Dehydrator purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • What You Need to Know
  • Automatic dehydrators extract the liquid from food and thus preserve it.
  • They can be used not only to dry fruit, vegetables, meat, mushrooms and herbs, but also to make bread, crackers, biscuits and whole meals.
  • Consumers can choose between a dehydrator with a drawer system and a variant with a slide-in system.
  • A temperature setting in the range of about 35 to 70 degrees Celsius enables optimal drying of any food.

Aromatic, healthy and long-lasting

New diets, trends like “snacks-to-go” and the interest in living more sustainably are bringing old methods back to life. One of them is drying food to make it last longer. Dried fruit and vegetable crisps have found their way into shops and homes, dried meat is seen as a readily available source of protein in sports circles, and creative recipes for bread, biscuits and complete meals are enriching the plates of raw foodists.

With an automatic dehydrator, you can dry fruit, vegetables and meat yourself, among other things, or try out a wide variety of recipes. Your own creations are usually healthier and cheaper than products from the supermarket, which often contain ingredients such as sugar, flavourings and preservatives.

What is a dehydrator?

Automatic dehydrators are devices for gently drying food. The removal of water deprives microorganisms of their breeding ground, which increases the shelf life of the food. In addition, fruits and vegetables in particular gain in sweetness and aroma.

Dehydrators work with integrated heating elements to heat the interior to the selected temperature. The heated air flows around the dried food, which is placed evenly on several shelves or racks. This allows the food to release moisture into the ambient air more quickly than at room temperature. Most automatic dehydrators also use a temperature interval, which means that the dehydration temperature fluctuates continuously by about two degrees Celsius. This means that the air absorbs more moisture and less water condenses on the inside walls of the appliance.

Some professional appliances heat the food using infrared rays, while the temperature of the ambient air remains unchanged. As the rays penetrate directly into the food, it dries particularly evenly.

Advantages of dehydrators

A dehydrator can be used to preserve many different types of food. Drying is done gently at low temperatures, which preserves important nutrients and vitamins. Unlike dried products from the supermarket, you know exactly where your dried food comes from and what it contains. In addition to canning or preserving, the appliance offers hobby gardeners another way to preserve their harvest for the cold months. Since raw meat can also be dried, dog owners can easily make tasty snacks for their pet.

While dehydrating is also possible in the oven and in the air, the dehydrator proves to be much more efficient. It uses less electricity than an oven and maintains the desired temperature throughout so that the food dries evenly. An oven reaches temperatures below 50 degrees Celsius only with difficulty and with strong temperature fluctuations. In addition, an oven would be blocked for the entire drying process, for strawberries for up to 18 hours, for example. Compared to air drying, the drying time in the dehydrator is much shorter and the food is not susceptible to microorganisms.

As the electricity costs are kept within limits, dehydrating fresh food is far cheaper than buying industrially prepared dehydrated goods.

One appliance, many possibilities

Drying fruit, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms as well as meat and fish is one of the oldest preservation methods. Typical dried fruits include apricots, apples, dates, bananas, figs and plums. Exotic fruits such as mango and pineapple as well as berries are also excellent for drying. Tomatoes, mushrooms and vegetables such as onions and peppers are also popular. Dried herbs refine cooked dishes or salads. You can marinate meat and fish before dehydrating them or season them with pepper, for example, to intensify the flavour.

If you want to prepare healthy snacks for work or on the go, you will find a wide range of recipes online, for example for muesli bars, fruit slices, vegetable crisps or biscuits. Followers of raw food cuisine use dehydrators to prepare foods such as breads, cakes, crisps and crackers at temperatures below 43 degrees Celsius. The particularly low temperature during dehydration guarantees raw food quality, which means that all nutrients, vitamins and minerals – even sensitive ones – are preserved.

Dehydrator Biscuits

You can dehydrate whole meals – curries, purees, sauces or soups – with a dehydrator and take the powder camping or hiking. As soon as you add hot water, you have a delicious meal again.

It is also possible to let dough rise and prepare yoghurt. Dehydrators are also useful tools for fermenting food.

Even dehydrating has its limits

In principle, most foods that contain water can be dried. However, there are some exceptions where drying is not possible or only possible with great effort. Eggs as well as milk are commercially available in powder form, but the industrial production process is so complex that no home appliance could manage it.

Other foods that are not suitable for drying in a dehydrator are those with a high fat content. For example, only cheeses with little fat or, in combination with other foods, those with a high fat content can be dried. However, the shelf life of the food containing cheese is only about two weeks. Sausages, fatty meat and fish cannot be dried, nor can avocado, which contains 15 per cent fat.

Blackberries are only suitable for preservation in the dehydrator to a limited extent, as the drying process takes several days instead of hours. Fruit leather, however, is possible with the pureed berries without any problems.

Two different systems

When looking for the right dehydrator, the consumer is confronted with two different designs: the stacking system and the slide-in system. The biggest difference lies in the way the warm air reaches the food to be dried.

Automatic dehydrators with stacking system

 Automatic dehydrators with stacking system

An appliance with a drawer system consists of a base with a heating element and several shelves stacked on top of each other. The warm air flows from the bottom to the top and is distributed largely evenly with the help of a fan. You can add or remove shelves as needed. However, the temperature in the upper tiers is lower than at the bottom, which is why the tiers should be swapped during the drying process. When opened, however, all the warm air and thus heat energy escapes.

Automatic dehydrators with slide-in system

 Automatic dehydrators with slide-in system

A dehydrator with a rack system looks like a small oven with space inside for several drying trays or racks of food. The heating element is located in the back, which allows the warm air to reach all levels evenly. Therefore, it is unnecessary to swap trays with each other to get the best results. If you dry several types of food in the appliance, you can easily remove those with shorter drying times without losing too much heat energy.

What to look for when buying

For a dehydrator to be able to preserve the desired food, it must maintain a constant temperature, distribute the heat evenly and remove the moisture well. All appliances with a slide-in or stacking system fulfil this task to a greater or lesser extent. Find out below which model is better suited to your needs and which criteria are useful when comparing different products.

Well-known brands

Domo | Excalibur | Graef | Klarstein | Rommelsbacher |Rosenstein & Söhne | Sedona | Severin | Stöckli | TZS First Austria | WMF

Dimensions and capacity

The dimensions and capacity of the dehydrator depend on your needs. The more levels or shelves, the higher the dehydrator. If you only occasionally want to prepare small quantities of herbs, fruit or vegetables, you do not need a large model with a slide-in system, such as the Sedona Classic dehydrator with a dehydrating surface of almost one square metre. An area of about 500 square centimetres is sufficient. For beginners who first want to familiarise themselves with preserving using a dehydrator, an inexpensive version with a drawer system is suitable, which they can expand if necessary.

 Vegetable dehydrator

For those who want to prepare larger quantities and different foods or dishes, a model with a drawer system and a drying surface of at least one square metre is recommended. This size is particularly advisable in family households in order to supply all members with dried goods. The harvested produce can also be processed more efficiently in a large appliance. The largest models with more than ten square metres of drying surface are suitable for abundant harvests in rural areas or for commercial use, less so for private households.


Dehydrators usually have a minimum temperature range of between 50 and 70 degrees Celsius, but a minimum temperature of 35 degrees Celsius is not unusual. Some models even manage 30 degrees Celsius. At temperatures below 43 degrees, raw food-quality dishes can be prepared and yoghurt can be made. At 30 degrees Celsius, it is possible to let sourdough rise or prepare fresh cheese and curd.

The more flexible you want to use the dehydrator, the wider the temperature range should be. Ideally, the setting should be made with an infinitely variable temperature control; with a model with steps, at least a low temperature of around 35 degrees Celsius and a high temperature of around 70 degrees Celsius are recommended. Herbs, for example, dry better at temperatures below 40 degrees Celsius, while fish tends to require higher temperatures.

Power consumption: Lower than expected

In addition to the purchase price, there are the electricity costs per drying process. The power of a dehydrator is usually between 250 and 1,000 watts. Using this wattage, it is easy to calculate the costs per drying process. Multiply the operating time in hours by the wattage of the appliance and the electricity price per kilowatt hour and divide the result by one thousand.

For example, if a device has a power of 1,000 watts and is in operation for ten hours, it consumes ten kilowatt hours of electricity. At an electricity price of 30 cents per kilowatt hour, this results in a total cost of three euros for continuous operation. At 500 watts of power, the total cost would be 1.50 euros, and at 250 watts, only 75 cents.

The actual power consumption of a dehydrator depends on the temperature. The wattage figures are maximum values and only describe what the appliance consumes at the highest temperature setting.

Since the appliance will probably not be used every day, the follow-up costs of a dehydrator are low compared to dehydrating in the oven or buying dried products. In addition, very few appliances have a power rating of 1,000 watts; the average in the professional sector is more like 500 to 750 watts.


The typical materials of an automatic dehydrator are plastic and stainless steel. In inexpensive models, the housing and shelves are made of plastic. Professional models often have a plastic housing and stainless steel shelves. More rare are automatic dehydrators with stainless steel housings and shelves. They have the longest lifespan and are easy to clean.

Apple slices dehydrator

However, dehydrators made of plastic or with plastic content can also be of high quality. Most importantly, the plastic used should be free of the plasticiser bisphenol A, or BPA for short.

Practical feature: The timer

Drying food not only takes several hours, each individual food item also has its own drying time. With a timer, you can set the time so you don’t have to monitor the appliance periodically. If the timer is equipped with an automatic switch-off, the automatic dehydrator will stop the process after the set drying period. As you do not need to be present, you can also dehydrate overnight or during working hours.

How much should an automatic dehydrator cost?

The price of an automatic dehydrator depends mainly on the type of construction, the capacity and the equipment. Small entry-level appliances with a stacking system and a power of around 250 watts are already available for less than 40 euros. Models with a slide-in system usually start at around 100 euros. In this price range, the shelves are often made of plastic. Professional dehydrators with a dehydration surface of more than one square metre cost several hundred euros. The largest dehydrators with a surface area of more than ten square metres often cost more than 1,000 euros.

Useful accessories

Most automatic dehydrators are equipped with racks in the form of drying grids. A large number of different foods can be prepared on these. If the grids get damaged or you want to make room for more food to be dried, it is worth buying additional versions.

For fine, very moist or almost liquid foods such as fruit puree for fruit leather, grids are too coarse-meshed. A dehydrating foil is useful for processing these foods. Users place this in the grid and thus prevent the food from slipping through the grid. After drying, the finished food can be easily removed from the foil. Those drying fine herbs can use a drying foil instead of a herb mat to prevent the herbs from collecting at the bottom of the appliance. Sticky fruit such as pineapple is also easy to separate from the foil.

Dehydrator for vegetable flakes

A so-called crumb tray is included with many appliances. This is a catch tray or tray that collects falling crumbs, fat and marinade. After a drying process, the compartment can be removed and cleaned. In case it is not already supplied with the dehydrator, it is recommended to buy a crumb tray.

Tips for using the dehydrator

An automatic dehydrator can be used to prepare individual ingredients as well as creative snacks and whole meals. There are a few factors to consider to ensure that budding self-caterers and the curious succeed in dehydrating their first own food.

Fruit and vegetables to be dried should ideally be fresh. Any bruises or stains should be removed and any food that is mouldy or infested with pests should be sorted out. After you have cleaned the dried food, remove stones and seeds, if present, and cut the food into equal-sized pieces or slices. Make sure that the slices are not too thin, as the volume decreases due to the drying process.

Place the food side by side on the drying grids so that they do not overlap. The heat must reach every spot so that the food dries evenly. You can then set the temperature and – if there is a timer – the time on the dehydrator. These depend on the food or dishes to be dried.

Selecting the right temperature

As every food has different properties and requirements during preparation, it is not possible to set a generally applicable drying temperature or time. If you are preparing raw food, the temperature should be below 43 degrees Celsius. Otherwise, the setting of the temperature control depends mainly on the type of food being dried, its water content and the desired result.

For example, while apples dry well at a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius, temperatures of up to 70 degrees Celsius are suitable for oranges. Strawberries, on the other hand, lose their sweet taste at temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius. When drying fruit and vegetables, the following rule of thumb applies: the higher the temperature, the shorter the drying time and the greater the loss of nutrients.

Herbs and flowers are very sensitive, so you should set temperatures of no more than 40 degrees Celsius. Most fish and meat, on the other hand, can be dried at high temperatures. In some beef jerky recipes, heating to 45 degrees Celsius is recommended.

Dehydrator Herbs

You will often find a table with the recommended drying temperatures and times in the instructions for use of the respective dehydrators. For recipes for bread, crackers or bars, you should stick to the specified temperatures when dehydrating.

Why is raw food quality dehydrating useful?

Raw food dehydration is an important preparation method within the raw food diet, but also brings benefits to non-raw foodists. Temperatures higher than 43 degrees Celsius destroy or reduce heat-sensitive nutrients and vitamins. These include vitamin C and the B vitamins, for example. Instead of fresh fruits and vegetables, raw-cooked, dehydrated produce is a quick and easy way to meet your needs for sensitive nutrients. In addition, the sweetness of raw dried fruit resembles the fresh version more than the version dried at higher temperatures.

The right storage

After you have gently preserved the food, it is important to store it correctly, as it can continue to spoil due to the remaining water content. The aim is to keep further moisture away from the dried food. Therefore, dry rooms with a constant temperature are suitable for storage. A recommended place is, for example, the pantry or the cellar. They tend to be dry, cool and dark. The kitchen, on the other hand, is unsuitable because a lot of heat as well as moisture is generated during cooking. Only for small portions that you expect to consume within a few days does it make sense to store them in the kitchen.

For storing dehydrated food, airtight containers are ideal, for example screw jars and preserving jars or plastic and ceramic jars. Tin cans are not suitable as they are permeable to air and the acidic foods will attack the material. With paper bags or cotton sacks, the dried food is also particularly susceptible to dried fruit moths. This is a small insect that lays its larvae in the dried food.

Fruit dehydrator

It is advisable to check the stored food regularly for mould or pests. To keep a better overview of the food, you can label a sticker with the name as well as the storage date and attach it to the respective containers.

How do I clean the dehydrators?

Dehydrators can easily be cleaned with water and mild detergent. The shelves and housing should be cleaned separately. If the shelves are dishwasher-safe, you can also wipe them dry briefly and then put them in the dishwasher. Also remove the crumb tray and clean it of food residues. To clean the housing, first disconnect the appliance from the power supply. Give the food dehydrator some time to cool down. Then you can wipe along the outside with a damp cloth as well as some washing-up liquid. Make sure that no moisture gets inside the dehydrator and causes a short circuit. Once the housing and dehydrator trays are dry, you can reassemble the dehydrator. It is advisable to store the dehydrator in a dry and dark place and cover it if you only use it occasionally.