The 3 Best Food Dehydrators Under $100
A food dehydrator can help you curb your store-bought habit by making it easy to create fruit leather, meat jerky, and more at home. Dehydrators have traditionally been bulky, expensive space-hogs, but today you can find affordable and slightly more compact models. Below are a few things to consider when deciding which of the best food dehydrators under $100 to buy.
First, decide where you’ll be using your dehydrator, and do a quick check to make sure you’ve got adequate space. If you plan to make large volumes of dried foods, you’ll want to pick a model with additional stacking trays. While the footprint should be just slightly larger than a square foot, ensure that you have ample headroom, since some models have as many as 12 tiers and can stand nearly 2 feet tall.
Foods have different densities and moisture content, and therefore need specific temperatures and times to get the best results in a dehydrator. Many dehydrators come with digital controls for time and temperature, while others have simple temperature dials but don’t come with timers. And, if you're looking to cook up jerky, you might be better off choosing a square dehydrator over a circular model, given the shape of traditional pieces of dried jerky. One safety note: If you're looking for one of the best dehydrators for jerky, you'll want a dehydrator that heats up to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or greater, to avoid having to pre-cook your poultry or beef in the oven.
Whichever of the best food dehydrators under $100 you choose, with enough practice, you’ll soon be making treats that rival your favorite packaged brands.
1. The Overall Best Food Dehydrator
This food dehydrator from Presto includes all of the features needed to make a wide range of dehydrated products. Its digital timer and 90-to-165-degree Fahrenheit temperature gauge allow you to dial-in on the perfect time and temperature for whatever recipe you’re making.
If you’re new to dehydrating, a guide is positioned on the middle of the cover for quick reference. The circular design comes with six standard trays that can nest between uses for smart storage, and can be expanded to up to 12 trays. While additional trays can be purchased separately, the Presto comes with two fruit roll sheets for making fruit leather, as well as two non-stick mesh screens for drying fruits, vegetables, and herbs. And, since it's 15 inches in height and 14 inches wide, this is one of the more compact models you'll find.
Since certain foods can leave a residue after dehydrating, the drying trays, screens, and transparent cover are all dishwasher-safe. If you specifically want to make jerky, several packets of jerky spice and cure are included to help you get started.
2. The Runner Up
This NESCO food dehydrator lacks some of the ease of the overall best model above, as it relies on a simple dial to control the temperature that you’ll need to keep track of manually (there's no built-in timer). It comes with just five trays, but can be expanded to 12 trays that will have to be purchased separately. But all things considered, for $50 it’s one of the most economical ways of dehydrating at home. With all 12 trays, the NESCO stands a little over 22 inches tall, so finding an appropriate spot for it is important. The top-mounted fan means you can’t peek in on your food to check on its status, but it is an effective method of pushing air to the outer edges of the trays and inward for even, consistent dehydrating. Over 4,000 Amazon fans rave that this is one of the best kitchen appliances they own. One thing to note: This dehydrator's temperature range is a little bit more limited, as it only goes up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. That means when cooking jerky, you'd have to prep it in the oven before dehydrating it to ensure the food is fully cooked and safe to consume.
3. The Best Food Dehydrator For Fruit
If dried fruit is your thing, this dehydrator from Flexzion is a great choice that won't break the bank. The five-tray circular design is a little over 1 foot wide, allowing you to fit ample amounts of sliced and whole fruits in a single layer. The fully-transparent design allows for easy viewing during dehydrating, and the bottom-mounted fan and heating element circulate air through the middle and around the edges of the perforated trays. It also features a temperature range from 95 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, perfect for any fruit you want to dehydrate. A simple on/off switch controls power to the fan and heater, which has a turn dial for adjusting the temperature. A single solid, unperforated tray is provided for making fruit leather, which can be sliced and rolled into perfect portions.
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