Nesco - A Brand You Can Trust
Nesco is a brand name which should be familiar to most buyers. Odds are you have or have at the very least used another Nesco kitchen appliance at some point in your life. They are well known not only for their food dehydrators, but also for their range of toasters, coffee makers, steamers, food processors, and more. There are several Nesco food dehydrators that we highly recommend based on our brand research.
Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator FD-75A
This is the one of the most popular dehydrators in the low-mid price range. It has received some of the best Nesco dehydrator reviews based on the overall value and included features. For the low to mid-range market this dehydrator is our top choice.
- Adjustable Thermostat
- Opaque Exterior
- 5 Stackable Trays, Expandable to 12
- Trays designed to lock in flavors and prevent them from mixing
- 600 Watts
This device only takes a matter of hours to dry fruit and vegetables and create jerky. As a bonus, you get 2 solid sheets, 2 mesh sheets, a recipe book, and 3 jerky spice packets.
All of this is an incredible deal in the under $100 range. Customers love the compact size of this machine, the ease of use, and the ability to control the temperature. Any downsides? There is no timer included with the FD-75A, which some customers said was a big drawback.
The Nesco American Harvest FD-61WHC Snackmaster Express
This is another very popular food dehydrator similar to the Snackmaster Pro but with a Jerky and Fruit Roll-up Kit. It also comes with an opaque designed to block unwanted light. This preserves the nutrition of the food you are drying. This all-in-one appliance is also typically under $100. While retailing above the Snackmaster Pro, you can sometimes find it for sale on Amazon for less.
- Top-mounted fan
- 5 Trays
- Jerky Gun
- 500 Watts
- Fruit Roll-up Screen
- Recipe Guide
You can expand up to 12 trays. Customers say that it is easy to learn how to use, even for beginners, and that it runs very quietly. This is a big plus, as many dehydrators can be quite noisy. It is great for creating dried snack foods, trail mix, and a whole lot more. The only negative comments came from people who had received damaged units (a risk anytime you ship appliances through the mail).
Nesco FD-1040 Gardenmaster Food Dehydrator
This stackable dehydrator runs on 1,000 watts, and includes an adjustable temperature control, a programmable digital timer, and the patented Converga-Flow air flow system. Since the Gardenmaster is expandable up to 20 trays, it makes this an excellent choice if you want to dry foods in bulk, or if you think you might work your way up to that.
- Adjustable Temperature
- 4 Trays, Expandable to 20
- 1000 Watts
- Programmable Timer
- Fruit Roll-up Screen
You can program the timer for up to 48 hours, which is excellent if you want to set and forget. This is perfect if you want to leave the appliance running into the night, for example, but not get up to turn it off. The cost is slightly higher between $100-200, but on this machine you are basically paying for the drying power since you'll notice it has 1000 watts vs 5-600.
What are buyers saying? Many customers chose this model because it includes a timer and auto shut-off, and a lot of dehydrators don’t, so that is a big plus. While these features add to the cost, making it more expensive than the other two Nesco products we have reviewed here, numerous customers emphasized that the extra cost was well worth it.
Any drawbacks? If there are, very few buyers talk about them. You can scroll through review after review and find nothing but praise. It seems most customers find the Gardenmaster to be one the best food dehydrators especially in the mid-market range. If you are willing to invest a little extra into your dehydrator, this is a great purchase. The timer and auto-off really add to the ease of use, and the flexibility to expand up to 20 trays is something you may very well find yourself making use of as time goes on.
Presto - An Economical Choice
Presto is another kitchen appliance company which sells numerous popular and highly rated products in a wide range of categories. Along with their food dehydrators, they produce coffee machines, rice cookers, pressure cookers, tea kettles, grills, griddles, and more. Let’s take a look at their top food dehydrator.
Presto 06300 Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator
This popular stackable dehydrator from Presto is the lowest-cost dehydrator we recommend here. You can purchase it in the $35-$65 range.
- 4 Trays, Expandable to 8
- See-through cover
- Bottom mounted fan
Optional Features (purchased separately)
- Fruit roll-up sheets
- Jerky Gun & Spices
- Non-Stick Mesh Trays
What are buyers saying about the 06300 Dehydro? Customers praise the quiet operation of the machine, as well as the speed with which it dries fruits and vegetables. Many fruits can be dried within just several hours.
There are two major drawbacks. One is that there is no timer. The other is that you cannot set the temperature. This means that the device works great for certain applications, but not at all for others.
So you will want to do your research and be sure that this appliance can handle the drying tasks you want to tackle before you purchase it. If it can, it can be a great cost-saving choice. The design of the Presto 06300 Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator is very sturdy, and it should hold up great for a long time.
Excalibur - The King of Food Dehydrators
Unlike the other brands listed here, Excalibur focuses entirely on designing and manufacturing food dehydrators. They have been in the business since 1973, and have extensive experience in the dehydrator industry. Most of their products take the form of tray dehydrators.
Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator
This is the only tray model that we recommend here (as opposed to the stackable variety). We love the stackable models because of the expandability that they offer, but tray models do have their benefits, and Excalibur does a great job on the tray dehydrators they manufacture.
This model, the 3926TB, has received the highest praise from customers. It is also the most expensive model on our list, at over $200. The price tag, also comes a little security, since most Excalibur Food Dehydrators come with a 10 year limited warranty.
- 9 Trays
- Auto on/off Switch
- Adjustable Thermostat
- Flexible Polyscreen Insert (non-stick)
- 110V, 600 Watts
Nine trays are included (you cannot expand this type of unit), providing you with 15 square feet of drying space. Customers who bought this dehydrator say the extra cost of the timer was more than worthwhile, and that the appliance is large, but not too large. The wide range of temperatures is great for a variety of applications.
What sets the Excalibur Dehydrators apart is the amount of food you can dry at once. It is also has a.patented airflow system dehydrating food faster and retaining more nutrients without rotating the trays. Excalibur also makes several other models, including a 5 tray option that we included in our feature comparison chart. The adjustable thermostat also lets you dry a range of food from herbs to jerky, fruit, bread, yogurt and even crafts. The flexibility and power is why most serious chefs opt for the Excalibur.
Some buyers say that they find the device noisy, though others are not bothered by it. While this is an excellent dehydrator that will give you professional results, you should keep in mind it is somewhat bulky. Check your kitchen dimensions against the dimensions of the appliance before you consider purchasing it.
Summary of the Best Food Dehydrators
All five of these products from Nesco, Presto, and Excalibur are excellent choices, and it would be hard to go wrong with any of them. If you want to save money and you do not need to be able to fine-tune temperature control, the Presto 06300 Dehydro is an ideal choice.
If you know you want a tray-format appliance, and you do not care about bulkiness or cost, the more expensive Excalibur 3926TB may be an ideal choice. All three Nesco machines are in the middle of the price range and provide you with excellent quality. The FD-1040 Gardenmaster is the best choice if you want the most flexibility and the most exciting features. Make a list of your needs, and then take a closer look at all these appliances and their customer reviews!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why do some foods refuse to dry? Certain foods stay soft in the middle no matter what, like banana chips.
A: This is a common problem which reflects on a simple mistake in preparation. If fruits or veggies (bananas for example) are sliced too thick, it can be hard for the dehydrator to get them dry, especially in the middle. Try slicing them thinner and plan to run the process longer. This should help them dry clean through.
Q: How and where do you store the dried goods once the process is complete?
A: You can store them anywhere cool and dry so long as you have them in containers with tight lids. Canning jars work great, but anything sealable works.
Q: What happens to the drying pressure if you add more trays to a stackable unit?
A: Most machines are designed to automatically adjust pressure when you add more trays.
Q: How can you dry small fruits and vegetables like blueberries without them falling through?
A: You can purchase small mesh inserts. Place these inside and fruits like grapes and blueberries will not fall through. This also works for drying herbs.
Q: How do you clean the dehydrator trays?
A: Always check to see whether the machine you are purchasing has dishwasher safe parts, but many dehydrators do. This can be a big help since liquids can really cake on there. You can also try hand-washing in the sink. Give the pieces a good soak before you attempt to scrub them. After about 10 minutes, it should be easier to wipe off the grease.
Q: How do I know what temperature to use?
A: Generally when you purchase a dehydrator, it will come with a detailed guide to temperatures for different types of foods. You can also check the manufacturer’s website and guides online for similar dehydrators.
If you have never used a food dehydrator before, you do have a bit of a learning curve ahead of you. By following the best practices recommended in this article and avoiding the common mistakes we have discussed, you should be able to get off to a great start. A dehydrator is one of the most all-around useful appliances you can purchase if you enjoy dried snacks and want to save money and eat healthy!
A dehydrator is a handy appliance that can help you to save money and enjoy a variety of tasty snacks at home and on the go. To get the most out of your new appliance, it is important to know the basics of how to dehydrate food. Here are some best practices to follow to ensure that you get the best results:
- Ensure you know the proper temperature for drying. Not all foods dehydrate at the same temperature. The time and temperature requirements may also vary depending on the type of dehydrator you purchased.
- Be certain your items are 95% or more dehydrated. If they still feel soft or show other evidence of moisture, they probably are not done. They need to be hard and breakable.
- Try to choose an environment that facilitates the process. A warm dry place without nearby ventilation can speed up the process.
- Do not raise the temperature to try to speed up the process. Rather than dry your foods more quickly, this will simply dry the outside, sealing the inside, which will retain moisture. The result? Spoiled food and wasted time and money.
- Try to dehydrate foods of a similar size and thickness simultaneously to save time. Make sure that they are all foods which require the same temperature as well.
There are numerous applications for your dehydrator. You can use it to create jerky (for this purpose you will also need an additional supply called a jerky gun, which is included with many dehydrators), dried fruit, fruit rolls, snacks, and meals for camping, and more. There are also some non-food applications that some dehydrators can handle. Drying flowers for crafts is one common example. Potpourri is another.
Common Problems to Avoid
- Avoid dehydrators that do not allow you to adjust the temperature, unless you already know that you do not need to use other temperatures for the purposes you plan on.
- Do not forget to adequately prepare your foods for dehydrating by cleaning, steaming, and so on.
- Do not choose a higher temperature than the recommended one. This cannot be stressed enough times. You cannot rush the dehydrating process.
- Always make sure that your dehydrating process is complete. If something feels like it needs more time, put it back in. If you think you under-dried anything and you kept it without finishing it, do not take any risks with your health. Throw it out.