Ever thought about buying a food dehydrator? If you like beef jerky, fruit leather, oil-less potato chips, or dried herbs, this might be a great small kitchen appliance for you. The food dehydrator is a relatively new kitchen device that pulls the moisture out of foods like fruits, meat, and herbs. This preserves them and makes their flavor more intense.
Let’s find out about the most popular food dehydrators on the market today:
Brod & Taylor Sahara Dehydrator DR-710S: Best for small spaces
The Brod & Taylor Sahara Dehydrator does something very unique – it folds away when you’re not using it. Yes, fully opened it offers more than 11 square feet of area on which you can dry your favorite foods, but when you are done, you can fold it into one-third of its size! Then store it away until next time. Believe it or not, when folded up, it can fit in a drawer.
This dehydrator is a bit on the pricey side, but it is well worth the investment. It is made of high quality, thick, high temperature-resistant plastic, stainless steel removable shelves, and has sturdy glass doors. It includes silicone mat accessories so you can make fruit leathers. The power cord is easily stored internally, and the entire device can be put away in the nylon zippered shelf case that is included.
The Sahara dehydrator has two digitally controlled 700 watt heaters, and quiet and high efficiency circulating airflow, made possible with its radial fan that balances fresh and recirculated air. This improves the food drying process as well as energy efficiency.
It has automated, easy to read, dual time and temperature controls. These allow you to run the device at a higher temperature initially, and then automatically switch to a lower temperature, which helps maintain taste and nutrients. You can set each time up for a maximum of 99 hours and the device can run automatically and continually for up to 198 hours.
It has a washable, reusable air filter to remove smells and flavors so they do not permeate your food. The filter also makes sure dirt and other contaminants are not drawn into your dehydrator.
One drawback is there is no humidity control in this device. Also, the knobs are tiny and hard to grip.
- 11 square feet of drying space
- Folds up when not in use, small enough to fit in a drawer
- High quality, sturdy components
- Two digitally controlled heaters with high efficiency circulating airflow
- Automated dual time and temperature controls
- Washable, reusable air filter
- No humidity control
- Knobs are small and awkward to grip
Cosori Premium Food Dehydrator CP267-FD: Best overall
The Cosori Premium Food Dehydrator is incredibly popular among food dehydration enthusiasts. It is attractive, easy to use, lightweight, and takes on a lot of fruit or whatever food you are dehydrating. It effectively circulates hot air to remove moisture. It is made of high quality construction, with a glass door so you can view your food as it is dehydrating.
It comes with six food-grade, dishwasher-safe stainless steel trays with BPA-free tray liners. It also includes a mesh screen and a fruit roll sheet.
This device has a digital panel with four buttons that let you control the dehydrating process, including a memory function and a customizable timer that you can set in 30 minute increments up to 48 hours. The device shuts off when the timer ends.
The temperature settings are very accurate, and can be adjusted in one degree increments. The temperature ranges from 95 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The fan and heating elements are located on the back of the dehydrator, which ensures all trays in your device are heated evenly and consistently. And it has overheat protection.
This device is very quiet and emits less than 48 decibels of noise, which is the same level of noise you would experience at a library. Simply set your device to start and then you can go to sleep.
The Cosori is very easy to clean and store, and it does not hold onto strong smells after cleaning. The exterior can be wiped down easily with a damp cloth. The six trays and tray liners can be removed and popped into the dishwasher. The manufacturer suggests that you remove the liners before the dry cycle begins.
- Attractive and lightweight
- High quality construction
- Glass door so you can view your food
- Customizable timer
- Very accurate temperature settings
- Super quiet
- None that we know of
Excalibur Food Dehydrator 3926TB: Best upgrade dehydrator
The Excalibur Food Dehydrator is roomy and powerful. It is a definite upgrade from other models, and it is beloved by food dehydrator enthusiasts. If you want to dry large amounts of food frequently, this is the device for you. It is expensive but worth it – the ‘Cadillac’ of dehydrators. Consistent and long lasting, users consider this dehydrator to be efficient, with good air flow.
This sleek and elegant dehydrator fits onto a kitchen counter and is available in white, black, or black with a glass door. It is easy to use, and is great for a large family. You can use it to dehydrate all sorts of food items, including meat jerky, fruits, vegetables, fruit roll ups, all natural pet treats, and you can even make bread or homemade yogurt with it.
It boasts 15 square feet of drying space with nine drawer-style, BPA-free trays. The trays are square and made of a tighter mesh than many other dehydrators. This means you do not have to add parchment or special liners, which can reduce airflow. The trays are also very easy to clean.
The heating element and seven-inch fan, both located in the back of the dehydrator, distribute air evenly over the trays without needing you to rotate them manually. Having the heat element in the rear is great because drips and crumbs will not fall into it (which can stress the motor); also, it allows you to check on your food items while they are drying.
The Excalibur has a convenient 26-hour timer. Just set the timer and go to sleep. It shuts off automatically when the timer is done. This dehydrator also has an adjustable thermostat, with temperatures ranging from 105 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature range is low enough to preserve enzymes from your fruit and vegetables, and high enough to kill bacteria while you are drying your meat jerky.
This device has a quiet motor, and thus it is not distracting in your kitchen.
One drawback is its motor is only 600 watts, which is low compared to other models. Sometimes lower powered motors can cause the drying process to take longer. Also, unlike some other dehydrators, this one does not come with any fruit trays. You will need to purchase your own, perhaps from other brands.
- Powerful yet quiet motor
- Large capacity: 15 square feet of drying space
- Nine trays which have tighter mesh than many other models
- Heating element and fan located in back of device which is better for the motor
- Temperature range low enough to preserve enzymes yet high enough to kill bacteria
- 26-hour timer
- Lower wattage compared to other models, which could draw out the drying process
- Does not come with fruit trays
Nesco Snackmaster Pro Dehydrator FD-75A: Best for budget
The Nesco Snackmaster Pro Dehydrator is a good choice if you are new to food dehydrators. It is a quality product and user friendly yet affordable. It is praised over and over again by Amazon users – including backpackers/campers, pet owners who use it to make dried dog treats, and many others. Use it make jerky, banana chips, dried fruits, even stews and chili; the list is endless.
It has an adjustable thermostat that quickly dries meat, vegetables, and fruit. The temperature control is simple to use and ranges from 95 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. You can set the device below 100 degrees if you want to dehydrate foods like hummus without cooking and changing the taste. Use the temperatures above 150 degrees if you want to kill bacteria in your dried meats.
It is made of high quality food grade plastic. It also features an exterior that is light-blocking, to help maintain the nutrients in your food.
It comes with five BPA-free trays (each of which can hold 0.8 square feet of product) and can accommodate seven additional trays. It also includes two Clean-a-Screen mesh screens for drying small items, and two fruit roll up sheets, which is more than with many other dehydrators. These extra accessories add variety to the types of foods you can cook and dry with your device. It even includes a sample of jerky seasoning to get you started.
At 600 watts of power, it has slightly less drying power than some other brands. However, it has the patented Converga-Flow drying system which forces hot air down a chamber on the exterior and then horizontally across each individual tray. It allows for fast, even drying with no flavor mixing and you do not need to rotate the trays.
It is quiet and cleans up easily. Simply wash your trays and base on the top rack of your dishwasher and remove them before the drying cycle.
One challenge with many similarly priced dehydrators is the fan is often at the bottom, and crumbs or liquid can fall into the fan motor, causing it to fail. This is not an issue with the Snackmaster, which has its fan at the top. At the bottom, you will find a removable drip tray which is easy to clean.
One drawback is, like all dehydrators with stacking trays, it is difficult to see what is on the individual trays and judge how your drying process is going. This can be annoying if you dehydrate foods often. Also, there is no digital timer. Another concern flagged by some users is the trays can be flimsy.
- Affordable and highly popular
- Adjustable thermostat with temperature range 95 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit
- Light blocking exterior to help maintain nutrients in your food
- Five trays and can accommodate seven more
- Two mesh screens for drying smaller items
- Patented drying system allows for fast, even drying with no flavor mixing
- Difficult to see what is on the trays while dehydrating
- Trays can be flimsy
- No digital timer
What to look for in a food dehydrator
Now that you have seen some of the most highly sought after food dehydrators on the market, are you more interested in purchasing one for yourself?
The common goal of food dehydrators is to remove the water efficiently without affecting the nutritional content of your food, especially if you are drying fruits. To do this, your dehydrator should flow the air evenly around your food and maintain a constant temperature. Another goal of dehydrators, in the case of meats, is to dry the food at a temperature high enough to kill any bacteria.
Here are a few other features to look out for.
Dried foods can be expensive, and if you eat them often, a dehydrator can help you save money, in comparison to buying these foods in the store. A dehydrator can extend the life of your fruits and vegetables, which also saves you money since they won’t go bad. Before purchasing a dehydrator, evaluate your budget. Some of these devices are quite affordable but they won’t necessarily offer the same features as the expensive versions.
Find out the size of the dehydrator and how many square feet of food it can hold at one time. If the device has trays, this can increase how much food you can dehydrate. There are two types of trays: stacking trays and shelves. With stacking trays, the heated air flows across all trays so you don’t need to rotate them. They are also usually removable, if you need added space. Shelves, on the other hand, slide in and out and the air flow acts differently, which results in more even drying, and again, you do not need to rotate the trays. However, shelves can limit capacity.
The better dehydrators provide even airflow across the trays and they include a fan. Different dehydrators have different power levels and fan elements. Some have dual fans. Note however that some dehydrators with extra fans can be loud.
Your thermostat should be adjustable, because you will need to set, maintain, and change the temperature from time to time, depending on what you are drying. The average temperature range for most dehydrators is 95 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit but this can vary.
By reviewing the capacity, airflow system, and thermostat of the dehydrators you are looking at, and taking into consideration your budget, as well as reading reviews of the various brands, you are sure to find the perfect device that suits your needs.