Hey Besties! Today we are covering all the ins and outs of what most professional cookie decorators consider an essential tool – a dehydrator. If you decorate cookies with royal icing, using a dehydrator for cookies is a complete game changer in SO many ways. But there can be a lot of questions, especially since it seems counterintuitive…won’t it dry out my cookies? I’m diving into all the questions and sharing all my guidance on how it will increase the quality of your cookies while saving you TONS of time! Is there any other tool that can do both of those things? Nope! Let’s jump into why a dehydrator for cookies is a cookier’s best friend.
Every Single Cookie
Last year, I published THIS post which was an intro into using a dehydrator for cookies. At that point, we had been using our dehydrator for a few months and had fallen in love. We still use that dehydrator every day, but we’ve gone beyond love, y’all. We can’t live without our dehydrator. Every single cookie we decorate goes in that thing. It has become so critical to our cookie decorating that we now have a second one! I’m not being dramatic when I tell you, I would not be able to decorate cookies without a dehydrator. Once you see the difference it makes in your cookies and the amount of time it saves you, there’s no going back. And since the main purpose of this blog is to help other home bakers, this topic warrants a thorough post spilling all the tea, so you can reap the benefits too.
I interview bakers and cookiers regularly, as evidenced by our Featured Baker section. And something I always like to ask is what tools or products they rely on the most or couldn’t live without. Every now and then they’ll share something unique but almost every cookier lists “my dehydrator” as a no-brainer. If you’ve watched shows like The Christmas Cookie Challenge, you may have noticed they each have a dehydrator at their station too and use it throughout their decorating process. If there’s ever a place to save time, it’s there! In the world of cookie decorating, the dehydrator is an essential tool, a workhorse, we rely heavily on with so many benefits. Before we get into all the benefits, here are the dehydrators we use and LOVE!
Which Dehydrators DO We Use and Love?
THIS is the dehydrator we started with and still use every day, although, we have the 6-tray version, which doesn’t appear to be available any longer because they’ve released their newer model. Which is the 2nd dehydrator we’ve now added to our home bakery, and you can find HERE. We loved our first one so much that we jumped at the chance to add a second, especially after they released a new one. Both work great and we’ve never had any issues. If I were buying my first one today, I’d highly recommend THIS one.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A DEHYDRATOR?
Of course, there are many dehydrators on the market, but we have found these to work perfectly while being very affordable. I personally see no reason to spend more since I’m not convinced you’d gain anything for the additional cost.
If you are going to shop around, there are a couple key things you want to look for in a dehydrator for cookies. First, you want the fan to be in the back of the unit. There are many dehydrators where the trays are stacked on top of each other with the fan on the top or bottom. These are not ideal for cookies since the airflow is not blowing across the icing and also because you’ll have to disturb all the trays to get to tray you want to work on. Secondly, it’s best to have a dehydrator that goes to 95 degrees, which is generally the lowest setting. I would not be comfortable having a unit with low/medium/high settings since I don’t know what those temps are.
We also use dehydrator liner sheets on our trays, to protect the bottoms of our cookies. THESE are a one-time buy, just live in the dehydrator trays and we clean them regularly. You simply cut to fit your trays.
Okay, let’s jump into HOW a dehydrator for cookies is going to change your decorating world!
How Does A Dehydrator For Cookies Help?
Great question! A dehydrator will increase the quality and look of your cookies in several ways. First, it will help give a great shiny, smooth finish. There is an obvious difference in the finish between cookies that have and have not been in a dehydrator. I wrote a whole post about getting that shiny, smooth finish HERE since there are other factors that can play into your cookie’s shine. But the warm airflow while your icing is setting, makes the biggest difference.
Take a look at this photo. The cookie on the left was airdried, while the cookie on the right was quick set in our dehydrator. The difference in the finish of the cookie is obvious, much more so in person too. The airdried cookie is matte and feels rough to the touch. Whereas the cookie on the right has a beautiful sheen and soft, polished, smooth surface. Also compare the bath bubbles on these cookies. The ones on the left are flatter and dull looking. The ones on the right are plump and shiny, just like when they were piped.
Which brings me to the next huge benefit of using a dehydrator for cookies – eliminating craters! Ugh, those pesky craters, the word alone is like a curse word in the cookie decorating world. And because cratering is such an issue, that every cookier will run into at some point, I wrote a whole post about how to avoid them HERE. I did a cratering study, which only cookiers can appreciate, and we learned that the most helpful way to avoid craters? You guessed it…using a dehydrator. Why is that? When we tested all the theories – using thicker icing, putting a squiggly line under the section, and others, cratering was best eliminated by quick setting your icing. When you decorate and can pop your cookies into a dehydrator soon after, it immediately sets the icing, just like you piped it. You not only eliminate cratering but you lock in the puffy, plump icing you want.
Hopefully now you can appreciate what a difference the warm airflow of a dehydrator make in the look and feel of your cookies. A smooth, shiny finish with puffy icing details, just like every cookier wants!
Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!
Full transparency: when we got our first dehydrator it was 100% because we wanted to be able to speed up the decorating process. We didn’t even know that it would drastically improve how our cookies looked! What we did know was that we did not have 3 days to decorate a set of cookies! And we also didn’t like our cookies having to sit out for that long, compromising the quality of our cookies! So, the benefits I listed above were surprise perks we started noticing immediately. Don’t you love when you have unintended benefits?!
When using a dehydrator for cookies, you are able to significantly speed up your decorating process to the point where you’ll fully complete your cookies in the same day. For example, let’s say you have a cookie set with several different decorating steps or layers. When using a dehydrator, you’re able to complete each of those steps within 15-20 min of each other. Flood, 15 min in dehydrator, pipe, 15 min in dehydrator, writing, 15 min in dehydrator…you get the idea.
Instead of waiting hours between these steps or even overnight, you are completing full sets of cookies from start to finish in one decorating session. 🤯 It’s true, and it’s a total game changer. Not only are you saving your own time, but it also allows you to make a lot more cookies in a week than without. And if you’re running a bakery, that means more income! I know, it’s exciting, but let’s get into HOW to effectively use your dehydrator for all these benefits.
How Do I Use a Dehydrator For Cookies?
Let’s get into exactly how to effectively use your dehydrator and also how not to use it! As stated earlier, you want to use your dehydrator on the lowest temp, which of the ones we use, is 95 degrees. And remember, the benefits of using a dehydrator are best achieved in short spurts. You are going to pop your cookies in the dehydrator for 15-20 minutes between each decorating step. We choose to leave the door off/open for full blowing air flow across our cookies. We’ve done it both ways (door closed/open) and just prefer door open.
You’re going to fall into a groove as part of your decorating process. In our experience, we work in trays. So, we flood a tray, into the dehydrator it goes. We flood another couple trays of cookies, into the dehydrator they each go. By this time, my flood has crusted over on the first tray, so now we do our next decorating step, and back onto the dehydrator it goes. And the cycle keeps repeating itself until you’ve completed all your cookies.
There is essentially no downtime or waiting, you always have cookies ready for the next step. and know that there are no hard rules when it comes to using the dehydrator for quick setting your icing. It’s not like baking where you need to set a 15-minute timer. You’ll find your groove and maybe they are in for 20 minutes, that’s totally fine. Honestly, we’ve left our cookies in for hours (got sidetracked) and they were perfectly fine. So, don’t worry about precision here.
Nobody Wants A Dry Cookie
I do want to be clear, you are not fully drying your cookies in the dehydrator, as that amount of time could lead to them drying out prematurely. Once your cookies are fully decorated, we leave them in the dehydrator, with it turned off, as our cookie vault. They dry in there overnight and we bag in the morning. This way they are safe and protected, in a clean environment, ready to be packaged.
FAQs When Using a Dehydrator For Cookies
I hear lots of questions and comments about using a dehydrator for cookies, let me try to address them all here!
- Won’t using a dehydrator dry out my cookies? Great question and usually the first one we all ask! The answer is NO, when using a dehydrator as described here, you will see, taste and feel no difference in the texture or moisture of your cookies. Why is that? Cutout cookies are made almost completely of butter and sugar. It would take MANY hours in a dehydrator to dry out a cookie made of butter. Secondly, your cookies are covered in royal icing, which is adding a lot of moisture to your cookie. That said, we always use dehydrator liner sheets to protect the bottoms of our cookies.
- What is the point of using a dehydrator for cookies? Did you read the above sections? 😆
- I hear a dehydrator can cause rippling in my icing. Why is that? We have never experienced this but have seen photos of others who have. It seems to be a combination of using thin icing and keeping the cookies in the dehydrator with the door closed which creates more of an airtight seal and lead to rippling. Again, we’ve never had it happen, but we do prefer to leave the door off/open.
- Is a dehydrator any better than using a table fan? While blowing air flow is beneficial, the WARM airflow provided by a dehydrator does provide additional benefits over a table fan. It will quick set your icing faster and if I’m being totally honest, it’s more sanitary. A dehydrator is not going to be blowing around all the potential dust, pet fur, fuzzies or germs that may be in your space.
- Will a dehydrator help with color bleed? In our experience, it does help with avoiding color bleed! Mostly because it is quick setting that icing so it doesn’t have the time to sit and saturate or bleed.
If you have any additional questions, feel free to leave a comment or head over to our Facebook group to chat with me and other Besties about using a dehydrator for cookies!
I hope this post all about using a dehydrator for cookies has been helpful! My goal is always to be helping other bakers have wildly successful bakery businesses and hobbies. Using a dehydrator is a must-have in our bakery and for most professional cookiers. I hope this helped you appreciate the benefits of this tool and how this pretty minimal investment will quickly pay for itself!
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