Best Food Dehydrators of 2018 (and How to Choose the Right One for You)

I bought my first dehydrator about 7 years ago from a thrift store. It turned out to be one of the best things that I’ve ever bought.

Thanks to my dehydrator, I’ve been able to do things like:

But, after 7 years, my dehydrator has taken a beating and some of the trays are cracked.

I’ve honestly been thinking about buying a new dehydrator for years, but I don’t like to buy something new when the old one is still working perfectly well!

There is simply too much waste in the world with people buying the “newer and shinier” versions that they don’t actually need (Yep, I’m thinking of you iPhones!).

I digress.

Now, you can find all sorts of lists of the best dehydrators of the year. But our goal is to find the best dehydrator for you.

Our Top Picks

Best For Quality

Excalibur 3948CDB 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator Clear Door for Viewing Progress Adjustable Thermostat 48-hour Timer Automatic Shut Off 15 Square Feet of Drying Space Made in USA, 9-Tray, Black

The Excalibur 3948. This machine oozes quality and will tackle any food you can throw at it. Comes with a hefty price tag to match!Check On Amazon


Best For Value

Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator, White - MADE IN USA

The Nesco Snackmaster. Has some limitations but offers good quality at an affordable price.Check On Amazon


What to Consider When Choosing

Tray vs Shelf

All modern dehydrators can be broken down as either stacking tray dehydrators or shelf dehydrators. Each type has its pros and cons.

 

Tray Dehydrators

These are the most common dehydrators and are generally very affordable.

They have trays which stack on top of each other. The trays have holes in them so air can flow through. A center hole serves as a channel to ensure air gets to all of the trays.

The heating device and fan are either located at the top or the bottom.

Pros

  • You can adjust the number of trays
  • Some models can hold lots of trays to dehydrate lots of food at once
  • Are usually smaller, so good for people pressed for space

Cons

  • The trays closest to the heater tend to dehydrate fastest; you’ll have to rotate the trays for even dehydrating
  • You have to unstack the trays to see whether the food is done
  • If the heater is on the bottom, juices from the food can drip down on it
TOP TIP: To compensate for uneven drying with tray dehydrators, you can put foods which take longer to dehydrate on the bottom (such as tomato slices) and foods that don’t take as long (such as kale) on the top.

 

Shelf Dehydrators

These dehydrators look like mini ovens with lots of racks inside them. At the back there is a heater with a fan to blow warm air over the food.

Pros

  • Because the heater is located at the back, the air flow is distributed horizontally across the shelves for even drying
  • Shelves can be pulled out easily to check on the food
  • You can put thicker foods into one, such as whole bananas
  • You can use them to make yogurt
  • There is no air channel in the middle, so it is easier to dehydrate liquids like tomato sauce

Cons

  • You can’t adjust the number of shelves
  • They are harder to clean
  • They tend to be pricier
  • They take up more space

 

making yogurt in a food dehydrator
You can make yogurt in a shelf food dehydrator.

Capacity

The capacity of a dehydrator is usually measured by the number of shelves or trays it has. However, the capacity of two different 7-tray dehydrators can be very different depending on the tray sizes.

If you only plan to do occasional dehydrating (such as for making camping meals), then a smaller model dehydrator will be fine.

If you will have a lot of food at once to dehydrate (such as from your garden), then go for a larger model.

 

Temperature

Some cheap dehydrators don’t even have temperature controls. Avoid these at all cost!

Without the temperature controls, you’ll be limited to what types of recipes you can make. Also, no temperature controls is a sign of a bad-quality dehydrator.

Most dehydrators will reach 140 ° F. However, even quality dehydrators will fluctuate a bit in temperature.

Thus, if you want to make jerky, it is best to get a dehydrator with a temperature of 155° F or above.

IMPORTANT: To dehydrate meat safely, the dehydrator should be at least at a temperature of 130 to 140 degrees F throughout the entire process.

Air Flow

It is hard to determine which dehydrators have good air flow design and quality heaters just by looking at them. Even if you read the manufacturer’s description on websites, it still won’t give you much (unbiased) info.

Instead, consider looking at the reviews on sites like Amazon. The numbers of stars will give you an idea of the quality.

 

Noise

I have a separate pantry where I do my dehydrating, so noise don’t really bother me. However, the noise can drive you crazy if it’s near your living space!

Good dehydrators will have their decibel rating listed. Choose a low rating if noise matters to you.

 

Cool Features to Have

  • Clear Trays: If you get a stackable tray dehydrator, go for clear shelves. You’ll be able to check on the food easier without having to lift all of the trays.
  • Timers and Auto Shutoff: Because dehydrating food takes hours, you might forget about it and end up with overly-dehydrated food. These features prevent that from happening.
  • Multiple Temperature Settings: Only really advanced dehydrators (like the Excalibur model listed below) have this feature. It allows you to set one temperature and then switch to another temperature after a specific amount of time.
  • Dishwasher Safe: Dehydrators get sticky, so you want trays or shelves which can be cleaned easily.

Best Food Dehydrator Reviews

Excalibur 3948 Shelf

Excalibur 3948CDB 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator Clear Door for Viewing Progress Adjustable Thermostat 48-hour Timer Automatic Shut Off 15 Square Feet of Drying Space Made in USA, 9-Tray, Black

Best For: People who are serious about preserving food

Check Prices on Amazon

Pros

  • Has a temperature range of 95 to 165° F, meaning it is safe for making jerky
  • 15 square feet across 9 shelves
  • Can set two temperatures for two times for lots of control when drying (such as starting with a higher temperature and then automatically switching to a lower temp)
  • 48-hour timer

Cons

  • Other than the price, there is nothing wrong with this dehydrator!

Check On Amazon


Nesco Snackmaster

Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator, White - MADE IN USA

Best For: People who occasionally dehydrate food and want a quality yet affordable dehydrator.

Check Prices on Amazon

Pros

  • Top mounted fan reduces mess
  • 600 watts of drying power
  • Adjustable temperature from 95 to 160 degrees
  • High temp means it is safe for making jerky

Cons

  • Trays aren’t clear so it is harder to check on progress of food
  • Some users report longer drying times than advertised

Check On Amazon


Cuisinart DHR-20

Cuisinart DHR-20 Food Dehydrator, Steel Gray

Best For: People looking for a cheap-yet-reliable food dehydrator.

Check Prices on Amazon

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Clear trays means you can check progress easily
  • Can add extra trays

Cons

  • Some users report uneven drying
  • Might not be safe for making jerky

Check On Amazon


Gourmia GFD1950 Shelf

Gourmia GFD1950 Electric Food Dehydrator Machine - Digital Timer and Temperature Control - 9 Drying Trays -Perfect for Beef Jerky, Herbs, Fruit Leather -BPA Free -600W - Black - Bonus Cookbook

Best For: People who want easy dehydrating of lots of food without any hassle.

Check Prices on Amazon

Pros

  • It is one of the most affordable shelf dehydrators available
  • Good airflow ensures even drying
  • Digital thermometer and timer
  • Lots of shelves
  • Has a drip pan for easier cleaning

Cons

  • Highest temperature is 158° F – might not be safe for making jerky
  • Can only use preset temperatures – no fine control
  • Timer maxes out at 19 hours 30 mins – could be annoying if dehydrating large batches

Check On Amazon


Hanging Pantry System

 Hanging Food Pantrie Dehydration System Non Electric

Best For: People who want to experiment with solar dehydration but don’t want to build their own system (the trays on this are great and would be hard to make yourself)

Check Prices on Amazon

Pros

  • Don’t have to rely on grid electricity
  • No noise
  • Keeps insects out
  • Trays are perforated for better air flow

Cons

  • Kind of pricy for something you could easily make yourself
  • Frustrating design makes it difficult to set shelves up

Check On Amazon


Don’t Forget about Mylar Bags and Oxygen Absorbers!

10 Dry-Packs 5 Gallon Mylar Bags and 10-2000cc Oxy-Sorb Oxygen Absorbers for Dried Dehydrated and Long Term Food Storage

If you want to use your dehydrator to dry foods for long-term storage, then you will have to seal them in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.

The oxygen absorbers remove oxygen which would cause spoilage. The mylar bag prevents light, moisture, and oxygen from getting in.

For an extra level of protection put the sealed mylar bags into buckets. The buckets will keep them safe from rodents, insects, flood water, and other damage.

You can read more about this in my article on Food Preservation Methods.


Recommended Reading: Dehydrating Food – Expert Level Tips and Hacks


Diane Vukovic spent her childhood roaming the woods of upstate NY, making brush shelters, backpacking and orienteering.

Now she is the proud mother of two adventurous girls whom she takes wild camping and teaches survival skills and self-defense. Learn more about Diane here.

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  1. I have a Presto 6300 and a 6301. They are both the round stackable tray machines. I rarely, if ever, see a review of the Presto Dehydrators. The 6300 I purchased from Amazon for $35. it did not have a temperature gauge, it was permanently set at 140 deg. I wanted more, so I also bought the 6301 for about $65. It has a timer and a temperature setting knob. I use both and put the appropriate foods in the 140 deg fixed setting machine, and use the other for everything else. I love my Prestos. Have you checked these machines? Very reasonable and easy to use, wash and store.

  2. I used a stackable dehydrat or with no temp control for years then upgraded to an Exca liber shelf unit. I love it and have had for 15 years! These last a long time so you can look at them as a long term investment.

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