Are Cheap Food Dehydrators Any Good?

If you are new to dehydrating and want to try out the process then a cheap dehydrator can be a great investment.

The key to purchasing an inexpensive machine is to shop around and do your research. If you analyze your must-haves and get a suggestion from a friend, for example, you will probably find a good deal, i.e. one that works for you.

Of course, cheap dehydrators tend to malfunction or break faster than expensive models. You might have to invest money in new parts or trays if that is the case, bringing the total cost of the machine up.

Affordable dehydrators are therefore a satisfying option mostly for beginners and people who enjoy dehydrating once in a while as opposed to multiple times a week.

If your budget is low and your only other possibility is to use your oven to dehydrate your food, a cheap dehydrator is a great investment. Your unit will give you a higher quality of dehydration in shorter delays.

When it comes to airflow and temperature control, an entry-level dehydrator will always be more effective than your oven. 

How Much Do Dehydrators Cost?

Like every small kitchen appliance, food dehydrators come in a wide range of prices. Many factors influence what you will pay for a unit, from its food capacity to the materials used to manufacture it.

There are two types of dehydrators: horizontal-flow units and vertical-flow ones. In general, the former are more expensive, as they allow for better airflow throughout the machine. The ingredients therefore tend to dry at the same time, in a consistent fashion.

Stackable dehydrators, or vertical-flow units, are the most affordable ones on the market. Since their fan is located either at the top or at the bottom of the appliance, the food on the different levels does not always dry uniformly, at the same exact temperature. 

Of course, for each category, there are entry-level and fancier models. The cheapest food dehydrators sell for about 40 USD. Cooks can find multiple units at this price. In fact, in the 40 to 80 USD range, a number of companies, such as Presto and Nesco, produce dozens of models with varying characteristics. 

Between 100 and 200 USD, consumers can choose one of the many higher-level dehydrators available. Criteria such as airflow quality, noise and practicality will influence the price tag of the machine you will end up buying. Under 200 USD, though, you can get a really good one.

The connoisseurs can browse through the more expert-level, luxurious dehydrators. While rarer, a few models, notably from the reputable company Excalibur, sell for more than 250 USD. High-end units can even exceed 400 USD.

What Should You Look for in a Cheap Dehydrator?

When you are shopping for a cheap dehydrator, you should always keep a number of guidelines in mind. That way, you will opt for the right unit for your specific needs.

The most important notion to think about is your expected use of the dehydrator. How often do you intend on turning it on? How much food would you like to dehydrate at once? What ingredients do you plan on working with? These questions will be of major significance while you are searching for your new dehydrator.

If you believe you will use the appliance on a regular basis, it is fundamental that you check the materials chosen by the manufacturer. If they are made from low-grade plastic, dehydrating trays tend to warp with the heat over time. In the long run, you would have to pay to replace them. 

Stainless steel or a more rigid plastic are some materials to look for in a dehydrator. The higher the quality of the materials, the more time your unit will last in your kitchen. If you love to dehydrate foods, you might want to make sure the trays are dishwasher-safe, too.

In terms of size, cooks that long to dry their greens, for example, will need a lot of space in their dehydrator, as greens tend to shrink enormously through the process.

You should analyze how much food you think you will want to dehydrate at the same time. This will affect the capacity you should look for in a dehydrator. 

You should not only read about the full potential of the machine, i.e. how many trays can be used in total, but also check how many are included with the initial purchase. Will you have to buy an additional five trays right away? This should be taken into account.

The kind of food you will dehydrate with your appliance will also influence which type of unit you are better off ordering. If the ingredients require you to keep an eye on them during the process, a horizontal-flow dehydrator makes more sense. With trays that slide in and out, these dehydrators give you an easier access to your food.

Depending on what you expect to dehydrate, an adjustable thermostat might be essential for you. To make beef jerky safely, you need to reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit. With a thermostat, you control the heat in accordance with the ingredients in the machine.

While it is not necessary, an adjustable thermostat guide cooks when following recipes, since they always know what temperature the unit is at.

Since dehydrating temperatures vary between 90 and 165 degrees, you should verify the range of the unit you intend on buying. Dehydrating temperatures will affect the length of time it takes for your food to be ready.

Even if you only want to dehydrate fruits, then, a wide range of temperatures will make your life a lot easier.

In terms of dehydrating time, you should also decide if a timer is a top-of-the-list feature for you. Since the process generally takes from 10 to 20 hours, you might be sleeping or at work when the cycle is complete. A timer will come in handy in those situations. You should choose whether or not this is a critical feature for you by examining your lifestyle.

As well, cheaper dehydrators will often be noisier. This argument should not be underestimated, as you might be hearing your dehydrator run for long periods of time. You can consult online reviews and search for a unit that matches your needs in that regard.

Before proceeding with the purchase of your appliance, you will also want to read the return policy and the warranty that accompanies the product. While it is always a good idea to do so, it matters even more if you buy a cheaper model, which you might change your mind about upon delivery.

How Can You Save Money on a Food Dehydrator?

If you can wait for the dehydrator model you want to buy to go on sale, you might be able to save a lot of money. In the meantime, you might also find a similar unit for a lower price. When you are shopping for an appliance, you have to keep your eyes open for deals. 

Some companies are more reputable than others. You might want to read about a few of them, choose the one you prefer and, then, go through their models to determine the cheapest one they sell.

Another way to save money is to invest in a unit that is a little bit more expensive, knowing that it will last longer without needing replacement parts. It might sound counterintuitive, but it is sometimes better to spend more right from the start than to buy a cheap unit that might need to be replaced in two years.

Air friers and multicookers often come with a dehydrating feature these days. As another option, you could get a product that does more than dehydrating, even if that means spending some extra dollars. If you get a 2-in-1 appliance, or even a 6-in-1, you will use it a lot more and it will remain cheaper than if you had bought each separate machine.

A great advantage of dehydrators is that using them to make your fruit leather will take a lot less energy than using your oven at a low setting to accomplish the same task. Since dehydrating food is such a long process, having a counter appliance that consumes less electricity than an oven is key to keeping more money in your pockets.

As well, you can be certain that using your dehydrator regularly will allow for savings at the grocery store. Instead of spending on premade beef jerky or kale chips, you will have the opportunity to buy fresh food and dehydrate it yourself.

You can even purchase your favorite ingredients when they are on sale, in bigger quantities, and dehydrate them in order to fill your pantry with highly nutritious snacks that will last.