L'EQUIPE 528 SIX-TRAY DEHYDRATOR
BY KATHLEEN WATERS
April 12, 2016
kathy at backpackgeartest dot com
Canon City, Colorado, USA
5' 4" (1.60 m)
125 lb (56.70 kg)
Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 71-acre/29-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado.
Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley.
My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.
|Manufacturer: L'Chef LLC, dba L'Equipe|
Year of Manufacture: 2016
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.lchef.com
MSRP: US $139.99
Measured Size: 17" x 11" x 10" (43 x 28 x 25 cm) with six trays
* 500 Watts
* Variable Solid State Temperature Control (93 F to 158 F/34 C to 70 C)
* Microprocessor controlled Heat Sensor
* Stacks up to 12 trays
* 1.2 sq ft (0.11 sq m) of drying space per tray
* BPA Free
WARRANTY: 10 Year (Base) 1 Year (Accessories)
The L'Equipe 528 Dehydrator is a medium gray-colored rectangular, primarily plastic, electric countertop unit used to prepare food for temporary storage without need of the tedious canning process or the use of a refrigerator or freezer. Dehydration removes the moisture from food which prevents spoilage while preserving natural flavors and nutrients. Dehydration is accomplished by long, slow dry times using an electric "heater" and fan to heat the air in the dehydrator and blow it constantly across the food until all the moisture has evaporated and the food is dry and ready to store.
The L'Equipe 528 Dehydrator comes with six trays which can be expanded to 12 with the purchase of an optional package of six. These six trays have diamond-shaped openings which allow air flow through multiple trays. There are also six mesh tray inserts that rest on top of each of the trays for use with smaller food particles to prevent those particles from falling through the trays. Two fruit leather trays are included. These are used for very liquid foods, such as the syrups used to make fruit leathers (hence the name), but I also used them for thick soup meals which might have been messy if I had just used the trays and mesh inserts.
Rounding out the L'Equipe is a vented cover and of course, the base power unit which sits about an inch high (2.5 cm) off of a countertop.
On the front of the dehydrator are an on-off switch and a dial temperature control knob which can be set from 95 to 158 F (35 to 70 C).
Also include with the dehydrator is a very informative Owner's Manual User Guide which not only explains the operation of the unit, but it gives helpful hints, drying times and even recipes. It was very helpful to me, particularly when I was a newbie dehydrator operator.
|One Tray with screen and fruit leather tray|| |
|Fruit Leather Trays|
USAGE AND PERFORMANCE
When using my L'Equipe Dehydrator, I generally have it on my kitchen countertop. Since my kitchen is open to my dining room which is open to my living room, any noise in my kitchen echoes throughout the entire living area of the house. So having quiet kitchen appliances is important to me. It's one thing to listen to the shrill whine of the coffee grinder or the harsh buzz of the food processor for a brief few minutes, but when an appliance is on for hours at a time, it need to be quiet enough for my husband to talk to me without going hoarse from shouting.
The L'Equipe is indeed quiet. Not whisper quiet but more like the sound of a white noise machine used to mask sounds when sleeping. I like that! My husband likes that!
Filling the trays is easy enough thanks to the wide open space of the rectangular shape. I simply spoon or place the food to be dehydrated onto the trays with or without the mesh insert depending on the "drippy-ness" of the food. When doing so, I make sure the food is spread out in a single layer with space around the outside edges. If the food is individual pieces such as apple slices, I place the slices with space between each one as well. Obviously, I need to make sure no food covers the center airflow opening. I have found that the average meal for four servings requires about four trays if spread out properly.
Once all the food is spread out in the trays, I can just stack them up on the power base, put the cover on, set the temperature and flip the switch on.
Drying times vary tremendously depending on the humidity, altitude, the food's moisture content/ingredients and the size of the food particles. Most of the time my drying times are several hours more than the estimated times given in the owner's manual. I suspect that is because I have a tendency to cut bigger "diced" and "minced" food pieces than I'm supposed to. Oh well. I do take the time to rotate the trays from bottom to top every few hours during the drying process. And if the food was initially pretty wet, I will "break" up the big chunks as the food dries out enough to do so. This speeds up the latter drying times.
|Country Quiche Ready to Load|| |
|One Tray of Country Quiche|
When not in use, I keep my L'Equipe stored on a shelf in my pantry - nothing special.
L'Chef recommends that the trays, mesh inserts, fruit leather sheets and the top cover be hand washed and dried only. And that harsh abrasive scrubbers, cleaners or solvents not be used to clean the plastic parts. Over the past 18 months, I have washed all parts dozens of times following those guidelines with no detrimental wear. I have never had to do more than pass a cotton wash cloth over the trays and inserts and despite many, many tomato-based concoctions, the inserts have not stained. Even the worst baked on gooey food have melted right off when I simply soaked the inserts (never seemed to be a problem with just the trays) in hot soapy water for a bit.
Of course, the bottom power unit cannot be submerged. I routinely brushed off any crumb particles after each use with a dry or if need be, damp paper towel...
Everything looks as good as new!
After 18 months of use - probably 50 to 60 separate occasions for 500 to 600 hours - I was dismayed to find my L'Equipe stopped working. In the middle of making one of my Breakfast Grits, Eggs and Bacon meals! The unit was running, but blowing cold air rather than hot air. I quickly salvaged the food by immediately transferring it to cookie sheets and into my electric oven which does have a "dehydrate" function. Then I just as quickly ran to the phone to call customer service (the number I found in the back of the owner's manual and is also given on the website).
The Customer Service representative was very polite and helpful. I explained the situation and when I told her where I purchased the unit and the order number (yay, for keeping good records!); she informed me that they would be shipping out a new dehydrator along with a shipping label so I could send my broken one back.
That was on a Monday and that SAME WEDNESDAY - two days later - I received a brand-spanking-new L'Equipe dehydrator along with the return shipping tag. New unit! Two days! No shipping charges, from or to! WOW! Now that's customer service!
1.) Big, roomy and square-shape make it easy to dry large quantities
2.) Easy to operate and to clean
3.) Expandable for even more drying capacity
4.) Heats well and works more quickly than the "dehydrate" setting on my electric oven
5.) Is relatively quiet, similar to a "white noise" machine
6.) GREAT Customer Service/great warranty
1.) Wish the unit was supplied with 12 fruit leather trays rather than just two
From my list of "Starring Attractions" above, it's obvious I really like the L'Equipe 528 Dehydrator. It's easy to use and clean, is versatile, expandable and does what it's supposed to do efficiently and quietly.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
I absolutely love using it and can't imagine buying expensive ready-to-eat trail food again. I definitely will continue to use it a lot in the future, especially when I'm preparing for prime backpacking season. I actually have it going right now as I type this owner review.
|Nine Days of Dehydrated Breakfasts for Four|| |
|Deux (Two) L'Equipe|
I like it so much that I can heartily recommend buying one to anyone who would like to dehydrate nutritious meals. I like it so much that I bought a second one this past week so I can double my pleasure and also have a backup!
Good product! Kudos, L'Chef!
Kathleen (Kathy) Waters
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