Need help picking the best food dehydrator for home use? You should check out my detailed buying guide – I’ve included handy food drying tips in there, too!
These days, people often go for canning as a means of food preservation, even though we all know that’s not the healthiest choice out there – dehydrating your food is.
Think about it: You can buy fresh fruits and vegetables – or better yet, grow them yourself – and turn them into healthy, 100-percent natural, preservative-free snacks!
(I wish we had one of these when my boys were younger – it undoubtedly would’ve helped with getting them to eat their veggies.)
You’re going to need the best food dehydrator to make it happen, though – so, we’re going to find you one today! 🙂
Why Buy A Food Dehydrator: Benefits Of Making Dry Snacks At Home
The main question here is: Is a food dehydrator a good option for you?
The benefits of owning one are numerous, to say the least – I’ll name a few to show you how the best food dehydrator might impact both your health and your budget:
- Healthy All-Natural Snacks – When you use a food dehydrator, the result is food packed with all the original vitamins, natural enzymes, and minerals – minus the additives, preservatives, sugar, artificial flavors, and whatever else you might find in store-bought snacks.
- Reduced Waste – When your food starts looking soft like it’s about to spoil in a matter of days, a dehydrator will come to the rescue: Instead of throwing food away, you can slice it up and dry it for later use!
- Amazing Taste – Think about it for a second: When all the moisture (well, around 80 percent of it) is gone, you’re left with nutrient-dense, richly-flavored food!
- Cost Savings – There’s an initial investment, yes, but it does pay off many times over – every time you’re in the mood for dry food, you can now make it yourself, rather than running to the store.
Here’s a quick round-up of preparation tips and approximate drying times to get you started on your food dehydration journey:
|Apples||Cored and sliced in ring||7 to 15 hours||135° Fahrenheit|
|Bananas||Peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch slices||6 to 10 hours||135° Fahrenheit|
|Peaches||Pitted and sliced into 1/4-inch slices||8 to 16 hours||135° Fahrenheit|
|Pineapple||Peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices or wedges||10 to 18 hours||135° Fahrenheit|
|Figs||Quartered||22 to 30 hours||135° Fahrenheit|
|Grapes||Stems and seeds removed||22 to 30 hours||135° Fahrenheit|
|Rhubarb||Cut into one-inch long pieces||6 to 10 hours||135° Fahrenheit|
|Zucchini||Cut into 1/8-inch (or 1/4-inch) slices||7 to 11 hours||125° Fahrenheit|
|Yams||Steamed, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices||7 to 11 hours||125° Fahrenheit|
|Mushrooms||Cut into 3/8-inch piece||3 to 7 hours||125° Fahrenheit|
|Jerky||Heated first to kill any bacteria||4 to 15 hours||135° Fahrenheit|
Related: Speaking Of Healthy Alternatives, Check Out My Best Zoodle Maker Reviews!
Choosing The Best Food Dehydrator: 5+ Factors To Consider
I know you’re impatient to read my best food dehydrator reviews, but don’t skip this part – I’m about to show you how to pick the best unit for your needs!
1. Heat Distribution and Air Flow
It all comes down to two types of food dehydrators – stacked (or vertical) and box-and-shelf (or horizontal) ones. Of course, the first thing you need to do is figure out which one might be a better fit for your kitchen:
Vertical Food Dehydrators – The name comes from the fact that the air flows through them vertically, up and over the food trays. You’ll easily recognize them by their round shape and stackable trays – perfect for those struggling to find available storage space.
Horizontal Food Dehydrators – These have fans that draw air across the trays in a horizontal line (hence the name), which does ensure a more even heat distribution – and consistent food drying results. They are a bit more spacious, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, now, is it?
Plastic units are the more affordable option here, and while they are relatively durable, they probably won’t withstand heavy use. If you still opt for a plastic food dehydrator, make sure it’s BPA-free – this one’s non-negotiable.
Metal construction, such as a stainless steel one, promises a certain level of durability, and is practically unmatched when it comes to extensive use – but it comes at a price, too.
3. Size and Capacity
You want a unit that will be able to keep up with your demands – it’s as simple as that.
If a healthy snack now and then is all you plan on using it for, a small-capacity model should be enough, but if you plan on dehydrating half your garden, you’re going to need a bit more space than that!
Whatever the capacity, though, you’re going to have to put it somewhere – so, it’d be best if you took the available kitchen counter space into consideration before you make your purchase, not after.
4. Noise Level
One thing you need to remember about food dehydrators is that they have fans – distinctive-noise-making fans. The noise level will depend on the unit, of course, but you can’t expect it to be completely silent.
Now, I know decibel ratings are not an often-seen spec, so I’ll try my best to point out where the noise levels might be an issue.
As with most kitchen appliances, the cost will depend on the features and materials at hand. Does that mean you’ll have to spend a small fortune on the best food dehydrator? Nope – the trick is in finding the middle ground.
How much does this “middle ground” cost, you ask? I’d say around 50 to 150 bucks – reasonable enough, right?
6. Additional Features
Okay, these might not be of huge importance to some of you, but others might find them extremely convenient:
Thermostat – Preparing different foods requires different temperatures to achieve optimal results. A thermostat will allow you to adjust and keep track of the heat level – a must-have for anyone who’ll use the dehydrator for more than one food type.
Auto Shut-Off – The food dehydration process takes time, which means it’s often more convenient to let it do its job overnight or when you’re out and about and running errands – and that’s precisely when the auto shut-off feature might come in handy.
Timer – The same goes for the timer – because the process takes hours, you might want the option that lets you set everything up, check on it periodically, and even notify you when your food is ready!
Further Reading: Temperature Is Vital For Food Preparation – And The Best Wireless Meat Thermometer Can Help
Most Recommended Food Dehydrators: Detailed Reviews 2020
I wanted to start off with something budget-friendly, to show that you don’t have to burn a hole in your wallet to ensure that you get the best food dehydrator on the market – and the Nesco Snackmaster Pro was perfect for the job.
Thanks to the top-mounted fan and the Converga-Flow drying system, the air flows horizontally, which means you won’t have to bother rotating them – all your food will be evenly dried without your intervention.
It’s relatively quiet, too – and that’s always a plus with food dehydrators!
The dehydrator holds five trays at a time, which are included in the package, but it’s expandable enough to hold up to 12 plates whenever the need arises, although you’ll have to buy those separately.
You’ll also get two fruit roll sheets, two flexible Clean-A-Screen sheets, as well as three packets of Original Jerky Spice to get you started!
Why doesn’t this thing have an On/Off switch, though? When did something as basic as a switch become an optional feature on kitchen appliances?
You’re in for a lot of plugging and unplugging with this one, so good luck finding a conveniently placed outlet in your kitchen.
- An adjustable thermostat with 95 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit range
- The fan is top-mounted
- Comes with five trays, but can handle up to 12
- There’s no need to rotate the trays
- Stays relatively quiet
- It’s affordable
- It doesn’t have an On/Off switch
The Excalibur has to be one of the most popular models out there – and with a good reason, too:
The nine-tray capacity is more than enough to dehydrate fruits, vegetables, and jerky – even pet treats – in sizeable batches, which is perfect for large families and gardeners looking to dry their produce!
Besides the nine trays, you also get a non-stick poly-screen insert for making fruit roll-ups and other such sticky snacks your kids will surely enjoy.
More importantly, though, thanks to the Excalibur’s patented Parallex horizontal airflow, you won’t have to rotate the trays – pick a suitable temperature, set the timer within the available 26-hour range, and use the built-in On/Off switch to get started.
It does cost more than the “middle ground” I’ve talked about earlier – I know it might not fit everyone’s budget, but it’s worth every penny!
I should warn you about the noise level, though – not only is the fan loud, but the lid seems to rattle, as well. It’s not unbearable, but you’ll hear it once it’s in full swing.
- Adjustable thermostat with 105 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit range
- It has a built-in On/Off switch and a 26-hour timer
- Holds nine trays and doesn’t require rotation
- Comes with a poly-screen tray insert that prevents sticking
- It’s pricey
- There’s a lot of noise when it’s on
Next one up is a relatively affordable countertop unit by Gourmia with a total six-tray capacity – compact enough to fit on your counter, but spacious enough to make healthy, homemade snacks for your family.
I could tell straight away that the transparent door is going to be a handy addition – it lets you take a peek at what’s going on inside and see if your food is coming along nicely.
Also, there’s no need to rotate the trays, which are BPA-free, by the way:
Once you set the temperature and the timer, the unit’s 360-degree air circulation takes care of things for you!
If you’re new to the whole food dehydrating trend, you’re going to appreciate the recipe book that comes with it to help you figure it all out and get you started on your journey.
It’s a fantastic appliance all-around, except for one thing:
The drying times, as recommended in the recipe book, can be a little off at times, which means some recipes are a bit of a hit or miss. I wouldn’t hold it against the food dehydrator, though – it’s more of a learning curve than a real downside.
- Doesn’t require tray rotation thanks to 360-degree airflow
- Adjustable temperature and timer
- The transparent door allows food monitoring
- Fairly quiet operation
- It’s BPA-free and ETL-certified
- Reasonably priced
- Comes with accessories and a recipe book
- The recommended drying times are a bit of a hit-or-miss
The main thing that the BioChef Arizona Sol has going for it is the fact that it – you guessed it – features stainless steel trays, rather than plastic ones. Even at first glance, it’s evident that durability won’t be an issue with this one.
It comes with nine trays, which is the unit’s total capacity, but you also get a set of additional accessories you might need – including non-stick sheets, fine-mesh sheets, and a drip tray.
Also, you won’t have to bother with rotating the trays – all you need to do is take an occasional peek through the transparent door, without interrupting the drying cycle.
The fan is noisy, especially when compared to some other models on this list, and the auto shut-off alarm will probably startle you if it goes off during the night.
I’m not joking – things will get loud.
Also, the temperatures are not adjustable, as stated in the product description – they’re pre-set. All you get to do is choose from the available ones. It’s not a deal-breaker for me, but I did find it a bit misleading.
- Holds nine BPA-free, stainless steel trays
- There’s no need to rotate the trays
- The door is transparent
- Total drying time is 19.5 hours
- Comes with non-stick sheets, fine-mesh sheets, and a drip tray
- Reasonably priced
- It gets pretty loud
- The temperatures are pre-set
The dehydrator comes with six trays (although it can hold up to 12 if the need arises) – which is a pretty common capacity for at-home use – but they’re fully stackable, which makes a huge difference in how much storage space the unit needs.
It’s super easy to use, too:
The digital thermostat and timer take all the guesswork out of the equation, and once the cycle is done, the dehydrator shuts off automatically to prevent overdrying.
Moreover, the trays are dishwasher-safe, which makes clean-up a breeze!
Now, I’m not crazy about the vertical airflow design, but it does the job well – so, no complaints there.
You’ve seen the good, now it’s time to talk about the bad and the ugly – and in both cases, it comes down to how obnoxiously loud this thing is:
It’s an amazing dehydrator, but the noise made me want to move it from the kitchen down to the basement!
And no, I’m not overly dramatic – it’s that loud.
- It features a digital thermostat and a timer
- Comes with six trays, but holds up to 12
- There’s no need to rotate them
- The unit shuts off automatically
- Total drying time is up to 48 hours
- It’s stackable for easy storage
- The trays are dishwasher-safe
- It’s obnoxiously loud
And The Winner Is…
The Gourmia GFD1680 Premium Countertop Food Dehydrator takes the cake this time around – it’s the best food dehydrator on the market!
Don’t think that it was an easy decision to make, though – it most certainly was not – but in the end, the budget-friendly price paired with handy features and relatively quiet operation tipped the scales for me.
I’d like to hear your thoughts and opinions, though, so don’t be shy – let me know which of these is your favorite in the comments below!
Last update on 2020-09-26 at 01:33 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API