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.
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, the best 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 the best food dehydrator for beginners.
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 of the best food dehydrator for beginners 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 or the best food dehydrator for beginners also comes with the highest price tag.
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.
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 the best food dehydrator for beginners.
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.
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 Ivation’s controls are digital and incredibly easy to use. 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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 the best food dehydrator 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.
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 best food dehydrator for beginners in this category and is not advised except if you have had experience with dehydrators in the past.
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.
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.
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 of the Other Best Food Dehydrator for Beginners
Best Food Dehydrator for Beginners – Buying Guide
Most of the best food dehydrator for beginners 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. In the following paragraph, you should be able to see the features that need to be on the best food dehydrator for beginners so that you are choosing the right one for your preferences.