If you’re in the market for a dehydrator and wondering which one you should buy, you’re in the right spot! We tested the best food dehydrators to determine our favorite models. In this post, we talk about what features are important, different dehydrating use-cases, and which models offer the greatest value.
There are so many incredible applications for a food dehydrator, from preparing backpacking meals to storing fresh seasonal produce!
While there are a lot of different dehydrator models out there, once you understand all the different features and how they can affect your personal use-case, it becomes a lot easier to make a selection.
Personal Note: We were on the fence for years before we bought our first dehydrator. We thought it was going to be really complicated, and frankly, we were a little intimidated. If you find yourself in the same boat, we would highly suggest taking a look at our Dehydrating 101 article. It covers all the basics and will give you the confidence to start dehydrating on your own!
In this article, we’ll talk about a number of dehydrator features to consider, and we share our suggestions for a few of the best food dehydrators that we have personal experience with and feel offer a lot of great value.
So let’s jump into it and find the best dehydrator for you!
At a Glance: Our Top Picks
Best Buy: Cosori Premium
A great machine for beginners and pros that gives you a ton of bang for your buck
Best Top-End Model: Brod & Taylor SAHARA
With tons of great features and a one-of-a-kind folding design, this is a great option that is well worth the investment
Best Budget Pick: Nesco Snackmaster 75
This budget-friendly dehydrator is a solid machine with many of the important features you’ll need to get started with dehydrating
Dehydrator Features to Consider
How much any one of these features matters to you will depend entirely on how you plan on using your dehydrator. So as you read through these, think about the types of applications you want to use your dehydrator for. Weekend packing meals? Thru-hiking meal prep? Storing seasonal produce? Or just making fun snacks like jerky & fruit leathers?
The capacity of a dehydrator is measured in terms of tray space, frequently in square feet. This will determine how much food you will be able to dehydrate in a single cycle. If you’re dehydrating large quantities of food for the end of harvest or thru-hiking, a large capacity can be helpful. Some dehydrators, like the Nesco Snackmaster, have expandable tray capacity.
What size is the actual dehydrator? What’s the length, width, and depth? This is important information when determining if it will fit on your counter or inside your kitchen cabinets.
Note: There is currently only one model on the market, the Brod & Taylor SAHARA, which features a folding design. This allows it to have a high capacity, but the unit size can be folded down to ⅓ the size when not in use.
Fan and Heat Element Position
There are three different locations where the heating element and fan can be positioned: the bottom, the top, or the side. Each offers its own pros and cons.
Bottom: Given that heat naturally rises, dehydrators that have heating elements on the bottom – like the Cosori 5 Tray – are generally more efficient than those with the heating element on the top. The internal fan doesn’t need to work as hard to circulate the air. However, any drips from the food can potentially fall down onto the heating element if it’s not protected.
Top: Dehydrators with top-mounted heating elements – like the Nesco Snackmaster – need a more powerful fan to continually push the hot air down. This generally results in warmer top trays and cooler bottoms trays, so you will need to occasionally reshuffle the trays to ensure even heating.
Back Mount: A hybrid solution is the back mount heating element. The fan blows the warm heat through the middle, allowing for more even heat distribution. Most high-end models utilize this design.
Temperature Range & Controls
Being able to control the temperature (especially at low temperatures) is one of the main reasons why dehydrators work better than home ovens for dehydrating food. With the exception of some low-end models, nearly all dehydrators allow you to control the temperature – but just how much control depends on the model.
105°F–160°F / 35°C–73°C is the general range you want to be able to control for. Some models have a manual knob while others have a digital timer. Each different ingredient has an optimal temperature for dehydrating (which we cover in-depth in our Dehydrating 101 guide). Low range temperatures (95°F-115°F) matter most if you’re drying herbs or want to dry your ingredients within the “raw food” temperature range.
Timer / Auto Shutoff
Many dehydrators have built-in timers that will automatically shut-off the machine off after a certain amount of time. This can reduce your electrical costs and allow you to set up a dehydrating cycle that will finish without you needing to be present. While most foods can’t be “over-dehydrated”, certain things like fruit leathers and jerky can. So an auto-shut-off feature can be a useful safeguard.
Some – but not all – dehydrators have either a glass or clear plastic panel that allows you to see the food as it dehydrates. This can be very helpful in determining when your food is getting close to being done. Or, if your ingredients need to be occasionally blotted to remove fat (such as for jerky).
How much noise a particular dehydrator makes can be a major purchasing factor, however, this is often the hardest quality to determine when shopping online. For the models we have personal experience with, we can offer you the following comparison of each model’s operating noise:
Quietest: Cosori Premium / Cosori 5 Tray
Quiet: Brod & Taylor SAHARA
Tolerable: Nesco Snackmaster 75
Louder than we would have thought: Excalibur 9 Tray
Racks, Sheets, and Mats
Some dehydrators come with all the rack, sheet, and mat accessories and others do not. All models come with racks. Whether that’s plastic or stainless steel depends on the model—and you’ll have to buy additional racks for models with expanding capacity (ie Nesco Snackmaster). Mesh mats and solid sheets can also be very useful (for herbs and fruit leathers respectively), however, these are frequently sold as extras. So it’s worth looking into and considering the price of accessories when comparing models.
Best Food Dehydrators for 2022
Tray capacity: 6.5 ft2
Unit Size: 13.4”L x 17.8”W x 12.4”H
Fan position: Back
Temperature Range: 95°F–165°F / 35°C–73°C
Overview: The Cosori stainless steel model has been our personal go-to dehydrator for nearly two years and is one we would recommend for beginners and seasoned pros alike. For us, it’s the right size for most of our small-to-medium batch projects. It has a lot of premium-level features at a very reasonable price. But the biggest selling point for us is how quiet it is! We are noise-sensitive people, and it’s so nice to be able to run the dehydrator in the kitchen and barely even notice it’s running.
- 6 Food-Grade Stainless Steel racks (dishwasher safe)
- Adjustable digital thermostat and timer with automatic shut off
- Overheat protection
Best for: This “best buy” dehydrator gets you a lot of premium features at a lower price point. If you want to invest in a top-of-the-line machine but don’t need the higher volume capacity of the more expensive models, the Cosori Premium is our top pick.
Tray capacity: 11 ft²
Unit Size: 22″ Width x 14⅜” Depth x 11″ Height
Folded Size: 22″ Width x 12¼” Depth x 3¾” Height
Fan position: Back
Temperature range: 85°F-165°F / 30-74°C (also operates fan only / no heat)
MSRP: $395 (Stainless steel) or $325 (BPA free plastic)
Overview: The SAHARA is like the Tesla of dehydrators; it features high-end everything. Its innovative folding design offers both high capacity AND a compact storage size. It has easy-to-use digital temperature and timer controls, positive close glass doors, and comes with a drip tray. It also features an integrated air filter, which removes particulates in the air (dust, pet dander).
Another feature unique to this machine is that it offers a two-step temperature control. For example, you can start dehydrating at 165 F for the first 2 hours then have it automatically step down to 135 F for the rest of the cycle.
- Compact foldable design for easy storage
- Positive close (magnetic) glass doors
- Dual-heater design automatically switches to low power for more efficient energy use when food is partially dry or for lower temperatures.
- Dual time/temperature control allows users to program two times and two temperatures for controlled food drying
- Filtered air intake to remove particulates in the air (dust, dander, smoke)
- BPA free (machine housing and trays)
Best for: If you are ready to invest in a high-quality, high-capacity machine, the SAHARA is perfect. Priced nearly the same as the Excalibur with comparable features (and then some!), this is our top pick if the storage size is more important than total volume capacity.
Tray capacity: 4 ft2 as sold, ability to expand to 9.7 ft2
Unit Size: 13.75” x 22.13” x 13.87”
Fan position: Top
Temperature range: 95°F–160°F / 35°C–71°C
Overview: This was our first dehydrator! We used this model for years while learning the basics of dehydrating. It lacks many of the features of higher-end dehydrators but it is still a very functional unit. The most annoying thing about this machine to be aware of is that there is no on/off button—if you want to check on your food or shuffle the trays, you have to unplug the machine to turn the motor off.
What it lacks in features, however, it makes up for in its low price. While there are many “affordable” dehydrators on the market, the Snackmaster 75 is a tried-and-true basic model that won’t let you down.
- Expandable tray capacity
- Includes a few mesh and tray liners (extras are easy to find and affordable)
- BPA free
Best for: If you’re interested in dehydrating but don’t want to invest a lot of money until you determine that dehydrating is for you, you won’t go wrong with the Nesco Snackmaster. And if you do really get into dehydrating, this model has all the important features so you won’t feel the need to upgrade immediately. It’s basic, but it’s a really good value.
Note: We recommend the Snackmaster over the Cosori 5 Tray for two reasons: The ability to expand the capacity, and the availability of accessory trays (mesh, fruit leathers). If neither of these is important, keep reading to learn more about the Cosori!
Tray capacity: 3.3 ft2
Unit Size: 12” x 12” x 10 ¾”
Stored Size: 12” x 12” x 9”
Fan position: Bottom
Temperature range: 95°F–165°F / 35°C–74°C
Overview: The Cosori 5 Tray is a great little machine for someone who is just getting into dehydrating or who only needs a small drying capacity. It would be perfect for weekend backpackers that only need to dehydrate a few meals before a trip, or if you want to dehydrate snacks (vs preserving lots of food for storage).
With a digital display for the timer and temperature control, it’s easy to set up and dial in the right settings for your project. The bottom-mounted fan helps with the machine’s efficiency. It also has a clear plastic top so you can visually check on the progress of your food without having to stop or open the machine.
This is one of the most compact dehydrators we tested, made more so by the nesting design of the trays which allows you to shorten the total size by nearly two inches while storing it. It is also just as quiet as the Cosori Premium.
However, mesh liners and solid fruit leather trays are next to impossible to find for this particular model, so know you will need to make your own (use parchment paper or buy silicone mesh and cut to size). Or wait for more accessories to become available.
- Digital timer and temperature control with auto-shutoff
- Adjustable tray height to make more room between trays
- Dishwasher safe trays (without heated drying cycle)
- BPA free
Best for: With more features than the Snackmaster, the Cosori 5 Tray is a great value if you’re new to dehydrating and know you will only dehydrate in small batches.
Tray capacity: 15 ft2
Unit Size: 19” x 17” x 12.5”
Fan position: Back
Temperature range: 105°F–165°F / 41°C–74°C
MSRP: $299.99 – $399.99 depending on features
Overview: Excalibur is one of the most well-known brands in the dehydrating world. They’ve been making dehydrators since 1973! The 9 Tray model boasts a total drying capacity of 15 ft2 so you can dry a lot of food all at once. There are also a few variations at different price points, so you can choose which features are worth spending your money on.
There are a few things we wish were different about the Excalibur that we’d like to point out. One, this machine is the loudest of all the ones we’ve tested. We personally don’t like to run it in the kitchen because of this—it needs to go into a separate room, or in the garage.
Second, there’s no “pause” feature. This is mainly a problem when dehydrating lightweight items like herbs or leafy greens. If you want to check them mid-cycle, you will need to turn the machine off otherwise it will blow the herbs off the tray as soon as you open the door. But turning it off means you need to reset the timer, and if you have a digital display model, the temperature as well. Other models solve this by having a “pause” feature.
- Comes with BPA-free mesh liners for all trays
- Timer, digital display, glass door—depending on specific model
Best for: If you’ll be drying a lot of food at the same time and need the full 15 ft2 and have room to store this behemoth, the Excalibur 9 Tray is a workhorse of a machine. Great if you want to get a lot dehydrated after harvest season or are planning a big thru-hike and need to make A LOT of backpacking meals quickly.
Learn How to Dehydrate
Everything you need to know to start dehydrating! Which foods dehydrate the best, prepping instructions, temperatures, the best way to store dehydrated food, and much more!