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Food & Drink: The Best Food Dehydrators for Beef Jerky, Fruit Leather & More

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Those wrinkly little cranberries in your trail mix, the apple “chips” you eat by the handful, even the dried orange wheel topping off your cocktail—these foods have had the moisture sucked out of them by a food dehydrator, leaving behind concentrated flavors that sing and delight our taste buds.

Dehydrated food has a bed rep as tough beef jerky or dried fruit so hard it can crack a tooth, but leave it to the pros and home cooks who use a food dehydrator day in and day out to tell you all about the wonders of the countertop appliance. In fact, if you’re in the market for a dehydrator but aren’t sure where to start, we have just the list for you.

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There was a clear favorite among experts we chatted with, but we've got noteworthy options for large batch dehydrating and small spaces, too. A look at the best food dehydrators curated by pros and home cooks, below.

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1. Cosori Food Dehydrator, $145.65 $159.99

Far and away our top pick, the Cosori comes with everything you need for beginner or advanced food dehydrating, including six trays, a fruit roll sheet, a mesh screen, and a manual that includes helpful tips and recipe ideas. This dehydrator has a glass door so you can easily checking the drying process, and an easy-to-use digital panel with just a handful of buttons for setting the time and temperature. It runs quietly, so it won’t keep you up even if you’re dehydrating overnight, and it automatically shuts off when the timer ends. Plus, every removable piece is dishwasher safe, so cleanup is a breeze.

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“I've tried a few brands over the years and absolutely love my Cosori food dehydrator,” says food and garden blogger behind Boots and Hooves Homestead Mary Woita. “It's a favorite because of the reliability and amount of shelves for dehydrating, and it’s easy to use. It’s fairly quiet, too, and has been super convenient to dehydrate the garden harvest.”

Registered dietitian and founder of the food blog Haute & Healthy Living Elysia Cartlidge adds that she loves the programmable timer, which is really handy in preventing foods from over-drying, “especially if you want to dehydrate them overnight or when you’re not at home.” She says it's also a more budget-friendly option that’s easy to store, use, and clean.

Founder of tea purveyor Yerba Mate Culture Joonas Jokiniemi agrees that the Cosori is powerful thanks to its 600-watt heater, and points out the “wide temperature range that allows you to dry anything from delicate herbs to meat and fruits.” The shelves also offer enough space to dry “as much as three pounds of herbs or five pounds of jerky at a time,” Jokiniemi adds.

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Mixologist and founder of the blog Cocktail Society Timo Torner loves using his Cosori to dehydrate fruit wheels to garnish his craft cocktails. “It's so easy to use, has countless options, and is way faster than my old dehydrator,” he says. The large glass door is also convenient to “check the progress while the citrus wheels are dehydrating.”

2. Backyard Pro Butcher Food Dehydrator, $129.99

This 10-tray dehydrator is a bit bigger and more advanced than the Cosori, so it’s a better option for those with space to spare, and like to dehydrate food in large batches. The Backyard Pro Butcher can run for 40 hours straight, has touchpad controls for time and temperature, and has a doorless design. Instead, the individual drawers slide open so you can check on just what you want, instead of everything that's cooking (er, dehydrating?).

“The price point is not too cheap and not too expensive, it does what we need it to do, and it’s easy to use,” says chef Harrison Keevil, owner of Multiverse Kitchens, a digital food hall in Charlottesville, Virginia. “Primarily, we use it to dehydrate locally procured herbs, citrus, and mushrooms to make powders that we add to sauces and aioli.”

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3. Brod & Taylor Sahara Folding Dehydrator, $325+

If you’d love a food dehydrator but don’t think you have the space for yet another countertop appliance, the Sahara Folding Dehydrator was designed for you. As the name implies, this dehydrator literally folds down to a third of its size into a flatter, more compact version for easy storage—and without compromising on its capabilities either. It has a 750-watt dual heater that runs quietly for up to 99 hours (that’s more than four straight days!), easy-to-use controls, and a glass door to keep an eye on everything from fruits and vegetables to all the meat.

“This is my favorite food dehydrator and it’ll be your new best friend, too,” says Alexandra Gertner, a private chef with Intueat, an on-demand chef service. “It's the only one out there that folds down for storage, and I love it for everything from reducing food waste to making home-dried snacks."

FAQs

Why do I want a food dehydrator?

Since the water content inside fruits, herbs and even meat gets evaporated, dehydrated food has a longer shelf life than the usual stuff, and doesn't need to be stored in the fridge. If you buy produce in bulk but can't eat it fast enough, it can also help prevent food waste. And perhaps, most importantly, you can make all the snacks without having to run to the store every time you're out of dried mango slices.

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How do you use a food dehydrator?

Similar to air fryers, food sits on a shelf or basket inside a dehydrators so air can circulate all around and properly “cook.” There are usually different presets depending on how much water is inside whatever you’re dehydrating, like beef or fruit. Just place the food on the shelves, choose your setting, and let the machine run for a few hours.

Have you used a food dehydrator before? Let us know below!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

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