Today we are going to have a look at one of the most popular mid range dehydrators currently available – the Nesco American Harvest FD-61WHC. This is a fairly affordable dehydrator, and many folks who are new to dehydrating choose this model to get started with. But how well does it really perform? Does the cheaper price tag mean inferior performance? Lets have a look at it and find out.
Nesco make quite a wide variety of food dehydrators, all designed to be fairly economical and straightforward to operate. One of their most popular models is the FD-WHC American Harvest Dehydrator which is what we are going to be reviewing today. This is a all in one kit, designed to make everything from jerky to dried bananas. It has a 500watt motor, which should be powerful enough to dry whatever kind of food in a reasonable time. This is a round model, and it has a top mounted fan. It has a temperature range of 95-160 F, so there should be no problems with drying out a wide variety of foods. The model comes with 5 trays by default, but you can expand it up to 12 if need be. In addition to the five trays, you will also receive two clean-a-screens, and two fruit roll trays.
A nice addition to this kit is the jerky gun and accessories. You can use the gun to create the ideal size jerky, so this is very handy for all the jerky enthusiasts out there. The jerky gun comes with three attachments, so you will need to experiment with them to find your optimal size. You will also receive five cures and five seasoning sachets, so you can experiment with those too.
Lastly you will find the recipe booklet/guide, which is very well laid out. It contains the usual maintenance instructions and also a variety of tips and hints to get the best out of the Nesco dehydrator. There are also several recipes included, all of which are quite easy to follow. All in all this is a very nice package, and you will not need to buy anything extra to get started with your dehydrating.
All the parts of the kit are dishwasher safe, except for the power unit which is common sense! The American Harvest Dehydrator comes with a “Opaque Vita-Save” exterior, which supposedly helps to block harmful rays which can destroy the nutrients in drying food. This unit also makes use of Nescos patented “Converga-Flow” technology. This technology claims to force air down the exterior chamber and through the center, which supposedly allows the food to dry evenly from the top tray to the bottom one. This would mean no more tray rotation during drying cycles, which is a common issue with round style dehydrators. However we will need to see how valid these claims really are when we test it. Unfortunately there is no timer included with this unit, so you will have to spend $10 on a mechanical timer if you want that convenience. The size of the unit is 13″ x 11″ x 13″, so it will fit comfortably on most kitchen counter tops without taking up too much space.
The design on the model is nothing to write home about. There is nothing wrong with it, but it doesn’t particularly stand out. The entire model is white, with the lid being mainly grey. There is a handy little temperature guide on the top, which is a quick reference if you don’t want to consult the manual for suggested drying times. Now lets have a look at how it actually performs.
Being a kit that comes with a jerky gun, a batch of beef jerky sounded like a good start to our testing. Having filled up two trays with the thin strips made using the included gun, we then left it for a few hours to see how it would turn out. 3 hours passed, and we decided to check on the progress. The top tray was looking good, and so were the other two. We left it for another two hours, and then checked again to find the jerky was more or less done. This was a fairly impressive drying time, and the jerky was dried all the way through. It tasted pretty good, and the Nesco dehydrator had done a fine job. Since it is a round model, we had to do a full on 5 tray test to see if it would suffer the same problems as other round dehydrators. Choosing to do beef jerky again, we popped in all five trays and left it for two hours to see what the outcome would be. After two hours, the bottom tray felt a little softer than the top, which was a little worrying. Leaving it for another two hours, we checked again to find that the bottom trays were still a little bit behind in the drying progress compared to the top ones. The top tray of jerky was almost done, while the two bottom trays and the middle one would need a little longer. After 5 hours, we took out the top two trays, and rotated the other ones around. Within 30 minutes or so the rest of the jerky was done. Unfortunately this means that the Nesco still has some of the flaws that all these rounds units have, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the models we have seen. Their Converga-Flow technology seems to have made some difference, but if you are doing a full 5 tray set of food then you will need to look at rotating the trays roughly half way through to get the best results.
We also tested the model with some apple and banana slices to get an idea of how fruit turns out, and the answer is very good! The apples were full of flavor, and so were the bananas without being too chewy. The drying time was around normal for slices of fruit, so no surprises there. Fruit leather also turned out very nicely after a few hours. They peeled right off the sheets and the drying times were quite decent. The trays aren’t too big, so cleanup in a sink isn’t too much hassle.
Overall we were quite happy with the performance of the dehydrator. If you are doing a full 5 tray load then you will have to look at rotating trays to get the maximum efficiency of the machine, but as we observed Nescos new technology does make the issue not quite as bad as it is with cheaper round style dehydrators. With a retail price on under $100, you can’t really expect much more from it. This is a great first dehydrator for anyone wanting to dehydrate food, and you can always move onto a bigger and better machine once you have a little more experience with it.
- Decent price
- All in one kit to dry any kind of food
- Good drying times
- Well priced
- Easy to clean
- Best to rotate trays when using all trays
Summary: We would definitely recommend the Nesco dehydrator. It comes with everything you need to start dehydrating food, and the drying times are very good. However if you intend to use the entire 5 tray capacity every time, we recommend you look for a bigger unit such as the Excalibur 3900B to avoid having to rotate the trays. At the time of writing the Nesco American Harvest dehydrator was on sale at Amazon, and you can click here to see if it is still on sale.