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Let’s face it, we all love to snack, but for those of us wanting to keep our munching habits plant-based and healthy, it can be a bit on the complicated side. Quite often many vegan snack foods such as kale chips, trail mix, and even store-bought dried fruit contain artificial preservatives and added sweeteners. No thank you! So what’s a happy, happy vegan to do?
Enter the food dehydrator.
Whether you crave salty, sweet or a little bit of both, a food dehydrator can be a great option to keep your snacking healthy and fun. We all know that kitchen gadgets come and go and counter space is precious, so we went ahead and reviewed some of the best food dehydrators on the market to help you decide which food dehydrator is right for you.
So, what exactly is a food dehydrator?
A food dehydrator, or food dryer, is a kitchen appliance that utilizes a small built-in fan and low amounts of heat to extract moisture from your fruits, veggies, nuts, and herbs.
All dehydrator machines contain a number of trays or shelves that feature small vents in which the dry air is circulated through. This process inhibits most bacteria growth and enables your food to retain its nutritional value.
What are the benefits of dehydrating food?
While sucking the moisture out of your food may not seem all that appealing, there are many benefits to this ancient method of food preparation.
First and foremost dehydrating food is the oldest method of food preservation. Long before refrigeration, pickling, pressure canning machinery, curing, and fermenting, our ancestors were keen on laying bits of food scraps out in the sun. (1)
This preservation discovery most likely happened by accident once our ancestors realized that fallen fruit from a tree was still edible days later after the sun had dried it out.
History lesson aside, dehydrated food has many health benefits. One major claim to fame of the food dehydrator is that it allows your food to retain most of its original vitamin, mineral, and enzyme content. For the most part, cooking food using any temperature above 120° F or 49° C will cause your dinner to start losing valuable nutrients. (2)
Another nutritional advantage of owning a food dehydrator is the ability to make your own healthy snack food alternatives without any unnecessary additives.
As we touched on in the intro, unfortunately, many prepackaged vegan snacks still contain fair amounts of sodium, sugar, preservatives, and refined oils, which for many will be a no-go when following a whole foods, plant-based diet. These naughty additions to your snack packs won’t be an issue when you’re in full control of the ingredients list whilst using your top rated food dehydrator.
One more benefit of dehydrated food snacking is the money you can save by making your own vegan snacks and treats at home. Apples can be a delicious and relatively inexpensive treat, and apple chips sound twice as yummy.
The problem is they often cost double the price! If you’ve ever experienced sticker shock from a bag of dried figs or shredded coconut, you’re not alone. The cost of gourmet kale chips and shrivelled up fruit can seriously add up, but your home dehydrator can help you keep your food budget in check.
Dehydrated food can also be a lifesaver for impromptu road trips or any situation when you know you won’t have easy access to your favorite vegan café. Knowing that you can bust out your awesome, homemade trail mix or vegan jerky during your next camping trip is reason enough to fall in love with this fun method of food preservation.
How is dehydrating different from using the oven?
Dehydrating food in the oven seems like a simple solution, but using your oven does come with its limitations. In most scenarios, you will need to make sure the oven is set to its lowest temperature, which even then can be too hot for proper dehydration.
Another disadvantage to using your oven would be the overall temperature increase inside your home. Admittedly, depending on the season, this could also be an advantage, though!
While not ideal, using your oven could be a great choice if you’re on a budget or can’t dedicate any more space to kitchen appliances. Just be sure to check your food frequently while it’s drying out. (3)
What can I make with a food dehydrator?
Dehydrators are quite versatile and can be used to make a plethora of vegan goods. Anything from dried nuts and fruits to tempeh and dried herbs – the possibilities of this handy-dandy countertop appliance seem endless.
To give you an idea of the variety of dehydrated noms available, check out this youtube clip from Earth Trek showing you her vegan backpacking menu.
How do you use a food dehydrator?
There are many tips and tricks to making the perfect kale chip or perfecting your tempeh texture, but for the most part, there are a few simple guidelines you should follow:
Making sure you have the correct temperature is key. Different foods require different temperatures so be sure to read through your user’s manual for any time and temperature suggestions.
The 95% Rule
For proper storage make sure that your food is at least 95% dehydrated. If under dried the food will be spongey and become sticky when stored.
If you think that jacking up the temperature will make your apricots dry faster, then you’re sure to be disappointed. Cranking up the heat will cause the outside of your food to seal up causing all the moisture to remain inside. This simple and common mistake and can lead to food spoilage.
Always Be Prepared
Before you begin your dehydrator adventure get yourself into the habit of proper food preparation. It is recommended that you wash all fruits and veggies in an antibacterial wash and steam all low-acid vegetables for 10 minutes before placing in the dehydrator.
What are the different types of dehydrators?
There are two types of food dehydrators on the market: vertical and horizontal:
This type draws air vertically through the bottom of the unit passing the airflow over the trays of food. A vertical type of dehydrator is excellent for low volume dehydrating and works best with solid foods.
This style of dehydrator produces a horizontal airflow by drawing air in through the back of the unit and passing it over the trays. Horizontal models contain trays that slide in and out and the door is located on the side for easy access. They can range in size all the way from small countertop units to the larger commercial models containing over 24 shelves.
This type of food dehydrator is great for large batch cooking, but can be a bit on the pricier side.
What should you look for when selecting a food dehydrator?
There are a few key factors you may want to consider when choosing the best dehydrator to meet your needs. Let’s go over some basics to help guide you along in the decision-making process:
You will first want to determine how much space you have to dedicate to your fun, new friend. If size is an issue, you may want to consider purchasing a model with expandable trays, as without them if you ever decide to start drying out larger batches of food you’ll be at a loss.
Also, you may want to note that though small and cute, the circular models can take up more space than the square-shaped models since you can’t put them in a corner and push flat against the wall.
Something to consider is that different types of food require different drying temperatures. If you’re ready to get serious about dehydrating, then you’ll want to select a model that features an adjustable thermostat.
Depending on the model you choose, the fan will be positioned on either the top, bottom, or the back of your machine. For the most effective heat distribution, you may want to consider purchasing a model with the fan located at the rear.
BPA free materials
If you’re into healthy, chemical-free living – and, let’s face it, you should be! – then you’ll want to make sure you choose a dehydrator made entirely of BPA free materials.
A clear door
If you’re not keen on continually opening and closing doors, but like to keep an impatient eye on things, then you’ll be best off choosing a model with a transparent door.
So, what is the best food dehydrator to buy?
Now that you’ve had a brief introduction to this fabulous snack maker, it’s time to start our reviews!
Excalibur 3926TB 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator
The Excalibur 3926TB 9 Tray Dehydrator features 9 pull out trays along with 15 square feet total of drying space. This model comes with a 26-hour timer and an adjustable thermostat and is designed with the seasoned dehydrator in mind.
The trays in this model are dishwasher safe, BPA free, and contain flexible poly-screen inserts to prevent foods from sticking. These poly-screen inserts are great if you plan on making fruit leathers which can become sticker than Elmer’s Glue when underdone!
Another bonus to the pull-out trays is the ability to make room for larger items, such as bread and coconut yogurt, which is a no-go with stackable trays.
Temperature is a key factor to success in any dehydrator recipe, which is why the adjustable thermostat is a big selling point of the Excalibur 3926TB. Ranging from 105° all the way up to 165° you’ll be able to go from making kale chips one day to dried herbs the next…all with the same unit.
The Excalibur 3926TB has an exclusive feature called a The Parallex Drying System. This drying method is made possible by a horizontal, fan-forced, temperature-controlled drying system located at the back of the unit. This unique feature ensures that the heat is distributed evenly across each tray, as cool air is pulled in and redistributed evenly throughout the unit once warmed.
Excalibur is a top of the line manufacturer and is well recognized when it comes to dehydrators. But, nonetheless, this model isn’t for everyone.
Designed with the professional in mind, this unit is rather large and bulkier than your standard countertop units, so if you’re looking to save space, this may not be the unit for you. And as mentioned above, this big boy isn’t made for beginners, which is why the price tag on the Excalibur 3926TB is higher than most.
That being said, for raw vegans who don’t need an oven or pros who suck the moisture out of food on a regular basis, this model is well worth the investment.
- Adjustable thermostat
- The Parallex Drying System works well
- Built in timer
- Removable poly-screen trays make clean up effortless
- Easy to use
- Great for large batches
- Dishwasher safe and BPA free
- More expensive than some dehydrators, but you do get what you pay for
- Heavy and bulky
Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator
Featuring a decent amount of bells and whistles, the Nesco Snackmaster Pro FD-75A is next up on the list. This medium-sized dehydrator is the perfect size for any countertop and comes with expandable, stackable trays, a modified thermostat, and a top mounted fan.
A great feature that we love on this model is that it is comprised of a thick, BPA free plastic. Doesn’t sound exciting at first but this thick plastic will stop light from entering your machine, thus further preserving the nutritional content of your food.
Customers who’ve purchased the Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator love the Converga Air Flow system, which is exclusive to the Nesco brand. This air flow system forces air downward along the outer shell and then flows centrifugally inwards throughout every single tray. This feature is particularly excellent at drying high-water content foods in a short amount of time.
Some users have noted that the biggest disadvantage to this product is the lack of a power button causing you to plug and unplug every time you start your dehydrating process. The absence of a timer was another complaint, which means you’ll always have to keep an eye on your food to avoid over-drying.
So, for those of you who live by the “set-it-and-forget-it” motto, this model may not be the ideal one for you.
- Countertop size makes it ideal for apartment living
- Works great with high-water content foods
- Simple to operate and clean
- No “ON/OFF” switch
- No timer
- Takes longer than some other hydrators on the market
- Quite loud
MAGIC MILL Professional Food Dehydrator
This top-rated food dehydrator from Magic Mill comes with nine adjustable stainless steel drying racks, two fruit leather trays, and jerky drying racks (obviously made for vegan jerky! ?) and is perfect for large batch dehydrating. This unit is quite versatile, and each tray can hold up to one pound of food. This guy is a beast!
Customers who’ve purchased this unit love the digital thermostat ranging with temperatures ranging from 95F and 158F, making it ideal for all varieties of food. Unlike the Nesco, the Magic Mill Professional Food Dehydrator also comes equipped with a digital timer, which is perfect for those who want to go about their day not wondering if they’ll come home to over-dried fruit leather.
One frequent complaint of the Magic Mill Professional Food Dehydrator is the strong plastic smell present when unboxing and using the machine. Some users have reported that this smell was overwhelming from the moment they took the device out of the box and it did not go away, which is far from ideal.
That being said, others have stated they’ve followed the manufacturers instructions and washed and run the appliance before dehydrating and that has completely removed the smell, so the above could be down to user error rather than a manufacturing fault.
- Can hold a large volume of food
- Built in timer and auto shutdown
- Well made and kitted out with stainless steel trays
- Pretty quiet
- Big machine that takes up valuable countertop real estate
- Strong plastic smell on unboxing, but following the manufacturers instructions removes this
Presto 06301 Dehydro Digital Electric Food Dehydrator
Featuring a sleek, modern look the Presto 06310 Dehydro Digital Electric Food Dehydrator is great for those short on space and displays nicely on any kitchen countertop. This model includes six dishwasher-safe drying trays and contains two nonstick mesh mats and two fruit roll trays. These trays can also expand from six to 12 to allow for more drying space.
The fan and heating element in this appliance is mounted on the bottom to ensure consistent vertical airflow so you won’t have to worry about rotating trays. Customers who’ve purchased this product also love the digital thermometer with a range of 90°F to 165°F and the 48-hour timer.
Despite weighing in at only 8.5 pounds, this little machine is pretty powerful and has a maximum capacity of 750 watts which means a shorter drying time. Though the Presto Dehydro is intended to be small and compact, many have mentioned that if you have a larger family to feed this model won’t be a good match, which is obvious but worth reiterating here.
The Presto Hydro is user-friendly, budget-friendly and an excellent choice for those new to dehydrating. However, if you are someone who enjoys a quiet kitchen, then this dehydrator isn’t for you. One of the most consistent complaints of the Presto Hydro is the significant amount of noise it produces.
Some users also mentioned that it can be a bit difficult to clean as residue can collect in the bottom of the unit. This can be avoided by carefully lining with foil, but you wouldn’t have to do that yourself if it were designed better in the first place.
- Small and compact
- Easy to use digital controls
- Very noisy
- Hard to clean the bottom of the appliance, so you need to line with foil
- Replacements trays could prove to be prohibitively expensive for some
- Uneven drying from top to bottom
- Limited space
Ivation 6 Tray Premium Electric Food Dehydrator Machine
The Ivation Premium Electric Food Dehydrator comes complete with six removable and height adjustable drying racks that can each support up to one pound of food. Both solid and mesh cooking sheets are included for food drying versatility.
At 480w this budget-friendly food dehydrator features a rear mounted fan and a digital thermostat with eight temperature levels ranging from 95º F To 158º F. We love the fact that you don’t have to take time out to rotate trays and have found that this model dries food thoroughly from top to bottom. That being said, some have mentioned that drying times are longer than usual.
For those of you who would like to prep your dehydrator in the morning and come home to fresh and wholesome treats in the evening, the Ivation’s auto shut off feature is a real selling point. This model is also small-space friendly and users report that it’s a breeze to clean.
Although the Ivation has received many positive reviews, there are some customer concerns to this small food dehydrator. Many users mentioned that the appliance didn’t come with a user guide and they had to spend time researching how to use their machine properly.
Another cause for concern is the longevity of this model. Several unsatisfied customers have stated the machine itself is flimsy and some even say that it started showing signs of wear and tear in under a year.
- Easy to clean
- Transparent door makes viewing simple
- Digital thermostat with eight different temp settings
- Compact, perfect for countertops
- Auto shut off feature is handy
- Missing user guide can make operating a pain
- Longer than usual drying times
- Quite flimsy
- Food slices need to be quite specific to achieve good results
Chefman Food Dehydrator Machine
The Chefman Food Dehydrator Machine features a sleek design made to match most modern kitchens. This model comes with six removable and adjustable trays made of BPA free plastic and stainless steel, yet it’s very lightweight and easy to manoeuvre.
At 480w this machine can tackle a multitude of dehydrator recipes. The digital, preset thermometer ranges from 95º F to 158º F makes it easy to dry a variety of items and the countdown timer ensures accurate drying times. This model is also known to be excellent for dehydrating nuts, something many vegans will be pleased to hear!
One unique advantage of the Chefman is that it includes access to Club Chefman. Club Chefman provides step-by-step recipes and tutorial videos, which can be a beneficial feature to the food drying novice.
As ever, we love the transparent door which helps you keep an eye on your food, but you may need to double check the door has been shut properly as it can be a little temperamental. Though quiet, some have complained that the drying fan malfunctions after only a few uses, which doesn’t fill you with confidence.
While some users rave about the lightning fast drying times others, complain of having to put their food back in for longer than usual dry times. The inconsistency may be partly due to the user manual referencing incorrect drying temperatures, so be sure to keep tabs on your drying times if you purchase this particular food dehydrator.
- Easy to use digital settings
- Good looking appliance
- Includes access to Club Chefman
- Quiet operation
- Clear door is always beneficial
- Drying times can vary
- Door can be difficult to shut
- Not the sturdiest machine on our list
- Some reports of fan issues
The CHARD Pro Power 80 Liter 12-Rack Dehydrator
If you ‘re looking for a powerful food dehydrator that can accommodate large batch cooking, then the CHARD Pro Power 80 Liter 12-Rack Dehydrator may be the model for you.
Boasting 1700 Watts and over 4000 total square inches of drying space, customers rave about rapid fast drying times. This top food dehydrator also features a fully insulated body for maximum heat retention.
Users of this model love the interior LED lights. Besides turning your food dehydrator into a fancy display case, these lights are perfect for keeping an eye on the drying process without having to open the door and disrupting the temperature.
However, weighing in at just a little over fifty-five pounds the CHARD Pro Power won’t be the best choice if you’re looking to save on space by tucking your machine away after each use. But on the upside, you’ll be getting a great upper body workout if you do choose to put it away each time!
The CHARD Pro Power 80 Liter 12-Rack Dehydrator is not for the novice and is quite large, comparable to a small dorm room fridge. This hefty model also comes with a hefty price tag, but it’s worth the investment if you’re an avid dehydrator of veggies and fruits.
- Powerful and fast
- Excellent control system makes operation a breeze
- Wide ranging temperature settings (50°F to 160°F (10°C to 71°C))
- Backlit for easy viewing
- Ideal for batch dehydrating
- Appliance is fully insulated, which means very little temperature leakage
- Solid construction
- Bulky and heavy (but it is made for regular large batch usage)
Samson “Silent” 9 Stainless Steel Tray Dehydrator with Digital Controls
As stated in the product title, the Samson “Silent” 9 Stainless Steel Tray Dehydrator with Digital Controls is praised all around for being whisper quiet.
This dehydrated food machine is small in stature yet provides up to 9.6 square feet of dehydrating space. The stainless steel trays can be removed to accommodate larger food items, and the liners are BPA free.
Owners of this product love the rear mounted fan, a feature that seems to be a must-have for even, consistent drying. While we are on the subject of fans, though advertised as “silent”, be forewarned, this fan does indeed make noise. However, it is comparable to a low “wooshing” sound, rather than a full-on dishwasher rattle associated with other food dryers.
A major selling point the Samson “Silent” 9 Stainless Steel Tray Dehydrator is the ability to maintain the temperature to the exact degree. When comparing dehydrators, many are called out on their inconsistent temperatures, but this model deserves a gold star for being so precise.
And to back up that golden star, Samson also provides customers with a five-year warranty. Bonus!
- Very quiet, but not “silent”
- Simple to operate
- Consistent temperatures
- Door can be removed for cleaning
- Stainless steel trays are also easy to clean
- Food prep instruction included
- 600 Watts makes for fast drying times
- More affordable than other similarly rated machines
- Five year warranty
Gourmia GFD1850 Food Dehydrator
This little beauty ranks high on the list of best dehydrators for beginners, i.e. those new to dehydrating their own food. We absolutely love the contemporary design that can match almost any kitchen decor, but does the appliance stack up in terms of performance?
This food dehydrator includes ten pull out trays and a transparent front door. All parts are BPA free and easy to clean…so far so good!
The Gourmia GFD1850 Food Dehydrator With Touch Digital Temperature Control comes with a rather comprehensive cookbook, which is excellent when you’re new to the game and can’t decide what to make first. Despite the manual being a little hard to fathom at times, operation is relatively simple.
While this model features a digital temperature control, a few users have mentioned that uneven drying and keeping a consistent temperature were a problem which resulted in food spoilage.
It is important to note that these complaints were exclusive to drying out meat based jerky only, so take from that what you will, vegans. Another comment about the digital temperature control is the loud beeping sound it makes when touched. So, if you or your pet have sensitive ears, this may not be the food dryer for you.
Equally, do not expect the consistent temperatures and short drying times of other models on this list. This is at the budget end of the scale, so your expectations should be adjusted accordingly if you opt for this food dehydrator.
- Looks great (amazing what some white casing can do!)
- Ideal for those new to dehydrating
- Digital controls with 8 preset temperatures
- Noisy fan
- Temperature might not be consistent enough for regular food dryers
- Timer counts up instead of down, which is weird
- Food needs to be cut uniformly for best results
- Control panel beep is super annoying
COSORI Premium Food Dehydrator
This dehydrator is another food dryer that resembles a mini oven and it’s perfect for dehydrating a variety of vegan munchies (although the advertising focuses largely on meat jerky!).
Despite the COSORI Premium Food Dehydrator having only six stainless steel drying racks, most users will find they have plenty of space to meet their drying needs.
A rear-mounted fan allows for 360° air flow circulation. This even circulation is perfect for drying a range of items, from delicate garden herbs to fruit slices, making this model an excellent choice for both beginners and advanced users alike.
Though the COSORI Premium Food Dehydrator does come complete with a user manual, a few have commented on how frustrating it can be. Despite the potentially confusing translations, this model is still rather easy to use as it comes complete with preset temperature ranges and countdown timer.
- Small and compact with ample drying space
- Simple to use (despite the instructions)
- Cleans up easily
- Good size without being too huge
- Stainless steel trays are sturdier than the plastic ones found in other food dryers
- Some may find the instruction manual to be a little confusing
What’s the best food dehydrator on the market?
As you can see, there are many contenders out there to win the title of best food dehydrator. It wasn’t an easy choice but, after our in-depth research and comparing user reviews, the Samson “Silent” 9 Stainless Steel Tray Dehydrator is the clear winner for anyone who wants a decent food dryer for occasional food dehydration.
Besides the fact that it’s one of the quietest food dehydrators out there, this model is has a lot to offer and can be of benefit to both novice and advanced users. The compact size allows it to be a permanent fixture on your countertop, yet it’s still large enough to batch snacks for your family road trip.
The most significant selling point and what made the Samson our top choice was the reports of a consistent and exact temperature. This feature is essential for dehydrating food since under-drying may promote food spoilage and over-drying will cause food to lose valuable nutrients.
Despite the Samson being our top rated food dehydrator overall, if you have the cash and are looking to dehydrate food regularly, the Excalibur 3926TB is number one. This is definitely at the professional end of the spectrum, but it’s a superbly well-built machine that does the job extremely well. Just a shame it doesn’t have a transparent door.
Whether or not you decide a food dehydrator is right for you, it’s great to know that these compact, healthy snack makers exist and that an entire world of healthy, vegan treats and munchies are waiting for you to try!
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About The Author:
Lisa Williams is a committed vegan, passionate animal welfare advocate, and keen follower of too many v-friendly food blogs to mention. She started happyhappyvegan.com back in 2016 because she felt there was a need for more straightforward information on plant-based living.
Back then, too many sites seem to either concentrate solely on recipes or be too intimidating or inaccessible for the v-curious, and she wanted to change that. The landscape is certainly a whole lot different now!
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- Aditi Ahuja | All About ‘Sun Drying’ Food: Meaning, Benefits And How It Works | https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/all-about-sun-drying-meaning-benefits-and-how-it-works-2239586
- NOURISH by WebMD | Dehydrating Food: Is It Good for You? | https://www.webmd.com/diet/dehydrating-food-good-for-you#1
- Elizabeth McNelis | Dehydrator Vs. Oven | https://www.hunker.com/13408516/dehydrator-vs-oven