Sometimes it feels like the way we eat has never been so complicated or so much talked about. Between trying to stay away from overly processed foods and taking in those vitamins and healthy fats, you can find yourself overwhelmed and at a loss as to what exactly to eat on your lunch break.
Most of the time, we go for what’s convenient. But, convenience isn’t always good for us, nor is it cheap. For this discussion, dehydrated food is a great example of simple and substantial at the same time.
You can prepare it at home rather than getting it at the store, and the most practical way to go about that is to use a food dehydrator. It removes moisture from food, which preserves it for much longer.
It uses heat and airflow to dry and prevents bacteria from growing, the principle cause of spoiled food.
In this article, we are going to review the nine best food dehydrators that are available on the market. We will go through their pros and cons and our pick for the best of the best.
In between, we’ll discuss what to look for in a food dehydrator, as well as why it might be useful to have a food dehydrator at home and how best to utilize it.
Don’t have time to read the entire review? Here is a quick look at our top picks for the best food dehydrators:
9 Best Food Dehydrators
1. Best Overall Choice: NESCO FD-1040 Gardenmaster
This is NESCO’s mid-level food dehydrator for the home. It’s larger and heavier-duty than the most popular entry-level NESCO.
The NESCO FD-1040 Gardenmaster consumes 1000W (most of it is drying power but not all – it’s also got a fan and digital circuitry that draw power) and has built-in adjustable temperature control. It also has a programmable digital timer.
For those who are keen on buying domestic products, this BPA-free plastic food dehydrator is made entirely in the USA. It comes with a 1-year warranty and a booklet with instructions on the basics of food dehydration.
2. Runner-Up Option: COSORI Premium Food Dehydrator Machine
The COSORI Premium Food Dehydrator Machine has a generous six trays so you can dehydrate large quantities of food at once. It’s perfect for drying and preserving a huge range of foods and comes with a mesh screen and accessories for making fruit leather.
It’s made of food-grade stainless steel, has smart settings, safety features, and couldn’t be easier to operate and clean. It’s a fantastic food dehydrator for those who want high capacity, durability, and ease of use.
The COSORI Premium Food Dehydrator Machine was designed in California. It’s made from food-grade stainless steel, with a large glass door for easy visibility.
It has a simple digital control panel that allows you to set your time and temperature for up to 48 hours with great temperature accuracy and consistency.
Auto shutoff turns off the dehydrator when the timer runs out and overheat protection will also shut off the dehydrator if it overheats. It is ETL listed and FDA compliant for safety and quality, and tray liners are BPA-free.
In operation, this dehydrator is quiet at just 48 dB. The trays are made of stainless steel and trays and liners are dishwasher-safe.
The COSORI Premium Food Dehydrator Machine comes with six stainless steel trays, a mesh screen, and a fruit roll sheet. It also comes with a user manual and 50 free dehydrator recipes.
3. Best Value for the Money: Weston 6 Tray Digital Dehydrator
The Weston 6 Tray Digital Dehydrator has a lightweight, easy, countertop design and an efficient six tray system that gives you over 5 square feet of drying space in one compact dehydrator.
Durable ABS thermoplastic is BPA-free and easy to clean. It’s safe to use, with a digital display and auto shutoff. It has all the features you need in a simple, easy to use, easy to clean dehydrator, making it a great value for the money.
The Weston 6 Tray Digital Dehydrator has a stacked, six-tray design that dries foods evenly and efficiently. The six trays give you over five square feet of drying space, in a compact and lightweight dehydrator. It is made of solid, BPA-free, ABS thermoplastic that is dishwasher safe.
It has a timer for up to 48 hours, with automatic shutoff, and a digital display that is easy to read and easy to use. The continuous airflow design gives even drying, and dehydrated foods release easily from the trays.
The Weston 6 Tray Digital Dehydrator comes with a netting sheet for drying herbs and seeds, and a solid sheet for making fruit leather.
4. Most Budget-Friendly: Commercial Chefman 5 Tray Food Dehydrator
If you are looking for a nice food dehydrator that comes in at a more than reasonable price, this Commercial Chef CCD100W6 Compact Dehydrator may be a good option for you to keep in mind. It comes in at just over $40, thus providing you with lots of value for your money.
As the name of this particular dehydrator implies, it is designed to be very compact. It comes in at 9.92 x 9.43 x 7.01 inches, making it ideal for use on small countertops and for storage in small shelves, drawers, or cupboards. It may not take up a whole lot of space, but it does still have quite a bit of room on the inside for dehydrating food.
The reason why it manages to be compact yet spacious on the inside has to do with the design of it. The Commercial Chef CCD100W6 Compact Dehydrator features 5 layers of food trays which are stacked on top of one another.
This way, you can increase the amount of food that you dehydrate at once, plus you can also dehydrate a variety of foods at once too.
Keep in mind that this dehydrator can be used for a variety of foods including fruits, meats, beans, and more. Really anything that can be dehydrated can be dehydrated using this particular device.
To ensure that the Commercial Chef CCD100W6 Compact Dehydrator works with a wide variety of foods, it comes with an adjustable thermostat which allows you to set the temperature to between 104 and 158 degrees Fahrenheit.
What is also worth noting is that this dehydrator is very easy to clean. The lid can be taken off, and the trays can also be removed, not to mention that they are all dishwasher safe as well.
The bottom line is that the Commercial Chef CCD100W6 Compact Dehydrator is a very simple, compact yet spacious, easy to clean, and cost effective option to go with.
5. Most High-End Professional Option: STX DEH-1200W-XLS Dehydra Commercial Grade Stainless Steel Digital Food Dehydrator
The Dehydra Commercial Grade Stainless Steel Digital Food Dehydrator is a 10-tray, 1200-watt dehydrator that has stainless steel components instead of the usual plastic parts. This means more durability and less risk of BPA and other toxic chemicals leaching out to the food.
It has a digital control panel, with 7 preset heat temperatures. Its temperature range is from 97 °F to 165 °F, making it very capable of meeting the USDA’s recommended temperature for safely preparing jerky.
Furthermore, it comes with a 15-hour shutoff timer.
As a dehydrator designed for industrial/commercial use, the unit does take up more space than most home models. It is ideal for those looking for a more efficient approach to food preservation.
6. Best Multi-Purpose Food Deydrator: NESCO FD-75A Snackmaster Pro
If food dehydrators had a popularity contest, the NESCO FD-75A Snackmaster Pro would probably win. With rave reviews everywhere, including by the people who actually own and use them, this is a proper contender for your future food dehydrator.
It’s one of the stackable dehydrators, and it’s also pretty simple to use. It won’t take you long to figure out how to make some lovely homemade fruit loops, beef jerky, or dried mushrooms.
It runs on 700W and has a NESCO patented drying system called Converga-Flow which forces air down the exterior pressurized chamber instead of through the trays. It is one of the best food dehydrators for those who are new to the world of dried foods.
7. Best Large-Capacity Food Dehydrator: Chard 10 Tray Dehydrator
The Chard 10 Tray Dehydrator has over 1,300 square inches of drying space, with 10 trays for large quantities of food. The powerful 800 watt heating element and large fan have the power to tackle large dehydrating tasks with even, consistent heat throughout, so you don’t need to rotate trays.
It has a non-stick drip sheet that catches drips and makes it easy to clean out and has a drying guide for a huge range of foods. It’s the best, easiest, large-capacity food dehydrator.
The Chard 10 Tray Dehydrator has a large capacity of 10 trays and over 1300 square inches of drying space. The powerful 800 watt heating element and large central fan heat foot evenly throughout the dehydrator, so there is no need to rotate trays.
It has a clear acrylic door, so you can quickly check progress on your food, and a secure latch that preserves temperature inside the machine. The temperature dial is easy to use, and a drip sheet catches drips and makes cleanup easy. The on-off switch is illuminated, so you can tell at a glance whether the machine is on.
The Chard 10 Tray Dehydrator comes with ten drying trays and a non-stick drip sheet.
8. Best Digital-Function Food Dehydrator: Presto 06301 Dehydro Digital
Another stackable food dehydrator, the Presto 0630 Dehydro is great for drying fruits, vegetables, and spices. It’s not too big, considering that it only comes with 6 trays, though it’s expandable up to 12 (extra trays sold separately).
It has a digital thermostat and a timer. It also includes two fruit roll sheets and two nonstick mesh screens trays.
The Presto Dehydro is a 700W food dehydrator with a bottom-mounted heating unit and a fan.
It’s pretty easy to use and to keep clean, and it’s perfect for people who consider food preservation less of a passion and more of an occasional thing they take on when they feel like whipping up some homemade snacks that won’t go bad for a while.
9. Best Professional Grade Food Dehydrator: Aroma Housewares Professional
This square-sized Aroma Housewares Professional food dehydrator has 7 different temperature settings, which will allow you to generate the perfect cooking temperature for even the trickiest of foods to dehydrate. Unlike most other food dehydrators that come in either white or a metallic color, this one is black.
It also includes 6 BPA-free drying trays (5.5 square feet of total usable area) that are rated to hold up to 1 lb. of food each. This is an excellent food dehydrator for those who are not quite a dry food enthusiast but someone who prefers to make their own healthy snacks from time to time.
Why Should You Use a Food Dehydrator?
One of the main questions you might have is whether getting a dehydrator and preserving your food that way is really worth all the monetary and time investments.
So, to help you reach the answer, it’s probably best to investigate more and find out what are some of the most prominent reasons for getting a food dehydrator.
Buying in Bulk and Stocking Up
Say you’re at the grocery store and you see some gorgeous Tuscan tomatoes on sale, the offer is really good and the aroma of the tomatoes is almost irresistible.
It would be a shame to miss out on an opportunity like that, but buying 30 lbs. of tomatoes doesn’t make sense unless you’re feeding a platoon.
Enters food dehydrator. It will require some prep but ultimately, it’s an endeavor worth your time. You can even turn it into a wonderful opportunity to make your own garlic and onion powder and use it for your cooking – fresher, less preservatives, and much cheaper than the store-bought variety.
And again, storage wise, dehydrating your food makes a lot of sense. A lot of people are into meal prepping or putting away survival food or another reason for stocking up food, and a good food dehydrator may be just a godsend.
For example, 20 dehydrated bells peppers only fill up about one-quarter of a mason jar.
You Save on Electricity
Yes, dehydrating your food does use electricity if you’re using an electrical food dehydrator, but that’s the only time you’ll need it. Unlike fresh fruits and vegetables, and meat, you don’t have to store dehydrated foods in the refrigerator or freezer.
You don’t need to worry about your food going bad or someone leaving the fridge door open, or if you might run into an extended power outage for that matter.
Once you’re finished dehydrating, your food is always ready for you to use it. Properly dehydrated foods can last 10 years or more – not as long as freeze-dried food but longer than virtually everything else, including canned food.
It’s also helping you save in other ways. The average household spends a large portion of the income on food. And having your shelves and pantry full of ready-to-eat dry foods gives you a sense of security.
Nutrition and Variety
Dehydrated food is available commercially as well, so you don’t have to make your own if you don’t want to. However, if you want to make sure that there aren’t any added sugars or additives in your dehydrated food, it’s probably for the best that you dehydrate it yourself.
And given the fact that the food you’re dehydrating is mostly raw, and fresh to begin with, preserving your food through dehydration is an excellent choice.
It’s important to note, though, that you do lose a small percentage of nutrition in this process. It’s not the same as eating fresh or freeze-drying your food, but it’s absolutely much better than commercial food that is preserved with artificial additives.
If you master how to operate your food dehydrator, you’ll probably end up having a lot of different dried foods on hand. If you make it a point to dehydrate many different types of vegetables and keep them at the ready in your pantry, you’ll always have them available for that soup you find yourself cooking.
You don’t have to rearrange your dinner plans just because a crucial item of your recipe is missing.
All right, maybe not zero waste, but it can be if you want it to be. If you’re the kind of person who takes food wastage seriously, and many of us are, dehydrating your food will give you a sense of doing what you can with regard to optimizing your food management.
Often times, you might buy fresh produce with the intention of using it all, only for circumstances to prevent that, but if you have a food dehydrator, you don’t have to worry about storing or throwing away your perfectly edible food.
You can even find a use for your sauces that are nearing expiration dates. Just pour it on the dehydration tray and now you have a spiced powder.
We all create waste, even the most mindful of us, but you can do your best to minimize that with your trusty food dehydrator – all the more reason to get the best food dehydrator you can afford.
Meal Kits and Portability
As mentioned, meal prepping is one of those things that is on everyone’s lips these days. It’s not a new idea, preparing food for the future, even if it’s 10 minutes in the future when you’re supposed to eat it, is by definition prepping food.
But, the meal prepping that’s all the rage these days aim to line up enough food to last a person for the next few days or even a week or more.
This will save you lots of time and energy as you only have to devote one day to prep all the food for the future. Plus, a side benefit is that you no longer have to think about what to eat – everything is planned down to the day and portion.
And it’s not just time, it’s the knowledge of getting proper nutrition during the week, not just grabbing whatever.
Which brings us back to food dehydrators, as dehydrating entire meals make for a great way to go about meal preps. Make some pasta or risotto, or perhaps beef jerky for snacking, and store it in food containers or bags.
In addition, for people who are huge fans of camping and other outdoor activities, dehydrated meals can be a perfect solution to surviving in the wild. The same goes for anyone who wants to make their day a little bit easier by not buying another lunch burrito begrudgingly.
Things to Look for in a Food Dehydrator
As it is with most things, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach with food dehydrators. There are many variables at place and what is just right for someone might not mean anything to you. But there are several general guidelines to keep in mind when looking for your next food dehydrator.
The power consumption of home food dehydrators may be different, generally 300 to 1000W or more. But what is perhaps more important in terms of the end result is the distribution of air within the dehydrator trays and whether there is any rear vents.
We all want price and convenience. More expensive does not always mean better, especially when it comes to appliances. Pay attention to the size versus the price, as well as the quality of the parts.
A more expensive food dehydrator won’t mean much if it’s not going to fit in your small kitchen. And a cheap but large one might not perform up to expectation.
A reliable thermostat is a big deal. You will have to check if the food you’re drying is ready even if the machine says it is. And a more accurate thermostat and temperature control can remove some of the uncertainties about how long it’ll actually take for your beef jerky to be ready.
If your food dehydrator has a timer, that’s a bonus feature that can prove very useful if you prefer to schedule the preparation of fresh dry snacks for whenever, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t.
History of Food Dehydration
Before all these sophisticated appliances of today and our laser-sharp focus to find the best one and weed out the ones that are not so great, food preservation methods, such as dehydration, were a little different. What people used to do was lay out whole or cut-up food in the sun.
Over time, people developed more sophisticated ways to dehydrate food, which featured racks on open areas to allow better protection of the food while it dried. This way, the natural movement of air and heat removes moisture from the food. When the food is dehydrated, it doesn’t only change in size and weight but also color and shape.
What Kind of Food Can You Dry in the Food Dehydrator
There are some instant associations with dried food. For some people, it’s beef jerky, but for others, maybe the sweet flavors of fruit roll-ups. Maybe you enjoy snacking on some kale chips and dried apples and making your own sounds preferable to buying it.
But, what are some of the other things that you can dehydrate at home with a food dehydrator and what are some of the things to keep in mind?
Rice and Pasta
This seems like an odd thing to dehydrate given that these foods are already dry. But, since rice and pasta make for great staple dishes in the meal kits of many backpackers and campers and world travelers, going through the process of drying these only to rehydrating them is worth it.
Before you dehydrate pasta or rice, you have to boil it in salted water, then drain it, and finally dehydrate it at 135° for 2-4 hours. The same goes for rice. On the other hand, rehydrating will take only about 5 minutes or so.
Yes, you can dehydrate eggs. You might wonder why you would do that, but there are actually times when it comes in handy, like for baking when you don’t have any fresh eggs on hand, or if you want to bring some with you. There are two ways you can dehydrate eggs – dehydrate cooked eggs or dehydrate raw eggs.
First, you have to make scrambled eggs, then put them on one of the trays on your food dehydrator that’s been pre-lined with fruit leather sheet. It will take longer for eggs to fully dry due to the high-fat content. The consistency and texture you’re looking for are rock-solid clumps.
If the eggs are still gummy, they are not done yet — or else you’d have to grind them, which might prove to be annoying. Pro tip: Don’t rehydrate scrambled eggs, just use them as a fat and protein addition to other meals like rice or pasta.
When it comes to raw eggs, there is always a concern for salmonella, so only try this if your dehydrator can go up to at least 160°F. You have to blend the raw eggs and then pour them on a fruit leather sheet and dry them for around 10-12 hours.
Once they are done, you’ll see that the resultant dried egg is brittle so it won’t be a problem to grind into powder. You can’t use the stuff like regular eggs and scramble it after, but you can use it to bake a cake. Add 2 tablespoons to one tablespoon of dried egg powder and voila, you have one egg.
If you are a dog owner and it matters to you that you feed your canine companion well, food dehydration is something to consider. Commercial dog food is highly processed and packed with preservatives that aren’t good for your pup.
So, if you don’t mind spending a little bit extra time preparing food for your dog (or cat), which most pet owners don’t, a food dehydrator will turn out to be a great tool.
Dehydrated pet treats will have all the amazing nutrients preserved and also make it easier for the dog to chew. It’s also a lot less messy than giving your dog raw food.
Things to Keep in Mind When Dehydrating Food
Over-Relying on the Instructions
Even the best food dehydrator is not perfect and won’t deliver the results you expect 100% of the time. The guidelines you receive with your food dehydrator are there for a reason, but you have to keep in mind that not every fruit or vegetable item is the same.
The instructions on how to dry zucchini might come out perfectly on one occasion, but on another occasion, your zucchinis may contain more water and will take longer. So, do your best to adjust accordingly.
This one is intuitive since we know that food flavors and scents will intermingle in the refrigerator if not covered properly. The same goes for the food dehydrator. Don’t put your apples with onions or your fruity snack will not be what you expect. The only time this is perfectly fine is when you’re dehydrating an entire meal like risotto.
Getting the Wrong Dehydrator
You might not be new to this, but it’s probably best to pick a food dehydrator that can cover all your favorite foods. Sure, if you plan to dehydrate eggs or oily fish, you’ll need a more powerful machine, but if you’re just thinking about fruit loops and beef jerky, then your decision will be easier.
Final Thoughts on the Best Food Dehydrators
There isn’t a perfect machine and there isn’t a product in the world that can satisfy every human being. But, there are those who stand out in quality and price. The best food dehydrator on the market for diving into the dry food waters is the NESCO FD-1040 Gardenmaster.
This extremely popular dehydrator will provide all the features you need and keep it affordable. And unless you live in a very humid environment, even your herbs can be beautifully dried and ready for use.
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