If you’re tired of your fresh meat, fish, fruit, veg, seed, or herbs going bad too quickly and before you have time to use them, you can look into buying the best food dehydrator to solve all your problems. What if you’ve never heard of a food dehydrator, though? Why should this, of all things, help you?
We get it doesn’t sound like the most appealing process in the world. Dry food conjures up a few too many memories of lackluster meals as a child or more recently, attempting your first and perhaps second meal of your own making at college with your brand new cookbook. It’s not completely dry food, though, and the process is a little more complex than that.
A food dehydrator traps nutrients and vitamins. It increases the longevity of your perishables (those we discussed above) and helps you save space in the freezer. Eating healthy has arguably never been easier, especially with the plethora of food-related gifts, but if you grew up before the health kick boom engulfed society, it can sometimes be challenging to remember to grab your daily health fix. With a food dehydrator, you get to flip it so that the healthy food is on your schedule, not the other way around.
The Best Food Dehydrator
Our favorite pick of the day is the Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator, which is an ideal pick for making homemade dog treat (seriously) and on-the-go snacks for hiking at backpacking. For the home, though, it’s still a great choice, with an adjustable thermostat to tackle a variety of food types, and 600W of drying power. Despite this power, it’s also energy efficient.
The trays are expandable to maximize your dehydration options, perfect for when you’ve got a lot of guests coming round and you want to show it off, while the Converga-Flow technology ensures even drying throughout and no need to rotate. If jerky’s your thing, it comes with free spices to get your grub on immediately. Overall, it’s a reliable, easily placed, and powerful dehydrator coming at a great price that may deceive on first glance, but will pull you right back in with consistent results. Be sure to also check out our list of the best air fryers for more great items like this.
Adjustable thermostat dial between 95℉ to 165℉
Powerful top-mounted 2100 RPM with 600W of drying power
5 13.5” diameter trays are expandable to 12 trays for larger meals or demands
Converga-Flow drying system provides even drying with no need to rotate
- Weight9 pounds
The Presto Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator is a compact option for smaller kitchens or those who aren’t yet sure dehydration is for them (just wait, though). While it only has 4 trays, these are expandable, increasing drying capacity once your confidence skyrockets and you want to try something a little different. It’s small size also helps you focus better on healthy eating, neither making too much or too little, and knowing there’re no additives or preservatives means you can trust everything you make, and the kids are sure to love it, too. Just don’t quote us on that.
The see-through cover helps you keep check on what’s going on in there, and it heats quicker than you’d expect, reading optimum temperature in just twenty minutes. It doesn’t distribute air as evenly as other models, but you’re to find a way around this, and for the price, you can’t complain. Our handy guide to the best slow cookers features more great products like this.
Expandable four-tray system allows for a variety of food types and increased drying capacity
Helps ensure healthy eating with no additives or preservatives
Bottom-mounted fan and heating elements provides consistent airflow for optimum drying
See-through cover to monitor drying progress on top tray
- Weight7.5 pounds
Boasting a massive 9 pounds of potential, the Magic Mill Professional Food Dehydrator is our premium pick for dehydrating any food you’ve ever wanted. It comes with multiple trays and hanging racks for mastering and satiating your jerky cravings, and the timer ensures it dries everything to absolute perfection.
The rear fan guarantees even heat distribution, with a maximum programmable timer of 19.5 hours. It’s safe to use, so allowing you to set and forget and come home to excellent results. It’s quieter than a microwave for uninterrupted evenings and nights when preparing food, and the overheating protection prevents parts damage. The unit is well built, giving you longevity you expect from kitchen appliances and even with heavy use you can plan the next decade plus of dehydrated foods with this bad boy. Love this product? Check out our review of the best mini fridges for our top picks.
Large 9 tray capacity allows 9 pounds more food to dehydrate simultaneously
Automatic shut off when timer finishes and transparent door to monitor progress
Overheating safety protection ensures quality and helps find optimum temperature
600W rear-mounted drying fan with ideal airflow circulation for consistent dehydration throughout
- BrandMagic Mill
- Weight21.4 pounds
Easy to use and suitable for any kitchen, the Gourmia 9 Shelf Premium Countertop Food Dehydrator streamlines the process like few other options out there at a similar price. From the Control Center Countdown, you can set at 30 minute increments up to 19.5 hours and enjoy all the marvels of your dehydrated treats waking up in the morning or when getting back from the office.
It delivers airflow throughout the whole unit with Circusmart 360-degree distribution, providing quality and consistency regardless of how full you’ve packed it, and the 8 preset temperatures may mean you never have to do anything except slide in the shelves. These shelves are adjustable and operation is so quiet you’ll forget it’s working. The automatic shut off also protects the dehydrator and your kitchen, giving you peace of mind when out of the house. When waiting for it to finish, you can also press your nose up to the door and see the progress which we’re sure you’ve already planned on doing. Find more great products like this by checking out our guide to the best Dutch ovens.
Control center countdown and LCD panel for total dehydration control
Circusmart 360-degree Air Flow Circulation system ensures even distribution
8 preset temperature settings for simplicity and efficiency
6 adjustable micro mesh shelves eliminates need to rotate trays
- Weight13.94 pounds
Quiet and consistent, the Nesco Gardenmaster Food Dehydrator boats multiple trays for different food types to ensure you always get the best results possible. It’s quiet but powerful, ensuring you get your healthy food (or jerky) fix faster than ever, and the adjustable thermostat allows you total control over the temperature.
The air distributes evenly around the machine, keeping everything at the same temperature level throughout and meaning everything finishes on time, while the opaque construction prevents sunlight damaging the food inside, maintaining those essential nutrients and minerals, because otherwise what’s the point? You can extend the trays up to 30 layers which is perfect when planning a trip or trying to save space in the refrigerator and freezer. While it’s not large enough for professional use, anyone needing one for the kitchen should consider this right now and see what it can do for them. This is an amazing kitchen gadget you will love.
Quiet 2400 RPM motor for faster and more nutritious drying
Adjustable thermostat between 95℉ to 160℉ for versatile demands
Converga-Flow dehydration system provides consistent airflow around unit
Opaque Vita-Save exterior blocks light and traps nutrients and vitamins during process
- Weight17 pounds
Those seeking the best food dehydrator in terms of value should look no further than the Chefman 5 Tray Round Food Dehydrator which is small, simple, but still effective for most of your dehydration demands. The clear cover means you can keep check on the progress without risking affecting the process.
It’s good for both vegetables and meat, and the shelves are dishwasher safe to prevent contamination between uses. The compact size and lightweight design also make it easy to move around if needed, and if you want to take it over to a friend’s place while staying the night you absolutely can. Despite the size, it’s also roomy, meaning you may get more from it than you expect. With one touch operation, you can trust it works without hassle, and the included manual gives you advice on how long each food type needs inside. You may also like to check our guide to the best smart kitchen gadgets.
Excellent airflow for consistent results throughout each tray level
Shelves are easy to remove and dishwasher safe for an easy clean
One-touch operation ensures is easy to use for hassle-free results
Transparent tray and lid makes it easy to keep check of the progress
- Weight11.2 ounces
A smaller version of our previous Gourmia pick, this Gourmia 6 Shelf Premium Countertop Food Dehydrator is still a useful addition to smaller kitchen spaces and still delivers the same high quality you expect from horizontal type dehydrators. The 6 trays provide plenty of space and are suitable for a variety of foods, while the 360-degree circulation ensures uniform drying at no risk of overheating.
It comes with a useful instruction manual perfect for beginners, and while it’s one of the larger units we’ve found, it’s still simple to use with an easy switch on and temperature adjustment. While simple, it doesn’t ruin the flavor of food and prevents blandness for setting in, and it’s easy to clean to maintain this quality post-dehydration taste. There are other, larger options out there, sure, but if you don’t need them, this is a sound alternative for smaller spaces and beginners. This is a perfect gift for foodies in your life.
6 tray design provides plenty of room for drying any food you need
360-degree circulation with simple and precise controls for uniform drying without overheating
Transparent door for easy viewing and monitoring
30 minute timer increments ensures finding optimum settings for your food
- Weight17.8 pounds
Silent by name and silent by nature, the Samson Silent Dehydrator is our quietest selection yet making it perfect for those sharing rooms and apartments with people who may not be the heaviest sleepers around. The back fan distributes evenly across the 6.5 square feet of interior space, and this also prevents overheating should you overdo it.
It’s both fast and efficient, doing the job in around 12 hours (depending on the food type), without missing out on quality. The buttons are easy to reach, and any settings you desire are straightforward for simple selection and operation. Whether you use it every now and again, or prefer to use it every day, it’s so well built you can trust it perform to a high standard every time, and often that’s all anyone really wants. Don’t forget to also check our guide to the best cast iron skillets for more great kitchen products.
Easy to reach controls on top of the machine for simple, straightforward operation
Push button with LCD screen makes information clear and easy to read
6 BPA free trays with 6.5 square feet of overall drying space
Automatic fan ensures consistent drying and prevents overheating
- BrandSamson Brands
- Weight12.05 pounds
Designed for a variety of food types, the NutriChef Food Dehydrator brings multiple shelves for maximum nutrition. This efficiency is vital, and while other units may transfer the taste as they dehydrate, this doesn’t, so if you don’t like you oranges tasting suspiciously like onion, you’ve found the right option for you. Even if you’ve never used a food dehydrator before, you’ll find this so simple you’ll think you’ve done something wrong (you haven’t), and with a maximum temperature of 180℉, you can guarantee high quality results.
You will need to reposition the food every 3 to 4 hours to ensure consistent dehydration, but this is only when the whole thing is packed. Otherwise, it’s effective enough to set while you take a break, enjoy what’s on TV or catch up on some chores. We know you’d rather just have your jerky now, but life isn’t fair.
Multi-tier design maximizes dehydration options for a variety of foods
One button operation is simple to use for everyone
Maximum temperature of 180℉
Consistent heat circulation travels through each tray without losing effectiveness
- Weight7.1 pounds
Our final home dehydrator is the Hamilton Beach Proctor Silex Food Dehydrator. It’s straightforward and provides a large 425 square inches of drying space for superb versatility. It’s BPA-free so you can clean the trays easily in the dishwasher to save you time and trust there’s no risk of toxins seeping into the food.
The trays are also adjustable to accommodate different food shapes and sizes, and you can also lock them in place and expand them to create further space. It’s suitable for a variety of foods and is also so quiet you won’t feel distracted while trying to relax. It’s not a dehydrator that’ll set the world alight, but for simplicity and ease of use, we like it, and we believe you will, too.
Easy operation at the touch of a button for simple use and results
452 square inches of drying space to prepare multiple foods at once
Adjustable height trays to accommodate a variety of food types and sizes
BPA-free dishwasher safe trays ensure food safety and absence of dangerous toxins
- BrandHamilton Beach
- Weight5.85 pounds
Food Dehydrator Buying Guide & FAQ
How We Chose Our Selection Of Food Dehydrator
We didn’t have the chance to try our own foods when looking for the best food dehydrator, so instead we relied on two factors we know everybody looks for when making a purchase. Here’s how we did it:
Reviews - Clicking through review after review isn’t the most fun we’ve ever had at a computer, but it gives us an insight into all the things product descriptions are a little sneaky about. These reviews, written by those who’ve both been there and done that help us figure out which products are worth including.
We don’t want to suggest something garbage, so we rely on these reviews to ensure we only select options with a high average rating, and filled with reviews which we’re sure we can trust.
Price - No one wants to spend too much on things, we’ve got other bills to pay and food to buy, so we don’t want to exclude anybody with our range of prices. However, we also want to ensure we’re suggestion quality, and that quality often comes at a price.
Understanding the variety of needs for food dehydrators, from the professional to the domestic, we searched for a wide range of prices capable of appealing to everybody who reads this guide. This way, even if you’ve no need for a top of the range product (at least not right now, anyway), you can still enjoy the wonders of food dehydration with something more suited to you.
And ‘wonders of food dehydration’ is a sentence we’d never thought we - or anyone - would ever say.
Features To Look For In Food Dehydrator
Before you make your final and serious decision over which dehydrator machine is the right one for you, consider these features to look out for.
Consistent Heat - Without consistent heat, you won’t get consistently perfect results and some areas of the unit won’t be as dehydrated as others. Because you need everything on the shelves to be the same level of dehydrated, consistent heat distribution is essential. Stackable versions only emit heat from the base or the top, meaning food on the upper or lower levels will get the most heat. For the best consistent results, a horizontal type dehydrator is preferred.
Capacity - A large-sized dehydrator is useful for those with vegetable gardens and those who grow their own fruit and herbs at home, and in restaurants or in industrial settings, they also come in handy. Size isn’t everything, though, and most people should be fine with stackable versions. These smaller units are also easier to find a place for in the kitchen.
Temperature Settings - The wider range of temperature settings, the more versatile control you have over your dehydration activities. This is more common with shelf-based dehydrators, but more advanced vertical stacked options may provide it if you look in the right place. If you want to dehydrate meat for jerky, you’ll need higher temperatures than for fruit and vegetables.
Accessories - Timers, expandability, different food-type trays, and anything that helps make your experience better and easier is always appreciated. some options come with cookbooks and spices to ensure you get the most from your new food dehydrator.
Auto Shut Off - Humans are not perfect and we are prone to bouts of forgetfulness. There’s not one among us who hasn’t forgotten we’ve left something in the oven at least once, and for some, this happens more frequently. An automatic shut of feature prevent overheating, over drying, and ensures there’s no lasting damage to the parts.
Noise Level - A noisy appliance is an annoying appliance, especially if you live with roommates or want to dehydrate your foods overnight. To ensure peaceful dehydration practices, consider how loud the unit will be when in use, and if you’ll be able to hear it while trying to get on with your life.
Types Of Food Dehydrator
Throughout our selection, we’ve brought you both vertical and horizontal flow food dehydrators. Here’s a little more information on the difference between them.
Vertical Flow - Also known as stackable hydrators because they work in independent levels that ascend from the base (or descend from the top). The source of heat is at the top or the bottom and uses a fan to distribute the heat throughout, up or down.
These types are the most popular food dehydrators available as they are often cheaper and take up less space compared to horizontal flow. However, while they do a decent job, there’s no guarantee the airflow is distributed as evenly as its counterpart.
Most people use them for drying fruits and vegetables, as they require less monitoring, and the interlocking shelves prevent heat escaping. If you’re looking to make jerky, though, they may not be sufficient and require shelf rotation, which can affect the process.
Horizontal Flow - These dehydrators - also referred to as a box and shelf food dehydrators - are larger, more industrial, and arguably easier to use, eliminating much of the stress you may get with stackable vertical models. They work much like your standard oven and provide larger square footage of space for larger demands.
For professionals, this type is vital for ensuring you minimize spoilage. It uses trays (or shelves) which you pull out like you would a typical oven and need not rotate or twist or turn the food to ensure consistency throughout. As the name suggests, the heat and airflow emit from the back, horizontally (duh), and spreads towards the front door.
They’re ideal for cooking tougher meats, making them great for getting your jerky fix, and require no manual work to set them up, although they may be a little more of a challenge to clean if the shelves aren’t dishwasher safe.
They are more expensive, though, and they’re also larger, so there may not be much space in the kitchen for them (there’s always the bedroom though for a midnight jerky snack). To make matters easier, they come with timer settings and other advanced features some stackable vertical dehydrators miss out on.
Food Dehydrator FAQ
Q: What is a food dehydrator?
A: By now, you may have figured out what a food dehydrator is, but before you go, let’s make sure we’re all clear.
A food dehydrator is a machine using airflow and heat to gently and carefully warm your food to reduce the moisture or dehydrate it. This is to help preserve it for longer, and as we’ve mentioned above, it ensures you need not waste freezer space to keep food good for longer. Doing this also saves you rifling through chest freezers, arranging, rearranging, and then at the end struggling to close the darn thing.
Though you may not entirely believe it, this process (the dehydration, not so much the electric timer functions, these came later) is as old as time, seriously. This shows it is safe, it is effective, and is also something all cultures have explored throughout the ages, making it one of the most consistent traditions around.
When using one, it can work as a meat dehydrator or a fruit dehydrator, or both, and as long as you keep them clean, there’ll be no problems with potential bacteria transfer. With some dehydrators that offer multiple shelves, you can also dry and prepare multiple food types at once without the risk of cross-contamination.
Through consistent airflow and temperature, it reduces the moisture content of the food, which is typically somewhere between 80% - 95% for fruits and between 50% - 75% for meat to as low as 20%, which ensures it keeps and stays good for longer. Primarily, the food dehydrator traps nutrients and vitamins, but it can also make beef jerky.
However, it’s not wholly simple, and you can sometimes end up with dry casing, where the food it hard and dry on the outside, but still moist inside, which still poses a risk of spoiling. Ideally, you need your food to be dry (or as dry as it can be) throughout to ensure it lasts as long as possible.
- How to Use a Food Dehydrator - WikiHow
- What Features Should You Look For in a Food Dehydrator? - Dehydrator Blog
- What are the Different Types of Food Dehydrators? - Dehydrator Blog