How to choose the best food dehydrator

Finding The Best Food Dehydrator – Updated Reviews for 2021

We compare 6 of the best food dehydrators for home use.

If you have ever wanted to create your own healthy snacks or preserve that garden harvest, then a food dehydrator is what you need.

This simple, inexpensive kitchen device lets you create delicious snacks like jerky, granola, and tempeh, and provides you with an excellent alternative to packaged foods with additives.

But you want to make sure to choose the best food dehydrator for your home and there are many options out there.

Let’s take a look at the top companies which sell food dehydrators, and also check out some of their best selling products! Our food dehydrator reviews can give you some great perspective for your own purchase decisions.

Our writer’s research and recommend the best products for your kitchen. Links to these products are included where you can learn more or buy each product. We may receive commissions on purchases made through these links.

Product Reviews For Our Favorite Dehydrators

Before diving into our detailed reviews, here is a summary of our 6 favorite food dehydrators in 2021. We’ve rated each for the standout feature in the home kitchen.

Our RatingMake & Model
Best All-Around DehydratorExcalibur 3926TB 9-Tray
Best Budget BuyNesco FD-75A, Snackmaster
Best for Making JerkyNesco Snackmaster Encore
Best for Vegetable GardenersNesco Gardenmaster 075
Best Clear Tray for Easy ViewingNutriChef PKFD12
Best for BeginnersPresto 06300 Dehydro

Nesco – A Brand You Can Trust For Making High Quality and Budget-Friendly Dehydrators

Nesco is a brand name that 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.

The Best Budget Dehydrator – Nesco Snackmaster Pro FD-75A

The Nesco Snackmaster Pro is 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.

Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator

Key Features

  • 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 make beef 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 at a great price. 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.

Best For Jerky Lovers – The Nesco Snackmaster Encore FD-61WHC

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 design to block unwanted light.  This preserves the nutrition of the food you are drying. 

The Nesco Snackmaster Encore is an all-in-one appliance that is also typically available for an affordable price.

Nesco American Harvest Snackmaster Express

Key Features

  • Top-mounted fan
  • 5 Trays
  • Jerky Gun
  • 500 Watts
  • Fruit Roll-up Screen
  • Clean-a-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).

Best for Vegetable Gardeners – Nesco Gardenmaster 075 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 airflow system.

Since the Gardenmaster is expandable up to 30 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.

Nesco Gardenmaster Food Dehydrator

Key Features

  • Adjustable Temperature
  • 8 Trays, Expandable to 30
  • 1000 Watts
  • Fruit Roll-up Screen
  • Clean-A-Screen

The cost is slightly higher, but on this machine, you are basically paying for the drying power since you’ll notice it has 1000 watts vs 5-600 of the other models.

What are buyers saying? Many customers chose this model because of the fast drying time and the expandable trays, 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 of 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 30 trays is something you may very well find yourself making use of as time goes on.

NutriChef – Another Great Food Dehydrator For a Reasonable Price

NutriChef offers a wide range of small kitchen appliances from cooktops and griddles to food processors and of course dehydrators. The company prides itself on making healthy food affordable for all families regardless of skill level or budget.

NutriChef Electric Food Dehydrator

Best See Through Trays – NutriChef PKFD12 Electric Food Dehydrator Machine

The NutriChef PKFD12 is our choice in their line of food dehydrators. This model has five stackable trays, a compact size, and an efficient drying process. This is a great beginner model that won’t take up too much room in your kitchen.

The flexible tray design allows you to dry a little or a lot of food depending on your needs of the day. Weighing just 7 pounds this is a nice light model that is easy to store in your kitchen cupboards.

It works well with fruits, vegetables, jerky and more. Users have commented on how easy this dehydrator is to use compared to some of the larger models. So this one gets our vote for another great economical dehydrator.

Key Features

  • 5 Removable Trays
  • Clear Processing Chamber
  • Simple on/off switch
  • Adjustable temperature gauge to 180 degrees
  • 2 Color Options: Black & White
  • Dishwasher Safe Trays
  • Quiet Operation

Presto – An Economical Choice for Dehydrators

Presto is another kitchen appliance company that 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.

Best for Beginners – Presto 06300 Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator

This popular stackable dehydrator from Presto is the lowest-cost dehydrator we recommend here.

Presto Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator

Key Features

  • 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 food preservation industry. Most of their products take the form of tray dehydrators.

Our Favorite All-Around – 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. The price tag, also comes with a little security, since most Excalibur Food Dehydrators come with a 10-year limited warranty.

Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator

Key Features

  • 9 Trays
  • Auto on/off Switch
  • Adjustable Thermostat

  • Timer
  • 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 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 are 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.

Feature & Price Comparison of the Top Selling Food Dehydrators

To easily compare the features of each sealer in our product review set, we’ve created a handy comparison table.  We’ve included the list price, but be sure to click through and check the sale prices on Amazon.

Comparison Chart of the Best Dehydrators

Product NameTrays**WattagePriceDimensionsWeightExtras
Nesco Snackmaster Pro FD-75A5 (12)600$$13.8 x 22.1 x 13.9 in6 lbsTop Mounted Fan
Nesco American Harvest FD-61WHC Snackmaster Express5 (12)500$$13 x 11 x 13 in8.8 lbsTop Mounted Fan
Jerky Gun
Fruit Roll Screen
Nesco FD-1040 Gardenmaster4 (20)1,000$$$15.5 x 15.5 x 9.5 in9 lbsTop Mounted Fan
Temperature Control
Fruit Roll-up Screen
Presto 06300 Dehydro Electric4 (8)600$14.5 x 15 x 6.2 in7.5 lbsBottom Fan
Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator9 Fixed600$$$$19 x 17 x 12.5 in22 lbsThermostat
Excalibur 3526TB 5 Tray Dehydrator5 Fixed400$$$19 x 17 x 8.5 in15 lbsThermostat

**Numbers in parenthesis represent the maximum number of trays that can be used. Additional trays need to be purchased separately.

Using a Food Dehydrator

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.

Be sure to visit our article on the Best Foods to Dehydrate to get the top fruits and vegetables to use in your dehydrator plus specific tips for the best tasting snacks.

Homemade slices of beef jerky on a serving platter.
Making your own beef jerky is a cost-effective way to prepare snacks for the family.

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 that require the same temperature as well.
dried jerky and fruit snacks on a wooden platter
Dried snacks can make an elegant appetizer, especially fitting in the fall months.

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.

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 that 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 the inserts on top of each tray 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, want to save money, and eat healthier!

Common Problems to Avoid

  1. 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.
  2. Do not forget to adequately prepare your foods for dehydrating by cleaning, steaming, and so on.
  3. Do not choose a higher temperature than the recommended one. This cannot be stressed enough times. You cannot rush the dehydrating process.
  4. 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.
  5. Allow your dehydrated food to fully dry before storing.
dried mangos in a bowl
Most fruits like this dried mango should be leathery to the touch, but still bend after drying.

How to Choose the Best Food Dehydrator For Your Family

There are a lot of reasons you might want to purchase a dehydrator to dry out foods at home.  A good dehydrator can help you to preserve the foods you do have for later use, and can also help you to avoid purchasing canned foods that have a lot of artificial and unhealthy additives. 

With a dehydrator, you can make a variety of foods in your own kitchen that you could not otherwise create (tempeh and granola being prime examples).  There are also some non-food applications for a dehydrator.  You might use one for certain crafts, like drying flowers.  Over time, you can save a good deal of money.  How do you actually choose one though? 

You should start by becoming familiar with the different types of dehydrators and their common features. 

There are two main types of food dehydrators:

  • Stackable tray dehydrators
  • Shelf tray dehydrators

The difference is exactly what you are probably imagining.  The shelf tray dehydrators have a number of shelves you can pull in and out of the main unit. 

sliced round apple circles in a dehydrator tray
A shelf-type unit has pull-out trays.

Key Features to Compare Dehydrators

The stackable variety includes stackable trays instead, one on top of the other.  Each has advantages and disadvantages.  When you are shopping for a dehydrator, consider the following factors:

Ease of Access

Without a doubt, a shelf dehydrator provides you with superior ease of access.  You just pull out the shelf you need when you have to check on the food’s progress or remove it. 

That is not the case with the stackable dehydrators.  If you want to get at a middle shelf tray, you have to pull off all the trays above it.


The shelf tray system is a good one because you can remove unneeded shelves to provide extra clearance for larger items. 

The stackable units offer a different benefit, which is expandability.  You might buy a model with 8 trays and add on another 4 or 8.  It is all up to you.  If you want to start small and expand, this is a great way to do it.

Power and Temperature Control

Always check power-related features like drying time (the faster the better, of course), temperature control, and the number of watts.  Obviously a more powerful device can get the job done quickly and efficiently, though it may also be a larger energy drain.

It is very important to look for an adjustable thermostat so that you can set and maintain a consistent temperature.  The settings you need for different foods can vary widely.  Also, look for a model that provides you with heated airflow.  This eliminates the need to rotate the racks.

How Many Dehydrator Trays Do You Need?

Make sure you know how many trays you will be getting when you buy the dehydrator, especially a non-expandable shelf model.  Be certain you know what capacity the dehydrator can handle. How much food will you be able to dehydrate at a time? 

Aesthetics: Will It Look Good or Fit in Your Kitchen?

While this probably won’t be your primary buying consideration, different models of dehydrators have very different designs.  You may have a choice of different colors, and some models have a clear lid. 

White and clear stackable food dehydrator with grapes, apples, and cherries on differnt sections.
Stackable units quite often have clear sides so you can watch the food as it dehydrates.

Consider dimensions so that you can buy one that will fit in your kitchen, and do not forget about the noise level.  Be sure to shop for a durable dehydrator that will stand the test of time. 

What Accessories Are Important To You?

Fruit Roll Sheets for Nesco Dehydrators

Some dehydrators come with accessories like fruit rollup sheets, a jerky gun, such as The Nesco American Harvest Snackmaster.  These accessories can help you to make specialty food items. 

Then again you may place more value on extra features such as a timer, which can make it easier to monitor your foods. 

What Does a Good Dehydrator Cost?

At the lower end, you can get a good food dehydrator for as little as $30-$40.  This will generally buy you a small stack dehydrator with the most basic features. 

At the upper end, you will find shelf dehydrators that run you several hundred dollars or more.  In the $250+ range, you will find dehydrators that are ideal for professional use. 

Large drying area inside the Excalibur  Dehydrator

Do you need an expensive dehydrator?  Not necessarily.  Ask yourself how much you plan on using your dehydrator, and what you plan to do with it. 

While the more expensive shelf dehydrators may offer you more versatility in some ways, they do offer you less in others.  They are easier to use, but they are not expandable, and they do tend to run you more money.

Make a list of features that are important to you in a dehydrator, and then check to see what is available in your price range.  Odds are you will be able to find the best food dehydrator for your needs even in the lower price bracket. 

Always read up on features and check out customer reviews so that you can be sure you are getting a high-quality model that will last you many years to come!

Our Recommendations for the Best Food Dehydrators in 2021

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 Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro 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!

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