Using MES as Dehydrator????

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by deltadude, Jun 14, 2009.

  1. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I have enjoyed my Sam's Club MES for a year, it works great STILL! Just did BB Ribs a week ago, good as always.

    Food Dehydrator, I have never dehydrated anything on purpose:)

    My son is planning a 16 day backpack on the John Muir Trail, and I am helping him plan his daily menus. Dehydrating meats, eggs, fruit and veggies, can help make his meals interesting but not expensive as in freeze dried prepackaged stuff.

    I have checked the internet and seen several DIY food dehydrators, and it seems the MES can easily be used for this purpose.

    I would appreciate any knowledgeable input on this topic.

    • Temperature needs to be about 140 deg. constant...
    • Some minor air circulation is required to move moisture off the items being dehydrated.

    Here are my thoughts so far.
    1. Can't use the water pan, the dehydrator needs to maintain less than 30% humidity. So without the water pan as a heat sink, I am thinking of buying cordierite stone that would lay on the bottom shelf as a heat sink. Cost $18.

    2. I would take the wood tray tube out, and create a makeshift fan/blower/tube to insert into the tray hole, for air circulation. I have several different size house fans, that I can rig to an thin ga alum. cut and rolled tapering to the wood tray tube opening. The problem, is for air movement to work properly for every cfm input there has to be a cfm outlet. 1 cfm in, 1 cfm out will get air changes. Since the MES exhaust outlet is pretty small, this could be a problem.

    3. I recall somewhere that metal or alum can affect the taste of some dehydrated foods, so I need something to rest on the racks that the food will sit on, here is where I need recommendations.

    I am thinking of adding a light wood frame for additiional shelves / racks.

    I have never tried to maintain 140 deg. I have used the MES as a food holding/warmer at 160-170 deg, no problem.

    I would greatly appreciate some input from you DIY types that love stuff like this.......

    Thanks in advance.....
  2. smokeguy

    smokeguy Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Interesting idea- don't see why it wouldn't work. Let's get it bumped back up to see if anyone has any more ideas...
  3. reichl

    reichl Meat Mopper

    I could see it working, you could finish it off by putting it in a container with desiccant, just make sure the food doesn't actually touch the desiccant. I used to dry mushrooms by putting them in front of a fan for 12 hours then in a desiccant box for another 24. When they came out they would be cracker dry.
  4. gnubee

    gnubee Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Man thats a really good question you've asked.

    Do you mean you are blowing a substantial amount of air into the wood chip access hole?

    In my opinion if you are blowing in even as little as 1cfm of outside air in with 1 cfm going out the vent the mes couldn't keep the temps up. I think you would have to pre heat the ambient air temps some how. Maybe a hair dryer on low.

    I could easily be wrong in this having never tried it but I do know how long the mes takes to recover from having fresh air introduced when the door is opened. 140f seems like it would be a chore to maintain.

    I guess you'd just have to try it and see. Let us know how this works out for you . I for one am really interested to see if it works.
  5. scubadoo97

    scubadoo97 Smoking Fanatic

    I just made some jerky with my MES. I have the 30" model.

    I started my jerky out high at 170. Cut it back after it was cooked through to 140. I was able to keep in the mid 140s with the door ajar. The door clamp is adjustable. I lengthened the screw so the clamp was a long as possible then did not secure the clamp so the door was open maybe 1/4-1/3 inch. I was done smoking at this point and only wanted to dry the jerky. My MES bottoms out at 100f. I've never set it that low to measure inside temperature but I would start there and see it goes. You will never have a totally stable condition as the element will cycle on and off but I don't think that would be detrimental as long as you are drying and not burning.
  6. smokeguy

    smokeguy Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Actually, leaving the door gapped would solve any airflow problems too since you wouldn't need a fan and it is adjustable since you could adjust it at that temp by paper towels or whatever if you wanted stuck in the gasketed cracks.

    Hot air rises so since the element is in the bottom, it will draw cooler air in which will rise when heated and go out the top third along with any moisture that it's picked up as long as the dew factor is ok which is a dumb observation because it will have to be unless it's ....freezing, not humid, ....need to see a meteorologist. [​IMG]
    Maybe the combination of taking the chip tray out totally with the vent wide open would be enough...

    But if you wanted to add a fan (maybe a computer fan?) going into the wood-chip area, I wonder if the top vent would be enough by itself, or that along with a sort of loose door?

    Thanks for the great question! [​IMG]
  7. gnubee

    gnubee Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Scubado's post got me thinking, you could use his method and use one of those rope door gaskets to minimize the length of the opening so that the cooler air came in only near the bottom of the door.

    Good idea Scubado. kudos...[​IMG]
  8. mgnorcal

    mgnorcal Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    I've seen plans using 12v computer case fans to circulate air for cold-smoking, would work well to dehydrate too.
    They are only a couple bucks apiece and they come in a big range of small CFM sizes.
    Any house fan I've seen blows too many CFM.
    Dunno if you need to improve on just setting the door ajar, but I'm sure you could fashion a shroud or funnel out of heavy duty foil to make a computer fan fit your wood chip door.
  9. scubadoo97

    scubadoo97 Smoking Fanatic

    I use several of these computer fans in my cigar humidor. Actually a wine cooler turned humidor. I wonder if these fans would hold up to the heat of 140 that deltadude wants to dehydrate at.

    These fans are easy to work with. I posted previously on another thread that you can connect these to DC power supplies in a few minutes. I must have at least a half a dozen power supplies laying around. They collect since the electronics go bad and I hate to toss some thing like a power supply. You never know when it might come in handy. Just match the voltage to the power supply and don't exceed the amperage.
  10. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Thanks for the ideas...

    Leaving the door ajar is similar to using an oven with an open door ajar and fan sitting on chair to get air movement.

    So taking that thought, open the MES door completely, and fashion a heavy cardboard cover lined with heavy alum foil, to cover door opening. Cut an opening at the bottom for a small fan to move air. If the vent opening isn't a big enough opening, then cut slit at top to exhaust even more air.

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