Why Buy a Food Dehydrator?

There are many reasons why you might want to buy a food dehydrator and many of them revolve around making the best use of natural produce, meat and spices and the one that is on most people’s mind these days, a healthier diet. In the past, canning was the method of choice for preserving vegetables and fruits from a summer harvest to provide food during the winter. In today’s world, people can grow their own produce to save money and experience the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly what has gone into the food they are eating. 

Dehydrating foods for largely the same reasons, has always been an option too, however food dehydrators currently on the market provide options that often make it a more attractive undertaking than canning.

dehydrator tray

It’s less expensive and has the added advantage of being able to produce snack food that is tasty and healthy. When it comes to meat, a food dehydrator produces jerky without much bother. So you would likely want to buy a food dehydrator as an alternative to canning, as well as to preserve your own garden produce and create a variety of healthy snack foods.

Anyone who is fond of the raw food concept will also find a food dehydrator an essential addition to their collection of kitchen appliances. The enzymes contained in raw foods, essentially remain intact as low temperatures and a fan work together to remove the water from your produce. The result is preserved food with its nutritional content intact, providing you with fresh food out of season. Fruits, vegetables and meat are all suitable to dehydrate and for anyone concerned with consuming the additives included in processed foods, having your own supply of natural foods preserved and on tap for whenever you choose to eat them, is huge plus.

As with any food preservation process, there are things to understand and consider if you want to achieve the best results so keep reading to purchase the right food dehydrator to suit your needs and requirements.

Food Dehydrator Comparisons

Top Horizontal Air-Flow Dehydrators ​

STX International Dehydra DehydratorAroma Professional 6 tray dehydratorTSM Harvest DehydratorExcalibur Food Dehydrator
STX International DehydraAroma ProfessionalTSM Harvest FoodExcalibur 3926TB
Read ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead Review
ModelSTX-DEH-1200W-XLSAFD-815B327093926TB
TypeHorizontalHorizontalHorizontalHorizontal
Our Rating4.54.74.24.7
Adjustable ThermostatYesYesYesYes
Power1200W400W600W600W
TimerYesYesYesYes
# of Trays106109
Dimensions20.5x17.2x15.6 in17.7x13.6x12.4 in17.7x13.6x12.4 in11.8x14.9x2.5 in
Warranty3 Year1 Year1 Year10 Year
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Top Vertical Air-Flow Dehydrators ​

hamilton beach 32100a dehydratorNesco FD-1040 GardenmasterL'Equipe 528 DehydratorNesco Snackmaster Dehydrator
Hamilton Beach 32100ANesco FD-1040 GardenmasterL'Equipe 528Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster
Read ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead Review
Model32100A FD-1040306200FD-75A
TypeVerticalVerticalVerticalVertical
Our Rating4.24.64.44.5
Adjustable ThermostatYesYesYesYes
Power500W1000W500W600W
TimerYesYesNoNo
# of Trays5465 - Expandable
Dimensions11x13x10.5 in15.5x15.5x9.5 in17x10 x11.8 in13.8 x 22.1 x 13.9 in
Warranty1 Year1 Year10 Year1 Year
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Heat Distribution

The amount of heat generated, along with distribution of air within the dehydrator is an important aspect of the dehydration process. It’s best if the drying process occurs evenly across all stacks or trays or the produce or meat will not be dried sufficiently. In vertical dehydrators, the fan and the heating element are located at the bottom on the unit so produce on the trays at the bottom will dry more quickly than those at the top. These stackable food dehydrators feature vertical airflow and heat distribution, which originates from the bottom of the unit. This causes a vertical or upward distribution of heat and air, meaning the air travels upwards, from the bottom up, through each tray. To maintain even drying, you will need to rotate the stacks.

Alternatively, it’s worth noting that shelved or horizontal food dehydrators tend to provide even heat and air distribution than vertical models that use stackable trays. With a horizontal food dehydrator, it isn’t necessary to rotate the trays because the heat and air is located at the back of the unit so that there is even air flow across all the trays.

Dehydration Capacity

This will be important if you are intending to dehydrate large quantities of food and it is crucial to take into account that the larger the fan within the unit, the greater the drying capacity of the unit. It’s not just the size of the fan, the power of the fan also contributes to the overall quality of the drying process. However, larger fans are usually louder and if you are sensitive to noise, you might want to think about the size of your unit along with where you plan to use your dehydrator.

In conjunction with dehydration capacity, is tray capacity and this is where the stackable dehydrators have an advantage. You can stack up as many trays as you need. The thing to remember here though, is that you will need to be vigilant with rotating the trays to achieve an even drying process throughout all the trays.

On the other hand, if you intend to dry larger or thicker pieces of produce, the shelved models have a greater drying capacity for these. In addition, you can put things such as yogurt cups on the trays of the shelved models, providing more flexibility and variety in terms of how you want to use the unit. This option is not available with the stackable models because the stackable trays are unsuitable for such use.

Air Flow – Vertical or Horizontal

Stackable dehydrator air-flow

Stackable air-flow

We have touched on this with heat distribution because the two are inextricably linked. The stackable models have a vertical air flow as air is pushed from the bottom, through the trays to the top of the unit, by a fan located at the bottom of the unit. The food on the bottom trays will dry more quickly than the food on the upper trays and you will need to rotate the trays to achieve even drying.

dehydrator shelf

Shelf model air-flow

Conversely, the horizontal models have the fan located at the rear of the unit and air travels horizontally across the trays, negating the need for tray rotation during the drying process. Depending on your requirements, you will need to decide on what will be best for you.

Tray Access

Excalibur Food Dehydrator

Horizontal Food Dehydrator with Shelves

Shelved food dehydrators contain a fixed number of trays and you cannot add any more, no matter how desperately you may want to. The trays are easy to slide in and take out. This means that you can easily check on the dehydration process of your produce at any time. On the other hand, the stacking dehydrators give you the flexibility of adding additional trays. While this can be an attractive feature, it is as well to remember that with the stacking models, in order to take out the lower trays, it is necessary to take out the top trays as well. This can be frustrating if you have a lot of trays in your stack.

The Thermostat

Having a dehydrator with a thermostat will be valuable if you are interested in the nutritional aspect of the dried foods you create. The first thing to understand when considering the thermostat in a food dehydrator is, that it is designed to measure the temperature of the food, as opposed to the air that flows through the unit. The reason having a thermostat matters, is that you are able to control the ideal temperature ranges for the different foods you wish to dehydrate. Without a thermostat, it is possible that you could dry foods at the wrong temperatures and have a bacterial disaster to contend with, or food that is dry on the outside, but still moist inside.

The Timer

When you consider the number of factors that come into play throughout the drying process, it is worth considering a model that includes a timer. The amount of time it takes to dry out your produce or meat depends on things such as water and sugar content, the size of the pieces and other matters pertaining to air circulation. The amount of air being circulated can influence the drying time as can external conditions such as humidity.

Using a timer allows you to control the length of the drying time effectively and most importantly, will help you to achieve the best results with your shelf model or stacked model dehydrator. You can generally expect the shelf models to have a quicker drying time because of the horizontal air flow and location of the fan.

Prices

As with most things, prices vary and it is no different with food dehydrators. They range from cheap to expensive, depending on the features, build, quality, size, etc. Generally, the more expensive models tend to do a better job because of the shelved trays and horizontal air flow. These models also tend to have a lot more in the way of features, such as a larger, more powerful fan, as well as a thermostat and timer.

The stackable, vertical models tend to be less expensive and have fewer features, however rotating the trays is necessary to achieve even drying of all trays. New users often opt for the stackable models which have the advantage of stacking additional trays as you need them. If you are not intending to do much dehydrating, vertical models are a good option.

The shelved models are more suitable for people who intend to use the unit frequently. While these are more expensive, they usually have more features that a heavy user would find essential, again, such as the thermostat and timer.

Usability

Usability is definitely worth considering because if you find using the unit cumbersome, like when you need to remove the upper trays before you can take out the lower trays of a stackable model, you will shy away from using it. It’s always best to purchase something you are going to be comfortable using, otherwise it is money wasted.

Warranties

A minimum warranty period of one year should be standard with the less expensive stackable models while you can expect a five to ten year warranty on the more expensive horizontal models.

Dehydrating your own produce, meat, spices and crafts is becoming more popular and there is no denying the range of choices available when it comes to food dehydrators. If you can be clear on what you want to use it for, how you want to use it as well as the features you are willing to pay for, you’ll make a better buying choice. In the meantime, happy dehydrating.

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