Kristen Hicks on July 19, 2016 3 Comments Table of Contents Benefits of Food Dehydrators Types of Food Dehydrators Factors to Consider While Shopping Customer Reviews of Popular Brands When you’re in the mood to snack, what do you turn to? If you’re like most Americans, your mind probably flashed to images of potato chips, snack cakes or chocolate bars which, while very tasty, aren’t too healthy to be munching on at regular intervals throughout the day. For owners of food dehydrators, snacking brings to mind a delicious array of healthier fare all of which are homemade right in your kitchen. A few popular dehydrated options include apple chips, kale chips, sundried tomatoes, banana chips and homemade beef jerky. Benefits of Owning a Food Dehydrator Food dehydrators are a relatively small investment that can pay off with significant perks for you and your family. From healthier foods to saving you money, here are a few benefits you should expect after buying a food dehydrator. Can save you money on snacking. Help you avoid food waste, as you can turn any of your fresh produce from your garden or last grocery trip into dehydrated snacks that you can eat at a later time. Dehydrators make it possible to snack on out-of-season fruits and vegetables, no matter what time of year it may be. Make your snacking habit a healthy one. Instead of reaching for sugary chocolate or salty potato chips, you can snack on healthier, nutrient-dense foods. Dehydrated fruit may help quench your sweet-tooth while providing nutritional benefits at the same time. Dried foods even keep in most of the nutrients, so you get the benefits of the vitamins and minerals that you would if you ate the food fresh. And, while this isn’t an immediate concern, if you have a store of dehydrated foods on hand when the zombie apocalypse (or really, any natural disaster) comes, you’ll be ahead of everyone else on the block in terms of survival. Click Here to Buy a Food Dehydrator Types of Food Dehydrators When you start shopping around for the best food dehydrator, you’ll notice that most models fall into two main categories: vertical flow and horizontal flow. As the names suggest, you can quickly see the difference in the two types of dehydrators based on their orientation and whether the food is stacked vertically, or lined up side by side. But the orientation is only one way they differ, the two types of models work differently as well. 1. Vertical Flow Food Dehydrators Most vertical flow food dehydrators, sometimes called stackable unit food dehydrators, have a heat source that’s located either at the base of the food processor or at the top. Vertical flow food dehydrators tend to be the most affordable options, but that’s in part because they don’t spread heat as uniformly. Most vertical flow models do include a fan to help with this though. They work well enough for most vegetables and fruits, but you’ll have a harder time getting good meat jerky out of them unless you put some manual effort into switching the trays around during the dehydration process. Benefits: Affordable. Small & compact. These don’t usually take up much counter space and they are easy to store. They’re often expandable. Many of these dehydrators allow you to purchase more shelves to add over time. To Keep in Mind: Don’t heat as evenly as horizontal models. You’ll want to take time to switch out trays for best results. Work better with fruits and veggies, than it does with meats. 2. Horizontal Flow Food Dehydrators Horizontal flow food dehydrators, sometimes referred to as shelf tray food dehydrators, work a bit more like a conventional oven, with the heating source located in the back. They’re more expensive than vertical models, but are known for dehydrating at a more even rate throughout the device. This makes them the ideal choice for making beef jerky and dehydrating meat. By far, this type of dehydrator is the easiest to use. You can just get them started and leave them without having to do any further work until your food is done. Benefits: Even & efficient dehydrating throughout. Can be used for meats and tougher vegetables. Easy to use. Once you’ve got it started, no manual work is required. You can try more ambitious recipes. To Keep in Mind: Tend to be more expensive. They are larger in size. Will require more counter or cabinet space to use and store. 6 Factors to Consider when Buying a Food Dehydrator When it comes to finding the best food dehydrator for your needs, it will largely depend on your particular preferences and how you plan on using it. However, having a good idea of how they vary and what options you have can help you make the most informed buying decision. Here are a few of the main features and factors to keep in mind when buying a dehydrator. 1. Heat Distribution & Air Flow Scientifically, food dehydration is a pretty simple concept. You merely need to keep the food at a consistent, high enough temperature for a long enough time to dry out a portion of the moisture. In practice, the biggest challenge is ensuring that the heat is evenly distributed for all the food you’re drying. Since some food items will necessarily be further from the heat source in the dehydrator than others, ensuring that the product is set up to have an effective airflow helps achieve this. Before you buy a food dehydrator, research what the manufacturer has to say about heat distribution and airflow for each model. What have they done to ensure the food in the dehydrator will dry out all of its contents evenly? Horizontal flow food dehydrators tend to have the best design for this, but many vertical flow models include fans and other design elements meant specifically to help improve airflow. 2. Ease of Use For the most part, food dehydrating is easy and you won’t find that different models make just a huge difference in how much work goes into it. That said, there are a few features that can make the food dehydration process easier on you. The main one is having a dehydrator that will cook evenly enough that you don’t have to bother switching around the shelves. That means the difference between having to make an effort to regularly check on your food during the dehydration process, or just being able to leave it, walk away and not worry until it’s done. If convenience is an important factor for you, the other thing to keep in mind is how much work will go into cleaning the different models. The number of parts the food dehydrator has, whether or not pieces are safe to put in the dishwasher, and where the fan is located (on top is best) are all factors in how much work will go into cleaning it after each use. 3. Price The price of a food dehydrator can range anywhere from $30 to over $300, with some commercial-sized units priced at well over $600. On the higher-end, you’ll find food dehydrators with a large capacity so you can dehydrate a lot of food at once, impressive heat distribution so everything cooks evenly, and lots of little perks like thermometers and timers that make the entire process as easy as possible. On the lower end of the price range, you’ll find some basic food dehydrators that can accomplish drying out some foods, but will require more maintenance, have a few more limitations on what types of foods you can dehydrate, and likely won’t last as long. For most people interested in buying a food dehydrator, especially those purchasing one for the first time, the right model will fall somewhere in between the pricing extremes. Based on what particular features you value most and what type of food dehydrator you choose to go with, you can probably expect to spend somewhere around $50-$150. 4. Size and Capacity As with most small kitchen appliances, you need to consider both how much food you’ll be wanting to make in one batch, and how much space you have available when adding a new appliance in your kitchen. While smaller models, particularly vertical flow ones, will take up less counter space, they typically have a smaller capacity and won’t hold as much. However, they will take up less space and be significantly easier to store when not in use. However, if you have a lot of food from your garden that you’ll want to dehydrate in a short span of time, or if you aim to buy produce in bulk with the goal of dehydration in mind, then a larger model is probably the best fit for you. If you just want to make a few snacks at a time here and there and save the kitchen real estate, a smaller one will probably make more sense for you. 5. Noise Since it’s typical for food dehydrators to come with a fan, you can expect many models to produce some noise. However, the overall decibel level will vary from unit to unit. If it’s important to you to stick with an appliance that is as quiet as possible, then seek out a model known for not making much noise. Unfortunately, decibel ratings are not a commonly listed spec you will find listed on each model. Check out review sites and consumer reviews to see what people are saying about the noise levels of the dehydrator you’ve got your eye on. 6. Convenient Features: That covers the main factors to consider when buying a food dehydrator. But, there are also a few extra features that are built into some models that can make a big difference in how easy they are to use. Thermostat: Different types of foods will dry best under different temperatures, so being able to adjust the temperature in your unit is important in order to achieve the best results. Look for a dehydrator with an adjustable thermostat if you plan to dry more than one food type. Timer: Food dehydration takes hours, which makes it potentially easy to forget about. A dehydrator with a timer helps ensure you can check on your food when needed and be alerted when it’s ready. Auto Shutoff: If you want to start the food dehydration process and then go run your errands or go to sleep for the night, a food dehydrator with an auto shutoff feature is the way to go. Popular Brands of Food Dehydrators On top of all the other decisions you have to make to find the best food dehydrator, you need to consider the reputation of the brand you go with. With so many different food dehydrators on the market, you’re likely to come across a few key brands in your search. We checked out the customer reviews for several of the most popular brands to give you an idea of what their customers thought of their units. Shop For An Excalibur Dehydrator on Amazon 1. Excalibur Excalibur sells high-end horizontal flow dehydrators that have an exceptional reputation in the industry. For those new to preparing food in this manner, the initial cost and size may be a little off-putting, but for those who are serious about dehydrating food, an Excalibur dehydrator can be a worthy investment. Other than the occasional complaint about the noise they make, customer reviews tend to be gushing. If you’re serious about buying a food dehydrator, then Excalibur is definitely a brand you want to look into. 2. Koolatron If you want a reliable food dehydrator at a budget price, Koolatron makes a vertical flow dehydrator that fits the bill. This appears to be the only dehydrator they make, which can be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective. While there aren’t too many reviews out there for their food dehydrator yet, the ones we found suggest customers are happy with the purchase, especially for the cost. 3. L’Equip L’Equip sells high-end vertical flow food dehydrators. They’re known for having a long life (they offer a 12 year warranty) and mostly earn pretty solid reviews from users, although some reviewers comment on the need to switch out trays regularly for the sake of cooking evenly. Shop For A Nesco Dehydrator on Amazon 4. Nesco Nesco is one of the most popular brands in the food dehydrator market, with their Snackmaster and Gardenmaster units leading the charge. They offer a number of different vertical flow models. Their line of dehydrators are some of the most affordable options you’ll find, and they all get solid reviews from customers. Since Nesco does offer a number of different popular models, it is important to check the various features on each model before settling on one. No matter which model you end up buying, Nesco is a great brand that has built a solid reputation in the world of dehydrating. 5. Presto Presto makes a simple and affordable vertical flow dehydrator in several sizes (all of them expandable if you buy add-on shelves). The design is basic and it doesn’t include any bells and whistles like a timer or thermostat, but many reviewers seem satisfied with its performance nonetheless. 6. Tribest Tribest makes a horizontal flow food dehydrator that falls on the higher end of the price range of products on the market. They’re a little new to the food dehydration business and so far reviews are pretty mixed, with some customers having issues with durability or models that need repairs right out of the box. A Tribest dehydrators are more on the expensive end and while they do a great job, they likely won’t be the best fit for anyone new to the world of dehydrating food. Final Thoughts As you’ve seen, for the fairly simple task of drying out foods, you have lots of different options. Carefully consider what types of food you most want to try dehydrating, how much you’re willing to spend, and how important convenience is to you during the process. Once you have those main concerns figured out, finding the right model to go with will be a little easier and you can get to snacking on jerky and dried fruit.