Choosing the Perfect Food Dehydrator

A Dehydrator Tailored to Your Kitchen

If you’re in the market for a new food dehydrator, it’s essential to find one that suits both your needs and your budget. Whether you want to dehydrate a variety of foods or simply dry herbs and veggies on occasion, rest assured that there is a dehydrator out there for you. Let’s explore two outstanding options.

Option 1: Magic Mill

Our favorite choice, the Magic Mill, offers unparalleled versatility and room for growth. Its spacious design allows you to experiment with different foods and expand your dehydrating skills. It’s perfect for those who enjoy a wide range of dehydrated snacks and want to take their culinary adventures to the next level.

Food & Wine / Victor Protazio

Option 2: Nesco Snackmaster Pro

If you prefer to dehydrate herbs and veggies sporadically, the budget-friendly and compact Nesco Snackmaster Pro is an excellent option. It delivers exceptional performance without breaking the bank, making it ideal for occasional dehydrating needs.

Putting Dehydrators to the Test

To determine the best food dehydrators on the market, we conducted a series of tests. We dried herbs, made beef jerky, and created fruit leather. Our goal was to evaluate not only the performance of each dehydrator but also various design elements that contribute to optimal results.

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In total, we tested 23 different dehydrators. Alongside their performance, we assessed factors such as ventilation holes, temperature control accuracy, surface area, smart features, and tray design. Additionally, we considered ease of use, cleaning, and overall value to identify the top performers.

Key Factors to Consider

Heating Elements: The Power of Circulation

A high-quality dehydrator must have a fan to ensure proper airflow. Surprisingly, the heating element in many dehydrators is nothing more than a lightbulb. While models without a fan can still work, they tend to be slower and less consistent. Opting for a model with the heating element on top enhances drying efficiency.

Airflow: The Key to Even Drying

For even temperature and air distribution, rear-mounted heating elements are ideal. Look for dehydrators that provide ample space for the trays, as airflow, time, and heat are crucial for successful dehydration. Avoid overcrowding the trays, as it can hinder airflow and result in uneven drying or bacterial activity.

Size: Space Matters

Consider the capacity and physical footprint of the dehydrator, as it will determine its performance and fit in your kitchen. The number of items you intend to dehydrate at once will influence the ideal machine for your needs.

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Insights from the Experts

Benefits of Using a Food Dehydrator

Dehydrating food not only reduces moisture but also prevents spoilage, extending the lifespan of your ingredients. It offers convenience in storage and transportation. Additionally, dehydrated foods like jerky and fruit roll-ups can be enjoyed as standalone snacks or used as ingredients in various recipes, minus the added chemicals and sugars.

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Delectable Creations with a Dehydrator

The possibilities with dehydrators are endless. From nutritious fruit leathers and jerkies to fruit chips and dehydrated mirepoix, you can explore a world of flavors and textures. The convenience of having dehydrated ingredients on hand for soups, stews, and casseroles is hard to beat. Dried herbs and powdered fruits or vegetables offer an extra burst of flavor to your favorite dishes.

Shelf Life of Dehydrated Foods

Proper storage is crucial for maintaining the longevity of dehydrated foods. Keep them in airtight containers, away from moisture and in a cool, dark space. Following these guidelines, dried foods can typically be kept for up to a year. However, the amount of moisture left in the item will affect its shelf life. Remember, the more moisture, the shorter the lifespan.

Food & Wine / Victor Protazio

Testing the Competition

Strong Contenders

While the Magic Mill and Nesco Snackmaster Pro reign supreme, we also tested a few other noteworthy models.

  • Presto Dehydro Digital Electric Food Dehydrator: Although it didn’t make our list, this model boasts comfortable trays and excellent grip. However, its performance with fruit leather fell short due to ridges caused by the tray shape.

  • Gourmia Premium Electric Food Dehydrator Machine: With its small size and notable capacity, this model offers even drying, but its lack of dishwasher-safe racks was a downside.

  • L’Equip FilterPro 6 Tray Food Dehydrator: This medium-sized dehydrator features a larger capacity but lacks transparency, making it difficult to check on your food without opening it completely. Its uneven drying was also a drawback.

  • Aroma Housewares Professional 6 Tray Food Dehydrator: Although quieter and easy to handwash, this dehydrator missed the mark due to its absence of a timer.

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What Didn’t Make the List

We explored various models from top brands like Cuisinart, NutriChef, Aroma, LEM, and Hamilton Beach. Safety concerns, uneven drying, complicated designs, and challenging maintenance eliminated these models from our top performers.

Meet the Experts

Our appraisal of food dehydrators wouldn’t have been possible without the expertise of Julia Skinner, Ph.D., and Christina Ward.

Julia Skinner is an experienced writer, culinary educator, avid gardener, and author of “Our Fermented Lives.” She shares her knowledge and passion for fermentation and food preservation through her business, Root, and her informative newsletter.

Christina Ward, known as the Master Food Preserver for Wisconsin, is an accomplished author and editor. Her book, “Preservation: The Art and Science of Canning, Fermentation, and Dehydration,” showcases her extensive expertise in the field.

Enjoy the wonders of food dehydration with confidence, knowing that our expert-approved dehydrators will unlock a world of culinary possibilities in your kitchen.

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