Best Food Dehydrator

By Kate Hendricks | Indoor Living

Jun 21
Excalibur Food Dehydrator

A food dehydrator is the perfect way to create healthy dried snacks by locking in the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables, as well as meat and herbs.

We take a look at the best food dehydrators currently on the market as well as explore some of the tasty snacks you can make in them.

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How do dehydrators work?

Food dehydrators work by removing the moisture content from fresh foods such as fruit, vegetables and meats. None of the nutrition is lost as the food isn’t actually cooked. Water simply evaporates from the food and intensifies the original flavour whilst keeping the nutrition levels intact.

Warm air circulates around the dehydrator while the food is laid out on stacked trays. You can create all sorts of snacks, even  popular and tasty beef jerky!

Different Types of Food Dehydrators

There are two different types of food dehydrators;

Vertical Air Flow – As the name suggests, this type of dehydrator works by distributing the hot air in a vertical direction. Fans are either located at the top or the bottom. The models with the fans located at the bottom are most efficient for distributing heat as the hot air rises. However, they can be more difficult to clean up afterwards as moisture from the foods resting above can drip down on to the fan during the dehydration process.

Horizontal Air Flow – Air is circulated in these types of dehydrators in a horizontal direction. The fan will be located on the back wall of the machine with the heat passing through foods more evenly than the previous model. Although more efficient than the vertical models, the horizontal dehydrators tend to be bigger in size and sometimes more expensive to purchase.

Food Dehydrator Reviews

Magic Mill Food Dehydrator

This rear mounted fan designed dehydrator is a popular choice. This model has the ability to adjust the drying temperature from 95º F to 158º F with a drying time up to 19.5 hours. The temperature and timer is digitally displayed so you know exactly how long is left until your snacks are ready.

Features

Rear mounted fan

6 plastic height adjustable drying racks (13″ x 12″)

2 silicone oven mitts

BPA free

Adjustable thermostat (95º F – 158º F)

Automatic shut off

What We Like

Easy to clean. Even drying process. Plenty of space to dehydrate lots of foods. Automatic switch off.

What We Don’t Like

Beeping sound when the machine has finished.

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Excalibur 9 Tray Economy

Don’t let the word economy fool you, the Excalibur 2900 9 Tray Economy is designed to produce high quality and tasty dehydrated foods, and a lot of it. The trays are removable so drying larger sized foods when required is possible. There is no timer or automatic switch off with this model but users have reported this not to be a problem when dehydrating foods.

Excalibur are a high quality and trusted brand, well known for producing durable and long lasting appliances, made in the USA.

Features

Rear mounted fan

9 plastic drying racks with mesh liners (15″ x 15″)

Adjustable thermostat (85º – 145ºF)

BPA free

600 watts

5 year manufacturer’s warranty

What We Like

Easy to clean. Ability to dehydrate a large amount of foods at a time. Even drying process.

What We Don’t Like

No timer. No clear door (if you like to spy on your food whilst it is dehydrating!)

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Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator

Best for: Heavy duty users who want great results every time

This more expensive model from Excalibur is an upgrade from the previous economy version with extras that are worthy of the extra investment.

So, aside from price, what’s the difference between these two models? This model includes all the same features but has the added benefits of also having a 26 hour timer and automatic switch off.

Features

Rear mounted fan

9 trays with a flexible poly-screen tray insert (15″ x 15″)

Adjustable thermostat (105◦F – 165◦F)

Automatic shut off

26 hour timer

BPA free

600 watts

10 year manufacturer’s warranty

Available in black or white

What We Like

Timer with automatic shut off. Ability to dehydrate large amounts of food at the same time. Can dehydrate thick and bulky foods.

What We Don’t Like

Higher price tag – but we feel it still represents excellent value for money given the quality and results.

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Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator

Best For: Those looking for a budget buy

The Nesco Food Dehydrator is quite a different looking model, rather than being straight edged like the previously reviewed dehydrators, it is round and much more compact. There is a noticeable difference in the pricing, making this a great budget buy for those looking for a cheaper food dehydrator. It is also the ideal machine for somebody new to dehydrating foods.

But does it produce quality results?

Despite having a vertical flow of air to dry out the foods (the fan is located at the top of the machine rather than the side), the results are still good. This is because Nesco use a system where the fan sends the air down the sides of the chamber and across each tray, just like the horizontal air flow models.

The capacity is smaller than other models reviewed here with only 5 trays, but you can purchase additional trays to expand up to 12 trays.

There is an adjustable thermostat making it possible to dehydrate a wide range of foods, from meats to fruit and vegetables. There is no timer on this machine, but this could be got around with a purchase from the local hardware store.

Features

Top mounted fan

700 watts

Adjustable thermostat (95◦F – 160◦F)

5 trays (but can be expanded to 12 trays by purchasing more)

2 x fruit roll sheets (for soup, sauces and fruits rolls)

2 x Clean-A-Screen flexible screens (for herbs, spices and potpourri)

3 x original jerky spice packets

52 page recipe and instruction manual

BPA free

1 year warranty

What We Like

Lots of extras included with the dehydrator. Budget buy – perfect for a beginner to dried foods. Compact. Ability to extend tray capacity.

What We Don’t Like

No timer.

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FAQ

What can you cook with a food dehydrator?

Technically you’re not actually cooking anything, you are dehydrating it. You can dehydrate almost anything in your dehydrator, but vegetables, fruits, meats and herbs work best.

How long does the food take to dehydrate?

That will largely depend on the model you choose but as a general rule, foods with higher water content will take longer than those with less. Some ingredients can take up to 38 hours to fully dehydrate but this is largely dependant on the wattage of your food dehydrator.

What happens to the nutritional content of food when it has been dehydrated?

When food is dehydrated, you are removing most of the water content. The nutritional value will remain the same but you will eat much less food in terms of weight, or looked at another way, if you eat the same amount of weight you will be taking in a much higher level of nutrition.

Mostly all the proteins, fats, minerals and carbohydrates are maintained during the food dehydration process. Foods may lose some vitamin B and C value during dehydration.

Your method of dehydrating will also effect how much nutritional value is maintained. A food dehydrator is probably the easiest way to ensure you are producing the most nutrient rich foods.

Why are my fruits turning out chewy rather than crunchy in the dehydrator?

Dehydrating foods, to put it quite simply, is removing the water content. If your fruits are turning out chewy it could be that they are not being cooked for long enough, that is, not enough water is being removed. Try dehydrating them for a longer period of time.

How do you store dehydrated foods?

Dehydrated foods are best stored in airtight containers away from heat and direct light. Vacuum packed is the best method of extending the shelf life of dried foods.

How long can you store dehydrated foods for?

Generally dried foods can last for around 1 year, as long as they are stored correctly.

How can I powder my dried vegetables and what can I use them for?

Powdered onion, garlic and peppers are great for seasoning foods, in particular meats, casseroles and soups. Powders are simple to make using both your food dehydrator and a food processor or blender to turn them into powder afterwards. Store them as you would dried foods, in an airtight container.