Harvest Right Food Dryer review & notes

Last spring we invested in a Medium Harvest Right Food Dryer (“FD”) and various extras for a little over 3 grand.  Hubby negotiated a good price with Harvest Rite with an upgraded vacuum pump and about 12 weeks later “FD” showed up in our driveway.While Harvest Rite has some vacuum and tech problems according to multiple posts on a Harvest Right/Other Food Dehydrator Fakebook group, our experience has been pretty positive overall.  Since it IS 2023, we WOULD love to be able to see and use the controls via something like phone remote.  Still, we’ve had a lot of fun trying new foods and processes.

It has upped our prepper game substantially,  provided a way to share our pork with friends and family who are far away, brought our food waste to close to zero and increased our larder with food we love and plan to eat. We raised 3 pigs last year, and with our freezers full of over a quarter ton of pork,  I was anxious about electric loss over a long period that could result is wasted meat.  We started to cook and freeze dry that meat to share with others as well as stockpile.  I jokingly tell people I am planning to “FD” enough meals so that I never have to cook again.

Amongst the items we’ve done – Puerco Pibil, pulled pork, pork sausage patties, pork chops pork liver and heart dog treats :)), ham, pork and beans, black beans, garbanzo bean humus, pea soup, soup stock, farro chicken soup, barley turkey soup, beef bean Chile, beef goulash, pasta bolognese, gravy,  lamb gyro meat, red and green salsas, guacamole, corn tortillas as chips, egg frittatas, oatmeal, cream of wheat, shrimp, turkey, chicken, raw milk, breast milk, 1/2 & 1/2, coffee, coleslaw, green beans, sautéed mushrooms, asparagus, spinach, corn, mashed potatoes, potatoes au gratin (COSTCO and they ROCK!!) rice, varied, Indian and Thai meals, barbacoa  beef,  ice cream sandwiches, pumpkin pie, coconut ganache, pudding, skittles,  apples, bananas, berries, mango pineapples, peaches, pears, asian pears, figs, top round, crab, lobster, cheesecake, eggs and more.  Looking forward to doing some medicinal and seasoning herbs.  

Some general hints from our journey -If you can afford an upgraded pump, get it.  You might be able to cut a sweet deal if you call the company direct.  If you don’t ask, I can guarantee the answer is no.  In general, just ask. When it’s hot, put a fan on the pump to cool it off.  As newbies, we ran the AC in the room the FD was in all summer.  Our electric bill was ridiculous and now that we have several boxes of food, we agreed to not run the machine 24/7 this upcoming summer.We now just do a “natural” defrost instead of using electric ($) to defrost.  We select “No Defrost” and leave the door and valve open.  It takes more time but saves money.Extra trays and lids are super useful to have.  We use the dividers, but the silicon liner sheets we rarely use, and instead use parchment paper for just the messy and greasy items.Use Tupperwares or glass jars for “tastes” and foods you will snack on right away instead of wasting the mylar bag and oxygen absorber.Raw meat is not as tasty as cooked, so we don’t do it anymore. If you can make it taste better, please share how…Chocolate and fat do not do well alone so we have modified their processing by either cutting the fat off, patting dry with paper towels or integrating into some other fibrous food/carbs.Lining and covering fatty and sugary items will save on clean up and absorb some of the fat. Shredded meat or crumbles seems to do better than big chunks.When using shiny metallic pens to mark mylar bags, write and let the package dry well or they could smear to unreadable. When we need to crush items to save space, we have a “crush person” with clean hands or use a paper towel to keep outsides of bag more hygienic . We keep a “pump bottle” of 70% alcohol to constantly sanitize our hands through processing.Use large resealable mylar bags or vac containers for items like dried fruit, oats, etc that you will eat often.Sometimes I used to waste half a bag or more of asparagus or green beans.  Now I just cook the whole bag.  We eat some and then the leftovers go straight onto the tray and then in the freezer.  So easy.Pre-freeze liquids like broth, milk and eggs into the machine tray while its setting on a cookie tray IN THE FREEZER.  Let it freeze solid.  Pouring direct into the machine can be ok maybe, but moving liquid trays not recommended. 

We keep a “FD LOG” by the machine to track what foods we did on what dates as well as oil changes and other maintenance.  We used to log energy use and time info, but quickly lost interest and motivation in that and now just dates, foods and maintenance.

Being consistent with temperatures of each load and thickness of items in the freezer trays will insure better results, as will maintaining and keeping the machine clean and performing scheduled oil changes.  If you are nerdy and full of money there is an app for checking the temp of the food via your phone. There are tons of online groups and YouTube videos to learn from.  We especially enjoy “Retired at 40” FD videos and his products as well.

We figured our electricity added 6-10 bucks a load to the process cost, the bags and oxygen absorber packs, extra trays and lids and divider gizmos etc., add a tad more.  You can also store product in clean canning jars, though for long term storage, you’ll want to add oxygen absorbers and vac seal and keep those items out of sunlight as sunlight, air and moisture are the major reasons for food spoilage.  Some producers claim that their FD items will last 20-30 years!!Some “stupids” we’ve done – -not closing the drain valve when starting a load and the machine was beeping probably for hours not able to vacuum and stuck in beep mode-leaving the door closed for natural defrost and water mess all over-forgetting to push ‘start” button-not covering sweets or dab drying some meat very well and big ol  Sugar or FAT EXPLOSION all over the machine

Since we are lazy, and canning requires some serious following of hygiene rules to maintain safety, our FD has been a great investment.  Glass and cans are heavy, but the mylar bags are perfect for storage and transport.  Many delicious food, easy quick meals and preserving foods that might become extinct are other reasons why will continue to use, experiment and share our food dehydration experiences.

The majority of the Freeze dried food we bought in the past is just not as yummy as our own foods or our friends’ Thai restuarant.  Additionally some of the cost savings can be HUGE!  Amazon has ONE ice cream sandwich for 11 BUCKS!  Wal Marte has a TWELVE PACK for $2.62……I am concerned about items going extinct, skyrocketing prices, food insecurity and the fact that over 90% of the people I know are not prepared AT ALL!  I would like to see at least one FD in every neighborhood.  If you want one, but feel the cost is out of your budget, I would encourage you to investigate getting investors to help finance your machine as a social business (google social business/ Yunus to learn more about) or do an on-line fundraiser like kiva.org  or a go beg me or organize a collective purchase with friends and/or family.   As with all business arrangements, ESPECIALLY with friends and family, be sure to hammer out the details IN WRITING of location, costs, maintenance, use time and so on BEFORE you spend money on it.  I for one will be glad to support you on this wholeheartedly in theory and possibly a tad financially if you hit me up at the right time, especially if you offer some kind of delicious premium.Happy Drying and HAVE FUN!!!


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