Dehydration is an old, tried and tested method of food preservation. Natives across the world have been drying their foods in the sun or by air for as long as we know, and the methods used today are based on these exact same principles – though in a more sophisticated way that allows us to control the process.
An electric food dehydrator for home use is the best way to preserve your homegrown produce, meats, fish, and basically anything you can imagine. It uses less energy than an oven, dehydrates your foods faster, and allows for a more streamlined setup for frequent use.
Stocking up on dehydrated foods have many benefits. First and foremost, according to a 2011-study, many nutrients are retained on dehydration. They are also lightweight and easy to prepare, which is great for campers and hikers venturing out in nature.
Our top pick is the COSORI CP267-FD Premium Stainless Steel Dehydrator due to the great overall performance, user-friendly design, and useful features. For more specific options, see all our top picks below.
Best overall: COSORI CP267-FD Premium Stainless Steel Dehydrator
COSORI CP267-FD Premium Stainless Steel Dehydrator
The COSORI CP267-FD Premium Stainless Steel Dehydrator is a quiet, high-quality pick with stainless steel sheets and an overall great performance.
Pros: Parts are easy to clean, quiet operation, equal distribution of heat and air means no switching trays during operation, good capacity with ample spacing between sheets, effective dehydration of all foods.
Cons: Relatively short power cord, dehydration times stated in the book seem inaccurate.
If you’re finding yourself dehydrating foods quite often or intend to do so, the COSORI Premium Stainless Steel Dehydrator is not only our favorite, but also a generally popular machine among hundreds of online buyers.
It comes with six durable stainless steel trays that are dishwasher safe and easy to clean, and the built-in fan is relatively quiet in comparison with other dehydrators (less than 48 dB, according to the manufacturer).
The dehydration process is efficient, and the hot air is equally distributed across all sheets, so you don’t have to rotate or switch them over manually. Just set the timer, adjust the temperature, press the start-button, and let the machine do the rest.
A few users mention that the power cord is relatively short, which could be of inconvenience to those who can’t position it near an outlet. And because the dehydration process is extremely effective, the recipes included are not always on point – which is both good and bad, because the actual dehydration time is generally shorter than what the recipe book states. Fortunately it comes with a glass front door, so you can keep track the progress.
Best on a budget: Nesco FD-1018A Gardenmaster
Nesco FD-1018A Gardenmaster
With an impressive capacity of up to 30 trays (8 trays included), the Nesco FD-1018A Gardenmaster is our top budget pick.
Pros: Great capacity due to expandable design, lightweight, very easy to use, trays are easy to clean, made in USA, compact design.
Cons: No timer, plastic trays might not last as long as metal trays, noise might be an issue for some people.
The Nesco FD-1018A Gardenmaster food dehydrator has one important advantage, that sets it apart from other dehydrating machines: A clever, expandable design.
You get 8 dishwasher safe trays included as standard, but you can stack up to 30 of these trays on top of each other to better utilize this unit. Dehydrator trays are sold separately, but for most people 8 trays are more than enough to get started.
The unit itself is lightweight, and because there’s only a knob for temperature adjustment you’ll easily get started with the Gardenmaster. Just flip the switch and set the temperature, and you’re ready to load it up.
Another thing we appreciate about the Nesco dehydrators is that they’re assembled in USA out of domestic and global parts. The design is compact, and because the trays are removable you can easily store them separately if you want to save space.
Unfortunately the pricing of this unit also means that some corners had to be cut. This might not be an issue for most people, but it doesn’t have a timer and you’ll therefore have to shut it off manually once it’s done.
It is also considered relatively more noisy than other dehydrators, which may or may not be of inconvenience depending on its location. However, it’s worth noting that most dehydrators are rather noisy and are generally considered unpleasant by most people. So regardless of what dehydrator you choose, you might be better off placing it in a separate room with proper ventilation to ensure the dehydration process is as effective as possible.
Best splurge: Excalibur 3900B 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator
Excalibur 3900B 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator
The Excalibur 3900B 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator has been made in the USA since 1973, and is a great choice for those seeking a great, versatile dehydrator.
Pros: Great capacity, solid performance with even dehydration across all trays, parts are replaceable, made in the USA, proper build quality and a durable design.
Cons: Not a lot of space between the trays, bulky design might not fit all kitchen countertops, some people might find it relatively noisy.
The Excalibur dehydrators has been made in Sacramento, California, since the beginning in 1973.
With the 3900B 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator you’ll get great performance and a high capacity totaling 15 square feet, which is more than enough for most people’s needs. Among its many advantages it boasts a powerful ventilator for proper drying of foods across all nine trays, and the build quality seems durable and sturdy enough for everyday use.
Although most people like how effective this dehydrator is, a few buyers found the mesh screens a bit cumbersome to clean after use. Not only because they’re quite bulky, but also because of the small holes that allow food to get stuck easily.
While it is indeed very effective and powerful, you’ll need to cut your foods into thin slices in order to fit all nine trays at once. This isn’t necessarily a problem because you could just leave out a tray if you want to dehydrate larger items, but then you’ll lower the capacity significantly.
We like how simple it is to use though, and dehydration is a breeze with this very popular dehydrator.
Best large capacity: Magic Mill MFD-1010 Commercial Food Dehydrator
Magic Mill MFD-1010 Commercial Food Dehydrator
With a total capacity of just over 18 square feet, the Magic Mill MFD-1010 Commercial Food Dehydrator is our top pick for a large household.
Pros: Timer and automatic shut-off built in, even dehydration across all trays, premium look and feel, durable stainless steel trays, transparent door, great overall build quality, suitable for everyday use.
Cons: Very bulky (24 x 22 inches), requires good ventilation or else the house heats up during use.
Whether you’re preparing large amounts of food at once or want a dehydrator that works for every use, the Magic Mill MFD-1010 Commercial Food Dehydrator is a great purchase. With a total of just above 18 square feet spread across 11 sizable trays, you can dehydrate large batches of food at once without having to rotate or switch the trays in order to dry it evenly.
The Magic Mill dehydrator comes with all the convenient features you’ll need, such as a timer and an automatic shut-off feature for added accuracy and safety. You can easily adjust your preferred settings with the touch-sensitive control panel, and this food dehydrator isn’t as noisy as other models.
Unfortunately it goes without saying that a food dehydrator with such a capacity is quite bulky as well. It takes up a space of 24 x 22 inches, and because of the size it heats up a large room rather quickly. So you might be better off placing it in a room that you can ventilate during use, such as a garage or a basement with windows.
Best small design: Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro
Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro
The Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro has a clever, modular design and can be expanded with 7 extra trays for a total of 12 trays.
Pros: Affordable unit, lightweight (only 7.75 pounds total), relatively quiet, easy cleaning after use, removable trays allow for easy storage, expandable with up to 7 extra trays (12 total).
Cons: No on/off button, design seems a bit fragile, not all parts are made in the USA.
If you want an affordable food dehydrator that doesn’t claim a large area of your kitchen countertop, consider the Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro. It has a great design with a solid performance, which ensures that your foods are perfectly dehydrated every time.
The unit itself it very lightweight and relatively quiet (although some noise is to be expected), and the cleaning after use is easily done with a bit of soaking and scrubbing with a soft bristle brush.
One thing that we like in particular, is the option to get extra trays. However, with the option of upgrading the dehydrator with 7 additional trays, we found it odd that we couldn’t buy a single tray but instead have to buy one too much for what we need.
Some buyers miss having a on/off button, and the plastic design might not be the most durable of the bunch. However, for most people it will highly likely last for years anyway.
One thing that seems to confuse buyers, is the “made in USA” vs. “made in China” labeling. Apparantly the motor/heating unit is manufactured in China, whereas the rest of the unit is made in USA. Some buyers dislike the fact that the vital part of this dehydrator was made in China, while others don’t seem to mind as it’s well made and works well. If you want to buy a dehydrator that’s made in USA, we recommend that you take a look at the Excalibur brand.
Identifying the best food dehydrators for home use
In order to identify the best food dehydrators, we researched the marked and reviewed the best options prior to writing this buying guide. We read through thousands of user reviews in order to get a better understand of what people like and dislike, and we reached out to field experts as well.
These are the key factors when picking the best food dehydrator for home use:
- Performance – how fast is it?
- Versatility – what foods can you dehydrate?
- Features – does it have a timer and automatic shut-off?
- Noise – every dehydrator is noisy, but how bad is it?
- Spare parts/customer service – are spare parts available, and how helpful is customer service?
Food dehydrator benefits
According to the Susan Mills-Gray, State Nutrition Specialist at University of Missouri, food dehydration has many benefits over other preservation methods.
As you may already know, bacteria, molds, and yeast need water in order to grow and thrive. This means that when you dehydrate the food sufficiently, these microorganisms can’t grow and your foods stay good for longer periods of time with no refrigeration needed.
Snacks and food for hikers and campers
Dehydrated fruits make great snacks, while vegetables and meats can be added to a stew in order to make yourself a solid meal. Because of how lightweight dehydrated food is, campers and hikers often choose it over canned food for the obvious reason that it weighs less and they can go longer without getting tired.
Keep a shelter stocked for years
You never know when a disaster strikes, and you might find yourself without electricity for longer periods of time, unable to buy food from the local grocery store.
With dehydrated foods you don’t need to worry, as you can stock up on all your favorite foods and build up a supply that will last you for weeks if needed. You don’t have to worry about rotating the food supply ever so often, because the shelf life of dehydrated food is far better than most canned foods.
Make specialty foods at home
You don’t have to pay for those expensive sun dried tomatoes, and neither do you have to pay for dried herbs. With a food dehydrator you can dehydrate tomatoes and add them to your salads or sandwiches, and you can dehydrate any kind of herbs of your choice for later use.