A food dehydrator is an appliance that removes moisture from foods or materials resulting in preserved goods carrying a long shelf life. Much like a fan-forced oven, they have a heating element and a fan that circulates warm air through the unit’s air vents, drying and removing moisture from the items placed inside. They operate at low temperatures of around 50–60°C (70-75°C for meats), with the whole drying process generally taking anywhere from 4 to 16 hours.
Food dehydrators can benefit your lifestyle in a multitude of ways. They can provide and encourage healthier eating habits and snacking, while also saving money. Most dehydrated foods that are available at grocery stores are usually expensive and come in small quantities. Owning your own dehydrator allows you to prepare snacks free from added sugar and preservatives that have long-lasting shelf life.
For avid gardeners, veggie patch growers, dedicated food preppers, or people looking to make their own healthy snacks and condiments from home, food dehydrators are a great way of preserving foods in bulk and help to reduce food wastage.
Amongst being able to produce dried fruits and herbs, trail mix, fruit and veggie chips, beef jerky, even yogurt and fermented foods, food dehydrators can also be utilised by creatives looking to dry out clay, flowers, or 3D printing filament. We have listed further information on drying out filament at the end of this article.
Types of food dehydrators: vertical or horizontal
There are two main types of food dehydrators available in Australia: vertical (circular/stackable) and horizontal (square/rectangle/box). Let’s quickly see the pros and cons of each type.
- This dehydrator is round with stackable trays.
- The heating element and fan is either situated at the top or bottom of the unit.
- You will need to periodically check and rotate the trays for optimal and even drying.
- Ideal for dehydrating fruit and delicate foods like herbs.
- Additional racks/trays can be purchased with some models.
- Some models may not be suitable for drying meat or making jerky, if they are unable to reach the right temperature or distribute the air evenly.
- The heating element and fan are usually located at the back of the unit.
- Requires little to no shifting of trays throughout the process.
- Some come with transparent doors for easy monitoring, without disrupting the drying process.
- Safer and better heat distribution for dehydrating meat and fish products (meat jerky).
- Tend to be larger and more costly.
- Racks/trays that are removable and slide in and out, much like an oven.
Keep in mind, they are a bulky appliance that can take up considerable space on your benchtop and may be difficult to store in a cupboard or pantry.
Deciding on the right dehydrator can be a tricky process. But whether you are looking for a large horizontal unit for bulk preservation, a small unit for diy, on-the-go snacks, the best dehydrator for jerky, or looking for a unit that can dry 3D printing filament, we have got you covered. Below we have listed our top 8 picks for the best food dehydrators in Australia.
Best For Filament
1. BioChef Arizona Sol
9 tray horizontal food dehydrator, suitable for bulk preserving and drying filament
Price AUD: $266.00
The BioChef Arizona Sol is part of the extensive BioChef Food Dehydrator collection which offers several models with varying capacities (6-tray, 8-tray, and 10-tray models). This BioChef model comes equipped with 9 stainless-steel trays, ideal for large families or small businesses.
Although not designed specifically for any other purpose other than dehydrating food, the BioChef Arizona Sol one of the best food dehydrators for filament. With the ability to remove some or all the trays, it provides ample space to dry several reels of filament at a time. Just be sure to do your own research for appropriate temperature and timer settings for the type of filament you use.
The Arizona Sol Dehydrator is great value for money, featuring a digital timer, adjustable thermostat, and non-harming materials (stainless steel and BPA free). This horizontal drying system evenly distributes heat throughout the unit, so there is no need for tray rotation or turning of produce. With a transparent door, you can monitor the process without interrupting it.
We love the 'set and forget' timer function of the BioChef, and that it makes minimal noise. This versatile unit comes with 3 non-stick slips for rollup recipes, 3 fine mesh sheets for drying smaller produce like grapes or nuts, and 1 drip tray. Keep in mind this is a large unit, weighing 8.4kg, so it will take up quite a bit of space on your counter and in storage. With a 3-year warranty, this beast is designed to last.
Best For Beef Jerky
2. Sunbeam Food Lab Electronic Dehydrator
6 tray horizontal unit, the best beef jerky dehydrator
Price AUD: $175.00
The Sunbeam Food Lab dehydrator comes equipped with 6 large trays in a horizontal system, ideal for safely making beef jerky and creating healthy snacks. The rear fan allows for horizontal air flow, ensuring the temperature is consistent in all areas of the dehydrator, so there is no need for tray rotation or monitoring during the drying process.
The countdown timer can be programmed for up to 19.5 hours in 30-minute increments and turns off when it is complete. You can even set it before bed and wake up to perfectly dried results by morning. We love that it has a wide temperature range, with 8 temperature settings to dry between 35 and 70 degrees Celsius, providing versatility for drying fruit, herbs, vegetables, activating yeast, culturing yoghurt, proofing bread dough and making meat jerky.
The 6 large trays are made from plastic which isn’t our favourite kitchen appliance material, however, they are BPA-free and removable for larger items. This unit also comes with a mesh tray for small or sticky items like herbs, berries, and a solid fruit roll up tray, which can also double as a crumb tray when not in use.
3. Devanti 6 Trays Dehydrator
An easy-to-use, horizontal drying system with digital display
Price AUD: $149.90
If you are looking for a food dehydrator made from high-quality materials, with adjustable thermostat and timer, the Devanti 6 tray unit could be for you. With six food-grade 304 stainless-steel trays this unit is perfect for medium families looking to create their own healthy snacks from home. Featuring a complete drying system with all the necessary controls to effectively dry vegetables, fruits, herbs, meat and more.
You can easily adjust the temperature and timer to suit different food items with the easy-to-use LCD touch control panel. The thermostat settings range from 35°C to 70°C, with an adjustable timer from 30mins to 19.5 hours. The flame-retardant door is transparent for easy monitoring and comes with a magnetic catch to ensure heat loss is kept to a minimum.
The removable trays can be hand washed in warm, soapy water. Or for even more convenience they can be placed in your dishwasher. We love that Devanti has considered safety in its design, equipped with overheating protection to ensure safe use, and comes with a SAA-certified plug.
4. Cuisinart DHR-20A
5 tray, stackable unit with a top venting system
Price AUD: $119.00
Living up to its reputable name, Cuisinart delivers a reliable food dehydrator that makes it easy to create tasty and nutritious, dried snacks from home, including, fruit leathers and veggie chips. This unit is equipped with a fruit roll-up sheet and 5 interlocking trays that stack on top of one another for easy placement. Additional trays can be purchased separately, allowing you to stack up to 9 trays at one time, making this a versatile unit with varying capacity, ideal for small to large families.
With a powerful 620-watt motorized fan, the Cuisinart works with a top venting system that allows heat to circulate from the bottom of the unit, up. This differs from horizontal drying systems which circulate air from the back of the unit, through each shelf. As vertical/stackable units don’t distribute heat as evenly as a horizontal unit, it is not recommended to dry meat in this type of dehydrator, although if you choose to do so, it is important to check on your meat and rotate the trays to ensure even heat distribution throughout the drying process.
This Cuisinart Food dehydrator will no doubt help save money and reduce food wastage, with 4 general settings, fan only, low, medium, and high that allow for different temperatures, for a variety of different food items. This unit weighs 3.95Kg, which is lighter and more portable for storage than some of the larger, horizontal models. This unit is ideal if you are stretched for space in your kitchen.
5. Sunbeam Food Dehydrator
A 5-tray vertical unit, with 3 easy-to-use heat settings
Price AUD: $99.00
The Sunbeam Food Dehydrator is a compact unit which allows you to dry several different foods at once. With 5 separate drying racks with opaque protection, this unit will help retain the nutritional value of your food and protect it from light. It is the perfect solution for school lunches, picnics, camping, backpacking and everyday snacks, ideal for dehydrating fruits and vegetables.
With 3 simple heat settings ranging from 35 to 75 degrees Celsius, this unit allows you to select the appropriate temperature for different types of foods. To ensure perfect results, the food slices need to be carved thinly, otherwise the drying process could take longer than anticipated.
Being that this model is made from plastic, it will need to be hand washed after use. However, Sunbeam has made the top filter removable for easy cleaning. With a bonus fruit roll tray included, making your own fruit leathers and straps from home will result in healthier snacks free from added sugar and preservatives.
6. Devanti 5 Trays Dehydrator
A dehydrator with both horizontal and vertical air circulation
Price AUD: --
The Devanti stainless-steel food dehydrator comes equipped with 5 food-grade, transparent trays for easy monitoring and food division. This unit delivers a 360-degree complete drying system which utilises horizontal and vertical air flow. This ensures for fast and efficient drying, that can safely dehydrate meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, and much more. This is an affordable model and a great way to make pet food snacks from home.
With an LCD display for easy use, you can select temperatures from 40°C to 70°C, with a digital timer extending up to 48 hours. This is great for dehydrating snacks overnight, having them perfectly ready by the next morning. Furthermore, this food dehydrator works silently with little energy consumption and has a built-in overheating protection for peace of mind.
And after completion, you can simply wash the trays by hand or chuck them in the dishwasher. Although this is a bulky appliance, if you have room in your kitchen, it’ll be your new best friend, saving you money and delivering delicious, healthy homemade snacks.
7. Devanti 7 Trays Dehydrator
A versatile unit with a capacity for the whole family
Price AUD: --
Devanti has delivered another reliable food dehydrator, this time with 7 food grade trays, ideal for medium to large families looking to make DIY snacks from home. The transparent plastic trays and lid are durable and allow you to keep track of the entire drying process as well as preventing heat loss.
The 360-degrees heat-cycling system ensures that every food tray is given the right amount of heat and air for perfect drying. With the temperature adjustable from 35-70-degrees Celsius.
We love that the tray height can be adjustable, allowing for more room for bigger or thicker cut food items. You can also adjust the tray height to adapt better air flow and ventilation within the unit.
And after the drying is complete, simply wash the plastic trays by hand in warm soapy water. A soft bristle brush can be used to remove any extra bits of food left behind. Furthermore, the Devanti 7 tray dehydrator works silently with low energy consumption and has a built-in overheating protection to ensure nothing goes wrong during the whole process.
8. Healthy Choice
A super affordable 5 stacked food dehydrator
Price AUD: $46.95
The Healthy Choice brought to you by Lennox is equipped with 5 stackable drying trays which are removable for easy cleaning. This model is ideal for beginners looking to try DIY dehydrating from home and an affordable way to make your own pet food treats.
It is equipped with only 2 heat settings, full power (75°C) or half power. These simple settings are great for beginners, however it may not attract serious food preppers or jerky makers, as two settings can be quite limiting. If you are looking for a dehydrator for non-food related crafts like drying clay or flowers, this is a super affordable unit that is capable of the necessary basics.
The Healthy Choice is easy to clean and maintain, simply remove the trays and clean them with a damp cloth or warm, soapy water.
How to choose the right Food Dehydrator
When it comes to food dehydrators, the biggest difference in makes and models are generally determined by cost, capacity, and drying times. Keep in mind there are a few food safety measures to consider when buying a food dehydrator. We have outlined some below. Ultimately your choice will come down to your personal preference and budget.
3D Printing filament
Dehydrators are not only used for drying out food but have become a popular method of drying 3D printing filament.
Filament dryers are essential tools for FDM 3D printing, as they enable you to recover wet filament. Spools of plastic used for printing can be degraded by moisture if left out in open air, yielding poor print quality and fragile parts. This is because 3D printing plastics are hygroscopic, which means that they tend to absorb moisture. This damages the plastic at a molecular level, making drying your filament a must.
Food dehydrators are probably the most inexpensive and accessible forms of filament dryers. While they are made to dry food and not plastic, their similar operating principle makes them easily adaptable. This may require no work at all or just some slight modification.
Food dehydrators will not come with instructions for drying out filament. You will have to rely on shared vlogs and forums online and base your settings on a bit of trial and error, depending on which model you choose.
Food dehydrators can also be used to dry meat, but food safety guidelines recommend that you cook your meat to at least 70-75 degrees Celsius. When making any kind of meat jerky it is essential to use a horizontal (square/box) food dehydrator. The reason for this is the horizontal drying system is going to circulate the air more evenly to create a consistent drying temperature.
If the meat does not reach the optimal temperature for dehydration or if there is too much humidity inside the machine, bacteria and microbes will begin to grow, making the jerky unsafe to eat. Because the fans and heating elements are located at the back of the square style dehydrator, you will get an even distribution of air and heat every time.
Food dehydrators and food safety
Food safety is particularly important when using a food dehydrator. Any moisture remaining at the end will cause the food to spoil quickly and go mouldy. You can check for moisture by:
- breaking or tearing a piece of the food and squeezing it – if any liquid or moisture comes through, it's not ready yet
- placing the dehydrated food in a zip lock bag and leaving for a few minutes – if you notice droplets inside the bag, then it's not ready.
Storage is equally as important when it comes to the longevity of dehydrated foods. Keeping the food free from air and moisture is key. If you are using jars, sterilise them first, ensure they are dried properly and make sure you seal them tightly, so no air gets in. If in doubt, it is always better to over dry rather than under dry.