This post was most recently updated on June 26th, 2021
There are many things on the homestead that you can use a dehydrator for. Before I owned a dehydrator, I used to use the oven for anything that I needed to dry out, but an oven really isn’t the same as a dehydrator. I have decided to review the 5 best dehydrators.
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The difference between drying in an oven and using a dehydrator
Ovens generally have a higher minimum temperature than what you want to dehydrate food at for optimal quality.
If you are like me and you own an older oven without a fan forced option, they are even worse as the food will definitely cook before they dry.
To dry food properly you need to keep the temperature as low as required, a fan to blow off the moisture, and plenty of ventilation to let the moisture out.
While you CAN manage this in an oven (sort of) you will get a much more consistent and better product if you have a properly designed dehydrator.
My Favorite Dehydrator
I dream of having one of the larger, more sturdy stainless steel dehydrators, but for all the things we dehydrate, the one we have works just fine for our needs.
I dry vegetables, fruit leather and jerky overnight using the auto timer cut off and have used it to dry herbs and mushrooms with great success too.
What to look for when choosing a dehydrator
The choice of dehydrator models is vast, and so are the specs and the resulting price range. What do you look for in a dehydrator, and how do you decide which is best for you?
I have used a fair share of dehydrators over the years, and I can tell you, if you plan on using one regularly, it is worth getting one that will do what you need easily and well.
Does the size of the dehydrator matter?
The smaller, cheaper dehydrators are great if you occasionally have something to dry and they work particularly well with small batches of herbs or plants. If you are planning on drying your entire tomato harvest, use your dehydrator to make yogurt or other ferments or plan on making lots of fruit leather, you will be much better off getting one of the larger square shaped ones.
Metal trays or plastic trays in a dehydrator? Does it matter?
Most of the cheaper machines come with plastic trays which while they can be washed in the dishwasher, they will become brittle and break over time. Metal trays will last much longer and are not as likely to warp or buckle. Some of the more expensive ones will also come with fruit leather trays that are solid.
Top loading or front loading dehydrators?
Dehydrators that load from the top down are much more fiddly to load with liquids, and you are more likely to up-end your trays and drop stuff inside once it is dry. Ones that open at the front that have sliding trays are much easier to check on, and remove, add or rotate trays as required without unstacking the whole machine.
Wattage in dehydrators
The higher the wattage, the more power the machine will be using while it is on, however, the higher wattage machines will also dry more food and faster than the lower wattage machines.
Different foods will dehydrate best at different temperatures, so it is best to choose a machine that has an adjustable temperature option.
Built in timers
Most foods will need to dehydrate for many many hours, and if you are like us, your power is cheaper overnight. So with a dehydrator with a timer built in, you can set it and forget it, knowing that it will turn itself off when it is done, which allows you to make use of the cheaper power at night, or to get some drying done while you are out of the house.
A fan in the top or the bottom of the unit will have a less even drying effect than one that is in the back of the unit. For smaller batches this will be less of an issue, but if you are doing lots of drying, all the tray rotations will become annoying.
Best Entry Level Dehydrator
NESCO FD-75A, Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator
Perfect for preparing backpacking foods
★★★ 3/5 stars
- Adjustable thermostat allows you to dry different foods at proper temperatures (95º-160º F)
- Powerful top-mounted 2100 RPM fan
- 600 Watts of drying power.
- Comes with 5 trays, but is expandable to 12 trays. (Trays are 13 1/2″ in diameter)
- Made in the USA of Global and Domestic parts
- A 52-page recipe and instruction book is also included.
Fits in a lot of trays for a small machine
The plastic trays are a little flimsy
Best Dehydrator for Jerky
Homdox Food and Fruit Dehydrator
Perfect for small time jerky makers or when you have a little produce to dry at once.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
- Variable tray stacking system allows you to stack the trays at two different heights to accommodate foods of varying sizes and thicknesses.
- Large 8-tier design with 2lb/1kg food capacity per tray allows you to preserve different types of food simultaneously, thanks to a digital thermostat
- Adjustable between 95-160F (35 – 70°C)
- 400 watts of drying power
Can put trays in dishwasher
No recipe book or instructions
Trays are plastic
Best Dehydrator for Fruits and Vegetables
Ivation 6 Tray Digital Electric Food Dehydrator
Great for fruits, fruit-rolls, vegetables, herbs, and meats. This is the dehydrator I have and LOVE.
★★★★ 4.5/5 stars
• 6 removable, height adjustable racks (13″x12″)
• Digital thermostat adjusts from 95 F to 158 F
• Digital timer with automatic shutoff
• Includes 1 solid and 1 mesh sheet
• Drip tray collects any residue from drying process
• Rear-mounted fan for even drying
• Overheating safety protection
• Complies with US electrical safety regulations ETL
• Comprised of BPA Free materials
• Dimensions: 17.71 x 13.58 x 12.40 inch
• Rated power: 480w
Easy to use
Timer with auto shut off
Holds a lot of food
Comes with clear instructions
Can smell a bit when first used
Temperature increments are in 9F lots (5C)
Best Dehydrator for Bigger Families
Magic Mill Commercial pro
Perfect for when you have lots of food to process at once
★★★★ 4.5/5 stars
- Automatic shut off when timer is done
- Transparent door allows you to easy monitor progress
- Large capacity with 10 trays you can have more than 13 lbs of food dehydrating at once
- Overheating safety protection
- Drip tray collects any residue from drying process
- Temperature Range: 95°F to 167°F (with 9 degree increments)
- Wattage: 1000 watts
- Warranty: 1-year Limited
☑ 10 Stainless steel height adjustable racks
☑ 10 fine mesh sheet
☑ 5 nonstick Fruit Leather sheets
☑ 1 set oven mitts
Well made stainless steel body
Stainless steel trays
Dries evenly/no rotation needed
Timer and auto shut off
We couldn’t find any!
Best Dehydrator for EVERYTHING
Excalibur 3926TCDB 9-Tray
The Excalibur is the premium option when you are looking at dehydrators! It is the dehydrator homesteaders dream of.
★★★★★ 5/5 stars
- 9-Tray dehydrator with 15 square feet of drying space
- Includes a flexible poly-screen tray insert to prevent foods from sticking and trays do not need to be moved or rotated during operation
- Adjustable thermostat and 26-hour timer
- 10-year limited warranty
- Made in USA
- 600 watts
- Includes Guide to Dehydration and Preserve It Naturally
Made of stainless steel
Stainless steel mesh trays
Can be used to: dehydrate fruits, vegetables, nuts, meat for jerky, fruit puree for fruit roll-ups, raise bread or make homemade yogurt
Super fast – jerky can be done in only 4 hours
Very easy to clean up
It isn’t cheap! But then with a 10 year warranty it is probably worth it!