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If you buy in bulk or are looking for more ways to preserve produce when it's at its peak, like herbs from your garden, then a food dehydrator will level-up your cooking experience. A dehydrator dries food at a low temperature over a long period of time, removing moisture from the food. Dehydrating concentrates the flavor of food, so dried herbs will taste stronger and fruits will taste sweeter. The process also retains more nutrients and extends shelf-life.
In the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Culinary Innovation Lab, we tested nine different dehydrators of different sizes, shapes and styles. We found that while most dehydrators perform similarly, the biggest difference lies in their ease of use.
Our top picks:
Though you can dehydrate food like apples, mangoes, pineapples, tomatoes and beef for jerky the old-fashioned way (hanging it out in the sun) or by using a wide variety of appliances like some air fryers, toaster ovens and ovens, food dehydrators offer a more controlled environment with plenty of surface area to maximize your yield.
At the end of the guide you'll find more information on whether a food dehydrator makes sense for you as well as advice on which foods you can dehydrate. If you are looking for more kitchen appliances to add to your collection or a gift for the chef in your life, we also have guides to the best instant pots and best air fryer toaster ovens.
How we test food dehydrators
In our most recent test of dehydrators in the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Innovation Lab, we tested nine food dehydrators from leading brands of all different sizes, shapes and styles to see which produced very dried foods and were easy and intuitive to use. We rated performance on evenness and how quickly they dried jerky, apples and more. When testing for ease of use, we looked at the owner's manual, ease of opening the door, readability of the control panel and the available temperature range. We also considered timer accuracy, the sound of the timer and any additional features.
What to look for when shopping for a food dehydrator
If you're thinking of adding a food dehydrator to your cooking routine, here are a few factors to keep in mind:
✔️ Temperature range: A larger temperature range allows for more controlled dehydrating. Most of our picks go below 100℉, which is ideal for delicate items like herbs, and up to 160℉ or higher for safely making jerky. We typically like when the intervals are small and very specific, but keep in mind that intervals of one can be hard to program. Regardless of what you are dehydrating, make sure you are using the correct temperature ranges.
✔️ Programmable timer: The most basic dehydrators turn on when they're plugged in and off when unplugged, but the more common ones (and our favorites) have timers that turn the dehydrator off when done. A timer is handy for dehydrating overnight or when you're not home so y0u don't risk over-drying. Most can be programmed in one-hour intervals.
✔️ Size: Dehydrators with a small footprint and a rectangular shape create more usable dehydrating area. Some round models have a hole in the center of each tray, which decreases the dehydrating area. Stackable trays increase the usable dehydrating area without adding to the footprint, and because food shrinks as it dries, more vertical space is essential to yield enough.
✔️ Tray material: Trays are made of stainless steel or plastic, most of which is BPA-free. We tend to like the plastic ones, which are more nonstick and easier to clean.
✔️ Accessories: Most dehydrators come with a drip tray that doubles as a tray to make fruit leather, or with mesh screens for small items like blueberries or herbs. The more accessories, the more versatility.
✔️ Price: Food dehydrators can run between $80 and upwards of $500. The more square footage, number of dehydrating trays and additional features equals a higher price tag. Dehydrators with stackable trays versus pull-out trays tend to be less expensive. If you currently own a dehydrator and find yourself wanting more capability, upgrading may make sense. But if you are a beginner or have minimal storage space in your kitchen, a budget-friendly, stackable option will do the trick just as well.
What are the best foods to dehydrate?
While dried mango, pineapple and orange slices may be the first ideas that come to your mind when deciding which foods to put in your food dehydrator, the options go beyond just fruits. You can certainly prepare homemade apple chips, but you can also dehydrate meats, lean proteins, homemade pasta, vegetables and herbs from your garden like basil or mint. The possibilities don't end there, though, you can ferment yogurt, make potpourri and re-crisp stale foods. Suffice it to say that you and your family can utilize your food dehydrator whether you are making fruit leather and granola bars for healthy weekday snacks or beef jerky for a day hike.
Is a food dehydrator worth it?
If you tend to buy foods in bulk, eat a lot of raw foods or are an avid gardener, purchasing a food dehydrator is definitely worth it. While some dehydrators on this list can set you back a few hundred dollars, the appliance can quickly pay for itself as you can lengthen the shelf life of in season or on sale produce.
With a dehydrator, not only can you lower your food waste, but you can make additive-free and allergy-friendly snacks, since you can customize how much (if any) salt or sugar you want to add. And dehydrating foods can retain the nutrients better than other methods. However, the entire process can take a long time and if your dehydrator doesn't have a programmable timer, the process won't be as hands-off.
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
Nicole Papantoniou is the Kitchen Appliances & Innovation Lab Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute where she has overseen content and testing related to kitchen and cooking appliances, tools and gear since 2019. She has worked in test kitchens for small kitchen appliance brands and national magazines, and is trained in culinary arts and culinary nutrition.
Nancy Kochan is a trained cook and freelancer who has tested and written on a vast range of kitchen appliances and gear for the Good Housekeeping Institute, from slow cookers to baking pan sets.
Nicole (she/her) is the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute's Kitchen Appliances and Innovation Lab, where she has overseen content and testing related to kitchen and cooking appliances, tools and gear since 2019. She’s an experienced product tester and recipe creator, trained in classic culinary arts and culinary nutrition. She has worked in test kitchens for small kitchen appliance brands and national magazines, including Family Circle and Ladies’ Home Journal.
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