Dehydrated food is one of the best ways to stay nutritionally satiated on long hiking trips or hunting expeditions. In many cases, however, purchasing food that are already dehydrated(freeze dried food) can get really expensive. It’s almost always cheaper to buy ingredients in bulk and then dehydrate them yourself at home.
In order to do so, you need a high-quality food dehydrator or you can use a freeze dryer to make freeze dried meals. Our list of the 10 Best Food Dehydrators is designed to introduce a number of high-quality food dehydrators that you can use to prep food for your next trip. Be sure to read through our Buyer’s Guide after these rankings for all the information you need to choose the best food dehydrator for your needs.
This electric food dehydrator comes with nine trays and a total of 15 square feet of drying space. The unit’s adjustable thermostat can be programmed to temperatures between 105 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Capable of dehydrating fruits, nuts, vegetables, and meat, it’s an ideal food dehydrator for large families, gardeners, and sportsmen.
The trays in this Excalibur food dehydrator do not need to be moved or rotated during operation. The unit’s temperature range is low enough to preserve the active enzymes in fruits and vegetables while maintaining the capability to meet safety standards for dehydrating meat for jerky. The dehydrator features a 26-hour timer, a 7-inch fan for increased air circulation, and a flexible poly-screen tray insert to prevent food from sticking.
2. Nesco Snackmaster Pro
The Nesco Snackmaster Pro food dehydrator comes stock with five trays but it is capable of expanding to include a total of twelve. Each tray is 13.5 inches in diameter. It can dehydrate meats, fruits, and vegetables in a matter of hours and has the flexibility to dehydrate each different food group for the best quality results.
This electric food dehydrator can be programmed to temperatures ranging from 95 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. It is equipped with a powerful top mounted fan and the patented Converga-Flow drying system. This system forces air down through the exterior pressurized chamber, rather than through the trays themselves. This air is then forced horizontally across each individual tray for fast, even, and nutritious drying.
3. Presto Dehydro Digital
This digital electric food dehydrator comes with a six-tray system that is designed to help you dehydrate food efficiently and without additives or preservatives. It’s an ideal dehydrator for a variety of food groups, including red meat, poultry, and seafood. It includes six drying trays, but it is capable of expanding to include a total of 12 trays at maximum capacity.
The Presto Dehydro food dehydrator comes with a digital thermostat and timer to increase the precision of drying time and temperature choice. It offers a temperature range of 90 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and the bottom-mounted fan and heating element work together to provide consistent airflow without the need for rotation. This dehydrator also comes with two fruit roll sheets and two nonstick mesh screen trays.
4. Tribest Sedona Express
The Tribest Sedona Express food dehydrator is the world’s first full-featured dehydrator. It offers a compact, kitchen-friendly design and comes with a total of eleven drying trays. This dehydrator is designed to deliver optimal airflow and rapid dehydration, no matter whether you’re drying fruits, vegetables, meat, or crackers.
This food dehydrator features all-digital controls for accurate programming of temperature and timing. It offers a maximum temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit and is built with an all-glass, hinged door for easy monitoring and insertion/extraction of trays. It provides quiet operation in a non-flammable and BPA-free plastic body. Perhaps best of all, the Tribest Sedona Express comes with a 10-year warranty (1).
This professional electric food dehydrator is built to preserve a wide variety, while maintaining their nutritional quality and reducing the amount of user preparation. It’s a great dehydrator for reducing food waste and eliminating the spoilage that happens to so many of our favorite fruits, vegetables, and meat.
The NutriChef food dehydrator comes with five stackable trays. These trays are easily removable for cleaning purposes and can also be cleaned while still inside. The unit offers a maximum temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit and has been scientifically tested to increase food shelf life through the use of high heat circulation. By removing moisture content, this dehydrator will shrink food but still retain at least 97% of the food’s essential vitamins and minerals.
6. Nesco Gardenmaster
The Nesco Gardenmaster is a fully digitally-controlled unit that is expandable to include up to 20 drying trays. Each tray is 15.5-inches in diameter. The unit’s digital timer can be programmed for up to 48 hours of drying time, making it an excellent choice for anyone that wants to dehydrate a lot of different things in a short amount of time.
This food dehydrator offers a temperature range of 90 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The unit’s top-mounted fan keeps liquids from dripping into the heater chamber and its patented Converga-Flow drying system guarantees even drying across each tray. The unit also comes with a 52-page recipe and instruction book, one solid sheet, one mesh sheet, and a packet of spices to make delicious beef or venison jerky.
7. Hamilton Beach Digital
This food dehydrator is ideal for anyone that wants to create their own snack options that are high in nutrients but low in calories. It will help you prepare everything from beef jerky to kale chips with its temperature range of 100 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and a 48-hour timer outfit with an all-important, auto-shutoff feature.
The Hamilton Beach Digital food dehydrator comes with a clear lid so that you can easily check on the progress. It boasts five stackable dry trays. Continuous airflow over each of these trays provides even drying while retaining your food’s nutritional value. This unit also includes one fine-mesh sheet ideally suited for drying herbs and one solid sheet for making fruit rolls.
8. Gourmia Premium
The Gourmia Premium food dehydrator will help you forget about the need to buy processed trail snacks from the store. You’ll be able to make more flavorful, nutrient-rich, additive-free, alternatives at a fraction of the cost from the comfort of your home. This unit comes with six removable, non-stick trays with plenty of space to dehydrate fruits, vegetables, and meats.
This food dehydrator offers an adjustable digital thermostat with a temperature range of 95 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit. It boasts a back-mounted fan that delivers silent, consistent airflow and heat circulation for even drying action without the need for rotating trays. The unit’s door is transparent so that you can easily monitor the status and it comes with a bonus fruit leather sheet and drip tray.
9. Cuisinart DHR-20
This dehydrator can tackle fruits, vegetables, and meats to help you create your own delicious and nutritious snacks. It’s also capable of drying a variety of herbs so that you can create your own spice combinations for meals on the trail. It comes with five stackable, interlocking racks but can expand to include a total of nine racks at maximum capacity.
The Cuisinart DHR-20 an adjustable temperature control with four settings: Fan Only, Low, Medium, and High. The unit’s powerful motorized fan and top venting system work together to ensure fast, even drying regardless of the food type it’s working with. This model also does great with beef jerky. This dehydrator also includes an additional fruit roll-up sheet.
10. Samson “Silent”
The Samson “Silent” Stainless Steel dehydrator features digital controls and a glass door for seamless food monitoring. It comes with ten stainless trays, ten BPA-free mesh liners, and a BPA-free drip tray, making it an ideal dehydrator for drying fast.
The unit offers a total drying space of 15.6 square feet and its removable trays allow you to dehydrate larger items with ease. It boasts a temperature range of 95 to 167 degrees Fahrenheit and a digital timer that allows up to 19.5 hours of drying time. It provides even drying performance in a much quieter package when compared with its competitors.
Historical evidence suggests that food dehydration dates back as far as 12,000 BCE. This evidence indicates that ancient Egyptians used desert heat to dry fish and poultry. (2) Although the sun continued to function as the main drying agent until the Middle Ages, dehydration methods have undoubtedly advanced rapidly since then. However, the sheer quantity of dehydrators available today can be a bit overwhelming for some.
Selecting the right food dehydrator requires a deeper understanding of several factors. These factors include heat distribution and airflow, ease of use, size and capacity, wattage, and convenient features. We will now discuss each of these factors in greater depth.
Does It Dry Evenly?
Dehydrating food is not rocket science. By keeping the food at a consistent, high temperature for a long time, you remove a significant percentage of the food’s moisture content. The hardest part is ensuring that heat is evenly distributed over the food for the duration of the drying process. It’s nearly impossible to guarantee that each food item you place in a dehydrator will be the exact same distance away from the heating element, so making sure the unit has a definitive means of facilitating airflow is a must.
When buying a food dehydrator, you should carefully research what each manufacturer details in regards to heat distribution and airflow for the models you’re interested in. Many horizontal flow food dehydrators tend to be more effective at providing even heat distribution than others, but vertical models typically include fans and other elements that help to improve their performance.
Is It User-Friendly?
If we’re being quite honest, there isn’t a whole lot of work that goes into dehydrating. Most of the work will come in the form of cutting or chopping fruits, vegetables, meats, and herbs before placing them in the dehydrator. There’s also not a whole lot of variance in the ways in which food dehydrators are operated.
That said, there is one important feature that ‘user-friendly’ models include over others. That feature is the ability to cook evenly enough so that you won’t have to switch or rotate trays regularly. With some models, you’ll have to closely monitor your food and rotate or rearrange trays on a regular basis to ensure even drying.
In the most ‘user-friendly’ models, this is not necessary. You’ll be able to place food in the dehydrator, set a timer or automatic shut-off feature, and walk away. This makes dehydrating an easy task as you go about the rest of your day.
Another important point to be considered in terms of ease of use is what it takes to clean a unit. Units that include removable, dishwasher-safe trays are generally going to be the easiest to keep clean if you’re dehydrating a lot.
Is It Large Enough?
Only you know the quantities you wish to dehydrate in a single cycle. If you’ll only be dehydrating food for a few short backpacking trips every year, a smaller model might be best. On the other hand, if you aim to dehydrate several bulk batches of produce from your garden every year, you’ll need a much larger unit.
Some of the best units available have the ability to expand to meet your needs. These models allow you to add trays as your dehydrating needs grow. They also allow you to keep your dehydrator at a functional size so that it fits with the rest of your kitchen appliances. Available kitchen space is another important factor to consider when choosing the best size for your dehydrator.
Is It Powerful Enough?
A dehydrator’s power capability largely comes down to its wattage. For our purposes in selecting a food dehydrator, wattage is defined as “the power rating, measured in watts, of an electrical appliance.” (3)
A dehydrator with a lower wattage will use less energy overall but will also take longer to heat up and do its job. A dehydrator with a higher wattage will heat up much faster and be more powerful in general. The downside, however, is that a unit with a higher wattage tends to be more expensive to purchase and will also use considerably more energy when in use. (4)
What Is It Made From?
The materials used in the construction of a given dehydrator also play a minor role in its performance. Most of the units out there have plastic bodies with sometimes metal and sometimes plastic trays.
The more durable models use stainless steel construction to ensure that they last a long time. These models, however, are generally more popular in restaurant kitchens or other settings where they will take more of a beating on a daily basis. Most dehydrators that are used sparingly in home kitchens are less expensive because they rely on a plastic body design.
What Puts It ‘Over-the-Top’?
As we stated earlier, the purpose and function of a food dehydrator are relatively simple. However, there are several add-ons that can separate a good dehydrator from one that you really love to use. If you’re looking for a dehydrator that will inspire you to constantly be on the hunt for new foods to dry, consider a few features that put a dehydrator ‘over-the-top’.
A digital thermostat is one feature that can significantly increase the handiness of a dehydrator. Different foods require different temperatures to dry optimally and retain their nutritional properties. A digital thermostat will allow you to dial in a dehydrator’s temperature to optimize drying for specific food groups.
A timer is another feature that you should look for. It takes hours (sometimes days) to dehydrate certain foods. You don’t want to have to rely on checking your foods over and over again to make sure they’re dry enough but not too dry. A timer will let you set your dehydrator and walk away for hours without worry. Then, your unit will politely remind you when it is time to remove food.
The last add-on feature you should look for is an automatic shut-off feature. This option takes things a step further than a timer and lets you program exactly how long you want your dehydrator to operate before shutting off. With this feature, you’ll truly be able to “set and forget.”
Frequently Asked Questions
There are many backpackers, hunters, and outdoor enthusiasts that utilize food dehydrators to prepare all of their meals for extended stays in the wilderness. In order to help you maximize the use of your new food dehydrator, we’ve put together this list of some of the most common concerns about using dehydrators, as well as what to do with food once they’re dried.
How many watts should a food dehydrator have?
When it comes to power, you’ll want a dehydrator that offers at least 500 watts. In general, higher wattage means quicker, more efficient drying.
How long does it take to dry food in a dehydrator?
This varies greatly depending on a number of factors. Some foods may take as little as 10 hours and others take as much as 24-48 hours. In general, dehydration times are dependent on temperature, desired texture, size of the foods you’re drying, the overall moisture content of those foods, and the surrounding environment.
What temperature should I use to dry different foods?
Again, this largely depends on your personal preferences. Lower temperatures tend to preserve more of a food’s natural enzymes while higher temperatures are necessary for meat and fish in order to ensure they are safe to consume. Most foods can be dried at temperatures ranging from 90 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Here is a brief summary of the “ideal” temps for the most common foods prepared with dehydrators:
Herbs and delicate items: 95 F
Yogurt making: 115 F
Vegetables: 125 F
Fruits: 135 F
Meat and Fish: 155 F
What is the best way to store foods once they are dry?
Generally, any rigid, sterilized container will do. Dried foods can be stored for many months without the risk of spoiling. Minimizing the amount of extra air leftover in the container once you fill it with dried foods will improve the shelf life of those foods. The additional kicker is that you’ll want to ensure that any container you store dried foods in remains airtight until you’re ready to consume those foods.
Why can’t I use my oven to dehydrate foods?
Although some models of high-end combination ovens have the versatility to dry certain foods, most convection ovens can’t maintain the consistent temperatures need to dehydrate foods properly. In these types of ovens, invariability between hot and cold spots means a lot of variation in dryness amongst the different pieces of fruits, vegetables, herbs, or meat that you’re trying to dehydrate.
In general, convection ovens are also much less energy efficient than food dehydrators and come with a low-temperature limit (typically between 150 and 200 degrees) that is far too high for optimal food dehydration.
What are the benefits of drying food yourself over buying it in store?
There is one major advantage to dehydrating your own foods at home: you control the process! From selecting quality ingredients to determining the optimal drying method for preserving nutritional content, you’ll have the freedom to create healthier, more delicious snacks than you could ever buy at the store. Plus, you’ll be able to do so at a fraction of the cost of buying dehydrated snacks in the store.
Can I use my dehydrator for things other than food?
Yes. Other known uses for dehydrators include drying clay and metal jewelry before firing, drying flowers to make potpourri, creating exotic cake decorations, restoring old audio cassettes that have been subject to moisture or humidity, making healthy natural dog treats, curing natural healing remedies, and preserving cinematic film for safe storage.
A quality food dehydrator will save you a boatload of money on food for your next wilderness adventure. Don’t be one of those thru-hikers who rely on Snickers bars from Mexico to Canada. A food dehydrator can be an essential part of making food for food storage. Get yourself a dehydrator and have some fun creating your own delicious, nutritious trail snacks. We hope you’ve found the dehydrators and the information in this article useful and we wish you the best of luck selecting the right food dehydrator for your needs.