Home-style dehydrators commonly used by consumers have limited relative humidity (RH) and temperature control. To evaluate the effect of dehydrator load on temperature and RH and subsequent reduction of Salmonella on whole-muscle chicken, chicken breasts were rolled and cut into samples (1 to 2 mm thick, 6 by 6 cm(2)) and inoculated with a five-strain Salmonella cocktail. The samples were allowed to air dry for 15 min and then were loaded into home-style three-tray (3T) or five-tray (5T) dehydrators, with 12 chicken pieces per tray. No difference (P > 0.05) was observed in RH or temperature between the 3T and 5T dehydrators. Peak RH was 38% and gradually deceased to 8.5% after 6 h of drying. Temperatures peaked at 57 °C after 6 h of drying. Dehydrator load had no effect (P > 0.05) on lethality for Salmonella. A reduction of 3.3 ± 0.2 log CFU/cm(2) was observed after 6 h of drying. However, sample location affected Salmonella reduction (P < 0.05). Samples from the bottom tray had a 1.5-log reduction, whereas samples from the top and middle trays had 4.1- and 3.9-log reductions, respectively. The water activity of samples after 6 h of drying was 0.71 ± 0.17 regardless of tray location or dehydrator type. When chicken was dried in home-style dehydrators, increasing the dehydrator load did not increase RH or achieve greater Salmonella lethality. Tray location had a significant impact on Salmonella lethality. Adequate reduction of Salmonella on chicken was not achieved when chamber temperatures were below 57 °C with limited RH throughout drying.
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