We Tested 8 Dehydrators—Here Are Our Favorites

One of our top picks is the Samson "Silent" Dehydrator.

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three dehydrators against a white backdrop

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

Straight to the Point

If you're looking for a dehydrator that performs well, doesn't cost too much, and fits a fair amount of food, we recommend the Samson "Silent" Dehydrator. For more space, our large-capacity dehydrator pick is the Excalibur 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator.

Dehydrators are a fairly niche product for the average home cook. However, dehydrating your own food is a way to preserve seasonal ingredients—and maybe save a little money. Big sale on berries at your local store? Dehydrate them and you're left with a great cereal or oatmeal mix-in for months. A fan of camping or backpacking? Make your own freeze-dried food that, likely, will taste far better than what's at the store. Bumper crop of vegetables in your summer garden? Well, those tomatoes are just begging to be dehydrated.

In fact, dehydrator sales increased upwards of $273 billion between 2010 and 2019.  Which means, consequentially, there are a lot of dehydrators on the market. To find the best one, we rigorously tested 8 of the top-rated models. Here are our favorites, and, of course, which ones just didn't cut it.

The Winners, at a Glance 

The Best Dehydrator: Samson "Silent" Dehydrator

Samson Silent Dehydrator

The whisper-quiet Samson "Silent" Dehydrator did well in all our tests and fit a fair amount of food, but was still small enough that it didn't take up too much storage space.

The Best Budget Dehydrator (under $100): Presto Dehydro Square Dehydrator

Presto Dehydro Digital Electric Food Presto Dehydrator

While this dehydrator didn't have the capacity or ultra-even drying of some of the other models, it still did a good job and came at a great price. 

The Best Large-Capacity Dehydrator: Excalibur 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator

Excalibur 3926TCDB 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator with Clear Door Adjustable Temperature Settings and 26-Hour Timer, Black

For a large-capacity dehydrator, this model from Excalibur is second to none. It performed incredibly well in all of our tests and while its large size did make it difficult to move around, its trays were dishwasher-safe and easy to clean. 

The Best Splurge Dehydrator: Brod & Taylor Sahara Folding Food Dehydrator

Brod & Taylor Folding Dehydrator

The Sahara Dehydrator is pricey, but it has a large capacity and dried food evenly and efficiently. It folded down for compact storage and featured glass doors that allowed you to check on food without having to open the unit.

What Is a Dehydrator?

Dehydrators function by blowing warm, continuous air over the surface of food, evaporating moisture and drying it out. Every dehydrator employs a fan and a heating element to control the airflow and temperature. However, some dehydrators have fans located at the base below the trays, creating vertical air flow. Other dehydrators have fans on their back walls, creating horizontal air flow. Models with vertical airflow have holes in the center of their trays, which, in theory, allows the air to pass more readily from the base of the machine to the trays above.

The Excalibur Food Dehydrator.
The Excalibur Food Dehydrator.

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

The Criteria: What We Look for in a Dehydrator

Firstly, a good dehydrator must dry food efficiently and evenly. In our testing, we found models with horizontal airflow to be more effective than those with vertical airflow, as the former allows all of the dehydrator's trays to receive equal heat exposure. With vertical airflow, the trays at the bottom of the dehydrator inevitably get more air exposure than the trays at the top. Some other product differences to consider: The machine should meet and hold temperature accurately, have a sizable capacity, and come with a good manufacturer’s warranty (our hope for any electrical appliance). In order to be used in a home on an even semi-consistent basis, the dehydrator has to be relatively quiet and shouldn’t require a ton supervision, like having to routinely shuffle trays to achieve even drying. Ideally, a dehydrator should also have trays that are dishwasher-safe for easy clean-up. 

How We Picked the Products in this Review

To determine what dehydrators to test, we first looked at the offerings from recognizable brands, including top sellers on Amazon and specialty retailers such as Williams Sonoma. If we found any products recommended by experts in the field, we considered them for testing, as well as any newcomers that caught our eye. We also analyzed picks from competitor review sites such as Wirecutter, Good Housekeeping, and America's Test Kitchen. 

The Testing

Before testing any food, we first set out to unpack and analyze each machine. We double-checked all specs, including the product's dimensions and weight and the number of trays included. We looked at things like the machine's wattage and examined its control panel.

a top-down shot of apple slices in a dehydrator before being dried
Apple slices before being dehydrated in a model with vertical airflow.

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

Test 1: Apple Rings 

For the first test, we peeled, cored, and sliced over 20 pounds of Granny Smith apples and soaked them in a solution made with ascorbic acid (to prevent the apples from darkening). Each apple was sliced to 1/4-inch thickness using a mandoline and dried at 140°F for a minimum of 5 hours, at which point we checked on their progress. Before drying, we measured in grams the total amount of apple slices each machine could accommodate without crowding.

two trays of dehydrated apples
The dehydrators with vertical airflow produced more inconsistently dried apple slices. The apples on trays at the bottom (left) were more dried than the trays at the top (right).

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

The best dehydrators were able to hold more than 2 pounds of apple rings (although the Excalibur accommodated a whopping 5 pounds) and were able to dry the apples adequately and evenly in 5-to-6 hours producing slices that were nearly indistinguishable from tray-to-tray. Conversely, a lower-performing model from Dash held just a pound of apple slices, and after 5 hours, produced apples that were completely dried at the bottom but totally raw on the top trays. We continued to let the apples dehydrate for 7 more hours (for a total of 12 hours), which is what the manufacturer recommended. However, after 12 hours, the apple slices on the top trays were dried, while those on the bottom were too brittle.

Beef jerky on a stainless steel food dehydrator tray.
An example of a large-capacity dehydrator tray.

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

Test 2: Beef Jerky 

For the second test, we prepared 17 pounds of flank steak according to Alton Brown’s recipe for homemade jerky and weighed in grams how much each machine could accommodate without crowding. As with the apple test, capacity varied widely from machine to machine and the best machines, at a minimum, could accommodate 1300 grams or about 2.8 pounds of beef slices (the Excalibur came out on top capacity-wise, again, at about 6.5 pounds). The smallest models were able to hold just 700 to 900 grams or 1.5 to 1.98 pounds of beef.

Pieces of beef jerky on a dehydrator tray.
The NESCO dehydrator was one of the only vertical airflow models to do well in our beef jerky tests thanks to its trays' more sizable center hole and powerful motor.

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

After 3 hours, we began checking the jerky ever hour until it finished dehydrating. Overall, the models with horizontal air flow dried much more efficiently and evenly. The models with vertical airflow, for the most part, took longer and their bottom trays dried faster. Shuffling these models' trays periodically did help, but it felt inconvenient compared to the horizontal airflow models that didn't require shuffling. When it came to the Dash Dehydrator (a vertical airflow model), the beef on the upper trays had barely begun to cook even after 3 hours, which was possibly hazardous. The only vertical airflow models that were successful had larger holes in the center of their trays—limiting capacity, but allowing more air through—and/or more powerful, higher wattage motors.

Fruit leather on the Samson's two nonstick dehydrator sheets.
Fruit leather on the Samson's nonstick sheets.

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

Test 3: Fruit Leather

For the final test, we made fruit leather. We followed the guidance from The National Center for Home Food Preservation, which involved pureeing strawberries with lemon juice. We determined how much puree each tray could hold (up to 1/8-inch thickness), weighing it in grams, and began drying at 140°F. We let the machines dehydrate for 5 hours before checking on their progress and then monitored every hour for doneness. We were only able to conduct each test with units that included trays for fruit leather drying or had some that were easily obtainable (puree would just fall through the slots or grid pattern of a normal tray).

Our favorite model, the Samson, had non-stick sheets (sold separately) that fit perfectly in each rack. Because the Samson utilized these sheets as opposed to trays, like the other models we tested, the results were a bit different. With the plastic trays, the fruit puree could be filled to exactly 1/8-inch thickness and spread evenly to the sides. When fruit puree was added to the Samson’s non-stick sheets which have no “sides," it spread out thinner, to about 1/16-inch. However, this proved to be helpful: the Samson's fruit leather dried the quickest and most uniformly of any of the dehydrators. It was also easier to remove the fruit leathers from these non-stick sheets, as we were able to peel them off in one large piece.

Two trays of fruit leather on a marble countertop.
The tray on the right shows fruit leather that's clearly undercooked towards the center.

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

For the other dehydrators, this was by far the hardest test. Many of the otherwise-solid-performing models struggled with fruit leather, producing leather that cracked, had large patches of undried puree, or were not dried at all toward the center. Since the fruit leather fully covered each rack from edge-to-edge, it clearly showed the airflow patterns. Once again, the vertical airflow models struggled and produced unevenly dried fruit leather from tray-to-tray. When it came to removing the fruit leather, most of the dehydrators also had issues: the leather clung to their trays and we had to peel it off in strips.

Brod & Taylor Sahara Folding Dehydrator
We loved that the Sahara dehydrator folded down for easy storage, but had a spacious capacity when in use.

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

UX Observations

When it came to user interface and functionality, we analyzed every aspect of each machine. First, for regular home use, the dehydrator must not be too big and therefore too cumbersome to store and move. (We particularly liked that the the Sahara dehydrator folded down flat for easy storage.) The machine must also be reasonably quiet. Some of the dehydrators we tested were so loud you had to almost shout when speaking near one...and we’re just not fans of persistently loud humming for hours on end. Next, we assessed how easy the trays were to clean. Those with dishwasher-safe trays came out on top. Some machines (like the NESCO) had trays that were not dishwasher-safe and were too big to fit fully in a regular kitchen sink, making them a pain to scrub.

Lastly, we looked at how intuitive the dehydrators were to use and how easy it was to move trays around. The best machines had controls that were easy to operate without consulting the manual. Also, we thought that machines that had automatic shutoffs were key. That way, you could set the machine before work or bed and not worry about your food over-drying.

The Best Dehydrator: Samson "Silent" Dehydrator

Samson Silent Dehydrator

What we liked: The Samson "Silent" Dehydrator really was fairly silent. It was the quietest machine we tested, even when fully loaded with jerky, apples, or fruit leather. In every test, it dehydrated food efficiently and easily. It was also the only unit that made multiple trays of evenly dried fruit leather that didn't crack and peeled off easily (thanks to its nonstick sheets). It had an automatic shut-off and comes with a 5-year warranty

What we didn’t like: This dehydrator does a few drawbacks. Jerky stuck to its metal trays, making them tougher to clean. And while the dehydrator's manual didn't state whether or not this model's trays were dishwasher-safe, we successfully ran them through the dishwasher without any issues. Also, this model's temperature can’t be freely adjusted—instead, there are 8 pre-set temperatures ranging from 95°F to 158°F.

Dehydrator_WINNERS_SAMSON_HeroHorizontal

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

The Best Budget Dehydrator (under $100): Presto Dehydro Square Dehydrator

Presto Dehydro Digital Electric Food Presto Dehydrator

What we liked:  If you’re looking for a starter dehydrator, this could be a good pick. The Presto Dehydro Square was able to evenly and efficiently dry apples almost as well as any other model. This compact dehydrator is easy to store and it comes with 2 fine-mesh inserts and 2 fruit leather drying trays, making it a great overall pick as a beginner dehydrator.

What we didn’t like: When testing the fruit leathers, the cracks began to show (literally). Because of its vertical airflow, the fruit leather was unevenly dried and the bottom tray of leathers was done in half the time of the top tray. It did a decent job with the jerky, but needed its trays shuffled to produce even results. It's also noisy.

Presto dehydrator

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

The Best Large-Capacity Dehydrator: Excalibur 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator

Excalibur 3926TCDB 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator with Clear Door Adjustable Temperature Settings and 26-Hour Timer, Black

What we liked: When it came to sheer capacity, none of the other models compared to the Excalibur. This dehydrator could dry 5 pounds of apples or 6.5 pounds of beef jerky at once—that's pounds more than any other model. It dried evenly and efficiently and, because of its horizontal airflow, didn't call for reshuffling the trays. It was easy to clean, thanks to its dishwasher-safe trays, had an automatic shut-off, and was quiet when on. The Excalibur also comes with a whopping 10-year warranty. 

What we didn’t like: This dehydrator is heavy, weighing almost 18 pounds. If you have a sizable work area and lots of storage space and want to dehydrate large batches of food, then this may be the right model for you. Because the company didn't sell fruit leather trays or inserts, we didn't make fruit leather with this model (however there are some off-branded non-stick sheets on Amazon that claim to be compatible for the task).

Excalibur Dehydrator

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

The Best Splurge Dehydrator: Brod & Taylor Sahara Folding Food Dehydrator

Brod & Taylor Folding Dehydrator

What we liked: While this dehydrator was expensive, it came with a lot of bells and whistles. It dried evenly and had the second largest capacity of any dehydrator we tested. We liked its clear glass doors that allowed you to check on food without having to open them. Its trays were also dishwasher-safe and it was quiet when running, but its best feature was that it can fold down to just 3 3/4-inch high when not in use for easy storage. And while we found storage and set-up to be intuitive, this model also comes with a quick set-up guide filled with handy pictures that was easy to follow.

What we didn’t like: Again, this model comes with a hefty price tag. It was a bit slower than some of the other top dehydrators and didn't come with fruit leather drying trays (however, standard-sized silicone baking mats fit its trays). Also, this unit only comes with a 1-year warranty (3 years if you register it). 

Sahara Dehydrator

Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

The Competition

  • NESCO Gardenmaster Pro Dehydrator: While this dehydrator is a favorite of many review sites, during our home-kitchen testing, it just couldn’t compete. And its bulky size did not equate to a large capacity. When drying something simple (like the apple rings), this unit did well. However, during the fruit leather test, it became apparent how uneven its vertical airflow actually was—producing trays of poorly dehydrated fruit leather. Its large plastic trays also didn't fit into an average home sink and weren't entirely dishwasher-safe (the manual said they could be washed on the top rack of the dishwasher, but had to be removed before the drying cycle), making clean-up a chore.
  • Hamilton Beach Food Dehydrator: This little dehydrator was definitely space-saving, but ultimately the drying was too uneven from top to bottom for us to recommend it.
  • Dash SmartStore Dehydrator: This dehydrator was just too small. The capacity was minuscule and its small fan was not powerful enough to dry its upper trays in any of our tests in an acceptable amount of time. 
  • L’Equip FilterPro Food Dehydrator: This model dried unevenly and had trays that were difficult to clean and not dishwasher-safe. 

FAQs

Can I dehydrate food in an air fryer?

Depending on the model and whether its temperature setting goes low enough, you could dehydrate in an air fryer. However, an air fryer has a relatively small capacity. So, if you're looking to dehydrate a substantial amount of food, we recommend investing a great dehydrator.

Can dehydrator trays be cleaned in the dishwasher?

As no two dehydrators are completely the same, the ability to be washed in a dishwasher varies from model to model.  Many of the models we tested do feature dishwasher-safe trays (including our favorites). We recommend checking your dehydrator’s manual before putting any parts in the dishwasher—just to be safe.

Do all dehydrators have BPA-free trays?

Depending on the dehydrator you choose, the trays may be made of stainless steel or plastic. If you're concerned about BPA, we recommend choosing a dehydrator with metal trays or double checking the dehydrator's product listing or reaching out to the manufacturer to ask if the trays are BPA-free.

Article Sources
Serious Eats uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Grand View Research. "Food Dehydrators Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Technology (Vertical Airflow, Horizontal Airflow), By End Use (Residential, Commercial), By Energy Source (Electricity, Biofuel), And Segment Forecasts, 2019 - 2025."