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.