Questions like, “what is the best food dehydrator for beginners?” is very common. And in this guide, you will learn all you need to know about food dehydrators as well as those that are suitable for beginners.
- 1 What is a Food Dehydrator?
- 2 Best Food Dehydrator For Beginners — Comprehensive Reviews
- 3 Best Food Dehydrator for Beginners Buyers Guide
What is a Food Dehydrator?
A food dehydrator is a small kitchen appliance that is used to dry or dehydrate food for storage or for making healthy snacks. Most people now prefer to dehydrate their own food rather than buy it from stores.
It is safer, as there are no preservatives added, and cheaper. Thankfully, food dehydrators for beginners have become very affordable today. After some research, you can easily purchase one that suits your needs.
When you start researching, however, you will find a wide array of food dehydrators. For beginners, starting this project could be pretty daunting.
First, you can be overwhelmed by all the different appliances. Secondly, you have to understand a few things about dehydrating food so you know what you are looking for in a dehydrator.
More and more foods that used to require elaborate, professional equipment can be processed at home. While preservatives have had their heyday, dehydrating is the new trend.
Providing numerous health benefits, dehydrating foods at home allow you to save a bundle on fruits, nuts, and dried meats.
However, for someone just getting into the hobby, it can be difficult to determine which beginner food dehydrator is right for you.
That is why we have put together a helpful buyer’s guide as well as a list of the best food dehydrators. However, we have made it a point to focus exclusively on dehydrators for beginners to help make the selection process easier.
Best Food Dehydrator For Beginners — Comprehensive Reviews
The the top spot for the best food dehydrators on our list goes to the Gourmia GFD1950, which provides the best features for a number of factors in the superior horizontal dehydrator design.
Still, this dehydrator is not without its minor inconveniences.
In terms of dehydrating ability, the Gourmia’s 600 watt heating element is the best in the horizontal model class.
This provides ample heat whether you are dehydrating delicate herbs or dense meats.
The Gourmia GFD1950 Digital Dehydrator also allows you to dehydrate more food than any other model on this list, whether horizontal or stackable.
Moreover, with 9 trays, you can mix and match arrangements to dehydrate food portions of various sizes.
Of course, all of this dehydration surface area has to come somewhere and ultimately makes this the largest dehydrator on the list as well. Be prepared for the Gourmia to occupy 1 ½’ feet on both sides.
Still, with digital controls and a built-in timer, the Gourmia allows you to set it and forget while the transparent front lets you easily check your food’s progress. Keep in mind, the best performing dehydrator also comes with the highest price tag.
- 9 shelves provides plenty of space for large scale dehydration
- Amazing digital controls allows you to dehydrate however you want
- Air flow and heat are electronically tracked and adjusted for even dehydration
- The temperature range of 95 to 158 degrees is a bit underwhelming
- The top spot also goes to the largest dehydrator
- Does not include a solid or mesh tray
If you want the best, you have to accommodate the best. The Gourmia is both the largest and most expensive dehydrator on our list. However, it also allows you to dehydrate more food at one time, and provides the best heating element in the horizontal category.
Moreover, the transparent front, digital controls, and built-in timer make this a great first dehydrator. The excellent modifiability of 9 trays is just icing on the cake.
The Magic Mill is a great alternative to the Gourmia if you are not as comfortable with the investment for a beginner product.
Granted, it does not come with quite as many feature, nor is the dehydrating action as good.
This latter part may be what convinces you to invest a bit more for the Gourmia as the 450 watt heating element is a bit subpar and will necessitate more time being spent dehydrating meats.
Still, both products offer the same heating range, and the Magic Mill offers far more variance in sheets.
In fact, if you plan of dehydrating a wide range of foods, the 3 non-stick sheets included might be a convenience worth opting for.
Moreover, the digital controls and built-in timer allow for easy setting, while the transparent front door allows you to check on the food with a glance. Still, the maximum capacity of 6 trays does further limit this product when compared to the Gourmia.
- The horizontal design heats and dries food evenly
- A wide range of controls allows easy use for beginners
- Includes numerous different trays for different types of food
- Other models can provide more of a temperature range beyond the 95 to 158 degrees
- As a horizontal unit, this is a bit large
- A 19 ½ hour timer is rather short compared to the 2 days of some other units
While not as powerful as the Gourmia, the Magic Mill is a suitable beginner dehydrator for those consumers not comfortable with the Gourmia’s premium price. The 450 watt heating element is not even second best among the horizontal dehydrators on our list, but it is not the worst either.
However, the transparent front and digital controls are nice beginner features, while the built-in timer keeps you to date with your food’s progress. In many ways, it is a slightly lesser product than the Gourmia, but at least this also includes the Magic Mill’s profile.
What it lacks in power, the Ivation makes up for in convenience. This is especially relevant for someone who knows absolutely nothing about food dehydrators.
The Ivation’s controls are digital and incredibly easy to use.
Moreover, this dehydrator comes with an internal sensor that keeps track of the temperature to prevent over-heating which is especially important for delicate herbs.
Unfortunately, overheating may not be as much of a concern as 400 watt heating element is the weakest on our list—including stackable dehydrators.
This will necessitate you spend more time when dehydrating meats.
Still, as a horizontal dehydrator, you at least will not have to worry about your food being heated unevenly.
Also, this is the perfect horizontal dehydrator for those of you who do not want to worry about the hassle of tray rotation associated with stackable dehydrators but also do not want to devote almost 2’ of counter space like the other horizontal models.
- It is incredibly compact for a horizontal dehydrator
- Easier to clean the inside than many other horizontal dehydrators
- Internal sensors prevent overheating of more delicate foods
- 400 watts is fairly low for a horizontal dehydrator
- The 19½ hour timer is subpar for long-term dehydration
- It is big and bulky, requiring a lot of counter space
While the Ivation may be the weakest horizontal dehydrator on our list, it is also the most user and beginner friendly.
However, at around the same price as the other horizontal hydrators outside of the Gourmia, you will have to determine how important user friendliness truly is.
If ease is your primary concern, the Ivation provides many of the same features that aid beginners as the other models: a transparent front, digital controls, and a built-in timer. However, it is the Ivation’s internal heat sensor to prevent food from overheating that makes it the most user friendly by far.
The L’Equipe is a no-frills, no-fuss horizontal food dehydrator that makes it onto this list due to its reputation as a durable and reliable product.
That being said, it is not the most beginner-friendly model, so you will have to carefully weigh which is more important.
With a 500-550 watt heating element, the L’Equipe is not quite as powerful as the Gourmia but more powerful than the other two horizontal dehydrators on our list.
Thus, if you were uncertain about the Ivation or Magic Mill’s heating ability but did not want to pay more for the Gourmia, this dehydrator may be an appropriate compromise.
That being said, this is the least user friendly horizontal dehydrator on our list for a few reasons. First, the exterior is opaque. Beginners especially will want to check on the progress of their food, so they can hone their dehydration skills.
However, the opaque design will require you to open the dehydrator, releasing the heat, and affecting the process.
Furthermore, the L’Equipe’s controls are incredibly rudimentary relying on a knob that only indicates the maximum and minimum temperatures. There is also no built-in timer, so you will have to be alert while dehydrating food.
- 90 to 155 degrees is one of the best range of the horizontal dehydrators on this list
- Micro-controlled processor ensures even heating
- The most compact horizontal dehydrator on our list
- Rudimentary controls and an absence of a timer are not ideal
- An opaque exterior makes checking on the food’s progress harder
- 12 sq ft of dehydrating surface is the least for horizontal models on this list
If you are not ready to pony up the cash for the Gourmia, but require more power than the Ivation or Magic Mill, this dehydrator is an excellent option. While not quite as powerful as the Gourmia, the 500 watt heating element is sufficient for most consumers.
However, there will be more work associated with the L’Equipe as there are no transparent exterior sides, so you will have more difficulty checking on your food. The controls also present problems, even more so than most of the other dehydrators on this list–whether horizontal or stackable.
The Nesco FD-75A is the first dehydrator from this manufacturer to make our list. However, it is, strictly speaking, not the most powerful, but it does provide the best value.
With 600 watts of heating element power, this stackable dehydrator is surpassed only by the Presto and the other Nesco.
However, the Presto does not feature as good of an air flow design, so the additional heat does not necessarily produce better dehydration.
The Nesco accomplishes this feat with the use of a 700 watt fan to circulate the heat throughout the dehydrator. More impressive, the fan itself is fairly quiet given its power.
However, the airflow of the Nesco is not simply a matter of a solid heating element and powerful fan.
The trays and stacking system used by the Nesco are specifically designed to facilitate even distribution of heat and air flow. This Converga-Flow pushes the heat and air from the exterior of the dehydrator to the interior, the food is heated more evenly than in most other stacked dehydrators.
- 600 watts in a stackable dehydrator is great
- 700 watt fan provides excellent airflow for a stackable dehydrator
- Numerous specialized trays allow a variety of dehydrating projects
- Opaque exterior prevents easy checking in on food
- Is fairly large for a stackable dehydrator, even with a circular form
- The controls are rather rudimentary and do not include a timer
For a reasonably priced stacked dehydrator that provides the best available dehydration process, the Nesco FD-75A is hard to beat.
Only modestly expensive than the other stacked dehydrator makers, it produces a far more even heat and better airflow than any other stacked dehydrator other than the other Nesco.
The only real downside is the combination of simple controls and an opaque exterior. This means that checking the food’s progress is not as easy yet more necessary than on a transparent exterior.
While technically capable of dehydrating the same range of foods as the other products, the NutriChef presents some concerns when doing so.
Specifically, the NutriChef does not provide any means of controlling the temperature.
This would not necessarily be a problem, but the NutriChef generally runs at 180 degrees.
While you can still dehydrate any food at this temperature, it leaves far less margin for error. Needless to say, delicate herbs and spices can easily become too dehydrated.
However, the NutriChef should truly be seen as a product for dehydrating most foods. Instead, it is better understood as a meat dehydrator.
In this regard, the NutriChef is easily the most effective stackable dehydrator and still quicker than even the horizontal types.
That being said, the maximum of 5 trays and traditional stackable heating method will require regular tray rotations. And without a timer included, you will need to carefully monitor the NutriChef’s progress.
- A maximum temperature of 180 degrees is great
- Fully transparent allows easy checking of all trays
- The lightest dehydrator on our list is also the most portable
- With a maximum of 5 trays, you are a bit limited in total amount
- A traditional stacked dehydrator heating element and fan requires tray rotation
- Limited controls means more precision of skill is required
The NutriChef is not really made for all purposes. In this regard, it is more of a niche dehydrator, though it is the best in its niche. For making jerky and other dehydrated meats, this is you best bet.
If you are looking for a dehydrator that can handle more delicate foods, the absence of temperature controls makes this a poor choice. Still, as one of the cheaper products on our list, it may be worth purchasing the NutriChef as well as another dehydrator if you plan to make a lot of jerky.
The Presto is a bit of a fish out of water. Its heating element is amazingly powerful for a stackable dehydrator at 750 watts.
Unfortunately, it offers no special airflow design, so tray rotation will not only be necessary but more frequent as well.
That being said, the Presto does perform admirably when compared to the Nesco, though it is not better in general.
For dehydrating meats, the Presto will do so quicker while also able to dehydrate delicate herbs.
This allows the Presto to bridge the gap between the Nesco and the NutriChef, though it does not perform either’s functions better than the specialized product.
Unfortunately, the Presto does suffer the same issue for beginners that the Nesco poses.
Specifically, only the top tray is transparent, so checking on the other layers is not as simple as glancing at them. Moreover, the Presto’s controls are similarly rudimentary and does not include a timer.
- 750 watts of heating power is great for a stackable dehydrator
- The trays can stack completely inside one another when not in use, further compacting the profile
- 6 trays with the ability to expand to up to 12 is nice
- An absence of a built-in timer and rudimentary controls are unideal for beginners
- A mostly opaque exterior prevents easy checking-in on dehydrating food
- 2 mesh trays are okay, but different trays for fruits and herbs would be better
With an incredibly powerful heating element, whether stackable or horizontal, this dehydrator would do well to redesign its airflow. Using the standard stackable air flow where a fan blow the heat upward only exacerbates the differing heat levels of the different trays.
This will ultimately require you to rotate the trays more often. However, for a dehydrator that can easily process meats while still showing a delicate enough touch to handle herbs, the Presto is a solid option.
Hamilton Beach has a bit of a hit-or-miss reputation. Once seen as a pinnacle of kitchen appliance brands, recent years have led to a decrease in some of their products’ quality control.
Thankfully, their dehydrator is not one such market, as the 32100A performs admirably, if unremarkably.
With 500 watts of power, the Hamilton Beach sits in the middle, neither too weak but also not able to push the limits of food dehydration.
As such, you have some wiggle room, but should almost definitely follow the recommended dehydration instructions for different food types.
With a rectangular shape and transparent trays, the Hamilton Beach does at least offer a few advantages over the Nesco which outclasses it in terms of pure dehydration.
First, the shape may seem insignificant, but it is generally easier to position more food in a rectangular shape than a circular one. Moreover, the transparent trays provide ample eye line to easily check on your food as it dehydrates.
Moreover, one of the best features on dehydrators for beginners is digital controls, something few stackable dehydrators offer. In this regard, the Hamilton Beach is the only product on our list that does so.
- 500 watts is solid for a stackable dehydrator
- Digital controls are rare and welcome on a stackable dehydrator
- The rectangular shape allows easier positioning of food on the trays
- The temperature range is not as wide as some of the other products
- 5 trays total is on the low end
- Does not include a solid tray
While it sits in the middle of the pack in terms of pure dehydration ability, the Hamilton Beach has a number of features that make it an attractive beginner model. Moreover, the 500 watt heating element is more than adequate for the wealth of dehydration purposes.
However, the Hamilton Beach is the only stackable dehydrator that offers digital control which will be a welcome feature for beginners who are still learning the ins-and-outs of the process.
The second Nesco’s position on our list should not be seen as an indication of its quality. In fact, in the stackable food dehydrator category, this Nesco is without question the best product.
Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive stackable dehydrator whose base version is as expensive as a horizontal type dehydrator.
At that point, you may be better off buying one of those.
However, if you are looking for the best stackable, this is the product for you.
With 1,000 watts of heating power, the Nesco can produce more heat than many horizontal units—though it will still have the same rotation requirements.
Still, 1,000 watts is even more than most horizontal dehydrators for beginners.
Moreover, this Nesco can accommodate up to 20 trays. However, this makes the ease of use a bit beyond the beginner food dehydrator category and is not advised.
- 1,000 watts provides a great deal of power in such a compact size
- Numerous controls to allow plenty of versatility in use
- Allows expansion of size by up to a maximum of 20 trays
- Is expensive for a stackable dehydrator, costing as much as many horizontal units
- Is a bit on the large side for a stackable unit requiring more than 1’ for width and length
- Opaque exterior prevents you from easily checking in on your foods
This dehydrator will cost you, which is uncommon in the stackable dehydrator market. However, if you want the most powerful stackable dehydrator, there is no other option.
Moreover, the ability to expand the trays up to 20 is unheard of, though you should be an expert in food dehydration before trying such a project. However, when you are ready, the controls allow you to continue your skill progression.
Ultimately, if you do not have the room for a horizontal dehydrator, but want a product that can grow as your skills progress, this Nesco is the choice for you.
This NutriChef is fairly similar to the previous model with one major difference.
This model is rectangular shaped which allows an easier positioning of the food to be dehydrated.
However, by providing your food more room, this necessarily means the dehydrator itself will also require more room.
Still, the NutriChef does a great job of distributing that size so it is not appreciably different than the other model.
Aside from the form factor, the PKFD06 provides the same specs and features as the PKFD12.
This means that its flaws are also the same, so expect to be more observant when using this dehydrator than might be required for other models.
Still, with the fully translucent trays, that will not be a problem. Of course, the limitation of a 5 tray maximum project may be.
Also like the other Nutrichef, this model sports a 180 degree maximum temperature making it ideal for dehydrating meats. Unfortunately, it also lacks the ability to control the temperature, so herbs may not be best suited for this product.
- The rectangular shape is rare for stackable dehydrators and allows easier food positioning
- Fully transparent exterior allows you to quickly and easily check on all of your foods
- A maximum temperature of 180 degrees is rare
- With a maximum of 5 trays, you are a bit limited in total amount
- A traditional stacked dehydrator heating element and fan requires tray rotation
- Limited controls means more precision of skill is required
Much like its brother, the PKFD12, this NutriChef makes its money dehydrating meats. Considering few other models can achieve temperatures over 160 degrees and meats are often suggested to be dehydrated at that temperature as a minimum, this makes either NutriChef the best choice for jerky enthusiasts.
However, if you want a dehydrator that is truly suited as a full-purpose product, you are better served looking elsewhere. The absence of any type of temperature controls or a timer prevent this from dehydrating herbs without the risk of ruining them.
Some Other Food Dehydrator for Beginners
Waring Pro DHR30 Professional Dehydrator
It has 5 stackable and interlocking trays and comes with a fruit roll-up sheet. This is perfect for dried fruits and herbs and great for beef jerky. This food dehydrator also has an adjustable thermostat to provide precision in the dehydrating process and a new fan system that promotes better air flow.
Presto 06300 Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator
Cheaper than most appliances, this is suitable for beginners. It has a see-through cover that will help you see the contents inside without having to constantly open and close the lid, thereby preserving the hot air inside. This food dehydrator is dishwasher safe with 4 trays but can be extended with 8 trays for added capacity.
Nesco FD-80A Square-Shaped Dehydrator
The Nesco has an adjustable thermostat with an air-circulation system that ensures fast and even drying. It, therefore, is extremely easy to use and dishwasher safe.
Best Food Dehydrator for Beginners Buyers Guide
Most food dehydrators often come a handful of features that are easy to understand and can be quantified. Qualities like maximum temperature and watts used are relevant and must be considered, but they do not tell the whole story.
Often, factors that you cannot assign a number to play just as or a more important role in the dehydration experience than simplistic numerical values.
While watts and temperature can easily be parsed without assistance, qualities like air flow, modifiability, and dehydrator type present a more nuanced affect.
That is why we have put together a buyer’s guide to walk you through some of the finer points of food dehydrators.
Fan for Air Movement
Fan placement is just as important because it will determine the direction and flow of heat inside the dehydrator. Fans that are placed at the bottom or top could mean that food placed near them would dry faster than the ones that are placed farther.
Hence, the need to rotate the trays. Fans that are located at the back are best since heat would be distributed evenly.
Amount of Food For Drying
This will depend on the size and capacity of the dehydrator that you will use. The right size and right quantity of food will affect the drying. Slice food in equal thickness and size.
Place them on the trays evenly, making sure that there is enough space in between for the heat to flow around evenly.
You will be storing your dried food for a long time so make sure you prepared them properly. Avoid contaminating the food by thoroughly washing them and cleaning with antibacterial cleaner. Wear gloves if necessary.
Ensure that the storage jars or plastics are also thoroughly clean and dry. Putting a silica gel packet along with the food could help in absorbing leftover moisture that may be trapped inside.
Temperature is the most important factor as this is what dries the food. Different food requires different temperatures.
If you’re not sure what temperature to use, just remember that too low is better than too high. A temperature that is too high will result in cooking instead of drying.
Take your time and do not increase the temperature as this may also result in drying the outer part but locking in the moisture inside. This moisture will make the food spoil faster.
After the drying time, check if the food is still soft or spongy. Put them back in the dehydrator to dry them out further. What we need is a thoroughly dried food inside and out.
There are two main types of food dehydrators, regardless of the class: horizontal and vertical.
Vertical dehydrators are also known as stacked dehydrators. The fan and heating element are located at the bottom of the unit and the air flows upward.
While this arrangement allows a smaller profile and is generally cheaper, it also heats and dries the food less evenly. Depending on the size of the vertical dehydrator, this may require you to shuffle the trays around so that the food will dry and be heated evenly.
The horizontal dehydrators are also known as “box and shelf” dehydrators. Shaped similarly to an oven, horizontal dehydrators place the heating element in the back and use a fan to evenly distribute the heat and air flow to all of the food simultaneously.
Horizontal dehydrators are easier to use and generally more effective. However, they are also often much larger and more expensive.
While the ceiling of this factor will be vital to determine, it will also heavily depend on your needs. Considering this is a “beginner’s” buying guide, getting a dehydrator with more than 10 trays or racks is unnecessary.
However, if you find or expect yourself to be using the dehydrator regularly, ensuring that you define a reasonable floor for the number of racks will prevent you from having to purchase a new dehydrator as quickly.
Moreover, a dehydrator with more trays will also allow you to grow into your new hobby as you advance.
Keep in mind, like cooking, different foods will require different approaches to the dehydration process. Regardless, it is advised that your dehydrator has at least 3 trays minimum.
Heat and Air Flow
As previously discussed, the airflow of horizontal dehydrators tends to be more even than stackable products. However, even within the same type of dehydrator, air flow can vary depending on the design of the trays and exhaust.
For stackable dehydrators, the tray design will weigh heavier since the exhaust can only rise. However, the venting of the trays will affect the flow of heat and air. Keep in mind, poorly vented trays with stackable dehydrators will require more frequent rotation of the racks.
For horizontal dehydrators, this can be difficult to determine as there are a couple arrangements and each serve a different purpose. Most commonly, the fan in the back pushes heat from the element which rises up and exhaust.
However, some dehydrators also include fans either on the bottom or the top. These additional fans further circulate the air and allow complete saturation of heat.
While this factor is technically less important for beginners, it is something to keep in mind if you are already hooked on dehydrating your food. The ability to modify your dehydrator will allow your unit to grow and expand as your skill progresses.
This quality comes in two flavors, one for each type of dehydrator. For stackable dehydrators, modification comes when the unit allows you to add or subtract trays without affecting the dehydration process.
This ultimately allows you to dehydrate different amounts of food at the same time but does not change what type of food you can dehydrate.
Horizontal modification, thankfully, does not involve potential purchase of additional parts like stackable modification may. Instead, horizontal dehydrators generally allow modification as part of their design by adding or removing trays as desired.
This allows you to dehydrate different types and sizes of food—something stackable units can rarely accommodate.
This refers to the ability to control the temperature, fan speed, and a timer. Few beginner dehydrators allow you to control the fan speed as you generally need to understand the dehydration process well to properly use that variable to meaningful effect.
However, the ability to set the temperature should be seen as one of the few extra features that, more than a tie-breaker, may actually sway you towards purchasing a less powerful product.
As a beginner, it is important to experiment so you understand the dehydration process—this means you should have the ability to fail and learn from your mistakes.
Timers can be useful features and may serve as an adequate tie-breaker for two equally effective options. However, timers will be more relevant if you purchase a dehydrator that requires you to rotate the trays for even heating and dehydration.
It can be difficult to make an informed decision when you are buying something for the first time. And as a beginner, you may need to go through a guide and food dehydrator reviews to get information on different models and use the comparison to determine which model is best for you.
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