Our Top Pick for 2016: Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator
Read our full review.
If you and your family enjoy eating a healthy variety of dried fruits, meats, and vegetables then you know the pain of purchasing costly pre-dried variations at the super market. Having a dehydrator in your kitchen is a great way to decrease the cost of these dried fruit snacks and give your family a wider variety of options. You can make beef jerky for an evening snack, fruit roll ups for your kid’s lunch, or apple and banana chips to take to the movies and enjoy. There are a plethora of different things you can make with a dehydrator, but how do you know what features you need? This best of list presents you with several top options to choose from as well as a budget friendly variation. Sit back and discover a new method of making healthy snacks for your household.
Table of contents
- #1 Gold Pick (1st Place Winner)
- #2 Silver Pick (2nd Place Runner-Up)
- #3 Bronze Pick (3rd Place)
- #4 Budget Pick (Best Cheap)
6 Spacious Adjustable Drying Racks
Automatic Fan For Even Drying
15 Square Feet Of Drying Space
Accommodates A Wide Variety Of Fruits, Herbs, Vegetables, And Meats
6 Removable Racks
Adjustable Thermostat With 26 Hour Timer
Up To 1lb Of Food On Each Level
Flexible Poly-screen Tray Insert
Includes 1 Nonstick Fine-mesh Sheet
Includes Drip Tray
Great For Large Families, Gardeners, And Sportsmen
Digital Thermostat Adjusts From 95º F To 158º F
#1 Gold pick (Winner): Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator
View it on Amazon for $246.87*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Excalibur is a company that has been manufacturing appliances that are designed to dehydrate food since 1973. They are a company that is dedicated to producing exceptional machines that are held to the highest of standards, so it is no surprise that the Excalibur 3926TB is the gold pick on our list. As with all gold picks, it is adored by critics and consumers alike.
The 3926TB is a large food dehydrator that is perfect for dehydrating some deer jerky during hunting season or making strawberry fruit roll ups during the summer months. The machine is 19 inches deep, 17 inches wide, and 12.5 inches high, which means that you will have plenty of space to place your food. In fact, you will have about 12 square inches of space on each of the nine trays that come with this box style dehydrator.
Each of the nine trays can be removed, which makes it easier to dehydrate larger items. In addition, there are nine flexible mesh sheets included with the purchase of this dehydrator, which are great for drying herbs and other finer substances. The front door of the unit is also removable, which makes loading up the device a much simpler process. Unfortunately, this dehydrator is not compatible with more than nine trays, so you cannot add extra trays to be more efficient.
Insofar as power is concerned, this dehydrator sports a full 600 watts of power, which means that the seven inch fan and the heating unit combination will allow you to dry food items in hours instead of days. The fan is actually located on the back wall of the unit, which means that the airflow created will be able to be evenly distributed across the trays. This method of drying food items is more efficient at creating an atmosphere that will remove the moisture from the food at the same pace, which means the trays will not need to be rotated or moved to ensure an even airflow. In addition, you will like that the fans in this machine are relatively quiet, so you will not be disturbed every time you dry some food.
The device comes complete with an automated timer that allows you to set it for up to 26 hours, at that point, the machine will automatically shut off. The temperature of this dehydrator can be adjusted to temperatures between 95 degrees and 165 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that you can make sure the temperature at which you dry herbs is lower than the temperature you dry jerky at.
The appliance itself is made mostly from stainless steel material, but any plastic that is on the unit, like what you see on the trays, is BPA free. The timer is located on the back of the unit, so make sure to be careful when reaching for it, especially if the dehydrator is turned on. The entire device is designed to be easy to clean. All you need to do is wipe it down with a cloth and some warm soapy water. It is not recommended to place the trays of this dehydrator in the dishwasher.
A drying guide is included with the purchase of this dehydrator, which is a booklet that has instructions on how to dry different fruits, vegetables, meats, and herbs. It gives cooking times and thicknesses that the food item should be cut to. There are also recipes for more obscure food items like fruit roll ups, yogurt, bread, and jerky. You will also notice recipes are included to help you make treats for your pets and arts and crafts for your home, such as potpourri.
This Excalibur dehydrator is available in both black and white, so it will look great in any kitchen. It also comes with a ten year warranty for the parts, so you do not have to worry about a replacement any time soon. When it comes to reviews, this model of dehydrator is completely adored by users on Amazon and other similar sites. There are well over 1,000 reviews on Amazon, and 92 percent of them have given this dehydrator a positive rating of four or five stars. In fact, 82 percent of them were actually ranked with five stars.
Most of the bad reviews on Amazon had to do with the shipping experience, once you get past that, the reviews were phenomenal. Reviewers love that this is an exceptionally quiet device that dehydrates food quickly and efficiently. Here is an example of a five star testimonial from Amazon: “I had no idea how fast and easy it was to make FANTASTIC beef jerky. Overnight, I marinated ribeye steaks strips (little less than half inch thick slices) in four different flavors (brown sugar/cinnamon/vanilla, jalapeno, salt and vinegar, and 18 year old scotch), set the dehydrator to 155 degrees for six hours and out came the best tasting, most tender jerky I could have imagined.”
#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Aroma Housewares Professional 6 Tray Food Dehydrator
View it on Amazon for $123.49*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Our silver pick, which is an Aroma Housewares dehydrator, is a mid-sized device. It is a device that sets 18 inches deep, 14 inches wide, and 12 inches high. The surface area of each tray is 11 inches by 12 inches, which gives you 5.5 square inches of space to utilize on each of the six trays. Each tray is capable of holding up to one pound of food while the dehydrator is running.
This device features a horizontal airflow, which means that the air is easily able to get between each tray and dry the food. No food or tray rotation will ever be needed with this machine. The trays are front mounted for extra security, and they are loaded into the dehydrator following guides like an oven rack. In addition, the door to the unit is transparent, which allows you to see how the fruit or vegetables are progressing as they dry.
Using 400 watts of power, this appliance is able to create an airflow that is effective and fast. The temperature of the unit can be adjusted to anywhere between 95 degrees to 155 degrees Fahrenheit, which gives you a range that is great for drying anything from banana chips to jerky. There are actually seven different temperature settings that allow you to select an exact temperature to dry the food at, the only downfall is that there is not a timer to accompany this adjustable feature. All of the trays are made out of a durable plastic material that is 100 percent BPA free. In addition to the six trays that are included, you will also receive a mesh tray that is great for drying smaller foods like herbs and spices.
You will receive a drip tray as well to catch any sugar droppings, or food particles that may otherwise collect on the bottom of the machine. This drip tray is a great way to simplify the cleaning process, but even without it; all you need to do is wash it down with some soap and warm water. This Aroma Housewares dehydrator is only available in one color, which is black, so it will easily match any kitchen décor. In addition, it comes with a five year warranty from the manufacturer.
When it comes to the reviews of this dehydrator, there are about 100 available on Amazon to look at, and out of all of them, 94 percent of the users deemed this appliance worthy of a four or a five star rating. In fact, an amazing 84 percent of the reviewers gave this dehydrator a five star rating. The main complaint about this dehydrator is that there is no timer on the unit, but this can easily be settled by using another timer.
Here is an example of a five star testimonial: “My husband absolutely loves it. He dehydrates chicken and beef for dog treats and they turn out wonderful. The machine is easy to clean and is not noisy like out other dehydrator that we spent much more money on. It also fits nicely under out kitchen cabinets.”
#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Ivation Electric Countertop Food Dehydrator with 6 Drying Racks
View it on Amazon for $399.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Our bronze pick, which is Ivations’s food dehydrator, is another option that stands out above most other dehydrators. It is a decently sized machine that is 13.6 inches deep, 12.4 inches wide, and 17.7 inches tall. Weighing in at about 13 pounds, it is a semi-lightweight option that will look great in any kitchen. It is designed with a sleek black exterior design that features an easy to use control panel on the top front of the unit.
This dehydrator comes with six spacious racks that allow enough room for most food items, but for extra large pieces, you may need to cut them into a smaller size. The racks are adjustable, and the front of the dehydrator is removable, which makes it much easier to load the shelves up with food. In addition to the six standard trays, a solid sheet and a mesh sheet are also included. This makes it easier to dry smaller items like herbs as well as pureed fruits and vegetables. Additional racks cannot be added to this dehydrator, but six gives you a good bit of space.
This device runs on 400 watts of power that runs quieter than many other dehydrators on the market. The fan is mounted on the back of the unit, and the device has an adjustable thermostat that can be set at any temperature between 95 degrees and 158 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives you several options for drying food at the proper heat levels. In addition, you can use the timer to set the machine to automatically turn off after a certain period of time. This gives you the flexibility to use the dehydrator while you are at work or running other errands without worrying about over cooking or overheating. In fact, there is a safety feature in place on this unit that will turn the device off if it starts to overheat.
Ivation’s dehydrator only comes in black, which is perfectly fine to accommodate most kitchen designs. It comes with a user guide that gives you instructions on how to use the device as well as cooking times for many of the foods that you will be drying in the unit. In addition, there are some recipes for you to try out as well. When it comes to reviews, this dehydrator really stands out. In fact, 95 percent of the users who gave reviews on this appliance rated it with a positive rating of four or five stars.
Here is an example of a five star review from the wife of an avid hiker: “My husband is absolutely in love with this dehydrator. I have been hearing every single day how he wished he gotten one 15 years ago for his hiking food. I am so excited that he will be replacing highly processed junk food with meals that we can make at home.”
#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator FD-75A
View it on Amazon for $58.49*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Don’t be afraid to purchase a dehydrator because your funds are low. Remember that purchasing dried food at the grocery store can be costly, and they are often filled with preservatives that you do not need it your food. You can easily purchase a dehydrator that is healthy and cost effective. Our ballin’ on a budget option, which is the Nesco Snackmaster, is a dehydrator that perfectly fits this bill. It is a round unit that is 13 inches in diameter and ten inches high. It features a beautiful compact design that weighs in at a little less than six pounds. In addition, the exterior is a neutral white that sports tiny grey specs, which will look great in any kitchen.
This device features a 600 watt motor that is perfectly capable of drying all of the trays in an even fashion. Each of the five trays give you a full ten square inches of usable space, and the best part is that you can add in more trays if more space is required. This unit can hold up to 12 trays at once. The thermostat is adjustable, so you can dry any food between the temperatures of 95 degrees and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The air is forced downwards from the top mounted fan and across each rack, which means that the trays will never need to be rotated. Using this drying method, foods that take days to dry in other dehydrators will be dry in mere hours. In addition, having a top mounted fan also assures that fruit juices and such do not drip down into the fan, which can be difficult to clean.
All of the plastic featured on this unit is BPA free. In addition to the five drying trays that come with this dehydrator, you will also receive two flexible screens that you can use to dry herbs and spices as well as two fruit roll up sheets that you can dry pureed fruits and vegetables on. The one item that is not included with this appliance is a timer, which can easily be rectified by purchasing any kitchen timer.
The exterior of the dehydrator is made from an opaque material that is designed to block UV light. This is a great feature to have, because UV light can decrease the nutritional value of the food you are dehydrating. On the top of the unit, you will see a convenient guide that shows you how much heat is required to dry jerky, meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices. This is a great way to quickly guide you through the drying process. In addition, there is a 52 page user’s manual that also has more detailed information as well as recipes that you can try.
The Nesco Snackmaster is easy to clean; in fact, if you prefer not to wipe it clean with arm soapy water, then you have the option of placing the trays into the dishwasher. It is only able to be cleaned on the top shelf, and it should be removed before any heat drying occurs. One feature to note that is missing is the on and off switch. To start or stop the dehydrating process you simply need to plug in the device or unplug it from the wall.
When you purchase this device, you will notice that a one year warranty is included that is designed to cover the cost of any part that may need replaced in the first 12 months. In addition, three spice packets are also included to season meat and create your own jerky. These packets are great for getting started, but once you become a master at making jerky, then it is time to create your own spice blend.
When it comes to the reviews of the Nesco Snackmaster, there are well over 2,000 on Amazon alone. 89 percent of the users who rated this product deemed it worthy of a positive review. Here is a five star testimonial that was written by a professional raw food chef: “I know that every chef should have an Excalibur but when I started out, I couldn’t afford it so I opted for this Nesco 600 and kept my fingers crossed. I actually read many of the reviews before purchasing it. Now that I have it, I use it almost every day. I’ve made pizza crusts, falafel wraps, falafel balls, pie crusts and more on it.”
Stacking or Shelf Design
Shelf dehydrators are typically designed in the shape of a box, and they have shelves that can easily be pulled in and out of the unit. If you are drying larger items, it is easy to remove a tray to make more space, and rotating the shelves is usually not needed. The only downfall to this type of dehydrator is the fact that you cannot add more shelves if you need more space.
A dehydrator with stackable shelves usually comes with four to ten trays, but you can stack as many as you need to get the job done. Just be aware of where your fan is located, because the more stacks you have the more likely it will be that the trays that are opposite of the fan will get less heat. This means that the trays will need to be rotated to ensure an even air flow.
Not all fans are located in the same place on a food dehydrator. In larger rectangle shaped dehydrators you will often find that the fan will be located on the back of the device, which allows the air to flow evenly across all of the food to the front of the unit. The air will get between each layer of food to assure that it dries at the same rate of speed. Many circular and square dehydration units have a fan that is located either on the bottom of the device or on the top.
Having a fan located above the food is not quite as effective, but it will eventually get the job done. The air will have to pass through each layer of food, which means that the lower levels will not get the heated air that you are trying to circulate. A great way to ensure that an even airflow is maintained is to rotate the trays during the drying process. If the fan is on the bottom of the device, you will have the same issue with the food on the top shelves. In addition to this lack of air flow, the fan blades can become covered in dust and food particles, which can be a tedious task to clean.
Fan and Thermostat Adjustability
Drying food is done by combining heat and airflow, so it is important to be able to adjust these aspects of the appliance. Most dehydrators have a fan that ranges in size from four inches to eight inches in diameter. Some devices are fitted with two different fans to ensure that the air flow over the food is even. You will also want to maintain an even temperature during the drying process.
This is important, because certain foods need to be dried at higher temperatures than others. For example drying beef into jerky takes a much higher heat level than drying some basil. If items are dried at too high of a temperature, then it is possible that the outer shell will become extremely dry and the middle will not be dry enough, which can lead to food items spoiling internally without you realizing it.
Tray Style and Capacity
Trays come in different shapes and sizes, so you want to make sure that you select a dehydrator that will accommodate the types of food that you want to dry. You can choose from rectangle shaped trays, which are great for long linear food selections like jerky. You can also find dehydrators that are designed with circular or square shaped trays. These have less space per tray, but they often are found in machines that have stackable trays. This gives you the option of adding more shelf layers if you need them. Remember that most circular and square trays have a hole in the center, so that means that you will have less surface area to work with.
Timer Functionality and Visibility
Each type of food that you dry in a dehydrator will require a different amount of time to become the snack that you crave. Having a built in timer on your dehydrator will allow you to dry fruit or other food items without being in the home. You can go out to the movies and the machine will automatically turn off when it is done. In addition, having a see through door may be a great feature to have. It allows you to see the drying process as it is in action, which helps you to determine if the food is dried to the level that you desire. It is a nice feature to have, but it is definitely not a requirement.
Quality and Warranty Availability
Some dehydrators come with plastic shelving, but some people do not like to use a lot of plastic appliances. In a situation like that, you can purchase a dehydrator that has shelves that are comprised of stainless steel. They will be a more durable option that will be safe from the high heat inside the device. Plastic trays that are poorly constructed can melt if left in high heat circumstances for an extended period of time.
In addition, to the quality of the device, you will want to purchase a product that the manufacturer stands behind. This can often be seen through a warranty, and some dehydrators can come with one year, five year, or even ten year warranties that replace the parts if they happen to break. Make sure that the unit you select has some type of warranty included.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
A dehydrator is a great tool to have in any kitchen. It is an appliance that will help you create healthy snacks that you and your kids will enjoy. Maybe you like to buy fresh herbs a lot, but you never use them fast enough, then you can dry them with a dehydrator for later use. Perhaps you have a lot of peaches that you want to use up, then use a dehydrator to create some dried peach slices or some peach flavored fruit roll ups that your kids will love. This guide will help you along the way to creating endless snacks options with a dehydrator; all you need it time and fresh ingredients.
Discussion and comments
We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?
Do you know of an even better product?
- Susan, Excalibur 3926TB 9-Tray Dehydrator Review, The Healthy Kitchen Shop, March 13, 2014
- Ryan, Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator Review – Create Healthy Snacks, Juicing Diet Works
- Lynne Jaques, THE EXCALIBUR 3926 SERIES: A TOP OF THE LINE CLASSIC, Foodal, August 20, 2014
- Lorna Kring, PRESERVE YOUR BOUNTY WITH THE AROMA 6 TRAY PROFESSIONAL MODEL, Foodal, September 20, 2015
- Sophia, AROMA PROFESSIONAL 6 TRAY FOOD DEHYDRATOR AFD-815B REVIEW, Food Dehydrator Reviews, July 1, 2015
- Aroma Professional 6 Tray Food Dehydrator Review, Pick My Dehydrator
- Anatolie75, Ivation Electric Countertop Food Dehydrator with 6 Drying Racks Review, Hot New Product Reviews, November 27, 2015
- Lorna Kring, A Closer Look at the Nesco Snackmaster Pro FD-75A / FD-75PR, Foodal, August 12, 2015
- Nesco FD-75PR 700-Watt Food Dehydrator, Dehydrator Review
- Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator FD-75A, Best Food Dehydrator Reviews