Easy to use
Digital temperature gauge
Bulky and difficult to store
Loud during operation
We purchased the Hamilton Beach 5-Shelf Digital Food Dehydrator so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.
Snack dehydrating is perfect for on-the-go eaters, outdoor sports enthusiasts, campers, busy parents, and anyone who likes to make their own food. The convenience of owning an appliance like the Hamilton Beach 5-Shelf Digital Food Dehydrator allows you to skip the costly store-bought snacks and, instead, make your own in the comfort of your home—but how well does it really work?
We decided to take the Hamilton Beach Digital Food Dehydrator for a test run to see if it’s a worthwhile purchase, and here’s how it fared.
Setup: Ready to go out of the box
In terms of setup, the Hamilton Beach Digital Food Dehydrator could not be easier: It ships ready to use straight out of the box. The five stackable BPA-free drying trays are stored on top of the machine, so after a quick rinse of each, we were ready to start the dehydrating process. Being made without BPA means that it doesn't contain a hard plastic known as Bisphenol A, which has been reported to possibly cause fetal development issues.
This food dehydrator, which measures 13 x 11 x 10.5 inches, is a medium-sized appliance, but we found it to be just a few inches too tall to store easily. The stacking shelves can be removed to make it slightly shorter, but that forced us to find room to store the trays. Eventually, we were able to find storage space for the unit with a little maneuvering, but we would advise scouting out a storage location prior to purchasing if your kitchen is tight.
Performance: Reliable and precise
We decided to test the Hamilton Beach 5-Shelf Digital Food Dehydrator by drying some of our favorite fruits and veggies, starting with bananas, mangos, and kale. In our preliminary research, we came across the advice to dry sweet and savory snacks separately to avoid gross smells throughout your home. We heeded the warnings of multiple users, who tried some rather unfortunate combinations (think: beef jerky and banana chips), and decided to start out with just one fruit: bananas!
We started by prepping four ripe bananas. When drying fruits and vegetables, it’s important to keep the pieces thin and uniform in size to ensure they dry in the same amount of time. In addition to peeling and slicing, we read that we should soak our bananas in lemon prior to drying to help maintain the sweetness and color—a tip that proved successful! Similarly, before drying, we blanched vegetables by placing them in boiling water then submerging them in ice speed up the dehydration process.
Once we lined four of the dehydrator’s trays with our uniform banana slices, we were ready to set the temperature and timer. One major benefit of the Hamilton Beach Food Dehydrator is its convenient temperature and timer settings. The unit has a timer with an automatic shut-off that can be set up to 48 hours, so there’s no need to sit around waiting to turn off the machine. Additionally, the adjustable digital thermostat ranges from 100 to 160 degrees, and it maintained even heat throughout the dehydrator, saving us from having to rotate trays.
The unit has a timer with an automatic shut-off that can be set up to 48 hours, so there’s no need to sit around waiting to turn off the machine.
When determining how long to leave items in the dehydrator, you have to take into account the size of your pieces, as well as the water content of the food being dried. (You don’t have to rely totally on guesswork, as there are plenty of recipes online to guide you.) We decided to give our banana chips six hours of drying time before checking on them. After six hours, the slices were dry but not crisp, so we left them in for an additional two hours. However, even after eight hours, we wouldn’t say they were like the crispy, crunchy store-bought version, but rather slightly chewy.
Design: Dated appearance, but the digital features are useful
The Hamilton Beach Food Dehydrator comes with five stackable trays, a fine mesh tray for drying herbs, and a solid tray for making fruit rolls. The base of the unit is stainless steel, and it has a panel with controls for the digital thermostat and timer.
In photos, the stacking trays appear to be a bit lighter in color, but instead, they’re more of a brownish-grey.
Aesthetically, we thought the appliance looked a bit dated. In photos, the stacking trays appear to be a bit lighter in color, but instead, they’re more of a brownish-grey. It’s a minor thing, but something to consider if you lack storage space and need to have the unit on display. Ultimately, when compared to other similarly priced models, we might opt for something a bit more compact and modern.
What we did love, however, was the convenience of its digital features. We really liked that we were never tasked with babysitting the appliance, waiting around to turn it off or rotate the trays. Considering the length of the food dehydrating process and the unit’s moderate noise level, these features were a big plus, and we had a difficult time finding an appliance in the same price range that offered the same digital options.
We also liked how easy the unit is to use—we simply loaded fruits or vegetables onto the trays and checked on them as needed by looking through the clear plastic top. Because you can see through the top, you don't have to compromise the inner temperature by lifting the lid.
However, one major downside of this machine is that it’s quite loud during operation. If you’re trying to read or watch TV in the same room, it’s probably going to disturb you, but the good news is that the unit’s timer allows you to run the dehydrator while you’re out of the house.
Cleaning: Simple upkeep
The Hamilton Beach Food Dehydrator’s trays can be washed by hand or in the dishwasher. Occasional scrubbing or soaking might be necessary for foods like jerky or fruit leathers, but otherwise, the trays are relatively easy to clean.
While the slotted trays are efficient at facilitating even air circulation throughout the drying process, keep in mind that it also allows marinades and smaller pieces of food to slip through the cracks and settle at the base. For that reason, you'll need to wipe this area down, as well, if you want to keep your appliance in tip-top shape.
At $59.99, the Hamilton Beach Food Dehydrator offers real bang for your buck. This budget-friendly unit offers convenient features that most other comparably priced models don’t. If you don’t mind the noise level and bulky design of the unit, the Hamilton Beach is definitely a good option at this price point.
Hamilton Beach 5-Shelf Digital Food Dehydrator vs. NutriChef Food Dehydrator Machine
We’ve also used the NutriChef Food Dehydrator, which costs about the same as the Hamilton Beach model. Both products have a stacking design, but the NutriChef is slightly smaller at 10.2 x 11 x 11 inches. We actually preferred the compact size of the NutriChef to the Hamilton Beach, as it was easier to store and fit on the counter when in use.
The biggest point of difference between these two food dehydrators is that the Hamilton Beach model offers a digital interface that allows you to set an exact temperature and time. However, the NutriChef makes absolutely no noise and has a slightly more modern design. At the end of the day, the choice is whether you prioritize extra functionality or a more convenient design.
Not our favorite.
The Hamilton Beach 5-Shelf Digital Food Dehydrator offers some key conveniences, namely a digital timer and temperature guage, but its loud operation and outdated design are major deterrents.
- Product Name 5-Shelf Digital Food Dehydrator
- Product Brand Hamilton Beach
- Price $59.99
- Weight 8 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 13 x 11 x 10.5 in.
- Color White
- Item Model Number 32100
- Material Plastic
- Warranty 1-year limited