Horrified by the unhealthy additives in my favorite store‐bought banana and apple chips, I purchased a food dehydrator many years ago. Drying food is a fun, cheap and easy way to make healthy snacks and store excess food. Armed with my dehydrator, I set out to make my own snacks and never looked back.
With different types of air flow systems, temperature ranges, and load capacities, it’s easy to see how choosing the best food dehydrator can be confusing, especially for beginners. You can’t very well test and do research on each and every one of the models available in the market. So I made it easier for you with this Ultimate List and this handy Buyer’s Guide. You’ll know what to look for and you can simply take your pick among a carefully chosen list of the best food dehydrators out there.
|Model||Air Flow System||Trays||Drying space|
|Excalibur 3926TB ||Horizontal||9 Stainless Steel||15||600W||Yes||105°F‐165°F||Yes, up to 26 hours; with auto shut off|
|Magic Mill MFD‐6100||Horizontal||6 Stainless Steel||6||400W||Yes||95°F‐158°F||Yes, up to 19.5 hours; with auto shut off|
|Gourmia GFD1950||Horizontal||9 BPA‐free Plastic||9||600W||Yes||95°F‐158°F||Yes, up to 19.5 hours; with auto shut off|
|Nesco FD‐75A||Vertical||5‐12 BPA‐free Plastic||5-12||600W||Yes||95°F‐160°F||No|
|Hamilton Beach 32100A||Vertical||5 BPA‐free Plastic||5||500W||Yes||100°F‐160°F||Yes, up to 48 hours; with auto shut off|
|Presto 06300||Vertical||4‐8 BPA‐free Plastic||4-8||600W||No||165°F||No|
The Ultimate List of the Best Food Dehydrators Around
Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator – A Great Machine with Great Performance
Excalibur is a big name in the world of food dehydrators. The brand is known for its high‐end, innovative, premium‐quality models. Excaliburs are the toys of professional chefs and culinary experts.
High‐quality and High‐capacity
The Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator is a large, well‐built, rectangular stainless steel box with plastic panels and a clear door. It has 9 spacious drying trays with flexible mesh inserts and a powerful 7‐inch fan.
The trays will give you 15 square feet of space in total. That’s huge enough to accommodate about 15 pounds of thinly sliced beef for preservative‐free homemade jerky or 12 pounds of thinly sliced banana for making healthy banana chips.
You will also be glad to know that the higher price tag also comes with a fantastic 10-year warranty. So if you’re fond of making big batches and you like your kitchen gizmos lasting a long time, this hefty machine is the best food dehydrator for you. It’s a win-win.
With its innovative air flow system, food is dried quickly and evenly in the Excalibur. It’s capable of drying your batches in just a few hours. An adjustable thermostat also allows you to dry food at the most ideal temperatures. This dehydrator is perfect for everything from fruits, herbs, and vegetables to beef, chicken and turkey jerky, and many more. In order to accommodate bulkier food items, you can simply remove some trays as needed.
The timer with auto shutoff is also a nice touch. If you like to prepare your setup at night, then you can leave the dehydrator running while you sleep and wake up to warm, dried goodies the next morning! The Excalibur can be set from 2 hours to 26 hours.
A Soupy Dilemma
The Excalibur’s drying trays are flat with no lip to them. I had some misgivings about making fruit leathers for fear of making a mess. But because the trays are large and fruit purees are not too runny, I actually didn’t encounter any problems with making fruit rollups. Just remember to spread the puree thinly in the middle of the tray, with the edges a bit thicker. You’ll be encountering the real problem with liquids such as soups and spaghetti sauce. A quick hack can be found in our handy buying guide.
No Sticky Mess
You may think that it can be tricky to clean the Excalibur. The trays don’t fit in a dishwasher so you’ll likely have to wash them by hand in a large sink. Some even suggest that the bathtub will be more convenient if you have to wash all of the trays.
But because each of the Excalibur’s trays come with a corresponding nonstick mesh insert, cleaning won’t actually be as hard as they seem with such big trays. Most days, you can just wash the bendable and easily‐maneuverable inserts and simply wipe the trays down.
Magic Mill MFD‐6100 – The Sleek and Silent
BPA-free plastic is perfectly safe but some would still prefer steel trays. You know the feeling—stainless steel just looks sleeker and feels more solid. However, most affordable food dehydrators have plastic trays, while the ones with stainless steel trays are usually quite expensive. Are you one of those looking for a middle ground? Magic Mill has an answer for you.
Affordability and Quality in One Machine
The Magic Mill MFD‐6100 Professional Dehydrator Machine comes in a rectangular housing unit with six stainless steel drying racks and a clear front cover. Its fan and heating elements are located at the back. The Magic Mill Pro also comes with two fine mesh sheets, two nonstick sheets, and a pair of silicone oven mitts.
Like the Excalibur, the Pro employs a horizontal airflow system, a great heat distribution design that results to even, consistent drying of food.
A Quiet Worker
The Pro’s housing is made of plastic as well as some inner components so it may emit an unappealing plastic smell at first. Get rid of this smell by wiping the dehydrator down thoroughly, running it on empty for a couple of hours, and airing it out well.
A Budget Option
If you like the Magic Mill Pro’s performance and you’re not too concerned about having stainless steel trays, Magic Mill’s got you covered too. A budget version of this machine is available with 6 BPA‐free plastic drying racks.
As is common with horizontal flow type dehydrators, you can simply place a sheet at the very bottom of the unit to catch any spills. The back‐mounted fan saves you from worrying about drips. The Magic Mill Pro is easy enough to clean.
Gourmia GFD1950 – A Certified Safe Option
Gourmia is a well-known, well-established company in making kitchen equipment. In fact, the Gourmia GFD1950 Premium Countertop Food Dehydrator bears the ETL Listed Mark. This means that it has been tested and certified as compliant to North America’s safety standards.
Let’s check out what this unit has to offer.
More Capacity for Less the Price
Out of the box, the Gourmia comes with 9 nonstick trays, housed inside a tough BPA‐free shell with a clear cover. Each tray has a mesh insert of its own. You also get one fruit leather sheet, a drip tray, an instructional manual, and a recipe book with your purchase.
It’s worth noting that the Gourmia’s power chord is shorter than can be desired so you may want to place it near a power outlet or prepare an extension wire.
An Excellent Drying System
The Gourmia GFD1950 is a horizontal flow type model, equipped with a rear‐mounted fan and heating elements. Gourmia’s Circusmart 360° Air‐Flow Circulation System ensures that heated air is evenly distributed throughout the whole unit. It also has an exhaust fan at the top so excess hot air doesn’t get trapped inside and create moisture.
The adjustable thermostat will allow you to set the best temperature for your foodstuff. The timer with auto-off switch will ensure that you can simply leave the unit running without worry.
And in case you’re wondering about the noise, the Gourmia does not disappoint. It’s relatively quiet unit.
The nine drying racks of the Gourmia will give you an abundant 9 square feet of drying surface. It’s one of the most affordable food dehydrators available that can give you this much drying space. If you’re not up to making big batches, however, the smaller Magic Mill Pro has 6 square feet of space. On the other hand, if you need way more room, then consider the Excalibur 3926TB with its 15 square feet may be right for you.
The Gourmia is not dishwasher safe so you’ll have no choice but to wash it by hand. It’s forgivable since the flexible mesh inserts make this process easier.
Nesco FD‐75A Snackmaster – The People’s Choice
We come to Amazon’s bestseller. It’s had thousands of reviews and still has a 4+ star rating. What makes the Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator so popular and highly‐rated?
Chockfull of accessories
The food dehydrator comes with 5 drying trays. Each circular tray is about 13.5 inches in diameter and gives you about a square foot of drying space per tray. You can also purchase additional trays to expand the dehydrator’s capacity to 12.
Along with the unit, you also get two fruit roll sheets, two flexible plastic mesh screens, detailed instructions and recipe booklet, and packets of jerky spice and cure. The fruit roll sheets are perfect, not only for making fruit leathers but for drying liquids too. The mesh screens are great for small sticky fruit like bananas and strawberries, or for food with small particles like nuts, herbs, and oatmeal. The booklet is useful for the experienced, and outright indispensable for beginners.
Unique Drying System
The Snackmaster Pro has a unique airflow system unlike any other on this list. It employs Nesco’s patented Converga‐flow drying system wherein heated air is forced down through the pressurized chamber on the outer rim of the stacked trays. The air then flows horizontally inwards across each tray and converges in the center tunnel. This system distributes the heated air evenly among the trays. It’s not only fast but also eliminates the need to rotate each tray every so often and prevents flavors from mixing.
There is no timer in the SnackMaster Pro so you’ll have to use an independent timer or just take note of when you switched it on. The only control present in this machine is the thermostat. But it’s an excellent one. You’ll be able to go down to as low as 95°F—ideal for drying delicate herbs, or go as high as 160°F for safely making jerky.
Round and Compact
Because of the donut shape of the Nesco, you will lose some drying space to the air flow tunnel in the middle and you’ll also have to get a bit creative with arranging enough foodstuff to fit without overlapping. With a bit of practice, you’ll be a pro at slicing and positioning fruit slices, herbs and meat cutlets just so.
The trays are very easy to clean by hand. They are also compact enough to fit in the top rack of a dishwasher.
Hamilton Beach 32100A – A Convenient Entry‐level Digital
This Hamilton food dehydrator is an unusual shape for a unit that has a vertical air flow system. Most vertical types are round while the Hamilton Beach 32100A is rectangular. This means that two sides will be farther from the vent than the other two. Does it have any effect on the dehydrating process? Or will its more convenient shape make it a good buy? Let’s find out!
Out Of The Box
The Hamilton Beach 32100A has a metal base and 5 BPA‐free plastic stackable drying racks. It also comes with one fine mesh sheet and one fruit roll-up tray. The fan and heating elements are located at the bottom.
Consistent Distribution and Great Controls
Truth be told, I expected to encounter inconsistencies with heat distribution along the farther corners of the drying trays. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no noticeable difference. The foodstuff in each tray dried evenly. That said, you may still find yourself having to rotate the trays a number of times especially if you make thicker slices.
It also has an adjustable digital thermostat and a digital timer with auto shut‐off. Both are incredible features for a food dehydrator in this price range.
The Hamilton Beach gives you the ease of arranging food usually experienced in more expensive horizontal‐type dehydrators, all the while enjoying the affordability of a vertical type.
That said, although most dehydrators with vertical air flow systems are expandable, there is no mention of this model having that feature. The top tray has a cover on the air vent which leads me to believe that it’s not. A quick check proved that there are extra trays for sale but I wouldn’t advise adding more than two trays.
The Hamilton is arguably more convenient for arranging and maximizing space but it’s not necessarily bigger than the circular Nesco Snackmaster or Presto Dehydro. They are all around a square foot per tray. Realistically, it’s less than that if you consider the central chamber. And since the Hamilton only has 5 trays, it actually has less surface area overall.
Some food just tends to get stuck in the trays because they don’t have mesh inserts like all the trays of the Excalibur and Gourmia does. But no biggie. The Hamilton Beach is dishwasher safe and also easy to wash by hand.
Presto Dehydro 06300 – The Minimalist’s Food Dehydrator
Beginners who just want the basics of food dehydration without any bling, listen up. Here’s a simple, straightforward machine brought to you by Presto. Is it worth buying and trying out? Or would you be saving more if you go ahead and buy a pricier but glitzier food dehydrator?
Upon purchase, you get the Presto Dehydro in all its 4‐stack glory. The fan and heating elements are located at the bottom. The Dehydro doesn’t come with any accessories. If you want those with your dehydrator, check out the Nesco Snackmaster that comes with many accessories and more trays.
A digital version of the Dehydro is available. The Presto 06301 Dehydro has a digital screen, an adjustable thermostat and a timer.
With the Dehydro, you may want to rotate the trays occasionally to achieve even drying. But for a neat little machine, I was impressed by the results. It won’t stand out against the Magic Mill or even the Nesco Snackmaster with neither a thermostat nor a timer but it does what it’s supposed to do pretty well. A fixed temp of 165°F is not the most ideal for fruits and vegetable but the Dehydro does a decent job.
That said, you make think twice before drying delicate herbs. If you don’t like the hassle of having to closely monitor the drying process, you may be better off placing herbs and delicate foodstuff under the sun than risk cooking them.
Small but Loud
The Dehydro is not a quiet machine. So if your kitchen is near the bedrooms, you may want to place it in the garage when drying overnight. You won’t have a problem with carrying the unit around though, as it only weighs 7.2 pounds in total.
What’s more, you can nest the trays nicely by stacking every other tray upside down, those with handles should be flipped down while those without should be stacked as is. This will collapse the Dehydro to almost half its normal size for easy storage. Can’t say the same for box‐type dehydrators. If you’re looking for a unit you can travel with, then the Dehydro is the best food dehydrator in terms of portability.
The trays on this model are pretty easy to clean with soap and warm water or in the dishwasher. That said, you can purchase mesh screens from Presto on Amazon to prevent food debris from sticking to the trays. The fan situated at the bottom may raise some concerns. Luckily, the Dehydro has a mesh screen protecting the fan component from small food particles.
Buyer’s Guide to Choosing the Best Food Dehydrator
What Types of Food Dehydrators Are There?
There are two main types. Some models have a Vertical Air Flow System while others have a Horizontal Air Flow System. This section is going to discuss how the two differ in terms of performance and features to help you decide which one is the better choice.
Vertical Air Flow System
How it works
As the name suggests, heated air moves up and down through these units. Vertical‐type food dehydrators are usually circular in shape. There is a chamber in the middle of the unit where air passes and then spreads throughout each tray. The fan and heating elements are usually located at the bottom, capitalizing on the fact that hot air rises naturally.
- Food dehydrators with vertical air flow systems are mostly stackable so you can opt to add more trays for more drying space without sacrificing more countertop space.
- Because they are small, light and made of plastic, they also cost less than their horizontal counterparts.
- Food nearest to the fan (usually located at the bottom) tend to dry faster than those in the upper trays so you may have to occasionally disrupt the airflow in order to rotate trays.
- If you are drying different food simultaneously, there is a tendency to mix flavors as the heated air passes from one tray layer to the next.
- The inner tunnel takes away space for drying.
Horizontal Air Flow System
How it works
Units with this type of air flow system usually look like rectangular cabinets with sliding tray shelves. The fan and heating mechanisms are located at the back of the unit. The fan then blows heated air directly and evenly across the shelves, back to front.
- Food dehydrators with vertical airflow systems usually offer a greater surface area. It’s also easier to maximize drying space because of their rectangular shape.
- The even distribution of heat usually eliminates having to rotate each tray.
- Because the air hits the trays directly, flavors are less likely to mix.
- You can purchase horizontal‐type dehydrators with trays made of food‐grade stainless steel as well as cheaper BPA‐free plastic ones.
- Because they have housing, horizontal‐types are not stackable and it’s not possible to add more trays.
- They are usually more expensive.
What Factors Should Weight In On My Decision?
Capacity and Size
The first thing to consider when buying a food dehydrator is how much food you plan to make. Dehydrating food is a long process that can take 7 hours or 17, depending on what you’re drying. Also, consider how much counter space you can spare and if you plan to store the unit after every use.
Are you planning on just making small batches of fruit and vegetable chips for a small family? You won’t be saving energy and money by getting a big dehydrator and using only a quarter of its capacity. Vertical type dehydrators are more portable and don’t take as much space. They are also easier to store.
The Hamilton Beach 32100A is small and perfect for small to medium-sized families. The Presto Dehydro is also very compact and you have the option to add more trays because it’s expandable. The Dehydro also nests quite nicely for storage.
On the flipside, do you like to go on crazy fruit sale hauls or are you a fan of jerky and like to make big batches? It’s more time and cost effective to run a huge batch on a big dehydrator than having to make multiple batches because a unit is too small.
Different food types dry optimally under different temperatures. Raw beef, for example, must be dehydrated in no less than 155°F for safety. Herbs require less heat at around 95°F‐115°F, and fruits and vegetables at 135°F‐145°F
Because dehydrating food takes hours, it’s easy to forget that you have a unit running. A dehydrator with a built-in timer will ensure that you’re alerted when it’s done so your unit doesn’t run for too long.
Having an auto shutoff feature would be even nicer. You can leave the unit on its own and go to work or run your errands without sparing it a thought.
Free accessories included with your purchase are always great. Most vertical flow type food dehydrators come with complimentary mesh screens and fruit roll-up trays that you can also use to dry liquids. Some models even come with oven mitts, jerky packets or jerky guns.
Most horizontal flow type food dehydrators already come with mesh inserts for each tray. However, they don’t usually include other accessories, especially for making fruit leathers and drying liquids.
The fans in food dehydrators can produce a lot of noise. Some units are louder than others. Unfortunately, noise decibel is not usually included in the models’ list of specs. If you’re after the quietest possible unit, you may want to give the Magic Mill MFD‐6100 Machine a try.
Once you’ve decided on the best dehydrator for you, of course, you’ll want to get started dehydrating all sorts of fruits and veggies ASAP! To learn more about how to use dehydrators and some of the best dehydrator recipes to get started, check out this article from Insteading.com!
Top Pick: And the winner is…
For such a small machine, the Nesco Snackmaster Pro packs power. It’s neck to neck with the higher‐end Excalibur when it comes to performance and extra features. And while the Excalibur is big with spacious drying trays, the Nesco Snackmaster Pro is expandable. What broke the tie is the Nesco Snackmaster Pro being way more affordable, leaving the Excalibur at second place.
Knowing what you do now about food dehydrators, have you made your choice? All of these units are wonderful picks in their own right so I’m interested in knowing what your main considerations are. Did we pick the same models or did you decide on another?