I had no idea that you could use a solar oven as a dehydrator until I read it somewhere. This is really one of the coolest things we’ve done with our solar oven!
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Apple chips are a wonderfully healthy snack that is universally pleasing – even the baby loves apple chips. They’re Paleo, GAPS and whole foods approved snacks. They’re easy to make, too, requiring only a minimal amount of equipment. You’ll need a cutting board, a sharp knife or apple slicer and something in which to dry them. We outline the process in this post, which you can visit by clicking here.
The hardest part about making apple chips is the drying process. I usually use my Excalibur dehydrator, which I love, but it does take time. Plus, all that time, it’s sucking energy from the wall. Solar ovens operate with only the power of the sun, which God made free to all. Certainly a mark in favor of the solar oven process.
Air Circulation in the Solar Oven
The only part of the process that’s different with making solar oven apple chips as opposed to electric-dehydrated apple chips is the set up inside the oven to provide for air circulation. Each solar oven is shaped a little differently. Look at what you have to decide how to ensure that the air moves around your product inside the oven. The idea in solar oven dehydrating is to get your food as exposed to the air as possible while venting the moisture.
If you have a stackable cooling rack that will fit inside your oven, then use that to ensure air movement around your product. I don’t have stackable racks, so my engineer husband used one of our small baking stones to balance a regular baking rack over those apples layered on the bottom.
The first time we tried dehydrating, I put the bottom layer of apples on a silicone mat and they dried pretty well but were still a bit on the soft side. The apples that were on the top rack were perfectly dried and crispy. The key to good dehydration is excellent air circulation around the product.
Get Rid of the Moisture in your Solar Oven
When you use your solar oven as a dehydrator, you have to vent the lid so that the moisture will escape. Solar ovens do really well at keeping moisture in, which is usually a good thing and one of the best parts of using a solar oven for regular cooking. When dehydrating, though, you want all the moisture to escape by providing a way for it to vent out of the oven, without releasing all of the heat.
To do this we wedged a baking stone on one side of the oven between the lid and the rim of the oven body. We secured the solar oven clamps all over the unit, except where the stone was wedged. The stone stayed wedged just fine and moisture flew out during the drying process. Whatever you choose to use as a wedge, make sure it can take the extreme heat that it will be exposed to in the solar oven. Those things get toasty!
How Long to Dehydrate?
I had read that it might take as much as 24 hours to dry a batch of apples but ours were done in about six hours with it being a very sunny day and, I think, the ambient temperature was about 65 degrees Fahrenheit that day. We did use our apple slicer to cut the chips so they were very thin. They were about 1/8th of an inch. I highly recommend a consistent thickness of whatever product you’re trying to dehydrate. If the pieces are of uneven thicknesses, they will dry at uneven times. It’s a lot easier to have everything finish dehydrating at the same time.
So, give me more ideas! Have you done this before? What worked really well for you? I think I want to try meat jerky!