What We Like
Intuitive dial controls temperature setting
Comes with a lot of extras
Stores easily in a kitchen cabinet
What We Don't Like
Needs to be manually turned off
Dehydrated snacks make great on-the-go fuel. When purchased at a grocery store, though, apple chips and dried mango slices can cost you a pretty penny—not to mention they’re often pumped full of added chemicals, sugars, and salts. Dehydrating your own food is a healthy and economical option that’s much easier than it looks. We tried out the NESCO FD-75PR Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator—an affordable, medium-capacity model—to see how it performed. Read on for our full review.
Setup Process: Plug and play
The NESCO comes in protective packaging but is otherwise ships ready to use. The included fruit roll trays and Clean-A-Screens are stored inside the dehydrator, so after a quick wash of all components, it’s ready to go.
The dehydrator can be stored in the exact same configuration it’s shipped in. While it’s not small, per se, we were able to store the 13.75 x 22.13 x 13.87-inch appliance in our kitchen cabinet.
Performance: A dehydrator you can count on
We decided to test out the NESCO Snackmaster Pro with some of our favorite fruits: mangoes, bananas, and apricots. We’ve successfully convinced our kids that dried fruit is actually candy, so all of these items are a big hit in our house. Other regularly consumed favorites include dehydrated apple chips, peaches, and strawberries.
Using the temperature control knob, we were able to set the dehydrator to 135 degrees—AKA the setting recommended by NESCO. After consulting the included recipe book and suggested drying times, we also figured out we’d likely have to dry our sliced fruits—which we mixed together in a single batch—for four to eight hours (due to different water contents).
Drying time will vary based on the amount of items actually in the dehydrator, though. We only dried one tray in our first batch, which meant that the food finished much faster. When we loaded up all five trays, total dry time took about an hour longer. That said, all drying times were still within the expected range listed in the manual. The dried fruit tended to be chewier than store-bought dried fruit, which we prefer. It was just as sweet as commercially-produced dried fruit though—a major win considering we didn’t add any sugar.
The jerky was tender and full of flavor—just what we were hoping for.
The 600-watt power output of the NESCO Snackmaster Pro had us thinking the dehydrator would take longer than models with more power. The actual performance of the NESCO was nearly identical to that of 1000-watt dehydrators we’d tried out, though.
After our experiment with fruit, we tried out beef jerky—a healthy, protein-packed snack that’s often enjoyed in our household. Following the NESCO manual, we cut our skirt steak into small strips and marinated them for 12 hours using the included jerky cure and seasoning mix. When we were ready to dehydrate them, we laid them out evenly and set the dial to 165 degrees. Because the marinade was a liquid (as opposed to a spice rub), we had to dehydrate the meat for a little bit longer than I expected. It took about 10 hours for the smaller pieces to finish and 12 hours for the longer strips.
The jerky was tender and full of flavor—just what we were hoping for. We prefer our jerky to still retain some juiciness, but liked that we could customize the flavor and texture. If you like drier jerky, just dehydrate the meat longer. The seasoning itself was good, but saltier than we usually go for. Rather than purchase more from NESCO, we will make our own jerky seasoning so we can control exactly what goes into it.
Design: Compact and easily stored
We prefer to store our appliances in the cabinet rather than on the countertop and the 13.5-inch tray diameter of the NESCO Snackmaster Pro made it easy to fit. The cupboard-friendly size didn’t impede the appliance’s capacity, either; we still had plenty of room to fit food when it came time to dehydrate. While the NESCO is outfitted with five trays, you can also choose to purchase additional ones and expand the dehydrator to 12 trays.
If you’re looking for a design-forward, modern dehydrator…this probably isn’t the model for you.
The dehydrator’s light gray exterior is slightly speckled, which was fine by us. If you’re looking for a design-forward, modern dehydrator, though, this probably isn’t the model for you. The top-mounted fan has a handle that allows for easy removal with just one hand. It is a little bit bulky to hold for more than a few seconds, but we just placed it on the counter when we wanted to check in on the progress of our food.
Like most dehydrators, the trays don’t snap or secure together. You should take into account that you will need to lift and carry the appliance from the bottom when deciding where to store it. If the only place that you can fit it is on a high shelf, you’ll likely run into problems when trying to get it down without having all of the trays fall on your head. When not in use, we stored the NESCO Snackmaster Pro in an under-counter cabinet without any trouble.
Features: Just what you need
As previously mentioned, the NESCO Snackmaster allows you to pick your preferred temperature. This is a major plus in our book, as other dehydrators we’ve used have defaulted to one temperature—usually 165 degrees—which isn’t optimal for retaining your food’s nutrients.
The temperature knob doesn’t click from one setting to another; instead, it can be set at any marked temperature or in between. Should you accidentally bump into the dehydrator, this could make it easy to shift temperatures. But in our house—where we have two active toddlers and two pets roaming all areas of the house—we never encountered this issue.
We used the five drying trays that come standard with the NESCO Snackmaster Pro, but as mentioned, you can purchase additional trays if you want extra capacity. NESCO notes that the performance of the dehydrator won’t be impacted by the increased number as the appliance’s drying technology allows for even dehydration across all trays.
We did, periodically, need to check in on our food throughout the dehydrating process. The opaque gray trays and cover are designed to keep the maximum amount of nutrients in your food, but without a way to peek inside the machine as it worked, we had to lift the lid everytime we wanted to check in on the dehydrator’s progress. This wasn’t a big inconvenience, but it still required that our hands be free to do the lifting. During our second batch, we didn’t need to monitor quite as closely since we were more familiar with the machine’s performance. With more use, we expect to learn the best drying times for things that we frequently dehydrate.
Care: A little soaking required
When it came time to clean the trays, we did have to soak them a bit to get dried spices and liquid off. This was especially true when making jerky. The tray’s spokes are optimal for dehydrating, but that means there are a lot of nooks and crannies to get clean. Using a scrub brush, we were able to get between each of the spokes. Was it time-consuming? Absolutely. But it was also worth it given the dehydrator’s great performance.
The trays are top-rack dishwasher safe, but we were more than happy to take a snack break while they soaked in the sink for the few minutes needed to clean them by hand. If you’re short on time or energy, having the option to put them in the dishwasher is convenient. Additionally, since the dehydrator has a top-mounted fan, we didn’t have to worry about doing anything other than a quick wipe down of the interior before storing the whole thing in the cabinet.
Price: A great deal for the features
It may be tempting to spend $100 or more on a high-end dehydrator with tons of features, but the single most important factor of any dehydrator is its temperature setting. The NESCO Snackmaster Pro allows you to customize your temperature, rather than defaulting to a single temperature, and it retails for less than $70 If you purchase pre-packaged dried fruits or jerky on a weekly basis, then you know just how quickly the appliance will pay for itself.
Competition: From basic to bells and whistles
NESCO FD-1040 Gardenmaster Food Dehydrator: This top-of-the-line model comes with digital controls that allow you to set the temperature and the time. It also comes at a higher cost—nearly twice the price of the Snackmaster Pro. We didn’t see a big difference in the actual performance of the dehydrator’s 1000-watt motor compared to the Snackmaster’s 600-watt motor. For that reason, we’d go with the lower-priced model.
Presto 06300 Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator: If you’re looking for an entry-level dehydrator, the Presto Dehydro can be purchased for less than the cost of dinner and a movie. (It’s $50.) It doesn’t have any customizable temperature settings, but it performs well given its budget-friendly cost. With a white and silver exterior and a clear top that allows you to peek in on the progress of your food, it’s also more aesthetically pleasing than most dehydrators.
- Product Name Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator
- Product Brand NESCO
- MPN FD-75PR
- Price $66.99
- Weight 9 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 13.8 x 22.1 x 13.9 in.
- Warranty 1-year warranty against defects in material and workmanship
- What’s included Top-mounted fan unit, five drying trays, two fruit roll liquid trays, two flexible Clean-A-Screens, recipe guide, jerky spice packet, and cure