Should You Use All the Trays in a Dehydrator?

If you recently bought a food dehydrator, you might want to know how to use it the most effectively. They are fantastic for making crackers, bread, granola, and other snacks, and you can use them to dehydrate fruits and vegetables. Many people use them on a raw food diet, but do they use all the trays to dehydrate their food?

You should and can use all the trays in your dehydrator. As long as you don’t overfill the trays, the airflow inside the machine won’t be disrupted. The best way is to leave gaps between your trays, but placing small amounts of spaced-out food works too. You don’t want to overload it.

If you want to use all the trays in your dehydrator, you can, but it’s essential to know the best ways to go about using this method. Overloading your trays with food can easily disturb the flow of hot air through the machine, so let’s start learning more about your dehydrator.

Should You Use All the Trays?

While you can use all of the trays, many people prefer to leave some gaps between them. Skipping some of the trays allows for better airflow and helps your food to dry out at an even rate.

If you plan on using all of the trays, make sure that you have the food spaced evenly on them, so that the air can easily travel throughout the unit. If you overlap your food, the heat won’t be able to reach everything at the same time.

When the heat doesn’t reach all the food at the same time, you end up with food that dries unevenly, which can have a strange texture when eaten. 

Plus, the dehydration process takes much longer when food is overlapping, which causes the machine to run longer, use more power, and wear out much faster. If you have a lot of dehydration to do, make sure to space everything out correctly. 

Only then can you use all of the trays, as long as you don’t overload them.

Must You Use Every Tray?

Many people new to using a dehydrator wonder if they have to use all of the trays in the machine. You don’t need to load every single one each time for the unit to function correctly.

If you have some empty trays, you can leave them out. However, you don’t have to remove empty trays, as leaving them in the dehydrator shouldn’t cause any issues. 

Most manufacturers design the trays to allow consistent airflow in the unit.

Many people still take out empty trays to keep them clean. However, some foods can drip between the layers, causing clean, empty trays to get dirty. If you want to avoid a longer clean-up process, make sure that you take out the trays you aren’t using.

How Many Trays You Should Use?

Every dehydrator is different, although you usually want to leave spaces between the trays, which means that you will be using half of them. However, some units require that you use a certain amount of trays as a minimum.

Not using the minimum amount could lead to airflow issues, which would then cause your food to dehydrate unevenly. Therefore, you want to be sure you check out your instruction manual before you use the dehydrator for the first time.

Today, most dehydrators can handle all of the trays at one time, so as long as you space your foods evenly on the trays, you shouldn’t run into any trouble.

Are There Different Dehydrator Trays?

There are different types of dehydrator trays for different dehydrators. The two main types you want to be familiar with are:

  • Vertical dehydrators: These machines usually come with round-shaped trays, and are more affordable and compact, making them the best option for many home kitchens.
  • Horizontal dehydrators: These look like conventional ovens that have square or rectangle-shaped trays.

Overall, the horizontal trays tend to be larger, hold more food, and require less effort from you. 

The horizontal dehydrator can also hold more trays at a time. However, the most significant trade-off for those benefits is the price, as a vertical dehydrator is much more affordable for most people.

How To Load Your Dehydrator

Loading a dehydrator is simple. 

All you need to do is make sure your food is spaced out and not overlapping, then place the trays in the unit. You may want to skip a space between trays since this makes it easier for hot air to travel upwards through the layers.

However, some dehydrators have a vent that blows air across your food. In those cases, you don’t have to worry about leaving spaces between the trays, but you still shouldn’t overlap your fruits and vegetables when using that type of machine.

This helpful video explains how to set up your trays for loading in the dehydrator properly:

Should You Use Tray Liners?

Many people prefer to use tray liners in their dehydrator, which makes the clean-up process much easier and doesn’t disrupt the flow of hot air. 

I recommend the GUCUJI Premium Non-Stick Silicone Dehydrator Sheets from They are simple to use, work in many different dehydrators, and are reusable. Their product page says you can even use them up to 5,000 times- making them a cost-efficient option!

Overall, you want to use tray liners to avoid a mess. For example, if you plan on seasoning your food before putting it in the unit, these sheets prevent the seasoning from getting on the trays. Thus, they are great for easy clean-up.

Preheat It First

You will also want to preheat your dehydrator before loading the trays. Allow the unit to run for five to 10 minutes before you add the food, which ensures that all the food dehydrates evenly and quickly.

Some people add the food before turning on the dehydrator, which can cause the food to dehydrate unevenly as the unit warms up. This is why it’s important to preheat the machine whether you’re loading all the trays or only doing half. You never want to skip that step!

Why You Should Load It Carefully

Before loading your dehydrator, you’ll need to put some thought into how you’re going to load it since a carefully loaded dehydrator makes it run more efficiently. You can save money on power when the unit has a faster drying time, and you can fit more snacks in the machine when you plan out how to load it.

Overall, you don’t want to place your food or the trays randomly, but if you take a few extra minutes to set the trays, you can save yourself a lot of drying time. 

Think about where the air is coming from and if you can afford to leave spaces between the trays.

How Long Can You Run a Dehydrator?

Dehydrators usually need to run for a very long time- a full day at most. However, they are safe to leave on while you work or sleep, so you don’t have to worry about that. 

However, since they take such a long time, many people are tempted to overfill their trays. While this would help you get a larger batch in the unit, you should avoid doing that, because overloading your dehydrator slows down the process. So, even though you have more food drying at once, it’s still going to take a much longer amount of time. 

When loaded correctly, you can expect the machine to run for about 16 to 20 hours. You don’t want to go too much longer than that.

Consider a Larger Unit

If you often need to dehydrate large amounts of food, it would be worthwhile to consider buying a larger unit. They come with larger trays and hold more food while still taking the same processing time as the smaller units.

You could load more trays as well. If you are often struggling to fit all your trays in the dehydrator, having a bigger model could benefit you greatly.