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Shopping Guide for Best Dehydrators

Nobody likes to waste food, but a harvest often produces more than you can eat right away. A good dehydrator provides an easy way to preserve a wide variety of delicious and nutritious food for use throughout the year.

There are hundreds of dehydrators available on the consumer market, so how do you tell which is the right one? With so many options, it can be tough to identify the highest quality dehydrator and select the one best suited for your needs.

That's where we come in! At BestReviews, we want to help you pick the perfect dehydrator for your kitchen. We're dedicated to providing you with the most useful, honest and unbiased reviews.

We don't accept products directly from manufacturers; we use our own funds to purchase the same “off-the-shelf” products that you do. And, when we've finished our testing and consumer reviews, we donate all these products to charities and other non-profit organizations.

At the top of this page, you'll find our five favorite dehydrators on the market. If you want to learn more about dehydrators before making your choice, read on for the full shopping guide below.

Why Buy a Dehydrator?

If you're still on the fence about whether or not to buy a dehydrator, here are some reasons why we think they're useful kitchen appliances.

  • Dehydrating food is an excellent way to preserve produce that would otherwise spoil before you get around to using it.

  • You can make your own snacks — such as dried fruit — for much less money than they'd cost you at the grocery store.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Presto Dehydro Electric

Capacity

The Presto dehydrator comes standard with four trays. Assuming a 14-inch usable diameter on each tray, you get roughly 4.25 square feet of drying space. However, the motor has been designed to accommodate up to eight trays, so if you want to invest in the extra, that gives you the potential for up to 8.5 square feet in total.

  • Dehydrating is perfect for people who want to start eating more raw foods.

  • Foods made in a dehydrator tend to be on the healthy side, so these appliances can help improve your diet.

  • They can create lightweight foods perfect for camping or hiking — and you can even rehydrate foods dried in a dehydrator.

Trying to follow a raw diet? Don't set your dehydrator over 104°F — that’s the temperature limit for raw food.

Staff
BestReviews

Considerations for Selecting a Dehydrator

Considerations

Types of Dehydrators

You'll find two main types of dehydrator on the market: stacked and box (or "rigid frame") models.

Stacked

Stacked dehydrators are composed of a number of stackable trays or racks, with open sides. The fan and heating elements are either at the top and the bottom. Due to the fan placement and the open sides, the temperature isn't always consistent and can be harder to control. However, these units are often more affordable than box models and take up less space.

EXPERT TIP

To have everything in a stacked dehydrator ready at the same time, you'll need to rotate the trays throughout the dehydrating process.


Staff  | BestReviews

Box

Box dehydrators have a rigid frame with back and sides (and sometimes a door on the front) into which you slide the trays. Since you can choose the tray placement, you can adjust the space between trays, making it more versatile — you're able to dehydrate taller pieces of food.

Some people even use their box dehydrators to proof dough.

Box dehydrators tend to have fans and heating elements at the back of the unit, which maintains a more consistent temperature and helps dehydrate food on all trays more evenly.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Excalibur Food Dehydrator

Performance

In addition to the temperature control, you also get an excellent 26-hour timer with the Excalibur. Once you become accustomed to how this dehydrator works, it is very much a "set-it-and-forget-it" appliance. Another invaluable feature: the trays are racked rather than stacked. What this means is that you have no height restriction with your food. If you need more vertical space, simply remove a tray or two. Some owners even use the Excalibur to raise bread dough.

Considerations

Size & Tray Capacity

Dehydrators come in a number of shapes and sizes.

Given the fact that you must find somewhere to put it while in use — and somewhere to store it — these specs may impact your decision.

Stackable (or racked) dehydrators save you the most space, of course, but it's worth examining the size and tray capacities of all contenders.

Many dehydrators come with a number of trays, but have space for more if you need to increase their capacity. You’ll need to buy these extra trays separately, so factor that into the cost.
Considerations

Drying Method

Household food dehydrators use either convection systems or fans, but no two are the same. (Factors such as where the fan is mounted can have a considerable effect on drying efficiency.)

There's no right or wrong choice when it comes to drying method, but some units are faster and more effective than others.

As a rule, those that have rear-mounted fans and heaters dehydrate food more effectively than those with fans and heaters on the top or bottom.

EXPERT TIP

Dehydrators with fans and heaters mounted on the top or bottom dehydrate food unevenly. Food on trays closest to the drying element will be ready sooner than those further away.


Francois  | Kitchen Expert
Considerations

Temperature

Any dehydrators can be set at a range of temperatures, as all drying jobs have slightly different heat requirements, but the minimum and maximum temperature varies between models.

Therefore, if you're purchasing a dehydrator with a particular job in mind, make sure its temperature range fits your requirements.

Some higher-end models also have variable temperature cycles to encourage thorough drying. This means you can just "set and forget" rather than having to manually change the temperature at various points throughout the drying process.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Nesco Snackmaster Pro

Ease of use

Nesco claims to have solved the uneven drying problem that is inherent with base-mounted fans. The company does this by putting their heating unit in the lid of the Snackmaster. They call it the "Converga-Flow" system. While the clever airflow design undoubtedly helps drying and should prevent flavor mixing, we have trouble seeing how this is an advantage over putting the fan at the bottom. Nesco says there's no need for re-stacking, and it's true that there's no danger of liquids getting on the heating element.

Considerations

Timers

Not all dehydrators have timers, but it's an extremely useful feature.

Drying cycles often take eight to twelve hours to complete, and are sometimes even longer. Unless you plan extremely carefully, there's no guarantee you'll be at home — or awake — when the cycle is complete.

Look for a dehydrator with a simple and straightforward timer; it will make your life much easier.

Staff
BestReviews

Tips

Improve your dehydrating game with the following tips.

  • Don't dehydrate sweet and savory foods at the same time. Air circulates around the unit while drying, so it's possible for flavor to mix, especially when dehydrating pungent foods.

  • Make sure you cut foods into even chunks or slices so they'll all be ready at the same time — larger pieces take longer to dry.

  • Don't let food overlap on the trays or the pieces won't dry evenly.

  • Never dry moldy fruit. Because of the low temperatures involved in drying food, the dehydration process won't kill any of the mold spores.

  • You can buy special trays for making fruit leathers in a dehydrator, though with some models you can simply line a regular tray with wax paper.

  • Dehydrated fruits and vegetables that are no longer safe to eat will have visible mold on the surface. If there's no mold, it's still good.

  • If you want to make jerky in your dehydrator, make sure it can reach temperatures of at least 160°F.

DID YOU KNOW?

Box dehydrators tend to give the most consistent results, but they also take up more counter space.

Price

Dehydrators can be found at a range of prices to suit all budgets. Ultimately, you tend to get what you pay for, with the most inexpensive models being less effective.

Price

Basic Dehydrators

You can find basic stacked dehydrators for as little as $30 to $60. In this price range, it's a mixed bag. You can find a handful of decent models, but they won't rival high-end units.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Excalibur Food Dehydrator

Power

You might expect a top-of-the-range model like the Excalibur food dehydrator to have a fancy name for its rear-mounted, fan-driven system. Sure enough, the manufacturer combines "Parallex Horizontal Airflow" with "Hyperwave Fluctuation Technology." This clever and effective method draws in cool air, heats it, and blows it across the food before allowing it to escape. As such, none of the moist air is ever trapped inside the appliance. The result is more thoroughly dried produce in a shorter period of time.

Price

Mid-range Dehydrators

Mid-range dehydrators cost between $70 and $100. At the higher end of this price range, you can start to find box dehydrators, which tend to be more effective.

Price

High-end Dehydrators

High-end box dehydrators cost between $100 and $300. You can find excellent models closer to the $100 mark, but if you plan to dehydrate food often and you have the budget, it's worth spending more on one of the very best units.

You can dehydrate frozen food, as well as fresh, but the process will take slightly longer.

FAQ

Q. How should I store dehydrated food?

A. If you don't store dehydrated food properly, if can absorb moisture from the air and ultimately rehydrate itself. Keep it in an airtight container, ideally with a food-grade moisture absorber pack in there, too.

Q. How long do dried fruits and vegetables last?

A. If stored properly, fruits and veggies dried in your dehydrator should last for at least a year.

Q. What temperature should I dehydrate food at and for how long?

A. This varies depending on what you're dehydrating and how large the chunks are. While you're getting used to drying food, we recommend closely following recipes to get the right temperature setting and time.

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4 Snacks to Make in Your Dehydrator

Jerky is a go-to snack for anyone who likes to dehydrate. You can marinate different kinds of meat in all sorts of sauces – no batch will be the same as the last!
Dehydrate thin slices of apple to make a healthy alternative to potato chips.
Or you could dehydrate vegetable chips for something more salty and less sweet.
Throw out the over-processed fruit rolls ups of your childhood and make your own in a dehydrator.
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