The Best Food Dehydrators (2020 Reviews)

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Hot air dehydration has been a method of preserving food for hundreds of years. While it can keep food from spoiling, some out-dated techniques of drying food can also cause the items to lose their nutritional value. Today, food dehydrators use the newest technology available to preserve nutrients and make the process fast and efficient. Making your own homemade jerky and dehydrated fruit is also a more cost-effective method than buying from the store.

There are a lot of different types of food dehydrators available today, so finding the right model can be difficult. Depending on what kind of food you’ll be dehydrating and how much you make, particular models might not be the best fit for your needs. That’s why we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the best food dehydrators available today. Along with in-depth reviews of our top picks, we’ll also give you some helpful shopping tips and information about how these appliances work.

Our Top Picks: Summary

The Best Food Dehydrators: Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Nesco Snackmaster Pro

Nesco Snackmaster Pro

This expandable dehydrator dries food fast and evenly.Check Price

Why We Picked It

The NESCO FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator is our top pick because of how consistent and fast it dries food. This model comes with five food trays but is expandable up to 12. The circular trays are 13.5 inches in diameter to give you plenty of room for large slices of fruit. With your order, you’ll also get two Clean-A-Screens, two fruit roll sheets, three Original Jerky spice packs, and three cure packs.

The Nesco’s adjustable thermostat allows you to dry different food items at the perfect temperature, while the powerful top-mounted fan provides 600 watts of drying power. The Snackmaster Pro uses a patented Converga-Flow dehydrating system that forces air through a pressurized center chamber instead of through the trays. With this feature you don’t need to rotate trays and there will be no flavor mixing. The opaque Vita-Save exterior blocks out light to help save the nutrients in your food as it dries.

Keep in Mind

There is no automatic shut off on the Nesco Snackmaster Pro. It should be noted that this isn’t a necessary feature, but certainly a downside for those who prefer having one.

In a Nutshell

  • Converga-Flow drying system
  • Expandable drying area up to 12 trays
  • Light blocking Vita-Save exterior

Budget Pick: Hamilton Beach 32100A

Hamilton Beach 32100A

Shoppers on a budget and new dehydrators will appreciate this cost-effective model.Check Price

Why We Picked It

This food dehydrator is perfect for beginners. The controls are simple, and it is one of the cheapest models available. The Hamilton Beach food drier has an adjustable digital thermostat. There is also a 48-hour timer with automatic shutoff. The lid is clear so you can keep track of your food while it dehydrates, or you can use the pause function and check each individual tray.

The Hamilton Beach 32100A Digital Food Dehydrator comes with five rectangular food trays with the option to buy more separately. Two additional sheets come included: one fine-mesh sheet for small food items and one solid sheet for fruit rolls. The 500 watts of power provide continuous airflow for even drying and eliminate the need to rotate trays. The Hamilton Beach food dryer also has the smallest overall size, so it’s perfect for those with limited counter space.

Keep in Mind

The Hamilton beach dehydrator is louder than other models and might not be the best pick for large amounts of food.

In a Nutshell

  • Inexpensive food dehydrator
  • Compact size ideal for countertop use
  • Even drying without rotating trays

Upgrade: Excalibur 3500B

Excalibur 3500B

Top-notch drying, coupled with some of the best features.Check Price

Why We Picked It

Excalibur makes great food dehydrators, and this model is no different. The Excalibur 3500B Deluxe Dehydrator features Hyperwave Technology to help food dehydrate faster and retain more nutrients. The temperature is adjustable for customized cooking. The Horizontal Parallexx Airflow uses a five-inch fan built into the back of the machine that evenly disperses air, so you don’t have to rotate trays.

While this food dehydrator is not expandable, the five trays total eight square feet of drying space, and they don’t have a cutout in the middle like other models. Each tray has a poly-screen surface for even the smallest food items. The Excalibur is a favorite among professionals because of the company’s great track record. This model is backed by a class-leading 5-year warranty.

Keep in Mind

The Excalibur 3500B has a lot of great features, but it comes with the highest price on our list.

In a Nutshell

  • Excalibur’s Hyperwave Technology
  • Horizontal Parallexx Airflow
  • 5-year warranty

Best for Jerky: Nesco Jerky Xpress

Nesco Jerky Xpress

Making jerky has never been easier than with this specialized dehydrator.Check Price

Why We Picked It

If you’re looking for a food dehydrator specifically to dry meat and make jerky, this product might be the best choice. The NESCO FD-28JX Jerky Xpress Dehydrator is the easiest model to operate; it simply has an on and off switch. The single-temperature is ideal for drying out meat, so you don’t have to make any adjustments. Thanks to the simpler design, this is also the least expensive meat dehydrator you can buy.

This dehydrator comes with four drying trays (13.5-inch diameter) but can be expanded up to seven for seven square feet of drying space. There is also a jerky gun with three attachments and an array of spice packets for you to test out. The top-mounted powerhead and middle vent allow for even circulation, so there’s no need to rotate the trays. The trays are also top-rack dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.

Keep in Mind

This model is specially made for making jerky, so you can’t adjust the temperature, and there’s no automatic shutoff.

In a Nutshell

  • Affordable meat dehydrator
  • Expandable drying space
  • Dishwasher safe trays

Best for Fruit: Magic Mill MFD-6100

Magic Mill MFD-6100

This feature-packed dehydrator is the best for fruits and vegetables.Check Price

Why We Picked It

The Magic Mill MFD-6100 Professional Dehydrator Machine comes with a ton of extra features for your convenience. While the space isn’t expandable, the six stainless steel racks offer more than six square feet of drying space. This machine also comes with two fine mesh trays, two non-stick trays, and a set of silicone oven mitts. The trays and racks are all dishwasher safe and completely BPA free.

This dehydrator uses a rear-mounted fan to promote even drying. The adjustable thermostat has an automatic shut off to ensure your food is dried at the optimal temperature. The top of this device has a digital display with easy-to-use controls. The Magic Mill dehydrator has the largest temperature range (95 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit) and a 19.5-hour auto-off feature.

Keep in Mind

This dehydrator is on the expensive side and doesn’t have expandable drying space.

In a Nutshell

  • Six racks and multiple trays
  • Wide range adjustable thermostat
  • Auto-off feature

How We Chose the Best Food Dehydrators

We looked at a variety of factors that make a difference to most people, from beginners to experts. From operation to clean up, here’s how we chose the best food dehydrators.

Capacity

We looked at the total amount of drying space available in each dehydrator. These products all have different layouts and methods to achieve consistent results, which impacts how you can arrange your food items. We favored expandable dehydrators because you can easily adjust the number of trays you use to accommodate more (or less) food. However, a drawback of these tends to be that extra trays are sold separately. We also recommended a couple dehydrators with a fixed amount of shelves. While you can’t add extra space, these models offer a decent amount of space. They don’t have any cutouts for air ventilation in the tray like stackable models.

Even Cooking

One of our top considerations was how evenly each dehydrator dried food. All of the models we suggested allow you to dry food without rearranging trays. Often this is required for dehydration to avoid uneven results. We also found the circular chambers, like in the Nesco models, circulate the best because they lack right-angles that prevent hot air from reaching the entire rack. We do suggest checking expandable dehydrators more frequently because too many additional shelves could give you uneven results.

Temperature Control

Different foods need to be dehydrated at different temperatures for the best results. That’s why we focussed on finding adjustable thermostats. Most of the models we found allow you to adjust the temperature anywhere from 100 to 160 degrees. We wanted to make sure the dehydrators could handle making jerky, which means the machine needs to reach at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Delicate food items like herbs and flowers should be used with the lowest temperature settings. For fruits and vegetables, temperature settings between 120 and 140 are the best option.

Ease of Clean Up

We wanted to make sure your new appliance was easy to care for. That means we had to find dehydrators that were easily cleaned after each use. Tray design is a significant factor when it comes to cleaning. Both the materials used and the ventilation size will determine how food items might get stuck in crevasses and to the surface. Some dehydrators have dishwasher safe trays, but if they’re not made of metal, we suggest top rack only. Top drying models have easier-to-clean non-tray pieces since they’re completely removable, whereas horizontal models are slightly more complicated.

Customer Reviews

Customer reviews give us helpful information about how a model performs and how user-friendly the design is. People who have lived with these machines know precisely how everything works and have come across every possible pitfall. We also use customer reviews to assess a company’s customer service and how they handle issues.

How Does a Food Dehydrator Work?

Food dehydrators remove the water from food items to keep away bacteria and reduce the chance of spoiling. Food used to be left out in the sun to dry, but modern appliances have managed to make the process much faster and yield more consistent results. Inside a dehydrator are a heating element, fan, air vents, and the food trays. The heater removes moisture from food and allows the steam to rise toward the fan. The fan pushes moisture out of the vents to leave behind dehydrated food items.

This process can take several hours, depending on how much food there is and what product you’re using. Once dehydrated, your food items will look very different; the size, shape, color, and weight will all change. Lean meat is the best for jerky because it will dehydrate faster and leave less of a mess. Note, the temperature of your dryer needs to reach at least 160 degrees for jerky. Also, make sure that whatever you’re cooking is cut into even slices or chunks so they’ll all dry out evenly. Overlapping food pieces will cause uneven drying. Fruit leather can be made on special trays or by covering your regular tray with wax paper.

What to Consider When Choosing a Food Dehydrator

It’s crucial to find a dehydrator that can handle the types of food you want to make. Different temperatures, sizes, and trays can limit your ability to dry food. To help you identify the best model for you, keep the factors below in mind while you shop.

Capacity and Size

You should pay attention to food capacity to ensure that your new food dehydrator can handle what you want to use it for. If you plan to frequently use the machine for large quantities of food, then you need a model with large trays or expandable drying space. If you think you’ll be using the appliance less frequently or just for little jobs, you can save yourself some money by finding a compact model. The overall size is also essential to consider. Where are you planning on storing your dehydrator? You want to make sure you have space for the machine both while it’s being used and for storage afterward.

Controls

The controls of a dehydrator vary greatly. Some models merely have a power button, while others allow you to control multiple different functions. Premium dehydrators with extra features must have easy-to-understand controls for each purpose. Dedicated temperature knobs and digital displays help keep things simple. For minimalist machines with limited controls, the buttons should be easy to read and clearly labeled.

Intended Use

You most likely already know what types of food you’ll be dehydrating, so you want to make sure you get a product that can handle your favorites. Not every food dehydrator can make jerky because of the temperature requirements. If this is a must-have feature, make sure you find a model that can reach at least 160 degrees. If you want to dry out ingredients and herbs, you need a model that can also handle lower temperatures so as to not overcook the items.

Included Accessories

There are a lot of different accessories that dehydrators can come with to give you more flexibility over what to make. It’s fairly common for dehydrators to include a recipe book, which is great for newbies and anyone looking to try new things. Dehydrators with multiple different racks allow you to cook all types of food items. For example, fruit leather can’t be made on a porous surface, so nonstick trays are essential. Some models also include spices and cures for meat to make great tasting jerky.

What Can You Make With a Food Dehydrator?

Food dehydrators are great for many different uses. People who like to buy jerky or trail mix from the store can save money by making their own at home. Gardeners can keep extra fruits and vegetables from going bad by drying them out. Below are some of the most common uses for a food dehydrator.

  • Fruits: Dried fruit is perfect for trail mix, cereal, or to use as ingredients for bread. Fruit puree becomes fruit leather when dehydrated, perfect for a healthy snack.
  • Vegetables: Root vegetables, mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, chilis, and herbs can all be dried for soups or ingredients. Dehydrating kale is how you make kale chips.
  • Meat: Dried meat can be seasoned and turned into jerky. The most common choices are lean ground beef, venison, turkey, or buffalo. Certain recipes allow you to make homemade dog treats.
  • Delicate items: Herbs can be dried out for ingredients. You can also dry out flowers to make potpourri.
  • Nuts and Seeds: You can make your own granola bars or crackers, as well as crisp them up to be used as ingredients.

Related Resources

For more buyer’s guides about the best kitchen appliances, check out the links below.

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