These handy kitchen appliances are popping up in the homes of many lately. While at one time the options for dehydrators were pretty standardized, today’s home dehydrators offer a number of smart, tailored options.
Here is a look at our top 10 contenders for the best dehydrators, the top features of each, and a look at what you might consider in your own home dehydrating appliance. Read on, and we are sure homemade fruit jerky will be in your future as well.
Tap into your inner homesteader, save a few bucks on food storage, and discover the wonders of food dehydration!
What Is a Food Dehydrator?
Food dehydrators are kitchen appliances that work by heating and circulating air around food on mesh or wire racks to eliminate all the water from them. They can be used to make dehydrated fruits and vegetables, jerky, dried meat for pet treats, and more.
With 5 trays, 500 watts of drying power, and fun accessories like a jerky gun, there are a lot of opportunities to try new things for a minimal cost.Read Our Review
How To Choose a Dehydrator – Buyer’s Guide
But the main criteria are size and power. You can choose the simpler model if you are planning to use it from time to time or make an investment in one of the top machines that are listed above.
10 Health Benefits of Food Dehydrators
- Preservative-free snacks: It’s hard to buy snack foods that are without chemicals and preservatives. With a dehydrator, it’s easy to make your own.
- Healthy pets: On the same note, you can make your own jerky treats.
- More fresh foods: Many are afraid to buy too many fresh foods and waste them. This allows you to keep them long after they’d expire.
- Lower sugar options: Commercially dried fruit and fruit leathers are often packed with sugar. You can make your own without adding a bit.
- Learn to love veggies: Dried vegetables like beets and carrots can be surprisingly sweet and addictive.
- Healthier air: Make your own potpourri without any of the questionable chemicals that others have.
- Herb power: Dry your own herbs and take advantage of their powerful health benefits more often.
- Crunch without oil: Love the crunch of chips but don’t want the salt or fat? Try dried veggies and your heart will thank you.
- Great workout food: Love to backpack? This light, tasty food is a great way to learn a healthy new sport without spending a fortune on food.
- Sweet desserts without the calories: Dried fruit can be a wonderful dessert that is lower in calories and higher in fiber than a lot of other options.
How To Use a Food Dehydrator
- Dried Fruit or Vegetables: Simply slice thinly (if needed) and put them in the dehydrator. The more watery the fruit, the longer it takes. For items like apple, you can add a dash of lemon to keep them white while they dry.
- Jerky: Mix your meat and seasonings together. You can do this by slicing the meat paper thin and adding dry rub spices or by mixing the meat and spices in a blender and squirting it onto a tray with a jerky gun.
- Fruit rollups: Blend your fruit or fruits in a blender or food processor and spread onto fruit roll sheets. Dry, peel, and eat.
- Dried Herbs: Simply place on a sheet and dry quickly
- Potpourri: Add scent from essential oils to your herbs or flowers and dry at low heat to mix.
What Food Can You Make?
Whether you’re buying a dehydrator for herbs, a meat dehydrator, a fruit dehydrator, or you want a dehydrator for jerky, you can accomplish it all with the same machine.
Get a dehydrator for backpacking snacks and easy meals. Make snacks for kids lunches or simply ensure that nothing in your refrigerator gets wasted ever again.
Food dehydrators all have the same basic components:
This can be mounted in the back, on the bottom, or on the top. It is usually paired with the unit’s heating element. You will need a dehydrator with fan if you don’t want to constantly rotate trays. There are also fan non electric options available.
- Heater Element
This heater can have a single temperature or a range that is set by way of a programmable thermostat. A dehydrator with temperature control gives you more range as far as what kinds of foods and items you can make safely and effectively.
- On/off switch
With simpler models, the only on/off capacity is through the plug. More sophisticated models have programmable timers with shut-off capacities. Many will specifically look for a dehydrator model with a timer.
While none of the items on this list can be considered a non-electric dehydrator, drying racks for the sun are available if you want a cheaper, lower-tech option. Some of the drying trays can also be used as an oven dehydrator.
- See-through window
Many of these dehydrators have a window to allow you to watch your progress. And control the cooking by yourself.
Accessories Available For Your Dehydrator
- Expanding: Extra racks can replace broken ones or add space to stacking dehydrators.
- Protecting: Smaller mesh allows you to dry tinier things like herbs, peas, and berries.
- Forming: Fruit roll trays allow you to put liquidy items like eggs, fruit roll blends, and jerky blends on a drip-free surface.
- Blending: Jerky guns let you blend and squirt mixtures evenly for easier drying
Size and Capacity
When searching for the right dehydrator no mater electric or non-electric one, your intended purpose will tell you a lot about what size you should consider.
A 5 tray dehydrator is a compact, home dehydrator that will be great for small batches and fit compactly in storage. They are great for small batches. If you’re uncertain if you will do much with it, this size is often expandable.
A 7 tray dehydrator is good for those who are doing small to medium batches regularly.
A 9 tray dehydrator is the most commons starter size for professional/commercial/industrial level machines. These are larger machines that are often used in garages because they have louder fans. They’re great for big jobs like garden harvest, hunting and fishing processing.
What should you consider with a size of dehydrator?
- Counter and/or storage space: How much room do you have to keep it?
- Size of harvest/recipe: What are you making? Does it need to be done at once or can you spread it out?
- Style/aesthetics: How does it look if it’s left out all the time?
What kinds of recipes are available?Here is the
Many of the featured machines have books full of ideas. These will offer tips on how to blend different jerkies, how to make fruit leathers (and which fruits blend well), how to make potpourri, and tips on the size, temperature, and drying time of different fruits and vegetables.
In some cases, they will also offer recipes that you can make with dehydrated items, like pasta with sun-dried tomatoes.
Top Dehydrator Brands
Here is the list of the popular and reliable brands that you could trust: Excalibur, Nesco, Ronco, Hamilton Beach, Presto, Ambiano, Cuisinart, Cabelas, Oster and Mr. Coffee.
What features are a convenience?
While all dehydrators will dry your food, there are some things that will make the experience nicer for the owner. This includes:
- Rotation-free drying: Any system where you don’t have to keep rearranging trays to get even drying is definitely a plus on the low-maintenance side.
- Adjustable thermostat: Being able to set your temperature offers versatility.
- Timer: The ability to turn off the machine through a timer is a definite plus.
- Window: Your things will dry more quickly if you don’t keep opening the dehydrator to check. A window lets you do this while still checking regularly on the food.
What do you need to know?
Fans can range from quiet to loud. However, does it matter to you if the fan is loud and the machine works well if it’s in the garage? This is definitely a personal choice.
Loud fans may mean powerful fans, which can mean more food dried more quickly. Quiet fans can mean longer dry times but may be more pleasant if your only location for dehydration is in your studio apartment.
There are two main design styles of dehydrators.
Which is your preference?
Sliding trays with clear front door design has a toaster-oven style that allows you to dry quickly. They are typically big, professional-style units that take up a lot of space and dry loudly.
The stackers can range in shape from round to rectangular, from clear to opaque, and from small to large. These will typically come with 5-7 trays standard and have the ability to expand to a larger number, around 10-12 trays.
Warranties can range from limited (on a specific number of parts) to full. The details will have everything to do with the company, and the specifics vary greatly even within this list. Be sure to register your dehydrator when you get it so that you can take advantage of the warranty if you need later on. Are manufacturer warranties the only way to get a return? Absolutely not. You can often get a purchase guarantee if you buy it from certain stores, and even credit cards may offer a limited time warranty on purchases.
Warranties can range from limited (on a specific number of parts) to full. The details will have everything to do with the company, and the specifics vary greatly even within this list. Be sure to register your dehydrator when you get it so that you can take advantage of the warranty if you need later on.
Are manufacturer warranties the only way to get a return?
Absolutely not. You can often get a purchase guarantee if you buy it from certain stores, and even credit cards may offer a limited time warranty on purchases.
So on our list, there are two main kinds of dehydrators. There are large, pro-style machines that are designed for huge batches of jerky and full harvests. There are also small, sleek, stackable countertop versions designed for smaller homes and smaller batches. Each comes with their own overall pros and cons.
The pros of the big styles are that they dry hot and evenly and come with lots of extra features like temperature control and shutoff timers. But they are large, loud, and expensive. Smaller versions are sleek, take up very little space, and are easy on the wallet. However, they may not dry every rack as evenly, don’t hold a lot of items, and may not have some basic features like an on/off switch.
A sharp knife and cutting board (or mandolin/meat slicer), a spatula, blender, and strainer.
The water and sugar content in the food, the thickness of the slice, the size of the fan in the dehydrator and the temperature it’s set at will all affect dry time.
Ready to find out our top choice?When choosing the best of the bunch, we looked at several features:
- Capacity (and expanded capacity)
- Price point
- Features available
- Accessories included
Based on this, we ready to announce the winner. It is Presto 06301 Dehydro Digital Electric Food Dehydrator.