Dehydration is a centuries-old preservation method. The process of removing moisture stops food from spoiling and – if stored correctly – dehydrated food can last for months, even years. While foods can be dehydrated in the oven, an electric tabletop dehydrator keeps the internal temperature steady and controlled, unlike ovens which tend to fluctuate. Plus, dehydrators run at a comparatively low wattage making them an energy-efficient option.
If you grow your own produce or often find yourself with a surplus of fruits, vegetables or herbs, dehydrating is the waste-free way to use leftover ingredients. The process of dehydrating concentrates the flavours in food, making them more intense. Fruits in particular take on a rich sweetness making them an ideal alternative to shop-bought snacks. Fruit leather is a great way to up your fruit and veg intake, and all you need is a saucepan and a blender, hand blender or food processor.
Tomatoes and mushrooms are umami-bombs, and are some of the easiest foods to dehydrate. Add dehydrated tomatoes to kick up the flavour in a classic tomato sauce or throw in some extra dehydrated mushrooms to a hearty chicken, leek & mushroom pie.
A little precise preparation is needed when dehydrating. You’ll need to make sure all ingredients are cut to the same size. If they’re a bit higgledy piggledy, this can affect the drying time causing the smaller pieces to dry faster meaning you’ll have to keep opening the dehydrator and disturbing the controlled environment to check on your food. A sharp knife or mandoline are the tools of choice to ensure even slices.
We tested nine dehydrators, dehydrating a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs, and made fruit leather to put these models through their paces.
How to choose the best food dehydrator?
What is a food dehydrator?
A food dehydrator is an electronic box with a fan (or fans) designed to preserve fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, meat and fish by removing their moisture. The fan circulates warm air around the trays of food. The trays are made from plastic or metal and have a weaved, open pattern that allows the air to move freely around the food, allowing the water inside to evaporate evenly from all angles.
The process of removing moisture from food dries and preserves it, meaning it’ll have a longer shelf life. Be sure to store all dehydrated foods in an airtight food storage container in a cool, dry place.
What can a food dehydrator be used for?
There are a whole host of dishes and snacks that dehydrated food is perfect for. Most fruits can be dehydrated and make either delicious snacks or work well in baking. If you have a surplus of grapes for example, dehydrate them and use them in BBC Good Food’s sticky date & raisin pudding or for a healthy snack alternative, try making fruit leather.
Vegetables dehydrate brilliantly too – dried mushrooms are a familiar example and work perfectly in a classic mushroom risotto.
If you find you’re often left with a bunch of herbs but aren’t planning on using them anytime soon, dehydrating is the way to go. The process locks in flavour meaning dried herbs can easily be used in place of fresh ones, like in this steamed trout with mint & dill dressing.
While most dehydrated foods shrink a lot and go a bit wrinkly, citrus fruits develop a stained glass-like interior that looks brilliant as a garnish; try a slice of dried lime on the side of your next gimlet or as decoration on a showstopping lemon tart.
What to look out for when buying a food dehydrator?
- Size: the dehydrators we’ve tested range in size from small models only slightly larger than a toaster to behemoths that need their own dedicated space on the kitchen counter. Think about how much space you can spare before you buy a dehydrator.
- Number of trays: consider how much dehydrating you’re planning to do. If you’re looking to dehydrate in large batches opt for a model with six or more trays. If you’re looking to dehydrate occasionally (or are short on space) choose a dehydrator with four to five trays.
- How long the timer runs for: for most fruit and vegetable dehydrating tasks, a dehydrator with a timer that runs for up to 12 hours should suffice. But if you’re looking to dehydrate herbs, you’ll need a model with a timer that runs for up to 24 hours or more.
- Accessories: some models come with additional inserts like silicone mats or trays for fruit leather or mats with finer weaves for more liquid ingredients. These are generally useful to have as they allow you to get more out of your dehydrator.
Best food dehydrators at a glance
- Best dehydrator: Electriq digital dehydrator, £76.97
- Best nine tray dehydrator: BioChef Arizona Sol, £189
- Best compact dehydrator: Electriq digital dehydrator, £47.98
- Best stylish dehydrator: BioChef Tanami, £109
- Fastest dehydrator: BioChef Savana, £295
- Best dehydrator for beginners: Lakeland food dehydrator, £54.99
- Best budget-friendly large dehydrator: Sous Vide Tools six-tray food dehydrator, £89.99
- Best simple to use dehydrator: Excalibur four-tray dehydrator, £149
- Best expandable dehydrator: Stockli dehydrator with stainless steel trays, £159.95
Best food dehydrators to buy in 2021
Electriq digital dehydrator
- Lots of deep shelves, clear and easy to use display, trays are dishwasher safe
Solid and sturdy, this dehydrator produces professional quality results at an affordable price. It’s intuitive to use and it comes with a highly detailed manual that’ll be useful for newbies and pros alike.
This model surpassed our expectations on every test. Fruits, vegetables, herbs and fruit leather were all dehydrated to perfection; they were evenly dried and all had an intense, punchy flavour. It’s not the fastest when dehydrating fruit, but the results are worth waiting for. The trays are also dishwasher safe for easy clean up. Read our full Electriq digital dehydrator review.
BioChef Arizona Sol
Best nine-tray dehydrator
- Easy to use, lots of trays and accessories, trays are dishwasher safe
- Large, timer only runs for 19.5 hours
Like the Electriq model above, this is another classic-looking dehydrator. It comes with nine trays, so as expected, it has a large footprint. But this model has been designed for someone who’s serious about dehydrating on account of the wealth of accessories included.
Fruits and vegetables were both quick to dehydrate and the results were just as we’d hoped. There’s a plastic tray provided for drying fruit leather, but no information is provided in the manual about drying times or temperature. We were able to make a tender and flavoursome fruit leather regardless. Read our full BioChef Arizona Sol review.
Electriq digital dehydrator
Best compact dehydrator
- small and compact, lots of trays, comprehensive manual
- Difficult to make fruit leather, struggled to adjust the trays
If you’re in the market for a dehydrator but our first and second place models are likely to be too big, Electriq’s model is a great space-saving option. Rather than drawer-like trays, the trays are stacked on top of one another. A plastic mesh tray is provided for more liquid ingredients.
This model excelled on our fruit, vegetable and herb tests. All dehydrated ingredients looked, felt and tasted as we expected them to. We struggled to make fruit leather as the hole in the middle of the trays made it difficult to get the fruit pureée to sit evenly. That being said, the flavour was delicious, if a little uneven in texture. This model is best for making the classics. Read our full Electriq digital dehydrator review.
Best stylish dehydrator
- Small, compact, stylish design, easy to use
- Touch buttons are sensitive, manual could be more detailed
Sleek, attractive and super modern, BioChef’s Tanami dehydrator is designed to be kept on the kitchen counter. It has six trays and digital touchscreen controls.
The dehydrator coped well on all of our fruit, vegetable, herb and fruit leather tests. We did notice some slight uneven colouring on the lemons, but apples kept their white interior which we were pleased to see. We’d have liked a little more info in the manual, especially for first-timers to the dehydrating process. Read our full review of the BioChef Tanami review.
- Fastest dehydrator we’ve tested, ideal for bulk dehydration, high quality materials used
If you’re someone for whom time is of the essence, this is the dehydrator for you. As expected, with capacity for nine trays, this isn’t the smallest model on the market. But it’s equipped with two fans, rather than the standard one fan, meaning it dries food faster.
Like with the other BioChef model, the manual is lacking some vital information like at what temperature to dehydrate herbs and how long they’re likely to take – this is doubly important as this is the only model we’ve tested with two fans. That being said, results were fabulous for all other foods tested. Fruits remained vibrant and flavoursome, and all vegetables had the pliable texture we were looking for. It comes with lots of extras, so you can really get the most out of your dehydrator. Read our full BioChef Savana review.
Lakeland food dehydrator
Best dehydrator for beginners
- Small footprint, clear display, easy to use controls, adjustable stacking height
- Can’t make fruit leather, no info on how thick to cut ingredients, a little loud
Unlike many of the others we’ve tested, this Lakeland dehydrator is cylindrical in design. It has just four trays, so is ideal if you’re short on space or dipping your toe in the healthy waters of dehydrating. The controls are plain and simple, and with just four temperatures to play with and a helpful manual, there’s little room for error.
This model performs brilliantly when dehydrating fruit, but you’ll have to be patient when it comes to veg as they can take a long time. There’s no means of making fruit leather, but this is a great option for beginners. Read our full Lakeland dehydrator review.
SousVide Tools six-tray food dehydrator
Best budget-friendly large dehydrator
- Large trays, accessories included, well-labelled controls, budget-friendly
- No suggested drying times or cutting thickness in the manual
So you’ve got the space to spare, but don’t want to break the bank? The SousVide Tools dehydrator is the model for you. Equipped with six large trays, this model is a great option if you’re looking to dehydrate in bulk. It’s simple to use with an old-school analogue dial and had a useful table of dehydrating temperatures for a range of foods next to the controls.
This is a dehydrator for someone who’s either a dab hand or willing to do some reading up on the subject, because the manual isn’t particularly helpful. Despite this, we were able to get some good results. It’s not the fastest model on the market, but fruit and veg was flavoursome and had just the texture we were looking for. Read our full SousVide Tools six-tray dehydrator review.
Excalibur four-tray dehydrator
Best simple-to-use dehydrator
(N.B. tested 2019)
This energy-efficient machine uses a drawer function rather than a stack, making it easier to check on the progress of the dehydration. It’s a good choice for smaller kitchens, as it’s quite compact, but for those who take snacking very seriously or who want to dry food in large batches, this model is also available to buy with a bumper nine drawers.
Stockli dehydrator with stainless steel trays
Best expandable dehydrator
(N.B. tested 2019)
Stockli’s stackable layers are made from stainless steel mesh, meaning dried ingredients are easy to remove. Still, the jury’s out on whether plastic or metal is the better material for the trays as, if you time your session correctly, the ingredients should be easily removable regardless. The machine is easy to use and simple to clean, plus it’s nice and compact, so has a smaller worktop footprint. Additional trays are available to buy separately, meaning you can increase the drying space for big dehydrating tasks.
How we tested food dehydrators
We reviewed dehydrators based on a range of criteria, including product design, the quality of the results produced as well as ease of use factors.
To cover all bases, we dehydrated apples, lemons, mushrooms, tomatoes, basil, and – if the manual said it could be done – made BBC Good Food’s fruit leather. All ingredients were cut to the size recommended in the manual and the dehydrator programmed to the recommended temperature and running time.
We looked at four key areas when testing each model:
- Set up and size. Questions included: is the dehydrator easy to put together? How big is it on the countertop? Is it easy to store? How tall is it?
- Usability and functionality. We asked: are the controls responsive and easy to use? Are there any dishwasher safe components for easy clean up?
- Results. One of the more important questions. We checked each ingredient to make sure it was evenly dried, was the correct texture, hadn’t discoloured, and had a concentrated and intensified flavour
- Manual. These are specialist pieces of kit, so we wanted to see informative manuals that were detailed enough for first-time users.
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This review was last updated in April 2021. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at email@example.com.