The Best Food Dehydrators, According to Our Test Kitchen
A food dehydrator is the perfect kitchen appliance to help you make healthy, homemade snacks and meals. From making your own beef jerky, fruit leather and fruit chips to taking your camping and backpacking meals to the next level, a food dehydrator comes in handy. Food dehydrators come in a number of sizes and models, and many have extra accessories included so you can make the most of your machine. To help you find the perfect dehydrator to fit your needs, we've pulled together a list of the best food dehydrators.
How a Food Dehydrator Works
Unlike conventional ovens, which typically can't get below 175°F, electric food dehydrators use lower temperatures (ranging from 95 to 167°) to preserve food. Food dehydrators circulate the warm air around the racks inside the machine to dehydrate the ingredients evenly. Heating foods at these low temperatures over a long period of time removes the moisture from the ingredient while intensifying flavor and retaining nutrients and vitamins.
Best Foods to Dehydrate
If you're wondering what the best foods to dehydrate are, the sky's the limit as nearly any ingredient can be dehydrated. You can turn an orchard's worth of fruits like apples, bananas and apricots into chewy or crispy snacks (learn how to dehydrate fruits and vegetables). You can dry vegetables and herbs to drop into soups and stews. Lean meat, fish and poultry can be transformed into jerky. Even pasta, beans and grains can be dehydrated to make backpacking meals.
However, foods that are high in fat content or dairy should not be dehydrated. This includes avocados, nut butters, cheese, milk and butter. Eggs should also not be dehydrated, since salmonella can grow in the temperature range required for dehydration.
Best Food Dehydrators
This is our list of the best food dehydrators to make it easier for you to pick one. Each dehydrator was tested with 8 ounces of beef for jerky, two small apples for apple rings and enough parsley leaves to fill one tray each.
Read on for details on what makes these food dehydrators the best, as well as the dehydrators that deserve an honorable mention.
Best Overall Food Dehydrator
Brod & Taylor Sahara Folding Food Dehydrator
This inventive model of food dehydrator folds into a flat rectangle for storage, yet easily sets up for a sturdy, high-capacity dehydrator that is simple to program and use. The Sahara features a dual-temperature option that lets you start dehydrating food at a higher temperature, then automatically switch to a lower temperature to finish. (This is ideal for high-moisture foods like apple slices to kick-start the dehydrating process.) You can adjust your temperature settings in precise 1-degree increments and set the time in 15-minute increments. Beef dehydrated for jerky in a speedy three hours, and apple slices dried in four hours in this dehydrator. The Sahara can be purchased with either stainless-steel or BPA-free polypropylene shelves, and includes washable, reusable air filters. You can also buy silicone drying mats for making fruit leather (buy it: Amazon, $9).
Best Stainless-Steel Food Dehydrator
Tribest Sedona Express
With 11 stainless-steel trays and a stainless-steel drip tray, the Sedona Express is a beast of a machine that can dehydrate enough food for a family. The dehydrator features three settings: fast, with a maximum temperature of 167°F; raw, with a minimum temperature of 77°and a max of 118°; and combo, which allows you to start dehydrating at a higher temperature and automatically switch to a lower temperature. When you open the glass door, a light automatically turns on inside the dehydrator so you can see all the way inside—a nice touch for the deep shelves. The digital controls are not as intuitive to program as the Sahara, but you can adjust the temperature in 1-degree increments and the time in 15-minute increments. The Sedona Express comes with a washable, reusable air filter, while drying mats are sold separately.
Buy it Amazon, $500
You might also consider:
Cosori Premium Stainless-Steel Food Dehydrator
If you're looking for a stainless-steel food dehydrator at a lower price point, the Cosori is a good entry-level option. Affordability translates to somewhat less control over your settings for this dehydrator: the time can only be adjusted in 30-minute increments, and you must first start the machine before you can adjust the time or temperature at all. It also runs warmer to the touch on the outside than any of the other models. The dehydrator comes with one BPA-free plastic mesh screen and one plastic fruit leather tray.
Buy it: Amazon, $160
Best Food Dehydrator for Herbs
Nesco Gardenmaster Pro
The Gardenmaster lives up to its name: if your garden runneth over with herbs, vegetables and fruits every summer, you'll be able to transform them into snacks quickly with this dehydrator. This affordable plastic dehydrator is roaringly powerful—1,000 watts—and comes with a mesh screen and plastic fruit leather tray for each one of its eight BPA-free plastic trays to maximize your herb-dehydrating potential. You can also purchase additional trays, up to 30 total, to stack the Gardenmaster high with produce. The Gardenmaster is analog, so adjusting the temperature is done with a dial instead of programming it to a specific 1-degree setting. Although the plastic dehydrator trays don't always sit flat on the base, it's not a problem as the Gardenmaster heats evenly and efficiently. Two trays of parsley were dry in four hours on the lowest setting of 95°F.
Buy it: Bed Bath & Beyond, $110
Best Food Dehydrator under $100
Hamilton Beach Digital Dehydrator
For kitchens with little to no storage space, the Hamilton Beach is the inexpensive food dehydrator that will get the job done. Its small footprint means you can only fit one apple's worth of slices on each of its BPA-free plastic trays compared to nearly two apples on most other models. However, its digital programming is nearly as good as some of the high-end dehydrators. It has a minimum temperature of 100°F and a maximum temperature of 160°, which can be adjusted in 5-degree increments. Jerky, apples and parsley all dried evenly in five hours in the Hamilton Beach dehydrator. This digital dehydrator also comes with a mesh screen and one fruit leather tray.
Buy it: Home Depot, $56
Best Small Food Dehydrator on Amazon
Nesco Snackmaster Pro
The Nesco Snackmaster Pro is the little sibling to the more powerful Gardenmaster Pro and its capacity is the biggest trade-off here. Like the larger model, this dehydrator features an analog dial. There is no on/off switch; you plug it in, it turns on, and you must unplug it to stop the heating process. Its five BPA-free plastic trays can also be stacked up to 12 trays total if you want to buy a few more. They can get slightly warped, so heed the manufacturer's instructions to load on the top rack of the dishwasher or hand-wash. Despite its smaller size, the Snackmaster performs at almost the same levels as the larger model and has over 8,500 five-star reviews on Amazon. Apples and beef jerky dried nearly as quickly as in the larger model, though parsley took much longer (15 hours!) and dried slightly unevenly. The Snackmaster comes with two mesh screens and two fruit leather trays.
Buy it: Amazon, $66