The Ultimate Guide to the Best Food Dehydrator: Food Dehydrator Reviews 2018

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What is a Food Dehydrator?

A food dehydrator preserves food by removing water. Without water, bacteria cannot work to spoil the food. In the past, food preservation happened outdoors by lying food in the sun. While this method works, results are highly variable. The finished product cannot be guaranteed due to many factors like humidity and heat.  The best food dehydrators will apply a low even heat and circulate air over the food to slowly draw the water out.  Your food may change appearance during drying.  It may shrivel up, change color, or size and the finished product will weigh less.

Food dehydrators can work on a variety of foods.  You may even hear of food dehydrators being called beef jerky dehydrator, fruit dehydrator, or vegetable dehydrator.  Don’t worry, the best dehydrators work equally well on all types of foods.  These dehydrator machines can be versatile and work on meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, and herbs.  Dehydrated fruits and dehydrated vegetables can be crunchy or crisp or chewy.  Dehydrated meat or dehydrated beef is mostly chewy.  Once food has been dehydrated properly and packaged, it can last for a very long time.  This makes it a perfect way to save food.

Dehydrating food is a favorite way for hikers and campers to package food.  The food becomes significantly lighter and is easy to snack on as well.  You can pre-package whole meals once they are dehydrated.

How to use your Food Dehydrator

The Best Rated Food Dehydrator 2018: A Dehydrator Reviews Guide

NameImageDimensionsDrying CapacityTimerTemperatureWarrantyPriceRating
Excalibur Food Dehydrator 3926TB12.5" x 17" x 19"
LargeYes105-16510 YearsSee Price4.7
LEM Products 1153 Food Dehydrator (10-Tray)19.5” x 16.5” x 16.9”
LargeYes95-1551 YearSee Price4.6
Magic Mill Pro Food Dehydrator12" x 17" x 19” 
MediumYes95-1581 YearSee Price4.5
Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator, White22.1" x 13.8" x 13.9"
Small, expandable to LargeNo95-1601 YearSee Price4.5
Chefman Food Dehydrator Machine RJ43-SQ-914" x 17" x 18"
LargeYes95-1581 YearSee Price4.5
Presto 06300 Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator14.5" x 15" x 6.2"
Small, expandable to MediumNo1651 YearSee Price4.3
Ivation 400w Electric Food Dehydrator Pro17.7" x 13.6" x 12.4"
MediumYes95-158N/ASee Price4.3
Hamilton Beach 32100A Food Dehydrator5.9" x 11.3" x 12.8"
SmallYes100-1601 YearSee Price4.2
Ronco EZ Store Turbo 5 Tray Food Dehydrator13 x 8 x 12.8 inchesSmallNo95-160N/ASee Price4.0

What is the Best Food Dehydrator 2018

Excalibur Food Dehydrator 3926TB

The Excalibur Food Dehydrator 3926TB is our pick for the best home dehydrator on the market. This top food dehydrator has a horizontal airflow. It has excellent results in even drying. It has a very large capacity with 9 dehydrator trays which result in 15 square feet of drying space. This means you can dry 5lbs of potatoes in a single drying cycle. The square dehydrator trays make it easy to fill with food.  With the trays out, we have also found this best rated dehydrator to be an excellent place to proof bread.

The temperature range of this Excalibur dehydrator is 105-160 degrees Fahrenheit. Since it goes to the higher end of the temperature scale, it is a top dehydrator for food like meat, especially jerky. The Excalibur is completely BPA free dehydrator.  This food dehydrator comes with a whopping 10-year warranty.  There are numerous accessories made for the Excalibur food dehydrator 3926TB as well. You can purchase a clear door, dehydrator sheets and many other items.

We have only 2 minor quibbles with Excalibur 3926TB food dehydrator. They are both due to the power of the fan. The fan can be a bit noisy at times, but this can be said of most food dehydrators. The other issue is with herbs, once they get close to being dry, they can get blown around because they are so lite. All the being said, the Excalibur dehydrator reviews are stellar and we would highly recommend this top-rated food dehydrator. Check out our full review for more information.

Pros
Very large drying capacity
Horizontal airflow
Good Temperature Range
Easy to clean
10 Year Warranty
Multipurpose (Proofing space for bread)
BPA free

Cons
Noisy
Large
More expensive than other units

Factors in Choosing the Best Dehydrator

Horizontal or Vertical Airflow

Horizontal airflow: This is where the fan and heater are set up on the side of the dehydrator.  The air is pushed horizontally across the food.
Pros
More even heat distribution
Larger capacity for drying

Cons
More expensive
Noisy
Larger storage

Vertical airflow: This is where the fan and heater are at the bottom of the food dehydrator. The air is pushed up from the bottom to the top.
Pros
Less expensive
Smaller storage

Cons
Drippings can ruin the heating element or fan
Uneven drying and racks may need to be rotated
smaller capacity

Small Dehydrator or Large Dehydrator

Whether you want a small food dehydrator or a large food dehydrator is a matter of personal preference. A large dehydrator will take up more space. It will also usually have space for more trays. This means more square footage for drying food. A small dehydrator will take up less space. However, it will have less space for drying food. Unless you purchase a commercial food dehydrator, it will likely fit on your counter under your upper cabinets.

Solar vs Electric Dehydrators

People have long used the power of the sun to dry food. It can, however, produce uneven results. For this reason, we recommend an electric food dehydrator. You can have more exacting control. In the sun, food can harden on the outside trapping moisture on the inside which can result in bacterial contamination. In an electric dehydrator, you can control the temperature to prevent improperly dried foods that might cause illness.

Food Dehydrator with Timer

Having a food dehydrator with a timer can be very handy. Drying cycles can take a long time, sometimes upwards of 12 hours. It is very nice to be able to set a time so that you can leave the house or go to bed knowing that the heater will turn off.

Industrial Dehydrator vs Home Dehydrator

Industrial food dehydrators are very large. They typically have tremendous capacity and will not fit on a countertop. For that reason, we have not included any industrial dehydrators in this guide. We have focused on home dehydrators. Home food dehydrators are far more practical for 99% of people who are interested in drying food.

BPA Free Food Dehydrator

Most food dehydrators are made of plastic. With increased concerns about BPA exposure, you might be interested in a BPA free dehydrator. Many carry this label and are indeed BPA free dehydrators. They can be more expensive products, though. Other dehydrators have many BPA free parts. All the trays and any items touching food are BPA free, however, there might be parts of that are not. These products will be less expensive.  The least expensive dehydrators will not have any BPA free plastic parts.

Best Cheap Dehydrator

Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator

The Nesco Food Dehydrator FD-75A is a great product.  We feel it is one of the best cheap food dehydrators for sale.  It is a vertical air flow machine with a good temperature range (95-160).  It has 5 dehydrator trays, so the drying capacity isn’t very large, but sufficient for home use.  This mini dehydrator is expandable to hold up to 12 trays for larger capacity drying.

This Nesco food dehydrator machine doesn’t have timer.  When you plug it in, it will turn on.  To turn it off, you unplug it.  The Nesco dehydrator reviews all comment on how quiet this machine is and we quite agree.  This food dehydrator is also very light, weighing in at only 9 pounds.   Other Nesco food dehydrator reviews remark on how easy it is to clean.  The dehydrator trays are dishwasher safe and very easy to clean.  While the entire unit is not BPA free, the plastic trays are BPA free.

We think the Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator FD 75a is the best cheap food dehydrator for sale today. Read our full review of the Nesco FD-75A.

Pros
Quiet
Good Temperature Range
Easy to clean
BPA free trays

Cons
Vertical airflow
No Timer
Less food drying capacity than other machines

Best Dehydrator for Jerky

Chefman Food Dehydrator Machine RJ43-SQ-9

The Chefman food dehydrator is our pick for the best beef jerky dehydrator. Dehydrator beef jerky is very popular.  However, it can be tricky to make dehydrator jerky.  You need to get the temperature high enough to kill any bacteria, but not so high that the meat sears on the outside and the moisture inside can’t get out.  We particularly like the clear door that allows you to see the progress of your jerky in a dehydrator.

One of the things that makes the Chefman the best food dehydrator for jerky is it’s 9 large dehydrator trays.  They each measure 13″x 12″ giving you 9.5 square feet of space for drying beef.  A dehydrator for jerky should also operate at higher temperature and this machine has a range of 95-158 which is ideal.  The best meat dehydrators should also have a horizontal airflow which this machine does.

Some people think that the best food dehydrator for beef jerky should be BPA free.  This unit isn’t entirely BPA free, but the trays are BPA free.  Since the trays are what touch the food, this is the most important dehydrator part to be BPA free.

There are other features that we would expect out of the best food dehydrator for beef jerky.  I would expect there to be a timer, easy to clean trays, and a built-in digital thermometer.  This Chefman food dehydrator has all these options.

Pros
Horizontal airflow
Good Temperature Range
Easy to clean
BPA free trays
Good drying capacity
Timer
Clear door

Cons
Large unit
Noisy

Best Small Dehydrator

Presto 06300 Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator

The Presto Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator 06300 is our pick for the best small food dehydrator.  With just 4 trays included, we would even classify this as a mini dehydrator.  You can expand to use this machine with up to 8 trays.  The Presto food dehydrator has a fixed temperature setting of 165 degrees and no timer.  While this machine is lite and portable, we have found it to be a bit noisy. Read our full review of the Presto 06300.

If you are looking for something with just a little more capacity, timer, and temperature range, we would recommend the model up from this, Presto 06301 Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator

Pros
Easy to clean
BPA free trays
Small unit
Excellent price

Cons
Vertical airflow
No timer
No Temperature range
Noisy

Other Top Food Dehydrator Reviews

LEM Products 1153 Food Dehydrator (10-Tray)

Pros
Very large drying capacity
Horizontal airflow
Good Temperature Range
Easy to clean
Multipurpose (Proofing space for bread)
Timer

Cons
Noisy
More expensive than other units
Lack of accessories

This LEM food dehydrator is one of the best dehydrators around. It has a tremendous capacity with 10 trays and a full 15 square feet of drying capacity. We find it to be wonderful for making beef jerky. We find that is can make over 5lbs of dehydrator jerky at a time. It is also an excellent fruit dehydrator.

The fan can be a bit noisy, but most powerful dehydrators have this problem. The door can be a bit flimsy as well. We also find ourselves wishing that there were more accessories for this dehydrator. However, even with these minor flaws, we still find this to be one of the best dehydrators on the market.

Magic Mill Pro Food Dehydrator

Pros
Horizontal airflow
Good Temperature Range
Easy to clean
BPA free
Timer
Midrange price

Cons
Food can stick to metal trays
Underpowered Fan

We find this Magic Mill Pro Dehydrator to be the best mid-range dehydrator available.   We feel like this is a definite upgrade over the Nesco Snackmaster Pro, but not as large and full-featured as the Excalibur Food Dehydrator.  The price point is between the two products as well, so we find it to be appropriately priced.

It has 6 trays with 6.5 square feet of drying space.  It also has a horizontal airflow, which means no drippings on the fan or heater.  We are in love with the digital thermostat and timer.  We also like that it has stainless steel trays instead of plastic.  So if you are worried about having a BPA free dehydrator, there is no plastic in contact with food on this machine.  The trays are also quite easy to clean.

Some dehydrator reviews have noted that meat can stick to the metal trays.  We have noted this can be a problem as well, so you can make jerky, but must take the appropriate precautions.  Other food dehydrator reviews have noted that the fan can be slightly underpowered.  This means that drying can be slower than it should be.

Ivation Electric Food Dehydrator Pro

Pros
Horizontal airflow
Good Temperature Range
Easy to clean
Drip tray
Midrange Price

Cons
Noisy
Not BPA free
Low wattage

We find this Ivation Food Dehydrator to be another excellent midrange machine.  We love the 6 trays with 6.5 square feet of drying space.  We also really like that a tray for fruit rollups is included with this food dehydrator.  The horizontal airflow is ideal for drying.  It has a full temperature range of 95-158 degrees, which is excellent for most foods.  It has a drip tray on the bottom, which we think is an inspired idea.  We wish more food dehydrators had one as it makes for easier cleaning.

The lower wattage results in less heating power and longer drying times. Using a food dehydrator is already such a long process, anything that adds to it is a pain.  The fact that the plastic trays are not BPA free is also a detractor.  It can also be slightly noisy, which is pretty typical.

Everything said we believe that the Ivation is one of the best food dehydrator available, especially at this mid-range price.

Hamilton Beach 32100A Food Dehydrator

Pros
Included accessories
Timer
Good Temperature Range
Affordable

Cons
Vertical airflow
Small
Cleanup
Not BPA free
Loud

We consider this Hamilton Beach 32100A Food Dehydrator to be one of the truly excellent options in the more affordable price range.  We find it to be an excellent alternative to the Nesco Snackmaster Pro.  With a temperature range of 100-160 degrees and a timer, we love that this cheaper dehydrator has some higher-end features.  You can even switch the temperature setting to metric / Celcius if you prefer.  It also comes with a fine mesh sheet for drying herbs and a tray for fruit rollups.

With 5 trays the drying space, it doesn’t have a very large drying capacity. The machine also has vertical airflow, which means that cleanup can be more troublesome at times, especially when using it as a jerky dehydrator.  Other dehydrator reviews have reported inconsistent drying and the need to switch trays to different levels during the drying period.

Ronco EZ Store Turbo 5 Tray Food Dehydrator

Pros
Very affordable
Good Temperature Range
Easy to clean

Cons
Noisy
Small
Vertical airflow
Lack of timer
No on/off button

Ronco EZ Store Turbo 5 Tray Food Dehydrator is the cheapest dehydrator on the market.  We find it to be wanting in many ways. If you are looking for the most entry-level dehydrator, this would be the unit for you.  However, for just a few dollars more, we would strongly recommend the Nesco Snackmaster Pro.

The 5 trays that the Ronco food dehydrator has are square so they are easy to fill.  Many dehydrator reviews talk about how easy to use and easy to clean this machine is.  We think the ease of use is important for such an entry-level machine.

Some detractors include the lack of a timer, vertical airflow, and noisiness.  The distance between the trays is very small as well, which could result in longer drying times.  And while you can adjust the temperature of this unit, there is no temperature gauge, so it is difficult to tell the proper temperature.

All that being said, as an entry level unit at such a good price, it is worth consideration.

Food Dehydrator Accessories

Many of the best food dehydrators have a large range of accessories available to purchase.  This can add to your ability to dehydrate different fruits and vegetables, herbs, nuts, or meats.

Additional Dehydrator Trays

Some dehydrators come with a small number of dehydrator trays with space to add others to increase drying capacity.  These extra trays can be used to expand capacity or to help with preparation by drying one set of trays with food while preparing another.  The Nesco Food Dehydrator FD-75A and the Presto Food Dehydrator 06300 both have room for additional dehydrator trays.

Fruit Leather Dehydrator Trays

Fruit leather is a popular thing to make in a dehydrator.  You must puree the fruit to make a fruit leather, so a normal tray will not work.  Some fruit dehydrators have special trays to make fruit leather on.  The Nesco Dehydrator is one of the machines that has trays for fruit leather.

How to make Fruit Leather

Non Stick Dehydrator Sheets

Some units do not make trays special for fruit leather.  Instead, they have you line a regular tray with these nonstick dehydrator sheets.  Excalibur Food dehydrators are one of the machines that do this with their trays.  These sheets are affordable and can easily be cleaned and reused.

Herb Dehydrator Trays

Some manufacturers make specific herb dehydrator trays.  Ronco makes these herb trays for their machine.  Many other manufacturers do not make a specific tray and recommend that you use the fruit leather dehydrator tray.

Storage for Dehydrated Foods

Once your food is dehydrated, it is important to store it in an airtight container. You want to prevent moisture from getting to the food.  Once moisture gets to the food, it can gain some water back and spoil quicker.  Standard Tupperware will work for a very short period of time, but vacuum sealing is a much better solution for long lasting storage.

Recipes for Food Dehydrators

Fruit Leather Dehydrator Recipe

Ingredients:
3 cups strawberries
1 cup raspberries
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar if desired

Directions:
Put berries, lemon juice, and sugar (if desired) in a blender and purée.
Strain the mixture into a pot and bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Reduce heat and simmer on low for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Pour the purée onto fruit leather dehydrator tray and spread it out as thinly and evenly.
Follow the instructions for your particular dehydrator for time and temperature for fruit leather.

Beef Jerky Dehydrator Recipe

Ingredients:
1/2 pound beef top round or sirloin tip roast with the fat trimmed off
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoon chili powder (to your taste)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:
Slice the meat into thin strips about 1/8 inch thick and as long as possible.
In a bowl and mix the ingredients together. Put the meat strips into the bowl and make sure everything is coated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to blend and penetrate the meat.
Put the meat on a dehydrator tray.  Make sure to get rid of pieces of garlic and blot extra moisture off the meat.
Follow the instructions for your particular dehydrator for time and temperature for beef.

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