I remember my delight when I found a roadside fruit stand that was just overloaded with fresh, rich peaches. All of them were perfectly ripe and ready to eat right now. But peaches spoil quickly, and that’s why you need the best food dehydrator you can get.
We all love fruit and vegetables in season! And gardeners often discover to our simultaneous delight and dismay that there’s an unexpected abundance of produce and herbs.
If you’re like me, you’re also a fan of jerky and don’t want to pay high prices. Plus, commercial jerky sometimes has questionable ingredients. So why not make your own?
Let’s explore everything you’d ever want to know about food dehydrators. Tools like this can quickly become a necessity in the house!
|Best OverallExcalibur 3926TB 9-Tray Food DehydratorBest Overall||Check Amazon Price|
|Best RoundPresto 06301 Dehydro Digital Food DehydratorBest Round||Check Amazon Price|
|Best RectangularL'EQUIP FilterPro 6 Food DehydratorBest Rectangular||Check Amazon Price|
|Best SquareExcalibur 3526TB 5-Tray Food DehdyratorBest Square||Check Amazon Price|
|Countertop ModelLEM Products 1152 5-Rack Food DehydratorCountertop Model||Check Amazon Price|
|ExpandableNesco FD-1040 Gardenmaster Food DehydratorExpandable||Check Amazon Price|
|BPA-Free Plastic TraysIvation 9-Tray Digital Food DehydratorBPA-Free Plastic Trays||Check Amazon Price|
|Preset TempsCuisinart DHR-20 Food DehydratorPreset Temps||Check Amazon Price|
|Commercial GradeIvation 10 Tray Commercial Food DehydratorCommercial Grade||Check Amazon Price|
|Tower StyleSedona Express SDE-S6780-B Digital DehydratorTower Style||Check Amazon Price|
10 Best Food Dehydrator Reviews
1. Excalibur 3926TB 9-Tray Food Dehydrator
- Large Capacity: Equipped with 9 Excalibur...
- Versatile Uses: Features a 26-hour dehydrator...
- Low & Slow for Immune Boost: Cooking foods at no...
Let’s face it: if you’re doing a lot of dehydrating, you want something that can handle both jerky and fruit. You can’t consider something the overall best food dehydrator unless it can do both. You’re also going to need something which has a lot of capacity.
That’s where the Excalibur 9-tray model comes into play. With 15 square feet of drying space, you can handle a massive harvest of fruit and vegetables, or you can make pounds and pounds of jerky. Or you can do both! The choice is up to you.
I just have to give Excalibur credit for forty years of making high-quality dehydrators in the US. They’re reliable, they’re repairable, and the ten year warranty is unbeatable. With the same functionality as the 5-tray mentioned below, this 9-tray model works beautifully. And that’s important if you have a lot to dry.
2. Presto 06301 Dehydro Digital Food Dehydrator
- Six-tray system for dehydrating foods at a...
- Makes jerky from meat, poultry, and seafood...
- Digital thermostat and timer for precise drying...
A bottom fan and digital thermostat are highlights of this six-tray round Presto food dehydrator. It’s expandable up to twelve trays, and can provide temperatures between 90-165° F.
What I particularly like about this model is that it stores compactly as the trays nest in each other. The plastic for all Presto-brand dehydrators are BPA-free and food-safe, so that’s not a concern here.
Presto has a wide selection of available add-on components, all of which are readily available. That’s really helpful, as you don’t have to search or customize other manufacturer’s items to make them fit.
This is not meant to be a high-capacity model, but for a good budget price, this is a great unit and will work well for most home use. So I have to consider it the best food dehydrator for a low price!
3. L’EQUIP FilterPro 6 Food Dehydrator
- Solid State variable temperature control from...
- FilterPro filtered air system keeps your dried...
- Stackable up to 15 trays deep and comes with 6...
Let me start out by saying that this is not the cheapest model. However, for what you get, you’re getting a real bargain, and it’s better than all of the other rectangular models without question.
First off, this includes something which most of the other dehydrators don’t: a filter. This L’EQUIP food dehydrator ensures that there is no chance of pet hair, dust, or anything else getting into and on top of your food, which can be a real plus.
An LED timer and digital temperature display provide visual references for your settings, accompanied by dials to adjust. The FilterPro heats in a range of 95-158° F, giving you a wide variety of materials you can dry. And it has a 24-hour shutoff, so it automatically stops once done.
It’s constructed of BPA-free plastics, and comes with six trays. It’s expandable to fifteen trays if needed. Two of its trays are extra-deep, providing room for larger items or the included yogurt cups to make your own homemade yogurt!
Six mesh screens are included so that you can use all six of the racks it comes with for fine items like herbs. It only has two fruit leather sheets, but more are readily available.
I’m not a huge fan of rectangular models. But if I had to get one, this is the best food dehydrator of its type, and definitely worth the few extra dollars you’ll spend.
4. Excalibur 3526TB 5-Tray Food Dehydrator
- CAPACITY: The 3526TB 5-tray dehydrator equaling 8...
- EVEN DRYING - The 5-inch fan heating element and...
- TIME AND TEMPERATURE - Convenient 26-hour timer...
Excalibur food dehydrators are towards the high-end, but for a reason. This 5-tray model has a temperature range of 105-165° F, putting it in the warmer category. As jerky needs to be heated to an internal temperature of at least 160 for food safety reasons, this is a no-brainer.
While it may be too warm for herbs at longer drying times, this can easily take on nearly any fruit or jerky. Made in Sacramento, CA, Excalibur’s dehydrators have phenomenal warranties (some up to 10 years) and loads of extra parts available.
They have many different sizes, from 4-tray through 10-tray. I particularly like this model because it has a 26-hour automatic shutoff, metal construction, and poly-screen tray inserts to prevent sticking.
You can easily remove racks to dry bulky items, make yogurt, or proof bread dough with this model as well. The entire front panel slides off for ease in cleaning. No door will be in the way,catching food particles!
These are extremely sturdy and well-constructed dehydrators with many, many years of lifespan. They are higher-priced than other models, but you’re supporting an American business while getting a dehydrator that won’t just die on you. And that’s worth paying for!
5. LEM Products 1152 5-Rack Food Dehydrator
- Digital timer with automatic shut-off
- Five square (15” x 15”) trays allow for...
- Large drip tray makes for easy clean-up
If you’re drying fruit like apples that has a tendency to curl up, or which start out a bit thicker (like crinkly kale leaves), you may find the larger spacing between the LEM’s five racks to be a real benefit. There’s just enough extra room that fruit won’t be brushing the bottom of the rack above it.
In addition, it has a removable drip tray in the bottom of the unit which makes clean-up easy. The front door is a fold-down, but you won’t have to fight with trying to keep crumbs from getting stuck in the hinges as it folds flat.
With a digital timer and automatic shutoff, the LEM model is really giving Excalibur a run for its money, especially at half the price. And so I can’t help but to include it as the best food dehydrator for fruit in this list.
6. Nesco FD-1040 Gardenmaster Food Dehydrator
- EVEN HEAT DISTRIBUTION: 1000 watts of drying power...
- ADJUSTABLE THERMOSTAT: Allows you to dry different...
- EXPANDABLE TO 20 TRAYS: Comes with 4 BPA Free...
This is not the highest possible capacity available in a round dehydrator. However, the Nesco Gardenmaster Food Dehydrator is the most reliable in terms of an expandable stacked-tray dehydrator, which I find to be important. It comes with four trays, but can handle up to twenty.
Unlike most other top-fan models, this one forces the air down along the sides, as well as across the trays into the middle. It’s essentially the reverse form of a bottom-fan model, but has less issues with condensation on the top than a standard bottom-fan would.
The adjustable thermostat can be set for anywhere between 90-160° F, allowing for a good range of temperatures for different materials. The trays are BPA-free plastic, and it comes with a variety of extra items including fruit leather trays and fine particle trays for herbs.
While I would love it if it weren’t opaque so I could view the dehydration process, that’s a minor quibble. All things told, this is a great food dehydrator and worth your money.
7. Ivation 9-Tray Digital Food Dehydrator
- Enjoy Homemade Easy Healthy Snacks,Without...
- Perfect For Drying Fruit Slices, Long-Lasting...
- Rear-Mounted Fan Is Designed To Promote Even...
This 9-tray dehydrator from Ivation uses BPA-free plastic trays instead of metal trays. If you’re trying to avoid any potential of rusty trays, this is a great model for you. In addition, its trays are able to be adjusted to allow more or less space between them, and they’re fully machine-washable.
The drip tray and all of its dehydrating trays are fully removable for cleaning purposes. One solid sheet liner is included for making homemade fruit roll ups from various purees. At 13″x12″, the trays hold a good amount of produce and make it easy to produce high quality dried food!
8. Cuisinart DHR-20 Food Dehydrator
- EXCEPTIONAL DESIGN: 552-square inches of...
- INCLUDED: Five stackable, interlocking racks,...
- PREMIUM COOKING: Great for beef jerky, dried...
What I like about this dehydrator is that it’s easy for a new person to use. A fan-only option provides no heat but lots of drying airflow, great for herbs or other fragile things. Three other heat settings for low, medium, and high average out to 110, 140, and 175 degrees Fahrenheit respectively.
What I’m not a big fan of is that you can’t go between those heat settings. Fan-only is great for herbs, yes, but 110 is really only an option for the thinnest sliced fruits. 140 is a smidge too hot for most vegetables but too low for meats. 175 is practically cooking the meat while it’s drying it!
Still, for people who’re new to dehydrators, this is virtually foolproof. You will succeed in drying anything you want to dry with this device. Additional trays are available from the manufacturer, and its fan motor is certainly able to handle additional capacity. All things considered, it’s not a bad model to have, from a company known for its reliability.
9. Ivation 10 Tray Commercial Food Dehydrator
- REAR-MOUNTED AUTOMATIC FAN: The Fan Inside This...
- SIX SPACIOUS TRAYS: Room For Ten Trays (15.6” X...
- STAINLESS STEEL BODY & TRAYS: All Parts Are...
Need a whole lot of power and capacity? This commercial grade food dehydrator from Ivation fits the bill. All stainless steel, from trays to the side walls, it’s easy to clean and disinfect between batches. At 1000 watts of fan power, this is guaranteed to dry out things in good time. And did I mention it has 10 trays?
This big unit is able to be set at temperatures ranging from 95 to 167, giving you a wide range of potential drying temps. It includes a shutoff timer that can be set in 30-minute increments, allowing you to dry for as short as 30 minutes or as long as 24 hours. Once the timer ticks down, it shuts itself off.
It includes one mesh sheet for drying herbs, one solid sheet for making fruit leather, and a drip tray. For those of us who’re trying to preserve the contents of our garden for later use, this is a great buy.
10. Sedona Express SDE-S6780-B Digital Dehydrator
- Compact, Kitchen-Friendly Design with All-Digital...
- World's First Dehydrator with a Maximum...
- Powerful Central Fan with Revolutionary TST...
Last but not least, we come to this interesting tower-like dehydrator. The trays are smaller than many of the other styles we’ve featured. But with 11 of them, it works out to be comparable dehydration space in a smaller footprint.
This one has a removable and washable air filter that you can use to keep dust or pet hair from sliding in to contaminate your food. Its glass door provides great visibility of what you’re dehydrating, and swings open wide to allow for complete access.
Its digital settings are comprehensive, allowing you to fine-tune it exactly to what you want to be done. Its timer settings allow you to run it in set increments up to 99 hours, or on a “continuous mode” that operates for 150 hours.
A ‘raw’ setting allows you to set the temperature at 118, where a ‘fast’ setting allows you to run it at 165. Finally, the ‘combo’ mode sets it for the first few hours at 165, then drops down to 118 to finish the drying process, ensuring food safety requirements are met. You can also adjust the settings manually.
For most, this is more complex than they’ll ever need to be, but it’s a great model for the person who wants to be very precise about their timing and temperature.
Why Do You Need A Food Dehydrator?
Anyone who’s ever grown a vegetable garden knows how hard it is to use tons of fresh produce in a hurry. You may see twelve tiny cucumbers on your vine, and then suddenly they’re all ripe simultaneously!
Finding it difficult to use up all those tomatoes? There’s a limit to how much pasta or salad you can eat in a short period of time, and those spoil quickly. You need to store them, and quickly. What choices do you have?
What About Other Preservation Options?
While water-bath canning is an option for your abundance of tomatoes, and a pressure canner can handle of all the extra beans, it can be a hassle. You have to sterilize all the jars, pack them in exactly the right fashion, and hope they seal properly. Then you need to store lots of jars.
Sure, you can sun-dry your tomatoes, although you’ll need to find something to keep the ants and flies away. Your oven will work in a pinch, but you may use a whole lot more gas or electric power than you need to.
And while a freeze-dryer is lovely, most of us don’t have them. They can cost thousands of dollars, and they take up tons of room. They work wonderfully, but they just aren’t something the average person is likely to have.
Why A Food Dehydrator Machine Is Beneficial
This is when the food dehydrator can save the day. Most food dehydrators can handle an abundance of fruit and vegetables, plus you can make homemade jerky. They don’t take up lots of room, and they allow you to save that amazing harvest you’ve had.
If you have kids, a food dryer can be a great benefit as well. Instead of letting the kids eat unhealthy potato chips, you can offer them chips made of apples, kale, carrots, or bananas! They’ll love these unusual “chips”, and you’ll know they’re getting better nutrition.
But what if you don’t grow veggies or fruit? A dehydrator may still be useful for you. If you do floral arrangements, you can dry flowers in it. And there’s always the option of buying a bunch of produce while it’s on sale and storing it away in dried form.
Let’s not forget that a dehydrator isn’t limited to just drying out stuff. It can be used as a warming location for proofing bread or making yogurt. And if you do crafts, you can use it to dry out papier mache items or to speed up paint-drying times.
All things considered, it’s a really useful tool to have at hand. It’s a wonder that most of us don’t already have one!
Food Dehydrator Features
The best food dehydrator has flexibility in terms of how it can be used. But there’s some definite features which vary from model to model. Let’s go over some of the different possibilities.
Is Shape Important?
There’s round ones, rectangular ones, and large units that look like boxes. But is there any difference between the three?
Turns out, the answer is yes.
Round ones typically have their fan unit in the center of the device, leaving you with less drying rack space. The rectangular ones also often have the fan in the center of the unit. Fruit, vegetables or meat that are positioned at the outer edges of the rack may take longer to dry.
Most commercial-grade food driers are square, with a fan at the back of the unit that blows evenly across the trays. This ensures that the airflow is extremely good for all items. The dehydration will be even for everything inside.
All three do work, though. It simply takes a bit more time for some of the round or rectangular models.
In addition, those larger square models allow you to do a lot more than simply dehydration. They’re great for proofing bread or making homemade yogurt because you can keep an even warmth inside.
They also have much more capacity on each tray, as there’s no fan in the center. You’d be surprised how much more you can dry without that!
Metal or Plastic?
All dehydrators have some amount of plastic used in their construction, but some are fully plastic, where others are metal.
With metal, remember that metal conducts heat. A metal model may be much easier to clean or sterilize, butt may also become warm to the touch while it’s in operation. These are usually best used in areas where the kids or pets aren’t likely to go.
By comparison, plastic can stain with repeated use, and can easily get scratched. Over time, it will develop cracks. So a plastic model will not have the potential longevity that metal will have.
It’s a bit of a trade-off based upon what needs you have. If you’re looking for something that will last for a long time, get metal, but a plastic model can still give you years of use if maintained well!
About The Fan
Let’s talk about fan placement. There’s three common locations in dehydrators where the fan will be positioned: at the bottom of the machine, on top of the machine, or as a side-mount (usually on the back).
The fan placement makes a difference because where the air blows is where the moisture is being directed as it’s pulled out of your food.
Bottom-mounted fans typically blow the air straight up the sides where it crosses the food, escaping through a vent in the center. Trays close to the bottom dry out first, and you may need to wipe condensation off the lid occasionally.
Top-mounted send the air downward, preventing condensation at the top. These models usually have side vents, and the air goes down the center, then spreads to the sides across the food.
A side or rear-mounted fan will evenly blow across the trays, sending the moisture to the opposite side of the unit. Usually these tend to be the best, but they also tend to only be available in square-shaped models, which tend to be more expensive.
The power of the fan will vary between different models, and is optimized to the particular design being used. However, I’ve found that the best food dehydrator models tend to have a fairly strong fan that blows consistently-warm air across your food.
Everything About The Trays
There’s two types of trays used in dehydrators: stackable, or sliding.
Stackable trays are most common with round and rectangular models. As the name suggests, these stack atop each other. You may need to rotate the trays during the drying process to ensure everything dries out evenly.
In addition, stackable tray models are slightly expandable, but with limits. You don’t want to stack 24 trays on top of a cheap dehydrator because the fan can’t handle it. Some models are built with a stronger fan that can handle more trays.
Sliding trays work like oven racks. These typically are made of either a heavy plastic mesh or metal, and some come with additional tray liners that can handle fine or semi-liquid materials. To me, these are the easier trays to use.
Let’s talk about the tray material. If you’re concerned about BPA-free plastics, you’ll likely prefer metal trays. They last longer and are easier to clean. Stackable trays are usually plastic, where sliding trays can be either.
Plastic trays can be damaged more readily, and repeated cleaning will mar the surface. Over time, these may become brittle, but it’ll take a while before they start to need replacements. These also allow you to see the drying process more readily, which is a plus!
Are you going to be dehydrating a lot of food? Just a little? Planning on making fruit leathers or dehydrated soup mixes?
Many factors change your capacity needs. Most round or rectangular models have the fan directly in the middle of the unit, which takes away a lot of capacity. It also makes it more difficult to turn thick liquids like applesauce or strawberry puree into a reasonable fruit leather.
Square models have the most capacity per tray, as the fan is on the side of the unit and not in the drying area. These also make it much easier to handle larger items, or to use silicon tray liners (for semi-liquids) or parchment paper (for fine products like herbs) on top of your trays.
Remember, the more trays of stuff you have drying, the more power your fan is going to require to run the unit, and it’s possible it may take longer to dry it all. However, higher capacity models tend to be best for large families or people who want to preserve a lot of food.
Since temperature can be a factor, it’s important to be able to adjust the temperature that your dehydrator operates at.
As an overall recommendation, herbs should be dried at the lowest temperature setting, between 90-110° F.
Most fruits and vegetables do well between 125-135° F to create a softer external skin, but can be set higher if you want the exterior harder and the interior soft and chewy.
Meats require a hotter temperature because they are partially cooked in the drying process, so a setting of 145-160° F is fine. I actually tend to go on the high end for jerky, just to heat it to a minimum of 160 to kill off bacteria.
The majority of dehydrators tend to have a range between 95-165° F but individual models vary slightly, so it’s important to check and see what your model can handle.
The best food dehydrators tend to have the widest range of temperature settings. Most digital options work extremely well, as they aren’t limited to a few set temperatures but can be optimized for your needs. Older dial-operated versions are limited, but still do the job!
While it’s rarely a concern, using too high of a heat and dehydrating your food for too long can cause it to have a burned flavor. To prevent this, many of the higher-end units now include an automatic shutoff.
This automatic shutoff is doubly useful if you’re constantly on the go. People who’re not home for long periods may want this just so drying stops on its own, and they’re not wasting power and potentially overdrying food.
I consider it a peace of mind addition rather than an absolute requirement, but it’s nice to have!
Replacement Parts And Add-Ons
What if you’d like to pick up extra trays? Or maybe you’d like more tray liners?
It’s essential that before you select your machine, you find one which has replacement parts like lids or trays. Expanding the capability of your model with add-ons like tray liners or silicon baking mats is also good, but you’ll need to be sure they fit and work with your machine properly.
Some companies sell these readily and they can be found both online or at stores. Other companies require you to order them directly from the company, and availability is limited to the production time of that specific model.
Needless to say, you don’t want to discover that you can’t get parts after only a year or two of use! So keep your eyes out for any required add-on components or possible weak points in your particular machine.
Other Useful Equipment For Dehydrating
When you plan on using a food dryer as part of your regular storage regimen, you still need to take storage into consideration. We’ve included some Amazon links below for different products you might find useful for storing all that produce!
You can use mason jars, but those can take up a lot of space, so most people opt for mylar bags.
I find that quart or gallon sized mylar bags are the best sizes for me. Quart bags are perfect for storing snacks or small amounts. Gallon bags I use for making homemade soup or stew kits, as well as preserving large quantities.
One of the trickiest aspects of storing your dehydrated food is that it has to be air-tight and free from moisture. If oxygen gets inside, it can allow in moisture, and your food can spoil!
If I’m using mason jars, I may also put a food-safe moisture absorber in the bottom of the jar. These 5g paper silica gel packets are great. I don’t use these with mylar bags as mylar can absorb small amounts of moisture. But they’re useful in glass jars.
Silicone Non-Stick Sheets
Finally, if you’re doing a lot of superfine, semi-liquid or paste stuff (herbs, seeds to store, thick soup mixes, fruit leathers, etcetera), having extra silicone non-stick sheets is really helpful. I’m fond of ParaFlexx, but finding the right type for your particular dehydrator is essential.