Whether you have eaten one too many raw salads and you need a change, or you just want to indulge in healthier, crunchier fruity snacks, a food dehydrator can be a good investment.
But how do you get the best deal? What should you look out for before putting your money into such as purchase? I will try and simplify the process for you by explaining the most important factors to consider when you are in the market for one.
By the way: For an infinite selection of vegan recipes, take a look at Clair’s incredible Vegan Cookbook!
How Do Food Dehydrators Work?
First off: All dehydrators are designed to remove moisture from food – period.
This can be a great way of preserving food, such as meat and for drying out fruits and veggies to make on-the-go snacks. But, not all dehydrators are equal. The cheap economy food driers are marketed differently from the modern, high-end ones that do a better job of drying different types of foods.
Dehydrators use either of two different types of drying mechanisms. Some come with a fan mounted to the back of the unit. This fan helps to horizontally distribute dry air throughout the dehydrator, allowing food to dry uniformly.
Other units come with a heating system placed at the bottom of the machine so that air moves vertically up through the trays.
As you would imagine, vertical airflow is not as effective in drying food. Also the heating system at the bottom means that food placed on the lower trays dries out much faster than on the upper trays.
The best food dehydrators come with a fan and thermostat. The thermostat ensures that your food dehydrates under ideal temperature ranges. The fan distributes dry air throughout the trays to enable food to dry.
I recommend that you stay away from food dehydrators that do not come with a fan and thermostat.
How Do You Choose the Best Product for You?
First things first, dehydrators fall under two different categories- the shelved and the stackable dehydrators. The Exculibar 3900B Deluxe Dehydrator and the Weston VegiKlin Tray Food Dehydrator are good examples of shelved units, while the L’Equip 528 Dehydrator and Nesco American Harvest Snackmaster are some of the best stackable variety.
Both types have their own advantages and disadvantages, which you will learn as you discover the elements of a good food dehydrator below.
Heat and Air Distribution
Food dehydrators work through the exchange and distribution of moist air vs. dry air. The heating unit generates hot air within the dehydrator to remove moisture from food, while the fan pumps in cold dry air to allow food to completely dry.
This heat and air distribution is at the core of how modern dehydrators work, and this is the most important factor to consider when choosing a food dehydrator.
Shelved dehydrators have a better heat and air distribution mechanism compared to the stackable ones. Shelved dehydrators look more or less like your standard oven, which comes with easily removable trays. These units utilize a horizontal heat and airflow dynamic as the fan is located at the back of the unit, which allows air to flow across the trays.
These types of dehydrators do a better job of evenly drying food without the need to rotate the trays.
On the other hand, food driers with stackable trays work with a vertical heating and airflow mechanism. The heating system, which is located at the bottom of the unit, distributes heat upwards through each tray.
The airflow system is not very effective at drying food evenly. The lower trays typically dry much faster than the upper ones. However, modern stackable dehydrators such as Nesco American Harvest Snackmaster are more promising than the cheaper versions and so you do not have to keep rotating the trays with these ones.
Some dehydrators claim to dry food much faster than others do. However, all modern dehydrating machines use more or less the same amount of time to dry food, with no major disparity. However, some will do a better job at drying food thoroughly and evenly. The fan’s power really contributes to how well a dehydrator dries food.
Most units come with a fan that’s between 3 to 7 inches in diameter, with larger fans providing greater drying capacity. It is also a smart idea to consider the noise levels as some fans produce more noise than others do. Dehydration space is a worthwhile factor when choosing a food dehydrator.
If you are looking to dehydrate a lot of food regularly, look out for the tray capacity. Usually, stackable units offer more dehydration space because you can stack up as may trays, as you need to.
The number of trays available in shelved units is fixed and there is no way to add more trays. Even so, some shelved units offer greater capacity than others do. For example, the Weston VegiKlin Tray Food Dehydrator comes with a drying space of up to 6 square feet while the Exculibar 3900B Deluxe Dehydrator offers 15 square feet drying capacity.
Before buying a food-dehydrating machine, think about whether it will be cumbersome to work with it.
One thing to look out for is the availability of a thermostat, which allows food to dehydrate at specific temperatures. Some of the best units come with a temperatures range between 960F and 1550F, which allows you to dry different types of food at their recommended and safe temperature.
As you might guess, it can be very burdensome (even unsafe) dehydrating food without setting specific and precise temperatures. Another consideration to make is how the trays work.
Shelved trays are much easier to place into the dehydration box and they are equally a breeze to pull out when you want to check on the progress of your food. On the contrary, stackable trays can be quite tricky especially if you want to check on or remove the trays in the middle.
You would have to remove all the top trays first! It is also worth mentioning that shelved dehydrator trays offer more capacity in terms of drying bigger and thicker pieces of foods such as yogurt cups, soup bowls, or whole cherries. The nature of stackable trays does not allow for this.
Detailed Reviews of the 6 best food dehydrators
The new digital Nesco FD-104 Digital Dehydrator lets you dry fruits and veggies, ground beef for jerky and even semi-liquids such as soups.
This food dehydrator features a digitally adjustable timer. Simply set the amount of time you want to dry your food and when it’s ready, the switch will automatically go off.
With 1000 watts of drying power, a powerful 4 ½” fan and a 2,400-RPM handy motor, the Nesco FD-104 Digital Dehydrator dries four times faster than other dehydrators. This means spending fewer hours drying out your food.
Even though this food dehydrator comes with a standard four trays, you can easily add up to 20 trays to dry large amounts of fruits, veggies and herbs.
The Add-A-Trays® accessories, which come free, make it possible to expand the dehydrator into more trays according to your needs. The heating capacity automatically increases as you pile on more trays.
Nesco FD-104 Digital Dehydrator is deliberately built with a top-mounted fan to keep liquids from dripping into the heating chamber during drying.
The dehydrator also works on the Converga-Flow® technology, which pushes heated air down to the pressurized chamber and then horizontally across the trays. This mechanism ensures that you don’t have to keep rotating the trays and you are guaranteed that the food will dry evenly. Different foods need to be dried at varying temperatures.
The adjustable thermostat, ranging between 90 to 160 degrees F, makes it possible to dry various foods at specific temperatures to preserve their nutritional value. The Vita-Save outer cover does a great job of protecting food from rays that can take away from the food’s nutritional value.
This home food dehydrator features handy Clean-a-Screen trays that make it easy to dry smaller food items. The fruit roll sheet with non-spill lips also allows you to dry semi-liquids without causing a mess. All these accessories come free and are super easy to clean.
- Expands up to 20 trays
- Tray measures: 15 ½” each occupying 1 sq. ft
- 1000 watts drying power
- 4 ½” fan and 2,400-RPM power motor; food dries within hours
- Digital timer allows a maximum of 48 hours timing
- Adjustable thermostat
- Vita-Save out cover
- Converga-Flow drying technology
- Comes with bonus recipe book for the beef jerky
The Nesco American Harvest FD-61WHC is the perfect entry-level food dehydrator for a newbie raw food enthusiast.
You can easily dry fruits, veggies and herbs. Jerky fans will also be impressed by the drying capacity that this dehydrator offers. This compact dehydrator features a top-mounted fan that works on radial air technology. This ensures that air is horizontally forced down to the lower trays to guarantee even and thorough drying.
The location of the fan at the top also keeps liquids from dripping into the drying chamber, something that can easily lower the unit’s capacity.
The Nesco American Harvest FD-61WHC model comes with 5 circular trays that don’t need to be manually rotated. You can stack up to 12 trays, but you would need to rotate the trays at this capacity. With 500 watts of drying power, you are assured that your fruits, veggies and even meat will be good to go in just a matter of hours.
Unlike most other Nesco dehydrators, this one features an adjustable thermostat ranging from 155 to 195 degrees F so you can dry different foods at the desired temperature. The Nesco American Harvest FD-61WHC food dehydrator features a unique Vita-Save opaque screen. This screen blocks harmful light rays from coming into contact with the food and destroying its nutritional value.
If you are looking to dry herbs and diced foods, this dehydrator comes with 2 Clean-A-Screen screens. When drying small-sized food, simply place the screens atop the trays so the food won’t fall through. There are also two soft fruit roll up trays that you use dry semi-liquids and to make fruit leather.
The Nesco American Harvest FD-61WHC comes with a jerky gun that allows you to make jerky snacks using ground beef. The handy jerky gun can hold up to ¾ lb of ground beef and comes with 3 ribbons. Simply use any of the three ribbons to push out stripped, thick or narrow ground beef onto the trays for drying.
The only slight problem might be the ribbons, which easily pop out as you squeeze out the jerky. To keep the ribbon intact, you need to apply pressure on both ends of the jerky gun.
Unlike a number of other electric food dryers, this one is pretty quiet; the hum it produces is barely noticeable. As a bonus, cleaning all the parts is very easy; just throw them into the dishwasher.
- Top mounted fan for even, horizontal drying
- Dries foods within hours
- Adjustable thermostat
- Features 4 trays with Add-A-Trays® for 12 additional trays
- Fruit roll sheet and clean-a-screen trays for sticky and diced herbs and foods
- 500 watts drying power
- 13 ½” diameter trays
- Vita-Save® outside screen for nutrient preservation
- Converga-Flow® drying technology for even, horizontal drying
L’Equip 528 Dehydrator is a sleek food dryer that offers the promise of lasting longer than other dehydrators.
This compact rectangular food dryer comes with 6 large
trays allowing you up to 12 square feet of drying space so you can dry more food in little time. It is built in such a way that you can heat only the trays that are holding the food to be dried.
This dehydrator features a digital temperature sensor to ensure that food dries evenly within an appropriate temperature. It also comes with an adjustable thermostat, allowing you to flexibly dry food between 93 degrees 150 degrees F. With 500 watts of drying power, this food dryer guarantees thorough drying within a shorter time.
Unlike most other dehydrators, L’Equip 528 Dehydrator comes with inbuilt accessories. These include a fine mesh for each tray to keep smaller items from falling through, a fruit roll tray and 2 extra trays. This means you do not have to purchase extra accessories for your drying needs.
Although the fan and motor are at the bottom (not top mounted), they are fully covered to protect them from the dripping liquids. The motor is also whisper quiet and is efficient enough to dry most foods within 6 to 10 hours. There’s really no limit to the type of food that can be dried- apples, veggies, potpourri, pizzas, coconuts, bananas, and of course jerky all dry well without being over-cooked.
While the L’Equip 528 Dehydrator works perfectly, one of its small flaws is the hole in the middle of trays.
This can make it a bit cumbersome to dry food whole foods such as pizzas. Also, the parts need to be hand cleaned to prevent damage.
The L’Equip 528 Dehydrator is designed to offer an efficient airflow mechanism to ensure uniform drying. There’s no need to keep changing the trays, as is the case with other dehydrators. The dryer comes with a 10-year warranty and an additional one-year warranty on accessories.
As a bonus, there’s a comprehensive recipe book and drying instructions.
- 500 watts drying power
- 6 large size trays with mesh screens
- Accommodates up to 12 trays
- 2 fruit roll trays
- Temperature control for even drying
- Adjustable thermostat (90-150 degrees F)
- Efficient air flow for thorough drying
- Heat sensor with micro-processor control
- 10 year base warranty and 1 year accessories warranty
- Bonus instruction and recipe book
The Weston VegiKiln 10-tray food dehydrator is a powerful machine that lets you dry a wide array of foods including yogurt, veggies, fruits and jerky. It offers as much as 10 sq.ft of drying space, with each tray measuring 14.25″ by 10.75″.
The Weston VegiKiln food dehydrator boasts a compact,
lightweight design that looks great on the counter. The trays are built from strong ABS plastic that’s heat tolerate and doesn’t break easily. The plastic trays are easily removable to create space especially if you want to dry bulky items.
Cleaning the trays and the dehydrator itself is easy too. With 500 watts of drying power and a horizontal airflow mechanism, this dehydrator guarantees through drying for any type of food.
It comes with an adjustable thermostat, giving you the flexibility to dry food between 84 and 155 degrees F. With the thermostat, you can control the temperatures to preserve the nutritional value of the food you are heating.
The Weston VegiKiln 10-tray food dehydrator has its fan and motor system mounted on the rear end. This ensures that air circulates evenly through each tray. The horizontal airflow system means that you don’t have to rotate the trays for uniform drying. The strategic location of the fan and motor protect them from liquids dripping from the drying food. This dehydrator features a super quiet fan; with the hours needed to dry food, silence is precious.
The dehydrator comes with a one-year warranty and a bonus recipe and instructions book.
- 10 removable thermoplastic trays measuring 14.25″ by 10.75″.
- 10 square feet of drying space
- 500 watts heating power
- Rear mounted fan and motor for horizontal airflow
- Color-coded adjustable thermostat with an 84 to 155 degrees F temperature range
- Dried foods easily removable from tray
- Compact, space saving deign
- No tray rotation necessary
- Whisper-quiet 5.5 inch tray
- Recipe and instructions book
- One-year base warranty on dehydrator
The Excalibur Dehydrator is one of the most preferred brand names among raw foodies.
In particular, the Excalibur 3900B Deluxe Dehydrator features advanced technology, which places it at a higher level in terms of heating, airflow and overall operations.
The 3900B Deluxe Dehydrator comes with a total of 9 trays built from thermoplastic material, providing up to 15 square feet of dehydration space. The large square trays accommodate a large amount of food, letting you dry more food at once instead of just small batches. No tray rotation is required but you can easily remove trays when dehydrating items that require more space.
With the a 600 watt heating system, food is dehydrated much faster and thoroughly. The dehydrator works on the Hyperwave Fluctuation patented technology to ensure that food dries evenly within a shorter period of time.
Unlike other types of dehydrators, that produce an un-fluctuating amount of heat that causes the food to harden, with the 3900B Deluxe Dehydrator the temperature fluctuates to keep the food from drying too much due to a high amount of heat.
The Hyperwave Fluctuation also eliminates moisture that can envelop the food thus making it prone to mold and spoilage. By eradicating the moisture, food is able to last longer when stored and important enzymes remain active for nutritional value.
The 3900B Deluxe Dehydrator features an adjustable thermostat, giving you flexibility to dry food within 95 to 155 degrees. With the flexible berth of temperature adjustment, you can dry anything from soft fruit and veggies, to soups and jerky too.
This dehydrator also comes with a 7-inch power fan located at the rear end of the unit. The strategic location of the fan ensures that air flows through the unit, is heated and then spreads uniformly across all 9 trays. This horizontal airflow mechanism dries food uniformly, much faster, all while retaining the food’s nutritional value.
The Excalibur 9 tray dehydrator comes with a 26-hour time, so it automatically goes off at the precise time you set it. You can go to sleep or leave the house without worrying especially if you are preparing beef jerky, which can take hours to dehydrate.
- 9 strong plastic trays; 15 square feet drying space
- No tray rotation required
- 7” back-mounted fan
- 26-hour timer
- 600 watts drying power
- Hperwave fluctuation for horizontal airflow technology
- Adjustable thermostat between 95 and 155 degree F
- Temperature control for different types of items
- Removable trays to increase space
The Sedona SD-9000 food dehydrator by Tribest is making a new entry into the food dehydrator market with it’s unique computerized controls. This dehydrator provides a lot of drying space (about 12 sq ft) with it’s 9 strong plastic trays, each measuring 15” by 13”.
It is perfect for large families and outdoor garden occasions. This compact sized, space saving dehydrator features an easy to open, see-through glass door, allowing you to keep an eye on the food you are drying.
It also ships with digital on and off control buttons, as well as a mode button that allows you to conveniently adjust the fan’s speed to lower the noise level especially at night.
The countdown timer is a handy addition that makes it easy to allocate the appropriate drying time for any type of food.
The Sedona SD-9000 has a fan and heater mechanism that switches of automatically when you open the dehydrator door. The dehydrator is specially built to prevent overheating. When the temperatures get too high, the dehydrator will automatically lower the interior temperatures to allow for cooling. The heating cycle will then gradually increase to continue drying food at the set temperature.
Unlike other dehydrators, Sedona’s cooling mechanism ensures that your food is not excessively heated that it loses its nutritional value.
The Sedona SD-9000 9 tray dehydrator comes with two fans mounted on the lower and upper rear end of the dehydrator. The importance of the strategically placed fans is that you can choose which fan to use, especially when drying small amounts of food. Instead of using both fans, simply use the digital control buttons to choose which fan to use (either the lower or the upper fan) and then place the trays accordingly to start the drying process. This setup goes a long way in reducing the energy usage when you only need to dry a handful of food items.
- 9 BPA free trays with fine mesh screens
- See-through door
- Conveniently placed on/off buttons
- Mode button to control fan speed and noise level
- Digital timer for drying time control
- Toogle switch to change temperature display from Fahrenheit to Celsius and vice-versa
- Easy to read digital display
- Dual fan design for energy saving when drying smaller food batches
- Double rear-mounted fans protected by strong metal grid
- Whisper quite fan and motor system