Drying food is useful not just for preserving it, but also to create a different taste and consistency than before stripping the food of its water content. Dried fruit snacks are convenient and longer lasting the same fruit in its natural state. Dried vegetable snacks make excellent chips and healthy mid-afternoon nibbles during a busy workday when energy is vanishing fast.

Beef jerky remains as popular as ever, and a personal dehydrator is an excellent way to create a flavorful meat jerky using a unique collection of herbs or spices to suit your exacting taste buds.

Dehydrators for private kitchens are available in various sizes and configurations. Usually, the fans which dry the produce are either top or bottom loaded which serves to strip the meat, vegetables and fruit efficiently of its water content.

Each dehydrator comes with multiple trays to store a range of food items ready for drying out. More trays are better than fewer for chefs who like to make batches of apricots, sliced apples, pears, and other items. With chefs who are happy to create mixed bags of dried food, then fewer trays will suffice.

There will either be a manual control system or a digital LED display with buttons to select different dehydration settings. A digital thermostat indicates the current temperature inside the dehydrator. Using the timer lets the chef decide how long they wish the unit to run. The heating temperature is set between 90-degrees F and 165-degrees F to dry out different produce at an appropriate heat level.

Achieving better results when drying certain food items at specific temperatures is possible by using recipe books as a guide. Dehydration cooking books focus on the best techniques and settings for optimal results. They also have recipes to follow.

Drying out food takes only a few hours, rather than several days with modern dehydration products. The saved time reduces the energy costs of running a dehydrator. Many busy workers directly load up the dehydrator in the evening when they get home from their job and collect their dried food the next morning as a work snack.

The fan system for drying out food varies between manufacturers and models, with some brands patenting their radial fan system. Air often is pushed up or down the center of the dehydrator and then across each tray in turn. The hot air flow helps to dry the produce more evenly and avoids the need to use a rotation system to create an even dehydration effect.

Each model comes with a roll sheet ideal for fruit. There are separate features to handle sticky fruit and herbs that are drying out. Ordering new fruit roll sheet inserts are easily done.

The separate parts of each dehydrator are dishwasher safe and easily disassemble ready for washing.

What’s Included with The Best Dehydrator

Each dehydrator includes the central unit, fan and heating system, and multiple food trays that slide out.

Either a manual or LED digital display is present to control the drying duration and temperature of the drying program.

A digital thermostat is included, plus a timer in most cases, to control the exact temperature, and automatically adjust it based on the program set.

Dehydrators create meat jerky successfully, and some even include small sample packets of spices and cure for making jerky.

With models that have mesh screen trays, they come included in the box. Multiple fruit roll sheets are often provided as a free extra. Beyond this, additional fruit roll sheets need to be separately purchased as they get used up.

Most dehydrators come with a recipe guide to help get started creating delicious dried food.

What to Know Before Making a Purchase

A greater number of trays is useful for chefs who wish to prepare many types of foodstuffs separately. For only occasional use, fewer trays like five will be sufficient in most cases.

An LED digital display is easier to use and control than a manual control system and worth the extra cost.

Frequent use of a dehydrator will run through the supplied fruit roll sheets very quickly. It is a good idea to order early replacements to avoid running out.

Other Considerations

A protective coating to shield the drying food from kitchen lighting, which would otherwise strip out some of the flavors, is present in some models.

A bottom-mounted fan, as opposed to a top-mounted fan, works just as well.

Best Brands

National Presto Industries, which trades under the Presto brand, manufactures pizza cookers, dehydrators, deep fryers, and more.

Nesco makes roaster ovens, dehydrators, and jerky seasoning.

Hamilton Beach manufacturers a wide range of home products for the kitchen including dehydrators, food mixers, and juicers.

Excalibur has been making dehydrators since 1973 and has several multi-tray models, plus ones with or without timers.

What Consumers Say

Taking a look at consumers’ reviews, these are a few of the opinions most often voiced by buyers:

No additives or preservatives: One of the benefits of preparing your dried food is to avoid the additives and preservatives often found in packets of dried produce from the supermarket.

Zip-lock bags: Small zip-lock bags or other types of clear zip-up bags are an excellent companion purchase to be able to carry dried food conveniently into work.

Recipe books: There are many wonderful books with sample recipes to create delicious dried snacks and preserve food well.

Dried herbs: Dry your fresh garden herbs in a separate tray ready to add to meals.

Square shaped: Square shaped dehydration models save kitchen countertop space compared to circular alternatives. 

Tray height: Most trays that come with dehydration units are only one inch in height. Cut fresh produce into smaller segments to make sure it fits and also to accelerate the drying out process.

Leave bottom tray empty: Not using the bottom tray is useful to catch any drips during the heating process which makes clean up that bit faster after use.

Poultry and seafood: Many dehydration models also dry out the chicken and selected seafood. With any meat cooking, the cleanup must be more thorough.