Jerky has been a popular and expensive food for years. In fact, jerky is so loved that a single premium 6-inch stick can cost you around $4. Dried fruit has also been seeing an increase in recent years and is sold at a high price point. If you’re like me, it’s hard to justify spending so much money on such a small bit of food. In my home, a six-inch jerky stick is barely considered a snack, much less a small bag of dried fruit. While these are healthier snacks that cheese-covered chips, it’s hard to buy them in mass quantity. This is why a food dehydrator is such a great idea. You can simply purchase the seasonings and ingredients for dried fruits and jerky for a fraction of the price and then make it yourself.
Best Food Dehydrators List
Best Food Dehydrators Reviews
All of the removable components are dishwasher safe and BPA free for easy and safe clean-up. You can find this model for around $130 online. The Ivation 9 comes with a one-year limited manufacturer’s warranty. It is a dehydrator that will last your family for a long time and become a permanent part of your kitchen. It makes those tasty dried snacks people love healthier and more affordable. Read full review.
The only downside is it doesn’t come with a built-in timer or temperature control. It’s a compact and simple dehydrator that is great for single dorms or small families. It can commonly be found for around $50 and comes with a one-year limited manufacturer’s warranty. Read full review.
You should keep in mind that this product can be a bit noisy, especially when all the trays are full. It’s best to use the dehydrator as far away from your bedroom as possible. The good news is that it does a great job of producing evenly dehydrated foods. Which is one of the biggest reasons the price point of the appliance is actually worth it. This model is also made to last as the company provides an incredible ten-year warranty with your purchase. Read full review.
This unit does come with a one year warranty and sets at around the $60 price point. It doesn’t have a time but can be placed at temperatures between 96 degrees to 160 degrees. The unit can hold around 3.5 pounds of food, and the dehydrating times can vary. Overall though, when the food is done drying, it tastes great. Read full review.
Cosori Premium Food Dehydrator
This model is very bulky and heavy, so if you are looking for something to travel with, this won’t be the best option. It has six drying trays, a mesh tray, and a flat solid tray for dehydrating different things. The Cosori Dehydrator can usually be found for around $160 and comes with a one year manufacturer’s warranty that can be extended if you would like. Read full review.
Food Dehydrator Features
If you are sold on the simple idea of saving money at the grocery store, then you may already be browsing through dehydrator listings. Before you click the buy it now buttons, though, there are some things I want you to consider. Not every dehydrator is going to be worth the money, and some may be stressful to use. There is no sense spending grocery funds on ingredients if the final product is going to be ruined by a bad appliance. Below I go over all the things you need to consider before buying a dehydrator.
You may have also seen that you can make dehydrated foods using your stove. Using a stove is a complicated and unsafe process. To begin with, stoves aren’t made for dehydrating food. In order for a stove to dry out jerky and fruit, you will need to prop the door open. This is sketchy at best in an adult home and an accident waiting to happen if you have kids running around. I always recommend just buying a dehydrator over this method. It is also harder to ensure that nutrients stay in and figure out how long it takes for the food to cook with a stove.
Timer and Temperature
Cooking is a very delicate process, no matter what those who don’t cook believe. If you leave food in the oven even a little too long, it will turn into a black crusty nightmare. If you undercooked something, not only will it taste horrible, it isn’t healthy. When dealing with raw meat, which jerky is made from, you need to be extra careful. This is especially important if you’re going to be making jerky from wild game.
Another huge part of dehydrating any food is trying to keep it nutritional. High temperatures can get rid of key nutrients that make the fruit and jerky a healthy snack in the first place.
To safely cook each type of food, you will need to check a guide online to get an idea of the proper temperature. Most items will need to be heated between the 140 degrees to the 160-degree range. This is hot enough to kill all the bacteria while not turning your food into a burnt crisp. It’s especially important when cooking jerky to make sure you are using a high enough temperature to kill any lingering bacteria. While store-bought meats are often safe, they can still pick up some unwanted hitchhikers on the way to the dehydrator.
Wild game, on the other hand, is a bit more dangerous. Wild game is an animal that hasn’t been observed by nature and is usually only seen moments before it is killed. Because of this, there is no way of knowing what the animal was carrying beforehand. When preparing wild game, be extra cautious and make sure to double-check that it is thoroughly dehydrated before consuming. You should also take care to separate it from any fruits or store-bought meats you are preparing. In this case, it’s best to put the wild game on a separate lower shelf.
For fruit, make sure to remove the core if applicable and wash thoroughly. Once your done washing pat, the fruit dry to ensure that each piece has the same amount of moisture. While fruit is far less dangerous to consume raw, improper washing does make it a slight risk to consume.
Keeping in Nutrients
There are many models of dehydrators that are made to operate on low heat output settings. These low settings help to slowly cook meat and fruits while still keeping in key nutrients. To keep nutrients in, you will need to set your temperature between 115 degrees to 118 degrees. Keep in mind that it will take your dehydrator much longer to cook food. This may take a bit of experimentation to make sure the food is thoroughly cooked. When buying a dehydrator, it should state on the description whether it is able to cook without diminishing nutrient content or not.
If you buy a machine that won’t keep the nutrients remember that the snacks won’t be as healthy. While the dried foods will still be low on calories, they won’t do much to help your body. This makes the food lean more towards being junk food, as they become empty calories, much like candy.
Timers are honestly a bit of a luxury with cooking appliances. Most devices with a timer are going to cost a bit more. If you’re like me though and get busy with work, a timer is a needed feature. Many cheaper models won’t come with a timer forcing us to rely on our phones to know when foods are done. The others will come with a programmable timer, while some units will have preset timers. There are even some dehydrator with easy to read digital displays that give you an up to date count down. Some dehydrators will have timers that beep once they are done, while others will have flashing indicators.
Trays and Capacity
If you are going to be making jerky or dried fruit, then you know this process will take up a lot of time. Making any dehydrated food is a lot of sitting around and waiting for it to be done. It’s understandable that you would want to make a large stockpile of food at once. Most dehydrators, unless you find a mini-unit, can make several pounds of food at once. This is generally enough to keep my family going for a few weeks at a time. If you have a larger family though with several hungry kids, then you may need to think on a grander scale about the amount of dried food you are making.
For some dehydrator, you may even be able to buy replacement trays. This is helpful as accidents tend to happen in the kitchen regularly. For dehydrators that use plastic trays, it’s almost unavoidable that one will break. It’s better to have a dehydrator with replaceable parts than have to buy the whole appliance over again because of an accident. This is especially important if you have kids who like to help you cook, as mistakes are more likely to happen. On the flip side, though, you will want to look out for a dehydrator who sells replacement but use flimsy trays. Some companies will sell a model for cheap with breakable components. These components will often wear down, causing you to spend tons of money on replacement parts over the years.
The trays are the backbone of the dehydrator, and what holds your food. Some dehydrators come with solid trays, while others will use racks. Depending on how large the tray is, you may be able to make a few serving of food or enough fruit and jerky for a whole month. Each matching should tell you how big the tray is and how much food it can hold at once. You will want to give some space between each slice of food so that they can properly dehydrate. Some trays are also much sturdier than others, especially in the case of cheaper plastics.
Some machines will have replaceable trays, while others will require you to buy a whole new device. Before you buy a tray, look into reviews to see how much food other users have been able to fit on the device. You should also look to see if there is a limit to the amount of food the dehydrator can handle at once. When picking out the perfect capacity for your family, think about how many snacks you buy at the store. While dehydrated food can last a while, you don’t want containers of jerky sitting all-around your house. Don’t be sold by a super capacity machine if your only feeding yourself.
The quality of dried food is an important aspect of cooking. If the dehydrator can’t cook food evenly, then your not going to want it. You need to look for a unit that is consistent in cooking time and the amount of food it can properly cook at once. Some units, of course, are more consistent than others. If you notice a time gap of a few minutes, it’s likely just because of the slice hydration. If every time you use the machine, it takes a different amount of hours, though, then the dehydrator is not cooking properly.
This can also be dangerous as you might prematurely try a bite of under dehydrated jerky. Another thing you have to look out for is uneven dehydrators. These machines will dry out the closest food to the fan at first while leaving the rest of the tray at different dryness levels. This can make food taste uneven and be frustrating to cook with.
Caring for your dehydrator can be a frustrating process at times. Dehydrators are traditionally made with the fan on the bottom, which means that gunk can drip down into the bottom. You usually have to take out all the trays to be able to wipe down this part. This can be a lengthy process, and depending on the trays, it can be even longer. While there are a few models with dishwasher safe trays, this doesn’t seem to be the norm. Many trays will be made out of plastic that can melt in the dishwasher. Others are made out of materials that have to be scrubbed clean.
You will need to try and clean out the dehydrator regularly. To make sure things are always clean, I make sure to clean out mine after every use. If you hate the aspect of washing extra dishes, then look for a unit that either has the fan on the top or dishwasher safe trays. Make sure to never use harsh chemicals when cleaning the dehydrator. Certain mixtures may eat away at the plastic or be hard to wash off of your appliance.
There is a huge price gap between the cost of dehydrators. Many units will only cost around $50, while others will be around $300. You are probably worthing if the higher-priced machines are even worth it; after all, dehydrating does seem like a simple process. Like with any appliance, you can do more with a more expensive model. Dehydrators in the higher price range give you more control over temperature and often dehydrate food with a more steady timeframe. Lower costing models may dehydrate food slower and won’t have any of the nice bells and whistles like built-in timers.
If you’re looking to make large portions of food, some of the higher-priced models might be better, thanks to the increased capacity. To figure out which model is perfect for you, I recommend making a list. Detail the features that are important to you, like temperature control or a digital display. You should then look up several units with the features you want and compare prices. You want to get a product that has the features you want at the best price point. Make sure not to get wrapped up in unnecessary features that you will never use in your kitchen. If you have a small family like mine, you won’t need ten pounds of jerky from each cooking session.
Lastly, you should always check to see what type of warranty an item has. If a dehydrator has less than a year warranty I always pass. Companies who believe in their products will always set a warranty of at least a year. This tell consumers that the device isn’t likely to break down in the time frame. One model of dehydrator even has a ten-year warranty, because it’s designed to last through years of heavy use.
What can I cook in a dehydrator?
There are a ton of different foods you can use in a dehydrator, while mostly jerky and fruit are mentioned, you can also use vegetables. Many pet owners will make sweet potatoes treats for their dogs using dehydrators. In addition, you can also use many different types of fish and fowl in your appliance. There are tons of recipes online to make unique snacks, pie fillings, and even training treats using this unique appliance. The truth is that pretty much every food can be dried out, the only question is will it taste good or not.
How to prepare food for dehydrating
You can’t just start throwing whole apples into your appliance and expect it to dry. Everything you dehydrate has to be safely prepped before you can begin cooking it. For fruit, you will want to cut small slices usually less than an inch thick. For pears and other fruit with a core, make sure to remove the center. Once you have properly cut the fruit up, wash the pieces off with running water. You will then need to pat them dry to ensure that they all have the same level of moisture. For meat, you will need to do the same steps while checking for signs of spoiling.
If you want to season your foods, you should do it before the dehydrating process. Lightly rub on your seasoning before placing them in the machine. It’s best to use herbs and spices on the food you are going to dehydrate. Avoid using things like butter that will melt off of your meat while it cooks. Make sure to never leave the food set out for long periods of time before you place them in the appliance. It’s best for fruits and jerky to immediately do into the dehydrator after you pat them dry.
What is a good food dehydrator?
This is a bit of a loaded question to ask as everyone has different needs. The short answer is that the perfect dehydrator will depend on what food you want to dry and the features you need. There are some things you will want to watch out for when shopping, though. Thanks to the rise in apps that sell knock-off goods, there are now tons of low-quality appliances on the market. I always suggest going with a trusted brand name when talking about cooking equipment.
If you can find any information on the brand or the brand uses broken English, avoid it. Knock-off products can break down easily and may not even cook your food well. These products are often cheap, but within a few months, they stop working completely. Knock offs often don’t have a warranty, or if they do, you have to pay for expensive overseas shipping. These products will often have no customer service, and each individual dehydrator may function differently. This can lead to you have two of the same product that cooks at different speeds.
Always look for a dehydrator with good reviews, a decent warranty, and that are sold by reputable sellers. If buying online, look for items that are sold by Amazon or top-rated sellers on eBay. Never buy from a low ranked account or from a seller offering a price that is too good to be true.
Does dehydrating meat kill bacteria?
Yes, dehydrating meat does kill bacteria; if it didn’t, then beef jerky wouldn’t be such a popular food item. With that being said, it is up to you to make sure meat is properly cooked. Make sure to use guides online and cut your meat into proper slithers. If you are trying to preserve nutrients, then you will need to give the food more time to cook. As an added precaution, always make sure to rinse off meat and pat it dry before cooking it.
In the case of wild game, look for any discolored meat or parasites. While this is a bit gross, it is an important part of making sure your food is safe to eat. If something seems off about the meat, then it is best to throw it out instead of taking a risk on food poisoning. In addition, if you feel that the meat doesn’t look cooked enough, then don’t be afraid to dry it for longer. It’s better to ruin a few pieces of jerky then eat something that may be undercooked.
Is it safe to run a food dehydrator overnight?
For the most part, yes, it is ok the leave a dehydrator on overnight. Dehydrators take long periods of time to prepare your food, and it’s only natural that companies expect them to run at night. With that being said, you should always check to make sure the model is safe to run for long periods of time. If your food will be done in the middle of the night, then set an alarm to wake you up. You will want to take the food out and shut the machine off soon after it is done cooking. Generally, these machines run on low amounts of power, so catching fire won’t really be an issue.
With that being said, overusing your dehydrator, letting it run when nothing is in it can cause damage. Make sure to turn your appliance off as soon as the timer is done and give it periods of rest. Running batches of jerky back to back may cause your dehydrator to overwork itself. It won’t run up your energy bill to much either to leave them running as most models only use 400 watts of power.
When do dehydrated foods go bad?
I understand how important it is to know the shelf life of your food. If you don’t clean out bad food regularly, your family is likely to munch on it without checking the date. Dehydrated food can actually last for a pretty good amount of time if you use proper storage. After your batch is done cooking, place it in an airtight container. Most foods will last around six to twelve months in a jar or sealed baggie. If you want to keep the food for even longer, then you can use your freezer.
Froze dried food can last between a year to eighteen months. If you are big on canning foods, then this is a great way to make some snacks that will last you through the year. When you go to open the dried food, look for any strange discoloration or odd smells. If it looks or smells off, then there is a high chance that the food has gone bad. For most families, though, the food will be eaten through before it ever has a chance to go bad. If you’re like me, you may even have to hide some snacks for yourself.