#4 – Dehydrator
Our top recommendations – American Harvest 1000watt
or Excalibur 3900/3926T
After raw, the next best foods for nutrition, convenience, and storage, both weight and space, are dehydrated foods. Dehydrators vary greatly! Look for opaque (not see through) machines for nutrient retention, with temperature control from 90° or 100° F. (or below) to 145° or 155° F. (or above) to enable you to do everything from herbs and yogurt to jerky (if you wish). Horizontal airflow, over each tray that provides even drying and no mixing of flavors when you have different foods on different trays is also important. I don’t recommend anything less than 500 watts, and highly recommend 1000 watts. In other words, I truly believe you’d be wasting your money (probably on more than just the dehydrator itself) by buying a transparent dehydrator with only a heating element in the bottom, and no adjustable temperature settings or fan, and low wattage.
Pressurized airflow (up the sides then over each tray) will give you even drying with no tray rotation. The next best, in my opinion, is the fan in the back of the machine blowing evenly over all trays (but many times with these you still have to turn/rotate the trays around). The ability to expand is a great benefit also.
American Harvest has been making a dehydrator that meets all our recommendations and has done a superior job every time for the many years we’ve used it–sold as the Nesco Garden Master (and previously, Air Preserve II.) It has the above features with the patented pressurized airflow; is stackable to 30 trays (and reducible to 1), is 1000 watts for faster drying; comes with 8 round trays, 8 fruit leather sheets, 8 mesh screens, and a video from the #1 book on dehydrating foods. It is their best package deal! This is model FD1018. Accessories for the Garden Master are also available.
This dehydrator is now also available in a redesigned and updated model–the FD1040. The electronics, fan and heating element, are all in the lid and the thermostat is digital. This model can be stacked 20 trays high. This new model automatically runs only when needed to maintain proper temperature, saving electricity.
The EXCALIBUR dehydrator has been “the” dehydrator in the raw food community and Culinary Institutes for 35 years. It is a great dehydrator also. It is Made in America. It has the fan in the back (for the air to evenly cover each tray–but trays may need to be turned to evenly dry the food for some things), nearly square slide-in trays (with no center holes, and convenient loading/ unloading), and temp settings from 95°/105 – 155°/165 F.
One advantage of the Excalibur is you can put larger things in it – such as taller jars for making raw yogurt or such, or baking pans for dehydrating bars or raising bread (by removing trays). These things won’t go on an American Harvest with the air flow hole in the middle and shallow stacking trays.
Screens come with the dehydrator. Solid sheets (for fruit leathers and other non-solid foods) are available as Premium (non-stick) or Ultra (silicone). I highly recommend the silicone “Ultra” ones as a safer/healthier option, but they are a bit more expensive. (Purchase separately).
We have and recommend the 3900 series (pictured), which has a 600 watt motor and 9 trays for 15 square feet of drying space. This is the dehydrator that always stays on our kitchen counter, and is running nearly every day with almond pulp (from almond milk, and for use as almond flour,) or granola, or fruits or veggies, or yummy raw recipes. (Our Garden Master is brought out when we are doing large loads of produce at harvest or case sale times.) The Excalibur 3926T adds a 26 hour timer, to automatically shut the dehydrator off at your set time. I personally don’t feel the 3926T is worth the extra money, as this dehydrator cannot be ran without the timer. Food preparation is an art, not a science, a skill not a formula. Foods vary in water content and humidity differs from day to day as well as location to location, and size/thickness of the pieces of food vary by who is preparing it. Therefore it will take varying amounts of time to dehydrate, from batch to batch. If the dehydrator shuts off during the night and sits for hours until you get up and store the food, it will begin to absorb more moisture back from the air. So my recommendation is to start foods at a time that they will be finished during waking/at home hours, based on estimated time for dehyrating. If you want a timer that shuts your dehydrator off, I recommend getting an appliance timer and plugging your dehydrator into it, so it will shut it off at the time you set. That way you can use the timer when you need to, and not use it all the time. The Excalibur 3900 is available in Black or White.
The newest Excalibur D900CDSHD has stainless steel trays. I really like this option over the plastic (no BPA) trays, but it does cost a bit more, and has a clear door, that I’m not real thrilled to see. All Excalibur styles also are available with 5 trays. Excalibur dehydrators are not expandable, so we recommend the 9 tray models. Stainless Steel trays can be purchased separately for the 3900 if you’d like them.
The Excalibur 3900 series is a more expensive machine than the American Harvest/Nesco 1000 series. It is also considered more durable/ long lasting (and is made in the USA). Thus we have the 2 Top Picks. Weigh the pros and cons of both and decide which is best for you.
Our company also offers the L’Equip FilterPro Dehydrator. I’ve heard good things about its feature of filtering the air intake to remove pet dander and other “floaties” from the air that is blown over your food, but have not had any experience with it. It also is a stackable dehydrator with a hole in the center, like the American Harvest, but rectangular in shape. It can be stacked to 20 trays, and is 530 watts.