Make snacking on your favorite fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. fun and cost-effective. With the purchase of the best food dehydrator, preparing and preserving fresh foods for storage or snacking right away becomes easy and fun. With this appliance, your imagination would be your limitation. Do you want to make beef jerky, fruit leather, or oilless potato chips? Yes, you can, with a food dehydrator. Out of extensive research, our editors have reviewed and selected the best food dehydrators trending now and provided options where to buy them.
If you are in a hurry, these are our editors’ top picks:
Best Overall and best large capacity: Excalibur 3926TB Electric food dehydrator at Amazon.
Best for Jerky: NutriChef PKFD12 Professional Electric food preserver at Amazon.
Runner-up, best overall: NESCO FD-75A, Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator at Amazon.
Best Budget-friendly: Presto Dehydro digital electric Food Dehydrator at Amazon
Best With Simple Design: Hamilton Beach 32100A Digital Food Dehydrator at Amazon
Most Quit (Our Editor Choice): COSORI Premium Food dehydrator at Amazon.
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WHAT IS A FOOD DEHYDRATOR?
You and I love to “eat-fresh” because it allows us to benefit from all the nutrients, including vitamins and minerals present in fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, meat, herbs, etc. Unfortunately, it is a pity that these fresh, delicious, and healthy foods get spoilt quickly. Fortunately, there is a lifesaver countertop appliance, called a food dehydrator, which will help you to preserve your surplus delicious and healthy foods “as good as fresh”. A food dehydrator is a small kitchen appliance that is used to remove moisture from food, thereby preserving it via drying.
BENEFITS OF OWNING A FOOD DEHYDRATOR (What are the advantages/uses)
If you have a food dehydrator in your kitchen, drying/dehydration becomes a fun, cost-effective, and easy way to prepare fresh foods for storage or for snacking right away. Once the water is removed, the food won’t get spoilt as quickly as it usually would, and is also impervious to many kinds of bacteria that would otherwise grow inside it.
The foods prepared retain almost the same amount of vitamins and minerals like those found in fresh produce and intensify the flavour, giving your food lightyears more flavour than the stuff you’d buy in jars. Secondly, the foods (such as fruits) prepared in a food dehydrator tend to have fewer calories than salty snacks. Therefore, with a food dehydrator, you will be able to make healthy snacks from a variety of foods. This kitchen appliance is also excellent when you want to experiment with new recipes, such as with seasoning salts, innovative, fresh popcorn toppings, pickle powder, etc. Plus, it will allow you to minimize food wastage in your kitchen.
OUR EDITORS’ REVIEWS OF THE TOP 6 DEHYDRATOR PICKS.
Top 6 Picks: Review of the 6 best food dehydrators
#1. Excalibur 3926TB Electric Food dehydrator. 9-Tray (Best overall and best large capacity)
Excalibur 3926TB food dehydrator is the best you will get in the market. It is our #1 favourite pick, and we hope it will be yours too. By purchasing this food dehydrator made in the USA, you get your self a RELIABLE, superior quality, modern, efficient, yet easy to use appliance which comes with a 10-year warranty.
Featuring 9 easy to insert trays, which can be individually removed for easy handling, the dehydrator offers a large dehydrating capacity and space (15 sq. ft. of drying surface). This ample space makes Excalibur the best choice for those wanting to dry large batches of food, to meet the demands of large gardens, businesses, and busy individuals.
Besides, the dehydrator features 7″ fan and 600 watts of power, which offers excellent air circulation across all the nine trays, enabling the machine to achieve fast and efficient removal of moisture from the food you are drying.
The model offers easy to use controls, a programmable timer, and adjustable thermostat. It features two dials on the top of the unit, one for the temperature thermostat, with setting recommendations printed right on the unit. The timer can be programmed up to 26 hours. This makes it possible for you to leave your food drying while you do other stuff. Want to leave your snacks dehydrating while you sleep or perform other tasks? This is possible with The Excalibur 3926T food dehydrator.
The dehydrator comes with a well-illustrated and detailed user manual, and a bonus recipe book, both of which which are very informative and helpful.
Summary of this Excalibur 3926TB model:
- Programmable Timer: Yes, 2 to 26 hours (dial)
- Temperature Range: 95 °F to 165 °F (dial)
- Number of Trays: 9
- Dishwasher Safe Accessories: Yes, top rack
OTHER HIGHEST RATED AND TRENDING FOOD DEHYDRATORS TODAY
#2: NESCO FD-75A, Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator (Runner-up, best overall)
Want to make delicious meat jerky, fruit chips, or dried herbs at a fraction of the cost of those bought from the store? The NESCO FD-75A, Snackmaster Pro equips you with this ability and also gives you a 52-page recipe book and a jerky seasoning & cure sample.
On Amazon, this dehydrator machine is highly rated, and one of the best selling models. With this food preserver machine, you are assured of maximum dehydrating speed and quality for your favourite preserved foods. Primarily made in the USA (Two Rivers, Wisconsin), the dehydrator features superior (patented) technology which will enable you to dry your vegetables, fruits, jerky, herbs, spices, and potpourri in hours instead of days.
Despite the faster drying you can achieve with this machine, your dehydrated food retains more of its nutrients and vitamins as those found on fresh produce. This is because the dehydrator has a Vita-Save exterior which helps block harmful lights that may destroy the vitamins and minerals.
You can even dry several different foods at the same time and not worry about the taste or flavours mixing. Instead, it may intensify the flavour, giving your food lightyears more flavour than the stuff you’d buy in jars at the store.
Large drying capacity:
NESCO FD-75A, Snackmaster Pro food dehydrator includes 5 trays of 13 1/2″ diameter each. But if you wanted to dry larger quantities at once, the unit can be expanded to 12 trays, with no tray rotation needed.
Regardless of the number of trays you chose to use, the unit is quiet, powerful Converga-Flow® fan system forces uniform air circulation across each tray to ensure even drying from top to bottom.
Drying Flexibility: In addition to the powerful fan, the unit has adjustable temperature control (95°F -160°F) which gives you unparalleled flexibility to dry different foods that need varying temperature settings and achieve the perfect results all the time.
Easy to clean: When loaded on the top shelf of a dishwasher, you will easily clean the trays of this dehydrator. Ensure to set to a gentle cycle with no heat for drying.
Alternatively, you can also wash the trays in warm soapy water and clean the top housing unit by wiping with a damp cloth.
The machine also comes with an easy to understand instruction manual, which walks you through all the steps to use and troubleshoot your food dehydrator.
Pros of NESCO FD-75A, Snackmaster Pro food preserver
- Adjustable temperature control (95°F -160°F) to dry all your favourite food types.
- Very quiet and powerful fan.
- It has a large capacity for dehydrating large quantities of foods.
- Even and perfect drying from top to bottom.
- Includes a 52-page recipe book, a jerky seasoning & cure sample, two fruit roll sheets, and two clean-a-screens.
- No timer:
#3: Presto 3601 Dehydro digital (Best Budget-friendly)
Say hello to healthy, nutritious snacks made at home. Thanks to this affordable presto digital electric food dehydrator, your garden, herbs, and spices no longer have to go to waste anymore. What makes this one of the best food dehydrators trending now is that it is a great, affordable, and easy-to-use unit. It will help you to make crispy snacks and homemade jerky from meat, poultry, and seafood at home while saving money and time. Just at a fraction of the cost of commercially dehydrated foods.
With the Presto 3601 Dehydro digital electric food dehydrator, you get 6 trays, which offer enough drying capacity for most “at home” food dehydrating needs. For large families, gardens, athletes, etc., who may require added drying capacity, the trays are expandable up to 12.
Regardless of the number of trays you chose to use, the unit will still deliver consistent air-flow throughout the trays for uniform, even and optimum drying without any need for tray rotation.
Even if you are dehydrating different foods at the same time, there will be no mixed flavours.
Thanks to the digital thermostat and timer, you can set your precise drying temperature for your favourite food, set the timer, and do other stuff. The dehydrator will hold that temperature through the selected drying time and to prevent overheating, it shuts off automatically when done. The timer sets up to 48 hours, and you can choose precise drying temperatures from 90° to 165°F.
What You Will Like.
- It is Affordable.
- It gives even uniform and optimum drying without the need for tray rotation.
- The unit enables easy monitoring thanks to a clear cover.
- Digital thermostat and timer for precise temperature control and selection.
- Easy to operate. There are no extra settings to figure out.
- Trays are stackable (nest when not in use) to save storage space by 35%.
- The trays are dishwasher safe.
- The dehydrator retains most nutrients and vitamins you need in your foods.
What you May Not Like
- You may need extra space on your kitchen counter or storage cupboard as this unit is more prominent.
#4. Hamilton Beach 32100A (Best with simple design)
Take your food preparation to the next level by using Hamilton Beach 32100A digital food dehydrator to capture and let the natural sweetness and the vibrant fragrance and flavours of your fruit and vegetable snacks shine through. Most people will say that if everything in the world of kitchen appliances fails, stick to Kitchenaid or Hamilton Beach. That is true with this food dehydrator. It opens for you the door to endless food preserving possibilities deemed too difficult to do in the past. Make fruit rolls, crunchy vegetable snacks, dry spices, and herbs, and make jerky. Limitless possibilities.
The simple design and powerful fan (500 watts of power) of the Hamilton Beach® Food Dehydrator provide continuous air-flow that ensures even drying of all your foods while eliminating the need to rotate trays. When stored properly in an airtight container, dried fruits will keep up to a year. At the same time, vegetables will last six months and beef jerky up to two months at room temperature. As one of the best food dehydrator, Hamilton Beach 32100A includes five stackable drying trays, and air circulates evenly from top-down through the shelves.
The unit also features an adjustable thermometer and a timer for better temperature and dehydration control. You just place your food on the trays, adjust your preferred drying temperature and drying time, go catch up with the world. When the drying completes, the timer goes off automatically.
There is also a clear lid if you would like to monitor the drying process of your food.
What we liked:
- Simple aesthetic design, with excellent shape and beautiful looks.
- Very easy to use; Offers hands-off dehydrating because of adjustable temperature and timer.
- It can precisely set and control temperature and drying time.
- Transparent lid for easy monitoring.
- Even uniform and optimum drying without the need for tray rotation.
- 5 Space-saving stackable trays.
- Comes with a good, easy to read user manual and some yummy jerky recipes.
- Dried fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and meat jerky will last longer.
- Retains most nutrients and captures the fruits’, spices’, and herbs’ natural flavours.
What we didn’t like:
- Can get quite noisy because of the powerful fan,
#5: COSORI Premium Food dehydrator
Cosori has this, very quit, affordable, reliable, very nice looking and high-quality food dehydrator model whose housing and stackable trays are made purely of food-grade stainless steel. It offers handy features for the seasoned person and newbies alike. We recommend that you should get this dehydrator because it will not disappoint you. This dehydrator gives you unlimited snacking potential to make homemade or commercial snacks, jerkies, granola, fruit leathers, bread crumbs, and for preserving herbs, flowers, and much more.
The machine’s ease of use is one of its strong points. With an automatic digital touch control for an adjustable thermostat and a timer, you can precisely set the temperature between 95°F-165°F, set the time, and forget about it until it’s done. The timer can be set in increments of 30-minute for up to 48 hours.
If you are conscious about safety, this unit has an auto-shutoff feature that kicks in right when the timer ends.
If the dehydrator overheats, there is an Overheat protection safety feature that automatically activates to protect you, your dehydrator, your snacks, and the house.
With 6 stackable food-grade stainless steel trays, the dehydrator capacity can cater for large as well as small drying needs. It has a powerful motor (600W), and the fan ensures even distribution of heat for drying your foods to deliver excellent results consistently.
The machine and its accessories are all easy to clean. The trays are dishwasher-safe, and the food dehydrator’s housing unit can be easily cleaned from the base to the top with a damp cloth or a brush/sponge.
The machine is quiet during operation. When in use, the noise is less than 48dB, which will not disturb those sleeping, reading, listening, or watching their favourite show.
What you will like:
- Reliable and sufficient drying capacity.
- Easy to operate for both newbies and pros alike, thanks to a LED display touch-Control panel.
- Very quiet during operation.
- Precise temperature control thanks to Adjustable thermostat (95°-165°F)
- Timer (30 min-48 hr)
- Easy to clean and trays are dishwasher Safe
- Automatic Shutoff, Overheat protection.
- Memory Function
- Included Mesh Screen & Fruit Roll Sheet.
- Free Recipe Book with 50 Original Recipes. Download Recipe book
- Comes with a well
- 2-year warranty.
What you may not like
- This dehydrator is not compatible with European plugs and voltage. It is made for a power source of 120V, yet most European countries have a different power requirement. So if you are in a European country, take note of your power source before you splash your money on this product.
#6:NutriChef PKFD12 Professional Multi-Tier Electric Food Dehydrator, food preserver. (Best for Jerky)
The NutriChef PKFD12 countertop food dehydrator has been scientifically tested to increase the food’s shelf life. This particular dehydrator is preferably suitable for someone who makes jerky a lot because this unit can reach up to 180ºF very fast. It can also sustain these high temperatures required to kill germs in the meat in addition to dehydrating it.
This is not to say that it can not dehydrate other foods. It can deal with different kinds of foods without a problem. You can use it to dry meat, fish, poultry, fruits, herbs, spices, make kale or potato chips, etc. The only complaint is that it runs quite fast to reach higher temperatures, which, though are good for jerky and fish, vegetables and fruits contain fragile compounds which could be degraded and destroyed by too much heat.
The machine also offers ease of access and operation, with just one operational button. Simply choose to dehydrate with just a click.
It comes with 5 multi-tiered trays, which, though are fewer than the number of trays offered by other dehydrator brands recommended above, still provides plenty of room for drying your foods at home. The trays are stackable and can be adjusted in height, for storage or to change the total volume the hot air has to fill. The trays can also be used to dry food without the use of the dehydrator, which is a huge plus.
Also, the machine has an enhanced air-flow system which ensures excellent heat circulation throughout each tray, effectively dehydrating all the foods on the trays for prolonged food shelf-life & preservation.
Ease of cleaning is another advantage of this unit. The machines its self is easy to clean, and the trays are removable and are easy to clean.
What we liked (Pros)
- Ideal/perfect and easy to make jerky with
- Reasonably priced for affordability.
- Good for beginners
What you may not like (cons)
- Operates at fixed, high temperatures, which may not dry fruit and vegetables thoroughly. If you are used to drying veggies and fruits and appreciate the best flavor expertly, this unit may not be right for you.
HOW DOES FOOD DEHYDRATOR WORK?
It consists of a heating element, an electric fan, air vents, and food trays. The fan will draw in air from the surrounding. This air gets heated by the heating element at a constant temperature and is then simultaneously direct by the fan and vents over the food placed on the trays. This continuous flow of hot air over the food causes surface water evaporation. Also, it warms the food causing it to release moisture the interior until the overall amount of water in the fruits, veggies, herbs, meats, and other foods is significantly reduced to like below 20%. It is essential to maintain a constant temperature and an adequate air-flow for optimum drying. Most foods like fruits, vegetables, herbs would be dehydrated at 130 °F (54 °C).
MAIN TYPES/CATEGORIES OF FOOD DEHYDRATORS – Verticle flow, horizontal flow
Despite the many brands of food dehydrators on the market, they all fall into two major types/categories. When you are shopping for the best food dehydrator, you will be forced to choose between these two types of food dehydrators because the models in each category work differently and come with advantages and disadvantages over the other. The two main types/categories are:
- Vertical Flow Food Dehydrators (also called stackable food dehydrators).
- Horizontal Flow Food Dehydrators (also known as Box and shelf food dehydrators).
The difference in the two types of dehydrators can be seen based on their orientation and whether the food is stacked vertically, or lined up side by side.
Stacked Dehydrators (Vertical Flow Food Dehydrators)
These types of dehydrators are the most reasonably priced in the market and work well for dehydrating vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices. They can have their heat source at the base or the bottom of the unit. The fan is always located at the base of the appliance, and it circulates the hot air upwards and spreads it to all the trays. The device is made up of a stack of racks placed on top of each other. On each stack is a tray onto which the food to dehydrate is placed and vents on the circumference.
Advantages of stacked food dehydrator types (verticle flow food dehydrators)
- They have a small footprint because they are usually small and compact.
- Because of small and compact size, they also allow for easy storage.
- They usually reasonably priced and hence affordable for those who want to try out dehydrating foods but don’t want to start with a higher-priced unit.
- They are usually expandable with more trays, depending on the volume/ quantity of foods you want to dehydrate. You just buy more trays and expand the unit to dry more food at a go.
The main disadvantage of this design is that the heat doesn’t spread uniformly. This means the food closet to heating element will dry faster. Also, the unit may not hold a consistent high heat through all the stack, which is required to dry beef jerky. But With a little extra effort, jerky can be efficiently dried in this type of dehydrator. You just have to ensure that all of the beef in a tray receives uniform heating by periodically rotating the trays during the dehydrating process.
Horizontal Flow (Box and shelf) Food Dehydrators
Horizontal flow food dehydrators have their heating source located at the back of the unit. Similar to a conventional electric oven, horizontal flow dehydrators have a box design (also called an outer shell). Inside the Box are trays (also called shelves), inserted in a predetermined fashion. Inside the box is also a fan (also usually at the back). The fan which blows and uniformly circulates heated hot air through each tray and across the food being preserved.
Benefits/ pros of horizontal flow Food dehydrators
- Though they are more expensive than the verticle flow dehydrators, they offer a more stress-free use. Offer a uniform hot air circulation across all the trays, which do not necessitate you to rotate the trays periodically. The foods also get evenly dehydrated at the same rate, hence consistent results.
- Their ability to consistently supply hot air at a uniform temperature makes them a perfect choice for dehydrating tougher foods. Foods such as meat, beef jerky, poultry, and fish, while they also dry veggies, fruits, and herbs without a pinch.
- The box design also offers better insulation, avoiding energy leakages and wastages.
- More expensive than the stacked food dehydrators.
- They have a bigger footprint because of their bulky shape.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A BEST FOOD DEHYDRATOR [What makes a good food dehydrator?]
Size and Capacity
The capacity you chose will depend on the space you have in the kitchen as well as how much food you intend to dehydrate. With a large capacity dehydrator, you will save time drying large batches of food than in a smaller device. Meanwhile, a smaller dehydrator will be best for you if you will be drying small batches and have a small kitchen space. Additionally, you will get a more usable dehydrating area if you purchase a machine with a small footprint and a rectangular shape. With some rounded models, they have a hole in the center of each tray, and this decreases the dehydrating area.
2. Drying efficiency and consistency
A good dehydrating machine should be able to “evenly”/ uniformly dry a batch of food. A food dehydrator model with more trays will ensure consistent drying. This is because it gives you more room to spread out your food. This is because trays increase the usable dehydrating area without adding to the footprint. However, uniform drying of your food is achieved if you correctly space out your food and use a uniform and small thickness.
3. Temperature range
To get a more controlled dehydrating, a wider temperature range is required. The dehydrator should have the ability to efficiently work at lower temperatures needed to dry delicate food items like herbs and spices. At the same time, it should maintain higher drying temperatures required to safely make other snacks like the meat jerky. The model should also have small and precise temperature intervals. With most foods, you can dehydrate at 130 °F (54 °C), although some foods like herbs would require temperatures between 95°F to 115°F. For meats jerky, a higher dehydrating of 155 °F (68 °C) may be required.
4. Jerky-Making; Is It up to the task?
Is jerky-making (meat drying into a jerky) high on your priority list? If so, you need to buy a model that will enable you to do just that. Not all food dehydrators are capable of drying it safely. This is partly due to the nature of meat which tends to spoil faster than vegetables and needs a higher temperature to dehydrate.
5. Programmable timer
A programmable time could be handy in avoiding over-drying when you are dehydrating at night or when you are not at home. A good model like our top-rated can be programmed to turn off when done. The timer can be programmed in intervals of one hour or less. However, the basic or some cheap dehydrator models have no programmable timer, they simply turn on when they’re plugged in and off when unplugged.
HOW TO USE A FOOD DEHYDRATOR FOR PRESERVING FOOD
Using a food dehydrator is usually straight forward that even a first time will be dehydrating their food the very first day they unbox their units. However, perfection takes a few days as some brands may need to get used to in terms of determining the correct settings for dehydrating various food types. Regardless, the procedure of using how to use a food dehydrator remains almost the same, and some units will come with recipes for dehydrating certain foods.
Below are the steps on how to use a dehydrator to preserve your garden produce
Ready the food (raw materials): Wash then, sort them, and slice or dice those that need doing so (e.g. the bananas). Slicing into small thickness on a cutting board quickens and shorten the drying time, yielding perfect results.
Arrange the food on the dehydrator’s drying trays. Ensure to properly space out the food on the tray. This avoids overlapping so that air can evenly circulate through the food.
Set the temperature: This will depend on the food you want to dry. Most brands will come with a manual and recipe book. From there, you may be able to get the correct drying temperatures for specific foods. As a guide, at 130 °F (54 °C) most fruits and veggies will dehydrate adequately. Herbs require lower temperatures between 95°F to 115°F, while to dehydrate the infamous meat/beef jerky, a higher drying temperature of 155 °F (68 °C) and above may be required.
Set the timer and start the drying process: Not all dehydrator brands/models have a timer. For those that have, you can set the timer and leave the machine to run. It then turns off when the timer runs out. No need to babysit the process. For those models without a timer, you should regularly check the progress of the drying process. Check whether the machine is working correctly. Also, don’t forget to rotate the trays when you are at it. As a guide, fruits and vegetables will take between 2-19 hours for drying. Beef jerky (depending on thickness) would take between 4-7 hours to dehydrate at 165 °F.
Cool, package, and Store: When the dehydrating is finished, and you are satisfied that your food is entirely dehydrated, cool it and store it in an airtight container. Then, store the container in a dark and dry place.
CONCLUSION ON OUR TOP FOOD DEHYDRATOR PICKS
Dehydrating foods is not a luxury for us. It is a hobby and a necessity for us, borne out of the desire to live a healthier life. Also to reduce the wastage of our garden produce. To sustain this desire, we seek out for the best dehydrator that will deliver consistent results. One that is reliable, durable, and at the same time affordable or cost-effective. In our top picks, we have tried to look out for the models that could meet the different needs. Whether you are just starting with food dehydration or a seasoned veteran, from our picks, you will find one that fits your needs. From Excalibur 3926TB, the Best Overall and best large capacity electric food dehydrator at Amazon, to our most budget-friendly pick – the Presto 3601 Dehydro digital electric food dehydrator at Amazon.