Food cannot be kept in refrigerator or cool areas for long in large quantities. In such situations, the food dehydrator is the best appliance. If you want to preserve fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, herbs or flowers then this is a must for you. For gardeners and hunters this is useful as the produce can be preserved longer. The jerky makers would obviously love the ones that come with accessories to make jerky as well.
The water content is as high as 95% in fruits and vegetables and 75% in meat and removing this moisture extends the life of food considerably.
Top 10 food dehydrators
Power (in watts)
Number of trays / Expandable to (in brackets)
Type of fan
Apple drying time
|Excalibur 3926TB 9 tray with timer||600||9||Side mounted||4.7||$241.50
(List price is $350.00)
|Nesco FD-1040 Gardenmaster||1000||4 (20)||Top mounted||4.6||$108.83
(List price is $159.99)
|Nesco FD-60 Snackmaster Express 4-Tray||500||4 (12)||Top mounted||4.5||$48.89
(List price of $79.99)
|Excalibur 2900ECB 9-Tray Economy||600||9||Side mounted||4.6||$179.99
(List price of $250.00)
|Excalibur 3900B/3900W 9 Tray Deluxe||600||9||Side mounted||4.6||$201.25
(List price of $300.00)
|Presto 06300 Dehydro Electric||600||4 (8)||Bottom mounted||4.5||$34.49
(List price is $59.99)
|Nesco FD-75PR Snackmaster Pro ||600||5 (12)||Top mounted||4.5||$69.99
(List price is $88.99)
|Nesco American Harvest FD-61WHC Snackmaster Express All-In-One Kit with Jerky Gun||500||5 (12)||Top mounted||4.6||$64.99
(List price of $97.99)
|Waring Pro DHR30 Professional||620||5 (9)||Top mounted||4.1||$69.95
(List price of $130.00)
|L'Equip 528||500||6 (12)||Bottom mounted||4.3||$119.99
(List price of $129.99)
You can check the complete list here.
The food dehydrator reviews can be seen in the sidebar.
How does a food dehydrator work?
The process of drying in a dehydrator is simple. The increase in temperature of the food causes its moisture to evaporate. The air carries the moisture away which is faster in presence of a fan that also distributes the heated temperature evenly.
The temperature and moisture control prevents food from being spoilt when it is drying. The micro-organisms and enzymes that spoil the food are removed as water gets removed from the food.
Increasing the temperature of food makes its moisture evaporate. Air moving over the food carries the moisture away. The best food dehydrator will be controlling the temperature and air circulation prevents food from spoiling while it is drying. If sufficient water is removed from the food, micro-organisms and enzymes that would make the food spoil are disrupted.
Features to consider when buying
Price less than $80
The bottom mounted and top mounted dehydrators typically come in this price range. Some of them may not have auto shut off feature.
The best ones in this price range are:
Between $80 and $200
All mounted ones come in this price range, some of the popular ones are:
Greater than $200
Most of the back or rear mounted ones specially made of steel are in this range. A few models are:
A food dehydrator with higher wattage will be more efficient. However, it is not really necessary that a higher power unit will dry quicker than a lower wattage one as design efficiencies also determine that.
This varies based on type of food, thickness and evenness of the slices.
Other factors which influence the time are:
- Percentage of water in the food
- Humidity in air
- Model of your unit
- Age of plant at time of harvesting
You will see a range of times mentioned for drying in a food dehydrator and this is because there are several factors that influence it.
Temperature control and thermostat
Fruits and vegetables need to be dried at lower temperatures around 130 F to 140 F. This minimizes loss of nutrients like Vitamin A and C.
Meats and fish on the other hand should be dried at the higher temperatures of around 160 F. The higher temperatures reduce the bacteria that can spoil them. For jerky it is ideal to start at around 160 F and then mid way turn the temperature down to 140 F.
Nuts and seeds contain oils and if dried at higher temperatures, they can turn rancid. The temperature for them should be around 90 F to 100 F.
Dried flowers, herbs and spices are sensitive due to aromatic oils and these also should be dried around 90 F to 100 F.
Most of the good food dehydrators come with thermostats to control temperature between 90 F and 160 F. These units have the best advantage as all foods can be covered for drying. And the temperature ranges can also have them function as a proofer or a yogurt maker.
Recommended Drying Temperatures
|Fruits and Fruit Rolls||130º F to 140º F|
|Vegetables||130º F to 140º F|
|Meats & Fish||145º F to 155º F|
|Nuts & Seeds||90º F to 100º F|
|Herbs & Spices||90º F to 100º F|
|Dried Flowers/Potpourri||90º F to 100º F|
You should check reviews or guides to get these temperature ranges.
The heating element is important for a dehydrator and should be stable to provide a consistent temperature. Generally rod type heating elements are used, which are protected for safety.
There are new types of natural dehydrators like these also:
Hanging Food Pantrie Dehydration System – Non-Electric, Environmentally Friendly, Natural Way To Dry Foods, Fruit, Vegetables, Jerky & More. 5-Tray Dehydrator
These are natural, save electricity and do not need much space.
Fan is essential as it distributes heated air uniformly which makes the process fast. Making fruit leather can be difficult if there is no fan.
Mounting of fan
The fan can mounted on top, bottom or back.
Top – The advantage of top mounted fan and heater is that the drippings go into the tray and not on the fan which makes cleaning the unit easier. The dehydrators that come with this mounting are:
Bottom – These designs can be inconvenient as food drop into the heating unit and fan which gets messy. The benefit is that if you want to rearrange the trays it’s easier here than the top mounted ones.
The brands that manufacture these are:
Back – These are also good as the air is uniformly spread across the trays. You need to take care of placing the back against the kitchen wall as the setting panes can become inaccessible.
The following have this kind of design:
The ones that do not come with fan use convection which can take more than double the time for drying.
The best benefits of convection machine are that these may be more pure as they eliminate possibility of fans sucking in dirt into the food dehydrators.
Convection also makes less noise and uses less electricity.
Living Foods units use convection for drying.
Number of trays
There are initial set of trays and number of expandable trays which are important. These define the drying area that is available in the dehydrator
The diameter in case of round or the length/width in case of square trays are important measurements. The square trays make more area available for drying.
The size and number of trays will define the capacity of the machine. This will define the drying space and the amount of food that can be dried. If food is wasted because of lower capacity, then there might not be much cost savings.
Sliding or Stacking
The food dehydrator reviews suggest that the stacking trays are difficult to check and rotate. Nesco or L’equip for example have stacking trays.
Sliding trays are easy for checking on the food and rotating the trays. Excalibur which is back mounted fan and heater has these type of trays.
There are holes in trays in most of the dryers. You have to put food taking care of these holes. Excalibur models do not have holes in the center as they are back mounted machines.
Weight is a consideration specially if you need to move your unit around. Lightweight units will be made of plastic or metal.
The food dehydrators come with mesh sheets as smaller vegetables like corn or peas can fall through. Thus these are the best way to dry smaller foods as well.
Non stick sheets
The non stick sheets are useful for mashed potatoes, fruit leather, tomato sauce or purees. These are reusable and better than parchment. The food dehydrator review would suggest you to buy these along with the dehydrator.
Built in on/off
A built in on/off switch is convenient specially if you have to shut the machine and check the food at intervals.
Timer with automatic shutoff
This is a very convenient feature as without it you might need to keep track of time and get up at odd times to switch it off.
With auto shutoff you can just set it and at the designated time the dehydrator will be off.
Round tray or box dryers
Round tray units which have top or bottom mounted heating elements may not uniformly dry as the trays farther from heating unit will dry last.
The Nesco machines forces air through external pressurized chambers which then flows horizontally into trays. This prevents flavors from mixing and also is more uniform in drying than the other round tray machines.
Box dehydrators are expensive but they are more efficient as their shape allows for more uniform airflow. They can dry more food as well.The price of these food dehydrators are more than the round tray units.
The trays are mostly made of plastic. You should make sure any plastic is BPA free.
They are also made of stainless steel. These are more sturdy and last longer than the plastic ones. These food dehydrators are expensive.
There are food dehydrators which have external body made of stainless steel. Some of the best ones are:
Benefits of using a food dehydrator
Saves money compared to prepackaged food
Avoid preservatives and additives that may be harmful
Reduce wastage by getting the right sized meals
The best food dehydrators make life easy if you produce large quantities of food that cannot be stored in a refrigerator.
What kind of foods should be used for dehydrating?
You should avoid overripe fruit for drying. Overripe fruits will be ok for fruit rolls though. Remove any spoilt or blemished part for drying.
If there are any pretreatments advised, you should follow them. This can prevent any unnecessary chemical reactions with enzymes and prevent changes in color or texture during the process. Do read the food dehydrator reviews for any pretreatments that are suggested.
How to test for dryness?
Food should not be over-dried as they can lose texture, nutrition and taste. You should monitor this in last phases of drying.
To test you can follow these steps:
- Removed a piece of food and after cooling it feel with fingers for dryness
- Fruits should be flexible and leathery with no traces of moisture. Tear the piece and pinch it to check for water drops along the tear. If there is not moisture then it is good for storing long term.
- Fruit rolls should be leathery
- Jerky should not be brittle and should seem tough. The same with dried fish which might have high oil content and appear moist.
You should check the foods regularly depending on the progress of drying. For some sensitive foods like it can be every 10 minutes and for others like fruits it can be 1 to 2 hours.
How to pack the food?
Once food is dried they should be removed and placed in airtight, moisture proof container.
The packaging is important as it will prevent contamination or stickiness or re-hydration due to humidity.
There are other points you can keep in mind:
- Home vacuum packaging devices can extend the life of dried foods 3 to 4 times.
- Opaque containers that prevent light are better.
- Fruits and vegetables in the same container can cause flavor or moisture to be transferred to the other. Hence they should be kept separately.
- Onions and tomatoes should be packed immediately as they absorb moisture fast.
How to store the food?
The ideal storage area is cool with minimum light. If possible put the food in freezer or refrigerator especially for meat, fish and vegetables.
How to reconstitute the food that has been dried?
Most of the foods that are dried can be reconstituted by soaking in water between 15 minutes and 2 hours. The foods that take longest to dry also take the longest to reconstitute.
The liquid or water from the reconstituted food has immense nutritional value and can be used in soups or pies.
Chilli and stew can be reconstituted by putting them in hot water for 15 minutes.
So what are you waiting, check out your best food dehydrator and buy it today!!!