Last Updated: May 2016
Food dehydrators have been praised by health experts and enthusiasts around the world to be one of the best ways to preserve food while keeping up to 90% of its nutritional value. Over the past few years, dehydrators have grown in popularity, what once was seen as being a luxury, has now become a must-have in every kitchen. If you are looking for a healthy alternative to snacking or simply want an economical solution to preserving food, then a food dehydrator is the answer.
If you are looking for the best food dehydrator then allow me to introduce to you our top 5 recommendations, this is based on personal experience, having tested each and every one of these in my kitchen. However, it also comes from research and data collection – my opinion wasn’t enough, I decided to collect the opinions of every other verified consumer from large retailers such as Amazon and Walmart and use their opinions to help create the most accurate, honest & in-depth guide to finding the best food dehydrator for your kitchen.
Below you will find a summary of the top 5 food dehydrators that are currently available on the market if you are in a hurry or don’t fancy reading my consumer guide then simply take my word for it – these are the best of the best.
*5 Star Rating: this is based on the percentage of consumers who rate the food dehydrator 10/10.
4 Reasons To Buy A Food Dehydrator
There are various reasons why you should buy a Food Dehydrator, and I am guessing because you are here you don’t need to be persuaded. However, I’d like to highlight just a few of the fantastic benefits that purchasing a Food Dehydrator can have.
Money and Space Saver
Preserving food means it will last longer, which in turn means you will not have to purchase as much food, and you will not waste as much food. Once you have dehydrated food, you can preserve it at room temperature which means you won’t have to find space in the refrigerator or freezer, nor will you have to spend money on electricity to keep it cool. You can simply put the dehydrated food in a cupboard and take it out when you fancy a snack.
Healthier Food For Less
I am sure you have been into your local supermarket, perhaps you fancied some dried fruit, and as soon as you reach out to grab it, you realise how expensive it is and control the urge. Well, with a food dehydrator you won’t need to splash out on dried snacks, you can do it all at home for much cheaper than you can when purchasing in the supermarket.
An added bonus is the fact that dried snacks in the supermarket usually contain a significantly higher amount of sugar to help preserve the food and ensure it tastes good. Your homemade dried snacks will taste superior and cost less.
Easy to Use
I know dehydrating food may sound slightly complex, but with a food dehydrating machine it is very simple. Now, the efficiency and ease of use depend on the machine you purchase, however even the most affordable dehydrators such as the Nesco Snackmaster are simple to use. If the dehydrator comes with a back-mounted heat element, then it becomes even easier as you won’t need to rotate the trays.
If you’ve tried to dry food in a conventional oven and your thinking this is going to be just as difficult, think again. The Food Dehydrators that I recommend are incredibly easy to use, remember they’ve been designed solely for this purpose.
Vitamins and Enzyme Preservation
The reason Food Dehydrators are able to preserve the nutritional value within fruits and vegetables is due to the low-temperature drying which helps to preserve up to 90% of the vitamins and enzymes such as Beta Carotene, Potassium, Magnesium, Vitamin C and Selenium.
Food Dehydrators: Features To Look For
Heating Elements: Heating element can be located in the back of dehydrator as in Excalibur and Sedona brands, on top – like in Nesco dehydrators or on the bottom – like in food dryers like L’equip. Heating element mounted in the back of dehydrator dries food the most evenly, so it’s should be your first choice. And bottom mounted heating element should be your last choice because it’s completely unprotected from dripping and food pieces, which will shorten the life of the fan and heating element.
Fan: Most of the dehydrators have fans, and they are always in the same place where heating elements are. But there are some that have no fan. Choose dehydrator with a fan for faster and more even drying. The only positive moment about dehydrators without a fan is that they are quite.
Trays: There are several parameter of the trays you should be aware before buying dehydrators. They are shape, size, number and material. Most trays can be divided into two types round and rectangular. Round trays usually have a hole in the middle that reduces the working surface of the tray. Plus hole in the middle is very inconvenient when you’re doing fruit leathers.
Size and number of trays is an important thing to take into consideration as those will make the total dehydrating area. Obviously, it depends on your ambitions in term of food dehydrating. If you expect to use a food dryer non-stop during harvest season, you want to have as much drying area as you can.
Regarding material dehydrators are made of inside and outside, it’s mostly plastic. Most of the brands claim that their plastic is BPA free. But BPA is not the only thing can be emitted from plastics especially when it’s heated. The only brand that offers stainless steel trays is Excalibur, and you need to pay around 500$ for it, not everybody can afford that, but if you can it’s highly recommended.
Construction: All dehydrators can be divided by construction in expandable (stackable) and non-expandable (with slide-in trays). The idea of possibility to expand your drying area by buying extra trays is cool, but in reality, you can’t expand as much as you want, because with each extra tray efficacy of dehydrator becoming lower and lower.
Probably, if you are mostly drying herbs or other non-moist foods, the dehydrator will still perform decently even with doubled amount of trays. But if you plan on drying tomatoes, bananas or other moist fruits and vegetables you can’t add more than a couple of extra trays, because you will be at risk of food molding, at the list if you can’t constantly watch the process and rotate trays. On the other hand, dehydrators with slide-in trays can’t be expanded, but they dry the food most evenly.
Adjustable Temperature: Adjustable temperature is a very advisable feature if you want to make the dried staff of the best quality. Different things require the different temperature to dehydrate perfectly. Fruits are better to dry at low temperature (around 105F) to preserve all nutrients while meat needs to be done at a higher temperature (145-155F) to be safe to consume.
Timer: Timer is another great feature to have, because it allows you to turn on your dehydrator and forget about it, go to bed or leave home, without worrying that your food will over-dry. But this option is available only in pricey high-end dehydrators as Excalibur or Sedona dehydrators.
Food Dehydrator: Brands that we’ve analysed & reviewed
Below is a list of brands that we recognize as being the best in the business for providing high-quality dehydrators that provide excellent results. All of these brands are experts at manufacturing food dehydrators, they are well-known within this market and offer superior machines compared to the rest. Let’s begin!
Excalibur dehydrators are one of the best quality food drying devices made in the USA since 1973. These food dryers have back mounted heating element and fan and rectangular slide-in trays with mesh, that are great for drying small vegetables and fruits. They are available in 4, 5 and 9-tray size option in plastic and stainless steel. Excalibur provides you with 5 years limited warranty and 10 years extended warranty can be bought for 29$ if you buy directly from excalibur.com
- Pros: even heat distribution, models with adjustable heat, timer, and stainless steel trays are available
- Cons: Non-expandable dehydrators, pricy
Price range: 130-499$
Nesco is another reputable brand of dehydrators. They are well known by their round, stackable and affordable food dryers. Nesco dehydrators are great for a novice dry-food enthusiast who is not ready yet to spend a lot on the heavy-duty dehydrator, but would like to try drying their fruits, veggies, herb or jerky. And to the attention of environmentally conscious, most of Nesco dehydrators are made in the USA.
- Pros: Affordable, stackable, expandable, pricier models have temperature adjustment and timer
- Cons: Round trays with the hole in the middle (smaller drying area), all plastic dehydrators
Price range: 35-220$
Sedona dehydrators belong to the Tribest brands family (learn more about Tribest here), which are all about healthy living. Sedona has only two dehydrators in their arsenal SD-P9150 and SD-P9000. SD-P9000 is the most popular among raw foodists, mostly due its overheat protection function. Sedona food dryers are one of the best alternatives to Excaliburs. Which one to choose is a matter of personal choice as both brands performance is really good.
- Pros: Temperature adjustment and timer, food overheat protection, quite operating
- Cons: Plastic trays and frame (have plastic smell when new), non-expandable, bad manufacturer’s quality control (some customers get a defected product straight of the box)
Price range: 395-470$
L’equip has two models in their dehydrators’ arsenal L’equip 528 and L’equip FilterPro. Both food dryers are stackable with possibilities to add more trays to 6-tray initial construction and have adjustable temperature and timer. The unique feature of L’equip FilterPro is air filter which guarantees that fruits, veggies, etc. are blown by clean air. That’s very convenient function for those who keep their dehydrators in basement or garage.
- Pros: Time and temperature adjustment, expandable, air filtering in FilterPro model
- Cons: Bottom mounted heating element and fan are vulnerable to drips and crumbs, made of plastic.
Price range: 120-150$
Weston dehydrators are also popular among users. Though they are an inferior option to Excalibur dehydrators regarding quality, and Nesco food dryers – regarding price. From one hand the fact that they have all stainless steel dehydrator only for 300$ is great. From another hand those who conscious about the use of plastic, usually conscious about temperature they dry their food (as safety reasons for meat or as the quality issue for the rest of foods). And Weston food dryers are not reliable enough in that. However if you use dehydrators mostly for drying herbs on low temperature, these brand could be a good option for you as they have plenty of drying surface and even heat distribution due to rear mounted heat and fan.
- Pros: Temperature adjustment, available in stainless steel, quite an operation
- Cons: Do not heat properly (crucial safety for jerky or value of living foods), holes are too big in trays, made in China
Price range: 115-300$
Deni brand manufactures lots of different kitchen devices dehydrators one of them. These dehydrators are affordable, and could be an alternative to Nesco products. Two Deni food dryers are available on the market Deni 7100 and Deni 7200. Both food dehydrators are with bottom mounted heater and have stackable construction. Trays have a hole in the center as well as Nesco dehydrators.
- Pros: Cheap, expandable
- Cons: Dries food unevenly, plastic, bottom located fan and heater will suffer from drips and crumbs
Price Range: 30-80$
Presto dehydrators are good quality dehydrators, which are the main competitor to Nesco food dryers. The look and functionality of dehydrators in these two brands are similar. The only difference is that Nesco has a wider selection of models. But it’s not always better to have a wider choice, as it makes harder for you to choose the right one for your purposes.
- Pros: Some models have adjustable temperature and timer, cheap, expandable, and reliable
- Cons: Dries food unevenly, plastic, bottom located fan and heater will suffer from drips and crumbs
Price range: 35-110$
If you want all stainless steel dehydrator with reasonable price and good quality, go for TSM dehydrator. They have cheaper plastic dehydrators too. Their machines go with adjustable temperature and timer in some models, with rear mounted fan and square trays in plastic, chrome or stainless steel. TSM are the great US made dehydrators with the only drawback of not having temperature markings on the switch, so you need to figure out the temperature with the use of a thermometer.
- Pros: Available in all stainless steel, adjustable temperature and timer, reliable, U.S. made
- Cons: No markings of temperature on the switch.
Price range: 130-600$ (digital dehydrators available for around 5,000$)
Brand Comparison Table
|Number of trays||4, 5 or 9||9||4||10||6|
|Trays’ shape||rectengular||rectengular||square and round with the hole||rectengular||rectengular|
|Drying surface (sq ft)||4, 8, 15||12||4||16||12|
|Adjustable temperature||yes||yes||yes (not in all)||yes||yes|
|Temperature range (F)||95 -155 (4-tray), 105-165||85-165||95-160||90-165||95-158|
|Timer||yes (not in all)||yes||yes (not in all)||yes||yes|
|Special features||none||over-heat protection||none||none||air filter|
|Material (trays)||plastic or stainless steel||plastic||plastic||plastic, chrome or stainless still||plastic|
|Material (frame)||plastic or stainless steel with plastic interior||plastic||plastic||plastic or all stainless steel||plastic|
|Power (Watt)||220, 440, 600||600||600, 700, 1000||800||500-530|
|Size of device (inches)||13x16x6, 17x19x8, 17x19x12||20x15x17||13x13x10, 15x15x10||17x19x16||17x12x10|
|Country of origin||USA||Korea||USA||USA||Korea|