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Dehydrating was one of the earliest forms of food preservation since all it required was a safe place to keep the food while all the moisture dried out. Dehydrating foods concentrates flavors, so fruit tastes sweeter and herbs more flavorful than their fresh counterparts.
Whether you want to preserve an overabundance of home-grown produce, create homemade fruit rollups, treat your pooch to fresh dog treats, or experient making your own flavored jerky, food dehydrating is a fun and healthy alternative to store-bought snacks. You can even use food dehydrating to make your own dried herbs—a great no-waste project when you have leftover fresh herbs that will wilt before you can use them up.
Electric dehydrators make the drying process nearly foolproof, thanks precise temperature controls and proper air circulation. Most dehydrators have stackable trays to maximize drying area and there are small and extra-large models depending on how much food you need to dehydrate at once.
A number of factors, such as uneven slicing, variations in fruit or vegetable size, or different amounts of moisture can affect drying time even in the controlled environment of an electric dehydrator, so taking the time to prep foods so they're similar in size and thickness will ensure the best results. A mandoline slicer can help ensure even cuts of fruits and vegetables.
Here are the best food dehydrators to help you create delicious dried snacks in the comfort of your kitchen.
Best Overall: Nesco Gardenmaster Food Dehydrator
Digital controls are intuitive and easy to use
Whisper-quiet 1000-watt motor
Customizable temperature settings
This dehydrator comes with only four trays, but you can buy extra trays and use up to 20 at a time giving you plenty of drying space. The drying pressure adjusts for the number of trays being used, for more even drying no matter how much food you have. The temperature control is digital and adjusts from 90 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
This unit has a top-mounted fan, and the timer can be set for up to 48 hours of drying time. Our tester didn't need nearly this much dehydrating time, however, thanks to the model's 1000 watts of power: "just six to 10 hours for fruit and 10 hours for jerky," she says.
This model has a white exterior, and it comes with one screen and one fruit roll sheet. If you want to start with more drying space, this model is also available at a higher price with six trays instead of four, as well as three fruit roll sheets, three screens, six packets of jerky spice, and a jerky gun.
"The digital temperature and time settings really set the NESCO Gardenmaster apart from other dehydrators on the market." — Katie Begley, Product Tester
Best Mid-Range: COSORI Premium Stainless Steel Food Dehydrator CP267-FD
Customizable time and temperature settings
Automatic shut off
More expensive than other models
One of the sleekest dehydrators you'll find, this model is black and stainless steel with a glass door that lets you keep an eye on the drying process. It's got a digital control panel that is simple and intuitive to use. Simply set time and temperature– you can control the temperature between 95 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit and the timer can be set to operate up to 48 hours–and you're ready to make loads of dried herbs, fruit leather, or jerky.
You'll receive six stainless steel drying trays, along with one mesh screen that can be used to dehydrate small fruit, like blueberries, and one fruit roll sheet. Cleanup is easy since all the food trays are dishwasher safe. Reviewers love how quiet it is, which is important since dehydrators tend to run for hours at a time and you don't want to be stuck listening to a noisy fan while you wait for your snacks to dry!
Best High-End: Tribest Sedona Express Digital Food Dehydrator
Temperature adjustable up to 167 degrees Fahrenheit
If you have a large garden and want to take your food dehydrating to a professional level, this machine is the one you need. The temperature is adjustable from 77 to 167 degrees Fahrenheit, and that high temperature means you can cook jerky from start-to-finish in this machine without needing to pre-cook it for safety. Plus, it can automatically switch from an initial high temperature to a lower one for quicker drying without overcooking.
This unit has 11 stainless steel trays, a glass door, and an interior LED light so it’s easier to check the drying process. There are several cooking modes (fast, raw, combination, and continuous) and the timer can be set for up to 99 hours per mode or up to 120 hours total—more than you’ll ever need. The exterior is black and the fan is at the back of the unit, with a filter to keep out dust. The unit is not expandable.
This top-of-the-line dehydrator can do it all, and its price tag shows it. If you want to save a bit of money, you can opt for plastic trays instead of stainless steel, but the stainless steel ones will last longer. You’ll need to dry a lot of kale chips to recoup the cost, but since it comes with a 10-year warranty, chances are that you’ll get a lot of use out of it.
Best Large Capacity: Excalibur Food Dehydrator
Large drying space
Easy to clean
Can be used to proof dough
This dehydrator provides a lot of drying space—with nine trays totaling 15 square feet to be exact. It's so spacious, in fact, that one reviewer was able to make 7 pounds of jerky (before dehydration) with room to spare. Each tray is fitted with a nonstick screen, which is suitable for most drying. But there are also several types of dehydrator sheets available for the trays, which are ideal for making fruit leather or drying other thick liquids like sauces.
The thermostat is adjustable from 105 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and it has a 26-hour timer so you can leave food drying while you work or sleep. A fan at the back of the unit circulates air evenly throughout.
If you have taller foods, like celery, you want to dry, you can remove some of the trays to make more room. This unit can also be used to proof dough when baking or to warm rolls or bread before serving. With almost all the trays removed, you can even use this model to cultivate homemade yogurt. If color matters, it’s available in either black or white. The drawback with this model is that it’s quite large, and takes a lot of space to store.
Best for Beginners: Nesco Professional 600W 5-Tray Food Dehydrator
Intuitive dial controls temperature setting
Comes with a lot of extras
Stores easily in a kitchen cabinet
Needs to be manually turned off
This model is perfect for average-sized batches of dried foods. It comes with five trays, but can handle up to 12 if you want to work in larger batches. The thermostat on this dehydrator is adjustable from 95 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and it has a top-mounted fan that’s designed to send the air downward and then horizontally across the food trays for more even drying.
Along with the dehydrator, it also includes two solid liner sheets for making fruit rollups or drying sauces or other liquid-like substances, two mesh sheets for other foods, and three packages of jerky spice to get you started making your own jerky. The exterior is speckled gray. Both the dried fruit and the beef jerky our tester made turned out as flavorful as she hoped.
The only drawback is that this dehydrator doesn’t have a timer, so you’ll have to be nearby to turn it off when the food is ready.
"The dried fruit tended to be chewier than store-bought dried fruit, which I prefer." — Katie Begley, Product Tester
Best Budget: Cosori Original Food Dehydrator CO165-FD
Design is sleek and compact
Can expand to fit up to seven trays
Additional trays are pricey
Here's an affordable and compact model that's an excellent choice if you're just getting started with dehydrating your own food or you don't need a ton of food capacity. This dehydrator from Cosori is a round model and comes with 5 BPA-free food trays, plus a mesh screen and a fruit roll sheet.
If you nail the perfect jerky recipe and want even more space, you can purchase a 2-pack of additional racks separately. The food dehydrator can fit up to 7 racks at once with the add-on.
Reviewers say this model is easy to use and quiet in operation. Noise level is important to consider since dehydrators run hours to days. The time and temperature on this dehydrator are set with digital controls. The timer can be set up to 48 hours and the temperature range is 95-165 degrees Fahrenheit.
The racks are dishwasher safe for easy clean up and there's a two year warranty.
Runner Up, Best Budget: NutriChef Food Dehydrator Machine with 5 Stackable Trays
Easy to use
Simple, sleek design
Silent during operation
Compact and easy to store
Lacks temperature precision
No automatic shut-off
If food dehydrating is something you’ll do occasionally, rather than the way you’ll feed yourself over a long, harsh, winter, you’re probably looking for a budget-friendly dehydrator like this one. It does what you need, but without breaking the bank with extra features.
This operates with just one button that turns it on to start the dehydrating process. The temperature is adjustable up to 180 degrees, so you can dry a variety of herbs, fruits, and vegetables. It includes five removable and stackable trays that are easy to clean. Our tester appreciated the simple, plug-and-play style of the machine, which she believes will make it a great option for anyone new to dehydrating. However, features that could have been included, she notes, are a timer and automatic shut-off.
The manufacturer states that this can be used to make jerky, but food safety sites have warnings about using simple dehydrators for meats, so read the information carefully before proceeding.
"The biggest plus on performance in my book is how silent the NutriChef is—literally, silent." — Meddy Hurd, Product Tester
Best Basic: Presto Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator
Clear cover allows for easy monitoring
No extra settings to figure out
Unable to customize drying temperature
No time or alarm setting
The perfect starter unit and ideal for small batches, this dehydrator comes with four trays but you can add an additional four trays to double your drying space. The fan is at the bottom of the unit which means it’s possible for food juices to drip down onto it. So keep that in mind when you’re dehydrating fresh produce.
The temperature isn’t adjustable; it operates consistently at about 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The bright side to this for our tester is that the dehydrator couldn't be easier to use, as there was no way for her to set it to the wrong temperature.
The trays nest for more compact storage and the cord stores out of the way in the base. Fruit roll sheets and mesh sheets are available to fit this dehydrator. The dehydrator has a white exterior with a clear top cover so you can watch the drying process. Sadly, there is no timer, so you’ll have to be nearby to turn it off when the food is done.
Best Rectangular: Hamilton Beach 5 Tray Digital Food Dehydrator
Easy to use
Digital temperature gauge
Bulky and difficult to store
Loud during operation
If you want a dehydrator that easily fits long sprigs of herbs or strips of vegetables or steak, a rectangular model might be the best option. This Hamilton Beach model comes with five rectangular shaped stacking trays.
The timer can be set up to 48 hours and as an automatic shut-off you can turn it on and walk away. The temperature can be set 100-160 degrees Fahrenheit. The clear lid lets you check on your food without opening the dehydrator.
Like most food dehydrators, this model includes two specialty drying sheets for versatility. The mesh sheet can be used to dry herbs that would otherwise fall through the screens, and the solid sheet can be used for fruit purees that can be turned into homemade versions of fruit rolls.
Our tester found that the continuous airflow resulted in food that was evenly heated and each tray of food reached the same level of dryness without ever having to rotate them.
"I was never tasked with babysitting the appliance, waiting around to turn it off, or needing to rotate the trays." — Meddy Hurd, Product Tester
The Nesco Gardenmaster Food Dehydrator takes our top spot. Not only is it reliable, with an intuitive temperature-setting dial, but it's also affordable. Plus, our tester's jerky and dried fruit turned out as flavorful as their store-bought counterparts. If you're serious about dehydrating, go for the Tribest Sedona Express Food Dehydrator. It's expensive, but it gives you great temperature control from 77 to 167 degrees Fahrenheit and runs super quiet.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Cookbook author Donna Currie covers kitchen tools and appliances for The Spruce Eats. In addition to food dehydrators, she's written roundups on the best air fryers, food steamers, and Instant Pots (among many more) for the site.
This roundup was updated by Sharon Lehman, a home cook who happens to be a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She happily makes space for any gadget that make cooking faster and easier and specializes in small kitchen appliance testing and reviews for The Spruce Eats.
How does a food dehydrator work?
Food dehydrators contain a heating element that produces low levels of heat and a fan that keeps the warm air circulating.
Pieces of food are placed on drying racks, which are perforated to allow the warm air to circulate 360 degrees around each piece of food.
The heat in a dehydrator typically doesn't exceed 145 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just warm enough to evaporate moisture from foods without cooking or burning.
The exact temperature to use and the length of drying time depends on which type of food you're drying. Consult a recipe book and/or the instruction manual included with your dehydrator as a starting guide.
How long does dehydrated food last?
The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends that dried foods can be stored on average for four months to one year. The exact storage period depends on a few factors, including how much moisture remains in the finished product and the method of storage.
Dried fruits, vegetables, and fruit leathers are chewy because they still retain some moisture. They should be stored on the shorter end of the scale because this moisture can be breeding grounds for bacterial growth.
In general, dried foods stored at lower temperatures will last longer than those stored at room temperature or in warmer climates. You can store dried jerky and snacks in the refrigerator or freezer to extend their shelf-life.
Vacuum sealing will also help dried foods last longer.
How do you store dehydrated food?
Dehydrated foods that you'll be eating right away should be stored in airtight containers. To store dried foods for longer periods of time, plastic freezer bags or vacuum sealed bags or jars are the best option.
When packing dried foods for long-term storage, it's recommended to put only as much food as you will use at once or is needed for a given recipe in each package. Storing more than you can use at once in one package will decrease the shelf-life since opening and closing a package several times increases exposure to oxygen which promotes spoilage.
Can you dehydrate food in the oven?
Yes, a standard oven or even a toaster oven can be used to dehydrate foods. However, if you're not comfortable leaving an oven run over the course of several hours or even overnight, this method may not be the best option.
Some ovens and toaster ovens may have a dehydrate cooking preset. If yours doesn't have this, you can still dry foods by setting the oven to the lowest possible temperature setting.
Place foods on parchment lined baking sheets in the oven, prop the oven door open slightly to help moisture escape and evaporate, and be sure to check your food periodically.
What to Look for in a Food Dehydrator
Capacity: Dehydrating isn’t a fast process, so a larger-capacity machine can save you time if you have a lot of food to dry—though they also take up more space. Smaller units, on the other hand, work well for little batches and small kitchens.
Consistent drying: When dehydrating a batch of food, you want to make sure your machine dries it all evenly. To ensure this consistency, look for a model with more trays so you can space out your food as much as possible.
Jerky: Because meat is more prone to spoiling than vegetables, not all food dehydrators are capable of drying it safely. If jerky-making is high on your list of priorities, it’s wise to make sure the machine you buy is up to the task.