How to Choose a Food Dehydrator — Buyer Guide

By | June 6, 2017

how to choose a food dehydratorDo you know how to choose a food dehydrator?

Do you know there are so many units on the market to choose from?

But before you choose one…

There are certain things that you need to look out for when you are shopping for the best food dehydrator.

In this buyers guide, we’ll go through some of these things together so that you can be more informed before making a buying decision.

How to Choose a Food Dehydrator — Features

Air Flow and Heat

Vertical Food Dehydrators. With a vertical-style food dehydrator, you can easily make meat, bulky root vegetables, and other jerks. Usually, vertical dehydrators have their fans located at the bottom or top. This is done to ensure even heat distribution and efficient dehydration. Moreover, they are cheaper than horizontal dehydrators although are more difficult to clean.

Horizontal Food Dehydrators. Horizontal-style food dehydrators are suitable for preparing fish, vegetables, poultry, fruits and others. They are often larger than their vertical food dehydrator counterparts. Unlike the vertical dehydrators, horizontal food dehydrators usually have the fan located at the back of the unit. This can often cause the food not to be evenly dehydrated. The advantage to them is that they are easier to clean but are more expensive than their counterparts.

Tray Access

Stacking Models. These models can dehydrate large batch of food stuffs at a time. They are bulky in size and more complicated to handle in terms of use. Because of their construction, they may require more time to dehydrate food. You may have to put in some extra minutes to dehydrate your food properly with them.

In most cases, you need to remove the top trays to access what’s at the bottom and this can lead to loss of air and heat. This type of dehydrators usually have small footprint and often vary in size. The downside is the periodic stuffing of racks, which makes only foods closer to the fan to dry faster.

Shelf Tray Model. These types of dehydrator are easier to use because they are designed like the normal oven with stacked trays. They blow their air in an horizontal fashion, so there is no need to rotate the trays while they are in operation. The advantage to shelf tray models is that all trays on get equal amount of heat although they are bulkier and heavier than before.

Expandability 

Food dehydrators can either be expandable or non expandable. The non-expandable models can only dry a large batch of food at once. You can only make do with the trays that comes with the product — there are no option for buying extra trays.

For this reason, they are not suitable for dehydrating food in several batches. The expandable models on the other hand are more flexible since you can buy extra trays if you need more space to dry large amount of food in a batch.

Modifiability

Before making a buying decision, you need to consider the ease of use after purchasing your dehydrator. While it is easy to modify some food dehydrators, others will take much of your time and effort.

For instance, box and shelf food dehydrators are better because they allow you to remove the racks and have your food dry uniformly. The stacked models are better for making a huge batch at a time.

Material

Food dehydrators are made from plastic and metal. The models that are made from metal such as Excalibur, usually have longer lifespan than those made from plastic.

When you are buying a dehydrator made from plastic, you need to ensure that the product is BPA free and certified by the FDA. This will ensure that there are no plastic fumes when the product is used at high temperatures.

However, if what you are buying is metal, then you should see that the material used conforms to the lift of acceptable food materials maintained by the FDA.

When you are shopping for the best food dehydrators, make sure your finally decision reflects your need. If you intend to use the appliance for use for a very long time, then it is better to choose from those that are made from metal.

On the basis of this, you should be aware that a unit made from metal will be more expensive since it has more quality materials than the plastic type and is expected to have a higher longevity.

Portability

If you are a frequent traveler, then this section is very important for you. Ease of carriage is another factor you need to consider before buying a food dehydrator.

If you decide to buy one model just because it is made from metal and of high quality, then you should know that this will weigh heavier than that made in plastic.

If you are concerned about portability, a plastic model is the best choice. In economics, this is a called a trade-off. You need to make a trade-off between buying a unit with a longer lifespan and buying a unit for portability. Which one will you go for?

Size and Space

If you have limited space, stackable countertop model have smaller footprint — so they are good for you in this case. However, if you have enough space, you can choose to go for the shelf tray models.

Price

The best food dehydrator don’t have to be expensive. Moreover, food dehydrators generally costs below $75. Some are cheap while others are expensive.

The most expensive ones are the box and shelf models while the cheapest are the stacked models.

How to Choose a Food Dehydrator — Top Models

Aroma Housewares Professional 6 Tray Food Dehydrator

best food dehydrator

The Aroma Housewares Professional comes with 6 trays in metallic black that is ideal for the health conscious and outdoor specialist.

Whether you are looking to prepare custom potpourri, dried herbs and spices or trail mix, this food dehydrator will give you an efficient even drying with the flip of a button.

You can even make fruit slices, beef jerky, and your favorite dried foods with the help of this dehydrator.

The Aroma Housewares Professional includes an adjustable thermostat, which helps to ensure that your food are dehydrated at their optimal temperature.

Moreover, the trays are spacious so that you can dry large amount of food stuffs in a batch.

There are 7 temperature settings where you can choose the precise temperature setting that matches your favorite food.

Although Aroma Housewares Professional 6 Tray Food Dehydrator comes with many beneficial features, the price is a bit on the high side compared with other products in the same category such as the L’Equipe 528 6 Tray Food Dehydrator, Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator and the Samson Silent Dehydrator 6-Tray.

The Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro costs around $60 while the L’Equipe 528 6 Tray Food Dehydrator costs around $100.

The Aroma Housewares Professional price range between $100 to $130 which is similar to the price range of the Samson Silent Dehydrator.

You can also adjust the height of the automatic fan which helps to promote even drying and prevent overheating.

The overheating is responsible for eliminating food’s vital nutrients, which can defeat the main purpose of using a dehydrator. The fan is located at the back so that the air blows across and not through.

This ensures that the heat is distributed evenly, which brings about efficient dehydration.

PROS

  • Works quietly
  • Heats well
  • Stainless steel trays
  • Shuts off automatically
  • Affordable
  • Comes with a timer

CONS

  • Not suitable for heavy usage
  • Bottom is not very easy to clean

VERDICT

Overall, the Aroma Housewares Professional 6 Tray Food Dehydrator is a solid appliance for those who want are not only conscious of what they eat but also outdoor oriented.

It is fortified with 6 removable racks, adjustable thermostat, automatic fan, and a sufficient capacity to ensure you get the optimal dehydration possible.

Nesco FD-61WHC Snackmaster Express Food Dehydrator

best food dehydratorThe Nesco FD-61WHC Snackmaster is unique food dehydrator with a full kit for dehydrating fruit, vegetables and jerky in a quick and evenly.

It has a variable climate control with temperature ranging from 95 degrees to 155 degrees, 4 large trays, a base, a top mounted fan, and a powerhead of 500-watt dehydrating power.

The Nesco FD-61WHC is manufactured in the United States of America.

The Nesco FD-61WHC Express Food Dehydrator is a very quiet during operation.

In fact, this food dehydrator has been described to hum like a window-mounted AC unit while it is working.

This means you can have a conversation while the unit is in operation and your partner wouldn’t be bothered about the sound.

Although the unit comes with only 4 trays, there is an extra 5th tray and you can equally be expanded to 12 drying trays.

However, when you expand more than the 4 trays, then you should expect to rotate the lower trays for the upper ones.

Unless you have the time to monitor the progress of dehydration and only if you intend to make large batches should you expand. For a small family, the 4 plus the extra trays should be enough.

If you are looking for a food dehydrator that comes with all the tools for making excellent jerky, this is it.

The Nesco FD-61WHC Snackmaster Express comes with three tips, five cures, five seasonings, and a jerky gun. You can use the seasons and cures for your ground beef as well as the tips.

The tips include a wide, narrow, and a strip beef stick shape for making delicious beef. With every ground beef you make, you can add one packet of seasonings and cures.

The package also included two Clean-a-Screens. The screens have very narrow holes to prevent smaller food items from falling out of the trays.

It also prevent sticky foods like pineapple and banana from being hard to remove after they are done drying.

The beauty of these screens is that you don’t have worry whenever you have the need to dry some items you don’t normally dry before.

You will also find the two fruit roll up trays when you purchase this dehydrator. The fruit roll up trays are soft and are used in preventing small items from falling below.

Moreover, you can use them to make fruit rolls — the main reason they are included in the first place. Another thing you can use them for is to place them at the bottom of the unit to catch junks and grease that slips from above the unit.

PROS

  • Comes with excellent, useful jerky kit for jerky lovers
  • Helpful and well written instruction manual
  • Made in the USA
  • Very Quiet
  • Easy to use

CONS

  • Lacks on/off switch

VERDICT

In general, you have the recipe guide which includes care handling instructions as well as usage instructions. The instruction booklet has recipe and preparation instructions for fruits, vegetables, desserts, and crafts such as wreath that you can easily utilize.

Overall, the Nesco FD-61WHC Snackmaster Express Food Dehydrator is a good dehydrator which is well worth the money. The items in the kit can cost you a lot when you buy them separately.

Flexzion Dehydrator for Food Fruit Food Dehydrator

best food dehydratorThe Flexzion Dehydrator for Food Fruit comes with 5-stackable trays and a top mounted heating element to for dehydrating a wide variety of homemade snacks and fruit rolls.

You now have the opportunity to make banana chips, kale chips vegetables, dehydrated fruit slices, fruit leathers, and a whole lots of others.

This food dehydrator features a see-through top that allows you to view and observe as your food and veggies dehydrate.

No need to put the product apart to watch what is going on behind the unit.

The control panel is unique and intuitive — it does not have any complicated instructions like competing models.

You can select from 95-to-160 degree Fahrenheit (F) and watch clearly as the machine works on your stuff.

The Flexzion Dehydrator is quiet during operation. It comes with the standard trays as those found in other dehydrators of the same size and it is as easy as any of the other models.

The manual provides a time frame you can complete dehydration a set of foods although, you may have to experiment to be sure of the time it will take to dehydrate your favorite food.

PROS

  • It is inexpensive
  • This dehydrator is easy to use and setup
    • Adjustable thermostat with 5 trays
  • Great price-to-value ratio

CONS

  • Difficult to find replacement parts

VERDICT

Overall, the Flexzion Dehydrator for Food Fruit comes with 5 trays and you can select from 1 to 5 trays depending on the amount of food you want to dehydrate.

The beauty of this unit is that it features an adjustable thermostat, which is absent on most inexpensive dehydrators. The hitch about the product is that the fan is not balanced which can sometimes lead to some noise during operation. 

NutriChef Kitchen Electric Countertop Food Dehydrator

best food dehydratorIf you are a chef, you can find a good companion in The NutriChef Kitchen Electric Countertop.

With a maximum dehydrating power of 180 degree Fahrenheits and an enhanced air flow system, you can dehydrate variety of food items, veggies, and fruits in the comfort of your kitchen.

This unit helps you preserve over 50% of the vitamins, minerals, and nutritions in your food without having the course to visit your local grocery.

The NutriChef Kitchen Electric Countertop comes with 5 trays that are arranged in tiers in the dehydrator so that the heat can circulate easily and help you achieve evenly dehydrated food.

The unit feature a simple on/off switch that don’t bug down your time when you intend to dry your foods.

In addition, it can be used in drying variety of stuffs such s fruits and veggies, herbs and spices, snacks, fish, meat, beef, and other food items.

The dehydrator heating element is placed at the base of the unit so that you can access it with ease. And with the availability of two color varieties — black and white — you can easily select one that just goes with your kitchen color palette.

PROS

  • The dehydrator gets to the dehydrator advertised
  • You can prepare safe jerky with this food dehydrator
  • The trays allows you to check the progress of the food you are dehydrating
  • It is dishwasher safe

CONS

  • Rotating is required for uniform drying
  • Expect longer drying hours
  • No optional accessories
  • No temperature setting button

VERDICT

The NutriChef Kitchen Electric Food Dehydrator is cheaper than the Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster, Presto 06301 Dehydro and only adds couple of dollars to the Hamilton Beach 32100A dehydrators.

As you can see, you not only get a feature rich unit but one that is affordable. Most importantly, it is manufactured from stainless steel, meaning that it will last longer than the other models  with good maintenance.

Hamilton Beach 32100A Food Dehydrator

best food dehydratorThe Hamilton Beach 32100A Food Dehydrator comes with five stackable drying trays and 500 watts of power suitable for those who want to dry variety of fruits, vegetables, and beef jerky.

You don’t even have to rotate trays while your jerky is drying because of the continuous airflow feature on this unit.

When you are drying your beef jerky, you need just a few hours to complete it.

After that, you can keep your jerky in an airtight container at room temperature, and it can easily last up to two months.

Unlike using an oven, this unit will not leave you with a big mess that is difficult to clean.

Moreover, making jerky shouldn’t be hit or miss. And this unit offers you the functionality to prevent that. The controls on the 32100A are simple to use.

You can set the hour from 1 to 48 hours and the temperature from 100F to 160F. And if you want, you can easily switch it to metric, which gives you greater functionality.

The Hamilton 32100A can easily take at least 3 pounds of meat whether it is sliced or ground beef and up to 6 pounds as reported by some users. When using the Hamilton Beach 32100 Dehydrator to make beef jerky, it could take you 4 to 8 hours. The advantage is that you are not limited to meat jerky.

PROS

  • Continuous airflow for even drying
  • Five stackable trays and 500 watt drying power
  • 1 fine-mesh sheet for drying small foods
  • 48 hour timer with auto shutoff
  • Clear and transparent lid for check drying process
  • 1 solid sheet for making fruit rolls
  • A timer for keeping tabs on your food
  • Easier to use and less of an hassle than an oven

CONS

Uneven dehydration
Hard to clean

VERDICT

If you are looking for the best food dehydrator for deer jerky, chicken jerky and particularly beef jerky, then this model is one of the best option available to you. With Hamilton Beach 32100A, all you need is some time to dry your jerky and reap huge rewards.

Final Words on How to Choose a Food Dehydrator

Selecting the right machine for dehydrating can sometimes be difficult. But if you follow a guide like this, you should be able to make an informed decision. We have written the guide on the best food dehydrator to help you if you still want to learn more about how to choose a food dehydrator.

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