It can be difficult to find fresh, wholesome food year-round. That’s why it’s a smart move to learn how to dehydrate fresh foods in season for use throughout the year.
Dehydrated foods are nearly as nutritious as fresh foods, and being able to preserve and store your favorite fruits, herbs, meats and vegetables easily is a great way to save money and improve your diet.
If we had to choose just one dehydrator it would be the Nesco Snackmaster Express because of it’s ease of use and that it is made in the USA. If foreign made products are a concern, this may be right up your alley!
In this guide, we will look at various food dehydrator models to help you choose the best food dehydrator for your needs.
What To Look For
Like any kitchen appliance, there are certain features of food dehydrators that you will want to pay attention to before making a purchase. Here are five things we think are important.
Food – What types of food do you plan on dehydrating? Do you plan on doing a bit of everything from meat to fruits or are you just looking for the best dehydrator for jerky such as beef, pork, or deer?
Size & Space – Of course, the size of the dehydrator will need to be taken into account to fit in your kitchen, but also the size of the trays and space between them for drying should be considered. If you plan on dehydrating meats often, you might consider a dehydrator that has a lot of space to allow for more uniform drying.
Heat & Drying – Some dehydrators have stronger heating elements and fans, which will affect drying times and drying ability. Some units have automatic fan and temperature controls, while others do not.
Plastic & Metal – There is a growing concern about using plastics around food products. It’s true, not all plastics are alike. BFA and BPA are two additives you should avoid. You should also make sure that your unit is FDA certified using a food grade plastic. While metal dehydrators will last longer, it will reflect in the price of the unit.
SEE ALSO: Is Silicone Safe?
Price – Of course, the price is important depending on your usage. If you’ve never dehydrated before, a cheaper option might the best route in case you decide that food dehydrating is not for you.
Top 10: Best Food Dehydrators For Home
1. Excalibur 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator
If you have a large family or want to dehydrate large amounts of food, the Excalibur Deluxe may be able to tackle your needs effortlessly.
This square style dehydrator can be used for dehydrating both fruit and meat.
The unit contains nine trays which equals to 15 square feet of dehydrating surface space. This allows for enough space to spread out thinner foods such as meat for jerky or fruit leather.
SEE ALSO: Best Meat Slicers
The unit is super easy to clean and we like that it has an adjustable thermostat.
Since you will be dehydrating a lot of food, you may want to purchase a vacuum sealer to help keep your dehydrated foods fresh for longer periods of time.
The fans used for this unit are a little noisy, but this is something that can’t be helped, considering how much food the dehydrator can accommodate. These fans also dehydrate food a lot faster compared to similar brands.
So, there is a bit of a trade-off here. Quicker dehydrating times which in turn causes a little more noise.
Overall, the Excalibur food dehydrator can make the task of dehydrating food quick and easy for anyone who needs to dehydrate large amounts of food.
2. NutriChef Digital Food Dehydrator Preservation Machine
The NutriChef Digital Food Dehydrator is a much more compact unit than the Excalibur above, making it ideal for individual use or a small family, but not suited to those who want to dehydrate a lot of food in one go.
It takes up very little counter space and can be neatly stored away in a cupboard.
There are five plastic food trays which are easy to clean, but hand wash only, so not ideal if you’re hoping to throw them in the dishwasher after use.
The trays are rather shallow, which is fine if you’re preparing fruit leather or jerky, but won’t accommodate larger, more chunky items – and you won’t be able to use this unit to make yogurt.
With a stainless steel base and digital display, the whole unit looks modern and stylish. The temperature control is adjustable with simple button controls.
At 250 watts, this dehydrator does a good job of circulating heat throughout the unit, and will provide a modest amount of space for food. We would suggest that it’s a great starter model for someone wanting to see if dehydrating is up their alley.
If you’re new to dehydrating, you really need a good instruction manual to guide you in how long to leave the food in and at what temperature.
The NutriChef fails dismally in this regard; the manual is barely readable, written in very poor English. There are no clear indications on how long to prepare different types of food for, with some directions stating between 8-32 hours – quite a varied length of time!
Also, any heat directions are in Celsius, so you’ll need to convert to Fahrenheit.
Overall, the unit itself is ideal for a small family who want to give dehydrating a go, but bear in mind that you’ll be doing a lot of research and googling to understand how to use it correctly.
3. Hamilton Beach Digital Food Dehydrator Machine
Hamilton Beach offer a great package here, with a nice, square-shaped food dehydrator that puts out an impressive 500 watts.
There are five stackable trays, plus you’ll also get a fine mesh sheet for drying herbs and a solid sheet for fruit leather. The trays are a bit deeper than the NutriChef model above, so you’ll have room for chunkier items. They are also dishwasher safe.
As far as dehydrators go, this unit is pretty high tech; the temperature display is digital and there are great features like a 48 hour timer and auto shutdown. The temperature is adjustable.
The element is on the bottom with this unit, blowing hot air up. This creates great, even drying, with no need to rotate your trays.
This is an efficient unit at a reasonable price. It gives the average household plenty of space, is easy to use and clean, and the operation isn’t too loud, as with some of the other models reviewed here.
4. Waring Pro Professional Dehydrator
As opposed to the above models, the slightly higher priced Waring Pro doesn’t have a digital control panel, rather, it has a dial control that offers low, medium, high and fan only options.
At 620 watts, it is much more powerful, so will work more rapidly than lower wattages. If you need your food dehydrated quickly, this may be the unit for you.
However, with increased power comes increased noise. Remember that you’ll have this machine operating for hours at a time – sometimes even overnight. It makes about as much noise as a microwave oven, which can be off putting for some users.
The Waring Pro offers five oval trays rather than square or round trays. It may take some fiddling to line the trays up correctly; not a major issue, but a niggling annoyance. The trays are rather shallow, so not great for larger pieces of food. A fruit roll sheet is included.
This is a great entry-level unit for a family of no more than two people, there’s just not enough space for more than that.
It will work quickly, but the noise output is considerable. If you’re after a fast-working machine and don’t have a huge amount of food to work with, consider this powerful, compact unit.
5. Aroma Housewares Professional 6 Tray Food Dehydrator
The Aroma Dehydrator is a square style dehydrator, which is, in our opinion, superior to the round models because of the location of drying fans and heating elements.
Most of this unit is constructed of plastic, including the body, doors and plastic trays. The plastic trays are BPA free. The plastic isn’t considered dishwasher safe, so everything should be hand washed.
The fans adjust automatically to ensure adequate temperature control, and each of the six trays fits a generous one pound of food.
While some dehydrators have loud fan noises- such as the Waring above – the fan on this unit is pretty quiet. You will notice a slight hum but you’re still getting the quick drying times like the Excalibur dehydrator mentioned above.
The unit is small enough to fit on most kitchen countertops so there is no need to hide it in the basement or spare bedroom.
The Aroma Housewares Dehydrator is a budget friendly food dehydrator that has a large capacity for dehydrating your favorite foods at an even temperature.
6. Presto Dehydro Digital Electric Food Dehydrator
This is a great, circular system for those who need extra space for working with a lot of food.
It comes with six trays, but you can purchase extra to expand to 12. Two sheets and two mesh screen trays are provided for fruit leather and herbs, as well as a cover. All trays are BPA free plastic and are conveniently dishwasher safe.
The digital display is easy to use and you can select whatever temperature you like. As you would expect with a higher-priced unit like this, there is also an integrated timer and auto shutoff.
Although you have a lot of space for drying food, the unit itself doesn’t take up too much room. The trays nest tidily on top of the unit, and the cord tucks away inside the base.
One of the most powerful dehydrators in our top 10, the Presto Dehydro works at 750 watts, so expect it to be a little louder than lower wattage machines.
We really like this machine; it is powerful, works quickly, and gives you the maximum amount of space so you can cram in as much food as you want. This is the ideal machine for a serious dehydrator.
7. Nesco Snackmaster Express Food Dehydrator
If you want a versatile dehydrator that dries food faster than many others in its price range, the Nesco 700 Watt Food Dehydrator is well worth considering.
It has a top down dehydrating system which circulates air downward through its adjustable tray system, resulting in faster than average drying times.
It comes with five trays and two for fruit leather. If you need more room, it can hold up to 12 trays. You can also make yogurt with a special tray (CT-2GP) that accommodates bowls and containers. The additional trays and jerky making accessories can be purchase from Nesco’s website.
This dehydrator has no on/off switch, and no timer. An easy way to get around this is to use a plug-in timer (the kind commonly used to turn lights on and off) that you can pick up at any hardware store.
Those who are concerned about buying products from foreign manufacturers can rest easy knowing that Nesco is a US based company that has manufactured its dehydrators in the USA for the last 30 years.
8. Cuisinart DHR-20 Food Dehydrator
Cuisinart offer a circular machine with 620 watt output and adjustable temperatures on a dial set to low, medium, or high. There is no timer on this model.
You will receive five racks and one fruit leather sheet. If you need more space, you can purchase extra racks; the unit will accommodate up to nine at one time.
A common complaint with this unit is that the trays are too shallow and the holes in the trays are too large. There is no accompanying mesh liner, so if you want to dry smaller items, you may have to line them to stop food falling through.
The fan is not overly loud, but some people still find the continued buzzing annoying. This is rather unavoidable with any dehydrator of substance. If you really want to use it but hate the noise, try to find an area of the house where you can shut the door and leave it going for long periods.
This Cuisinart dehydrator will do a decent job for an average-sized household. Drying times are good, although not exceptionally fast. You get some degree of temperature control, but no extra bells and whistles.
9. Ronco 5-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator
The Ronco Electric Food Dehydrator differs from all our other reviewed models in that it uses convection heating to do the job.
There is no fan, which is perfect for those who want virtually silent operation, but you also have no control over temperature, and no timer function.
The circular design can accommodate between two to five trays, all are BPA-free plastic and safe for use in the top rack of your dishwasher.
Because there is no fan and only one temperature, it will take a lot longer to dehydrate your food, although it will do so very quietly!
Although we love the concept of this model, for the price, you may be better off buying a unit with more controls. This isn’t overly effective and ideal only for the most patient of people.
In addition to this, the quality of the unit is highly suspect, with a high number of using reporting that the plastic trays literally melt during use.
10. Open Country Gardenmaster Digital Dehydrator
The Open Country Gardenmaster Digital Dehydrator, Model FD-1022SK, is one of the fastest food dehydrators on the market with 1000-watts of drying power.
It has a motor that circulates air downward, which dehydrates food more evenly than convection style dehydrators.
This round unit is made of four stacking trays, but can handle up to 20 trays (which must be purchased separately). Trays are BPA free and dishwasher safe.
You’ll receive four extra-large drying trays, a fruit roll sheet and a few extra bonuses including a recipe book.
It has an adjustable thermostat, an opaque case and tray construction to block light and preserve all nutrients in your foods. It also has a shut off timer.
This machine is well-suited for someone who is nuts about dehydrating food – you’ll be able to fit as much in as you could possibly need, in varying sizes.
Remember that dehydrated foods are not just for snacking. When you dehydrate fresh foods in season and in bulk you can also rehydrate them to use in recipes throughout the year.
While the dehydrators featured on this page are worthy of consideration, the Nesco Snackmaster Express ticks all of our boxes as the top pick.
If you are just starting out, consider a small, budget-friendly model so you can try out a variety of foods and get the hang of it.
Once you decide that dehydrating is ideal for your lifestyle and needs, you can easily upgrade to a more powerful, spacious unit and pack your cupboards full of delicious snacks year-round.