Dehydration is one of the oldest and most reliable ways to preserve food. Originally, this was accomplished through sun-drying, but ideally, you want to be able to dry your fruits and vegetables without the stress or inconvenience that comes with relying on the weather.
For those interested in more automated methods of dehydration, we’ve outlined the top five best food dehydrators of 2021 for you.
Overall Top Choice
Many things set the Excalibur Electric Food Temperature Dehydrator apart from its competition. It comes with a guide for dehydrating food. Add that to its ease of use, and you’re practically guaranteed no trouble getting started. This dehydrator has 15 square feet of space, which is more than enough for a single serving of food.
We also love the temperature and time features of this product. It has a 26-hour configurable timer that shuts off automatically. It also has an adjustable thermostat that ranges from 105 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This range provides temperatures cool enough for vegetables and hot enough for meats.
There are many dehydrators on the market - trust us, we checked - but few have the parallax horizontal airflow that the Excalibur 9-Tray Dehydrator has. The patented design is incredibly effective at preserving nutrients and enzymes in the food.
If you’re like us, you love it when a product has additional perks. And the Excalibur comes with a flexible poly screen tray insert that keeps your food from sticking to the dehydrator tray.
Best Value for Your Money
We fell in love with this dehydrator immediately after unboxing. It has a solid plastic body with 10 stainless trays and an array of convenient features.
The rear mount fan works with the heating element to ensure that everything in the dehydrator experiences even heat distribution. This way, all your food dries at the same time, and you don’t have to rotate your shelves every few hours.
The Magic Mill Food Dehydrator Machine also has a digital thermostat and timer that work together to dehydrate food while not burning it. The adjustable temperature control triggers the automatic shutoff when your timer is done, and the settings are entirely configurable.
Remember the 10 stainless trays we mentioned? Well, there are actually mesh trays and regular trays. The regular trays will hold your jerky and other large foods, while the extra trays are for nuts and herbs.
One thing we found interesting was how easy this appliance was to clean. Normally, you’d expect a long process due to the complicated design, but all you need to do is pull out the trays and load them into a dishwasher because they’re all dishwasher safe!
The Magic Mill Food Dehydrator isn’t magic, but it's pretty close. It has a lot of functionality that makes it a convenient choice if you’re looking for a dehydrator that delivers. Even though it’s not the cheapest product on this list, it’s packed with features that justify its price point.
Easiest to Use
What we love most about this product is the control it allows. You can set the timer for up to 48 hours, which is great for making beef jerky, and you can also increase the time in 30-minute increments. Additionally, it comes with 6 stainless steel trays that include a mesh screen, a fruit roll mesh sheet, and a recipe book.
You’ll notice a trend with the products on this list. Many of them are made of high-grade durable plastic. But not this dehydrator; the manufacturers went all out with a food-grade stainless steel exterior that adds style and luxury to your kitchen.
Another great feature of the COSORI Premium Food Dehydrator Machine is its silent operation. The noise is less than 48dB, which is essentially as quiet as a library. Add that to the timer function, and it easily becomes one of the most user-friendly products on this list.
All 6 trays are dishwasher safe, and you can easily wipe down the interior of the dehydrator for cleaning. Its rear-mounted fan also consistently distributes heat evenly.
If you’re looking for a convenient way to dehydrate your food without having to turn the pieces every hour, this is the product for you. The timer, temperature setting, and stainless steel construction all allow you to set it, forget it, and come back for your dehydrated foods later. While not the cheapest, this dehydrator is also reasonably priced.
Best in a Pinch
The Elechomes 6-Tray dryer has a very simple design that involves a see-through tray section and a control screen below. But while simple, this appliance still gets the job done. It has 6 stackable trays that can accommodate a variety of foods, from beef jerky and fruits to vegetables and herbs.
The trays are BPA-FREE and each layer has two adjustable heights. This ensures that you can dry different kinds of food at once by varying their distance from the heat source. The transparent trays also allow you to see exactly what’s happening to your food.
As expected, the Elechomes 6-Tray Dryer has an adjustable thermostat and a digital timer. The control panel lets you set the temperature from anything between 95 and 158 degrees Fahrenheit, and the timer goes from 30 minutes to 3 days.
One of the most important features of a product is peace of mind, and the Elechomes Dryer offers it without fail. The product comes with an 18 month-warranty and access to customer service. You also get a user manual to navigate the product's settings or troubleshoot if necessary.
The Elechomes Dehydrator’s affordable price, durable build, warranty and simplicity make it great for people who are looking to fill a quick need in their kitchen.
Most Budget Friendly
The Elite Gourmet Food Dehydrator is the most affordable product on this list, while still being able to give more expensive alternatives a run for their money. Its design is very similar to the Elechomes 6-tray dryer, with a see-through lid and adjustable temperature.
This electric food dehydrator sports a knob control that lets you take the heat from 95 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit. It can dry everything from snacks and fruits to herbs.
This dehydrator is especially great for hobbyists who are looking to dry flowers, craft dough, or pet treats. The product is easy to clean too. You simply load the trays in the dishwasher and clean the clear lid.
Now, you may be wondering if this budget dehydrator has a heat distribution system. It does, and the fan is mounted on the base, distributing air to the 5 horizontal plastic trays. The product is also safety tested and comes with a power rating of 350W.
The Elite Gourmet EFD319 Food Dehydrator is 4X cheaper than our top pick and is perfect if you’re looking for a dryer that works. It doesn't have a fancy LED display or a week-long timer setting but it still gets the job done quickly and efficiently.
Things to Know Before You Buy
You may have noticed that we focused on a couple of features in all the dehydrators we mentioned. That’s because these are critical for getting the most out of your purchase. We’ve also outlined them here.
How large is the dehydrator and how much food can it hold during each use? These appliances come in multiple sizes, and the larger the capacity, the more expensive the dehydrator will be.
It helps to have an idea of what quantity you expect to dry during each use. For example, our top pick has a capacity of 15 square inches. Some other products have slightly smaller capacities.
One of the perks of using a dehydrator is the associated ease; you don't have to turn your food as you do with sun drying. Unfortunately, some dehydrators are more reliable than others when it comes to drying consistency.
We’ve found that those with a mounted fan tend to dry more evenly because the hot air circulates. It also helps to have lots of counter space in the dryer so you can space out your food.
If you want to dry a kind of jerky specifically, be careful because not all products can handle the variety of food you may be looking to dry. Meat is more prone to spoiling than vegetables, and your dehydrator needs to be hot and quick enough to handle it. It also needs a circulation method to keep the air flowing around the meat.
Are food dehydrators the best option for drying food?
All methods of drying food have their pros and cons. For example, solar drying is relatively free but requires more attention and effort. A food dehydrator may be easier to use, but you have to know the correct settings to calibrate your machine correctly.
How much power will an electric food dehydrator consume?
Interestingly, many dehydrators consume less power than a microwave oven. Depending on the manufacturer, your dryer can consume between 300 W and 600 W. Considering that a regular-sized microwave can use up to 1800 Watts, dehydrators shouldn’t be much of a concern.
There are many dehydrators to choose from. If you’re looking for the best of the best, we highly recommend the Excalibur 9-Tray Dehydrator. It has all the bells and whistles, a large interior capacity, and a highly efficient airflow. The dryer also comes with a 26-hour timer and a high maximum temperature for drying everything from fruits to jerky.
If you're looking for something on a budget, try the Elite Gourmet EFD319 Food Dehydrator. It has a simple design that makes it easy to move and focuses primarily on drying food with few extra conveniences.