees us working all week, so buying fresh food daily, which is obviously the best way to eat, is just too impractical. So we have to preserve food, by using tins or freezing it.

While Gwyneth Paltrow , Madonna and Demi Moore may advocate raw food diets, and many experts agree that it is good to include raw food, it has to be acknowledged that a balanced diet should include some cooked items, indeed prof Steve Jones ( genetisist ) has shown that the majority of the human race  no longer possess the enzymes necessary to process nothing but raw food, so some cooking is essential if we are to eat properly.

Well, anyone with an interest in diets and nutrition will be trying to follow the advice – “eat real food , not factory processed food and most of the problems that cause obesity will just go away” and will be buying a food dehydrator, the evidence for it retaining the essential goodness in food, when preserving its shelf life, is overwhelming.

Unless you are fortunate to live in California or Italy, where you can reliably dry your fruit and veg outside in the sun, you’re going to need a bit of help. In more humid climes the drying out period will just be too long or impossible to achieve without a dehydrating machine of some sort. Today there are many professional and domestic models available and the running costs are really quite good when you compare the time it would otherwise take and the cost of buying commercially dried goods. However, if you’re looking to buy, make sure your choice has at least a 500watt heater / fan, or the drying time will be unacceptably long ( or may not be able to make those tasty chips )

Eat Real Food not Processed Food

Also for the “preppers” , you will be looking to stockpile things to keep going if disaster strikes, like water, fuel and food. So if say the electricity  supply is no longer reliable, dried food would be ideal , they need no refrigerator, whereas  frozen food will quickly spoil if it defrosts.  By using your low power consuming dehydrator, when the power is available, you can quickly build up a stockpile of very tasty food, that will last indefinitely with no refrigeration.

There are many claims made for these machines, but what do they actually do? There are two main methods used to preserve food ( disregarding adding chemicals of course ) By dehydrating the food, rather than cooking it, you destroy far less of the nutrients:

Preservation Methods

  • Dehydrating – typically only 5% of the nutrients will be destroyed
  • Freezing – typically 50% will go!!
  • Canning – typically 75% of the nutrients will be destroyed!!

In particular, vitamins  A and C are preserved very well, also minerals like potassium and magnesium, when dehydrating.

What Can be Dried or Dehydrated?

Fruit, vegetables and meat. These are the things that you need to preserve. If you buy strawberries for instance and they aren’t eaten within a couple of days, the decay is obvious. Fish decays rapidly and will smell bad even next day sometimes. Sliced  packets of sliced ham aren’t too bad, the ‘use by’ date is usually quite a few days but beware, many  suppliers are still using nitrates to increase the shelf life, which has been shown to have side effects. If you see colors being refracted in the packet, it is possibly indicating added preservatives, so avoid it.  If you buy freshly cut meat, you’ll never see these effects. It is basically the moisture content in any food which makes it go off quickly.

Why Not just use the Oven?

Its just a matter of practicality. You would run out of space quickly, you would be unable to adjust the temperature properly, it would be inefficient as the oven space is huge compared to the thinly cut food which you need when drying  it, it is rare to find an oven which has a perfectly even temperature, they are nearly always hottest at the top, (indeed it is a feature which cooks use to good advantage), but no use to dehydrate anything.

How do you use a Dehydrator?

To prepare meat for the dehydrator, it should be cut thinly and layered  around the machine, for fruit and vegetables  it should be at a low temperature for a long time, for meat which has more health issues if not heated quickly, it should be started at a higher temperature, which may be lowered later. Most units have a timer, but its not essential. Drying out can take a long time, check out the instructions with each machine to get a rough guide and some of the more specialist books, which are available in the side bar, for more details in preparation and usage.

Most dryers have separate shelves for your food, you can separate meat from fruit and veg easily. Some machines have a number of layers or shelves and some are stacks, which you can add to if necessary.  There is ventilation, to allow the evaporating moisture to escape and a fan, to keep the heat even over all the layers.

The heat setting is usually between 100 and 150 Fahr. or 38 and 68 Cent. Its not hot enough to cook the product , only dehydrate it slowly. Time to complete a drying may be between 5 to 15 hours, fortunately you won’t get any surprise big bills for electricity, they are remarkably cheap to run.

How do you know when dehydration is complete

To test, put a sample in a sealed jar, if it causes condensation, the process is incomplete. You’ll soon find the optimum time for your particular model and type of food, don’t worry too much about over doing it, almost all products, certainly fruits , make delicious ‘chips’ snacks , if you allow it to go crispy!

How does it taste?

It has to be said, having tried several recipes, it actually enhances some ingredients. I found it brings out the sweetness of some fruit like bananas. Thinking about it, raisins ( dried fruit )  are often used  to sweeten dishes. Elle Macpherson , another advocate of dried food, says it can help with tiredness and bloat. It is true that more alkaline foods will aid digestion and raise the oxygen level in the blood, which when low will cause tiredness

Once Dry, How do I store my Dried Food?

You have to eliminate, light, heat, oxygen and contaminants for  maximum storage time

If its packed correctly, certain foods will  last indefinitely. If you are preparing tasty snacks then this is less important as it will probably be used quickly, but for long term use, take preparation and storage seriously. So choose a storage jar, box or pack which is big enough for your food. Pack it in ‘use in one go’ sizes, you want to be opening the pack and consuming the whole contents, without resealing for later. So choose the size of pack suitable  for  ‘meal size’. Store in a cool place.  Beware meat and fish that has been stored a long  time, best to boil the contents, on opening. Vacuum packing will eliminate most of the air from the pack and would be a good idea for fish and meat, but still be careful, reject anything that smells bad. At worst certain bacteria which can survive even airless conditions, can be fatal, at best give you a nasty case of indigestion. Ensure hygienic conditions when packing your food.

What models are available and What Price?

I’ve done some reviews of the most popular ‘domestic’ size dehydrating machines,  which are all selling like hot-cakes , the comments from buyers are very interesting and I’ve tried to point out the features found in top, professional dehydrating machines. To check out the selection and my recommendations Click here

Unexpected Use!

If you have a dog, or like us, several…. and you are aware of the price of doggy treats, get a dehydrator today, it will pay  for itself in no time, our pooches, absolutely love the meaty snacks that it produces, the little ones ( poms ) are amused for hours with a big dried  beef chip… RESULT !

I don’t want this to sound like a lecture, but if you have a few of these major points in your head, you can easily avoid any danger from bacteria. Under certain conditions they can multiply rapidly and become a hazard.  Take a few tips from the professionals and look after your family or party guests….

Foods most easily affected are meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, dairy products, cut melon, raw seed sprouts, garlic-in-oil mixtures, cooked rice and potatoes. So given that Halogen ovens are perfect for cooking and reheating leftovers, we do need to know the limits of temperature and time to make sure we are safe.

Hot Food

When your hot food is ready, it should have an internal temperature above 140 F ,  if you  don’t serve it immediately and use a food warmer, be careful to choose one which keeps food above that magic 140 degrees or use an oven set between 200 and 250 deg F.  Professionals in a commercial kitchen will use an internal meat thermometer to check this several times over a  time period.MeatHeat_370

ELBONTEK Digital Meat Probe ThermometerB_450

 

Anything not used and that may be tomorrows ‘left overs’ should be refridgerated as soon as possible and kept below 40 deg F.  Anything left out unrefridgerated more than 2 hours should be discarded,  it just isn’t worth the risk. Remember that in a hot climate the bacterial processes work faster so reduce this time to just one hour if room temp is approaching 90 deg F

To avoid waste when serving large numbers of people over a longer period, pre prepare smaller serving dishes, that way, each new dish will be piping hot, from the cooker and no risk of the temperature falling below the minimum.  If you are using the meat juices to add to sauces or gravy make sure the liquid boils for a few minutes

Reheating Leftovers

As there is more risk of bacterial multiplication with leftovers the temperature used when reheating should be higher, 165 degF is recommended for all the foods on the list above, especially Chicken. Reheat thoroughly, stirring frequently to even out the heat distribution. Here the Halogen oven does a really good job as the hot air circulation ensures even temperatures all around the cooking area.  If you have guests who are taking “doggie bags” of leftovers, remind them to refridgerate asap.

Cold Food & Buffets

If your cold meats, seafood etc is going to be out on the buffet table longer than 2 hours, be sure to pack the serving plates on ice

Cook from Frozen

One area where the Halogen oven scores over other methods ( link to my article ) . You can cook straight from frozen with the Halogen oven, if you are using a microwave to thaw out food, you must fully cook it as soon as possible after thawing, any delay at this point will increase the number of bacteria hugely.

Preparation

Always use separate chopping boards and knives for raw meat and for vegetables / fruit, similarly ensure when storing raw produce in the fridge, that it is not put above cooked produce and able to spill or drip onto it.

Wash Everything!

The simplest and most effective preventative measure is Wash everything, hands, utensils, knives, etc frequently, don’t for example use a dish previously used for course one, for a later course, which may be hours difference, without washing it in HOT water and detergent.

 

If you are new to cooking or unsure about your oven temperatures either conventional or Halogen , the new Digital Thermometers are very accurate and a good way to make sure you are safe.

Digital Thermometer For Internal Food Temp Readings  This semi professional digital unit has a fully metal screened and heat resistant probe for readings inside the oven and inside meat and poultry joints. Very accurate and repeatable readings, this model is calibrated in the same way as your local food and kitchen council inspectors  equipment

 

 

 

MeatHeat_200

 

 

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