So, you’re ready for a food dehydrator. With so many choices, which one should you buy? These food dehydrator reviews will look at some of the best options on the market. We’ll also take a look at what to look for, questions you should be asking while reviewing all the different options, other questions you might have.
Table of Contents
- Why Dehydrate Food?
- What to Look for in a Food Dehydrator
- Reviews of The Best Options
- Best Food Dehydrator for Beef Jerky
Why Dehydrate Food?
Just a few reasons to consider buying a food dehydrator and dehydrating your food.
- Saves money on fruits and vegetables.
- Preserve your garden harvest for year-round. Again, save some money.
- Make your own 100% natural herbs and spices. Also saves you money.
- Make healthy fruit and veggie snacks.
- Make your own 100% beef jerky. Get a lot more beef jerky for your money.
- Make yummy meals for hiking, camping, and the great outdoors.
What to Look for in a Food Dehydrator
Some items on this list might be more important to you than others. Finding the best choice for your needs doesn’t mean finding the perfect product. Choosing the best dehydrator for you means finding something that has better reviews for the items that are most important to you.
- How much are you willing to spend on a food dehydrator?
- Price is the most important thing to consider because you have a budget.
- Most expensive isn’t always the best choice for you.
- Is it big enough for your needs?
- Do you have space for it?
- The size of the unit determines how much space you have for drying food and other things.
- A higher maximum number of trays you can use mean you can dry more.
- The trays need to be large enough.
- Bigger trays mean more room for drying.
- There needs to be enough vertical spacing between trays to hold what you want to dehydrate.
- Trays should be BPA free or use FDA approved materials.
- Does it produce even air flow?
- Does one area dry faster than another?
- The heated air should circulate evenly throughout the unit, so all items dry evenly.
- Does it have an adjustable thermostat?
- Being able to control the temperature of the unit is a must for the best results.
- Digital thermostats offer more precise control of the temperature.
- How many watts does it use?
- Need to use at minimum, around 600 watts, for optimum results.
- How well does the fan circulate the heated air?
- Does it have a built-in timer?
- How long can you set the timer? How short?
- Having a built-in timer is a convenient feature that prevents over-drying.
Excalibur 3926TB Dehydrator Review
If you have a larger budget and you want to get one of the best food dehydrators on the market, then take a look at the Excalibur 3926TB food dehydrator. You can check the current price here.
For the size, this unit is big enough to dry a lot of things at once. Surprisingly, you can still fit it on most countertops. If you think your cabinets are a little low, take a tape measure and measure your space first.
You can use up to 9 trays with this unit. Each tray provides a 14” x 14” area to hold food items for drying. The trays use FDA approved food-grade materials. The entire thing, with all 9 trays, will give you about 15 square feet of drying space. The trays can also be removed to increase vertical drying space. This flexibility is excellent for those occasions where you need the height.
The horizontal air flow is what makes the Excalibur different from the others. Heated air is blown horizontally across the food from the back of the unit. This design is to ensure even airflow. It works well, and it’s honestly one of the better designs. It uses 600 watts of power and circulates the heated air with a massive 7-inch fan.
For the price, the Excalibur 3926TB comes with everything you’d want in a food dehydrator; that includes an adjustable thermostat and timer. The temperature is controlled through a mechanical thermostat, and is adjustable between 105 F to 165 F. Being able to control the temperature is crucial because different food items require different temps—and that means no problems with over drying from too much heat. The timer can be set to a minimum of 2 hours, and a maximum of 26 hours. You’ll learn to love the timer because it saves you from having to get up at 3 am to turn off the machine.
Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator Review
The Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro is the most affordable, and the best inexpensive food dehydrator for home users. Its price is nowhere near as much as the 3926TB. In fact, if you check the price now, you’d be surprised at the difference between the two. If your budget requires that you choose something a little more reasonably priced, the Nesco FD-75A might worth reviewing.
For most home users, it’s big enough to get the job done. It’s not too small, and it’s not too big. It’s smaller than the Excalibur though; which is a good thing if you have a smaller kitchen. However, for most home users, its size will be more than enough.
Out of the box, the Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro comes with 5 trays. If you don’t need all 5 trays, you can use a minimum of 4 trays. What if you need more than 5 trays? You can expand up to 12 trays! You’ll have to buy the extra trays separately, but it’s great that you don’t need to buy a whole new food dehydrator. The trays are BPA free, and they have a diameter of 13.5 inches. You also get two fruit roll screens—which is a nice bonus.
This dehydrator uses the more commonly found vertical airflow system. It uses a top-mounted fan, and the hot air is forced from the top down to the bottom. The trays also have an opening in the center to allow the heated air to rise back up and heat the entire unit evenly. This design does a pretty good job at drying everything evenly.
The Snackmaster pro FD-75A uses 600 watts; which is sufficient, and any more would probably just be unnecessary energy costs. The fan does an excellent job of circulating the air. There isn’t any known problem with the fan not being strong enough.
This unit uses a mechanical thermostat and is adjustable between 95 F to 160F. You can’t set it as high as the Excalibur, but you can set it much lower. The difference between adjustable temperatures is minimal though. You won’t likely run into a problem where this unit just isn’t hot enough for the job. In the end, you can control air temperature, and that is what that matters most.
The one thing the Nesco FD-75A is lacking is a built-in timer. Without a timer, you would have to keep checking on the drying process and keep track of the drying time. There is a workaround for this though. You can buy an outlet timer from the hardware store. Plug the dehydrator into the timer set the timer, and you’re good to go. Sure, it’s one extra step and one additional item you have to buy, but it’s still a lot more affordable than the 3926TB from Excalibur.
Presto 06301 Dehydro Digital Electric Food Dehydrator
Unlike the other two, more mechanical options above, the Presto 06301 uses an electric thermostat and timer instead. Priced at around the same price as the Nesco FD-75A, it’s a good alternative if you like the idea of more precision through electric controls. The amount will vary depending on where you’re looking, but on Amazon, I’ve seen it selling for a little lower than the Nesco a few times. It doesn’t hurt to check the current price on Amazon.
It’s about the same size as the Nesco; meaning it’s perfectly sized for the average home user. Out of the box, it comes with 6 trays—1 more than the Nesco. You can also expand it up to 12 trays should you need to. The trays are also safe and BPA free.
The airflow is different on Presto’s dehydrator. Air flows vertically too, but the air flows from the bottom of the unit. That means the heating element, and fan are located at the bottom. Air circulation is decent, but it ‘s more problematic than the other two. The stuff on the top trays can take a little longer than the things on the bottom. Although, this can vary from item to item.
The digital thermostat is adjustable between 90 F and 160F. It also comes with a built-in digital timer. Regarding power, it’s good enough to get the job done. There isn’t anything lacking about it.
The most prominent issue with bottom mounted fan dehydrators is spills. Juices and other liquids can drip down to the bottom—where the heating element and the fan are located. You just have to be mindful of this potential issue and take caution to avoid overfilling the trays.
What is the Best Food Dehydrator for Beef Jerky?
What if you only plan to use a food dehydrator for making beef jerkies? Do you have to choose one of the models above? Nope, you don’t. The good news is, there are a bunch of choices. Any of the options above will make great beef jerkies, so you can select one of them if there is one that you really like.
Nesco does also offer a few models explicitly targeted at making beef jerkies; the Nesco FD-61WHC Snackmaster Express is one. It’s an all-in-one kit that includes a beef jerky gun. The jerky gun is great for making jerky out of ground meats. The FD-61WHC runs at 500 watts instead of 600 watts, but it should still be sufficient. The thermostat is also adjustable. Price wise, it costs a little less than the Nesco FD-75A. Check the current price on Amazon here. If you’d like a jerky gun, then the Nesco FD-61WHC is the best food dehydrator for beef jerky.
If you’re ok with a non-adjustable thermostat and just want to get started at making your own jerkies, there is also the Nesco FD-28JX Jerky Xpress. It only runs at 350 watts, but for a starter, it will get you going. It comes with a jerky gun. You even get a few bonus spice packs too. Pricewise, the FD-28JX Jerky Xpress is probably the most affordable option.
Deciding on the best choice for you comes down to your budget. All the models listed here are excellent choices, and they’re great for home users. They have most of the features you’d want in a food dehydrator.
$200+ Budget: Best on the Market
If you have the money, and you want the best on the market, the Excalibur 3926 TB is what I’d recommend. However, at the price it’s asking for, you really do need to consider if you want to spend that much money on a food dehydrator. Ask yourself if you’ll be using it often enough to justify the hefty price tag.
Under $100 Budget: Best for Home Users
If you have a more limited budget, the best food dehydrator for home users is the Nesco FD-75A. For under $100, the FD-75A is hard to beat. It is without a doubt, the best and relatively inexpensive choice for the average home user.
Under $75 Budget: Best Inexpensive Choice:
If your purpose is beef jerky, the best dehydrator for beef jerky is the Nesco FD-61WHC. Its price falls under the $75 mark too. Another option at this price point is the Preston 06301 electric food dehydrator.
Hopefully, these food dehydrator reviews were able to help you decide on which one might be best for you. If you still have some unanswered questions, don’t forget to check out the more in-depth reviews here on the site. If you’ve already purchased one of these, please share your experience with other readers. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.