The day I started using a food dehydrator was a complete game-changer for me as a vegan. I have a small garden in my backyard and for several years I’ve been growing fruits and vegetables. It started off with one blueberry bush, and now we have fresh produce year-round (it changes with season of course).
The problem that we faced is that each plant generally has a harvest season: peas and asparagus in spring, lots of fruit in summer, and citrus in winter. Some fruits and vegetables are available all year round, but most of our favorites are only available for a short time in the year.
This is where food dehydrators come in. Through dehydrating our leftover fruits and vegetables after the harvest season we’re able to enjoy them year-round. We love having great tasting fruit snacks, or rehydrating vegetables to use in recipes from our own Garden in any season!
If you want to try it, the best way to get started is with one of the following food dehydrators for under $100! My first dehydrator was an older model Presto, but it wasn’t long before I upgraded. Enjoy!
1. Nesco FD 75A Snackmaster Dehydrator [Great Value]
The Nesco Snackmaster is a sleek, feature-rich and ultra-modern food dehydrator. Combine this with simplicity in setting up and operation, and it’s clear why this is one of the most popular units on the market.
I was pleased with the results during my test, and it solidifies my opinion as Nesco being one of the top dehydrator brands in the market.
The Nesco FD 75A has a patented Converga-Flow system. This system facilitates airflow to the outside chamber and delivers hot air to each of the trays individually. The air then flows back to the center cell to be reheated, feeding the air back into the cycle.
What does this mean for your food?
It means that there is no cross-contamination of flavor and no need to rotate the trays. Additionally, it means less drying time and electricity use than competing units.
This model has deeper and larger trays that the competitors, which is helpful not only for fitting more food into the unit but also transporting the food, say from kitchen bench over to the unit on the table.
Overall, I was happy with the amount of food each cycle could put out. The unit comes with five trays, and you can even extend that to 12 trays by just buying additionals. More than suffice for even a keen food dryer.
Do you want a food dehydrator that you can leave on while you’re away, that dries out your food perfectly in a fraction of the time? Check out our review of the best food dehydrators for 2020
It was very easy cleaning this unit. There are no recessed gutters in the trays, and the corners are easily sponge-cleaned with hot and soapy water. You also have the option of cleaning the plastic trays in the dishwasher.
The tested unit had an adjustable thermostat that was fairly accurate. Cross-checked with a high-end digital thermometer.
There is no On/Off switch so you will need to rely on using a stopwatch timer and be there to physically turn it off. That being said, it is a top dehydrator for the price bracket.
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2. Presto 06301 Dehydro Digital Electric Food Dehydrator [Our Recommendation]
At this price point, you get excellent value for money with the Presto 06301. There are enough features to keep a hobby food dryer happy, yet not so many that it makes it complicated to operate the unit.
The polished and slim design will appeal to people that don’t have much room on kitchen countertops. Or, for people who don’t think they will use this unit all the time and would like something that packs away easily.
The Presto 06301 is an excellent option if you have kids (like me) that run to the pantry every few hours to snack. Ensuring you have a constant supply of great, healthy food you know what ingredients are in it.
The Presto 06301 has a bottom-mounted fan and power plant. The fan pushes the hot air up through the shelves. Presto ensures that there is no need to swap the trays around. I had an enjoyable experience in my tests and was happy with the tomato chips that I prepared. All of the shelves cooked evenly, and within half an hour of the recommended quick reference guide. A testament to the powerful 740 Watt motor.
I checked around on forums and saw that someone had cooked 4 lbs of apples for 8-9 hours and they were satisfied with the result.
The Presto 06301 comes with six trays. The shelves are spacious and have a generous lip on it, although other competing units do have more of a favorable lip on them. Again, this is particularly useful if you are transporting the trays individually and don’t want to spill the contents everywhere in the process.
One great benefit of this unit and other vertical flowing units is that you can expand the capacity of the machine. Presto gives the option to buy an additional six trays to make a total of 12. Perfect if you want to batch all of you drying together and do it all in one go, rather than multiple times cycles.
The Presto 06301 one of the only units on the market that has a digital timer built-in. Giving you the benefit of being able to run the unit overnight (set and forget), and wake up in the morning to your favorite dried recipes.
The simple but effective controls on the unit are perfect for people who don’t want to spend a lot of time playing around and adjusting unnecessary buttons.
One of the most overlooked features of the unit is its small footprint. Particularly useful for people who don’t have a lot of kitchen space.
There is one important con to note; like all food dehydrators, this unit does make noise. If you want to turn it on and watch TV, you will have to let it run in another room. Maybe a nuisance to some people; I didn’t find it so much of an issue.
Cleaning is simple and fast. Trays detach easily and are best cleaned in hot and soapy water and left to dry well.
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3. NutriChef Kitchen Electric Countertop Food Dehydrator
The NutriChef Kitchen Dehydrator makes food dehydration as easy as it can be. Just place your food on the shelving and turning the machine on, it’s as easy as it gets. The straightforward one-touch button operation is a welcome sight compared to other more complicated units.
At this price point (budget), the unit delivers reasonable performance, especially when compared to other units on the market. Do not be deterred by the low price; this is a quality unit that will ensure you are satisfied with the results.
The heating element is located on the bottom of the dryer. The air is heated and then forced up into the shelves. Once the air cools, it falls to the bottom, creating the airflow.
It is a common thread in product forums that the best food dehydrators have side or top mounted heating/fans. Mainly due to the possibility of drips falling during the drying process. Nutrichef has allowed for this and has encased the bottom-mounted heating so that it’s protected from drips.
The NutriChef offers you the option of using six trays for all your dehydration needs. At this price point, it is a very generous amount. I was able to make a whole month’s supply of kiwi chips in one cycle. There was no need to rotate the trays, and all of the chips were evenly dehydrated.
The design of the machine is modern and will be right at home fitting in with most kitchen decors. The small size of the unit allows you to easily store it in a kitchen cabinet too.
When further researching the dryer, I saw that some people (mostly beginners) were having trouble disassembling the unit for cleaning. I did not echo these thoughts and thought that the cleaning was easy and straightforward – but wanted to include this complaint anyway.
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Last update on 2020-01-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API