Whether you’re new to Prepping or a seasoned Prepper, you’re probably familiar with the advice to grow your own garden and to buy in bulk when you can.
Both of these approaches will save you money as you grow your pantry, and success with both will provide you with plenty of nourishing food when it might otherwise not be available.
But what about when your harvest is TOO plentiful, or you got a great deal on meat and you can’t safely store it for long? We highly recommend adding a Food Dehydrator to your kitchen!
Dehydrators help to reinforce a healthy diet as well as easily preserving food without adding chemicals or sugar. More than anything else, you will find yourself dehydrating meat, fruit, and vegetables – all full of essential nutrients, and all with traditionally short shelf lives.
Dehydrators can be purchased for $50-400 and are a valuable tool for any Prepper.
What to Look for When Buying a Dehydrator
As you start shopping for your dehydrator, you will see that there are a myriad of options on the market. Here’s some guidance on what features to look for.
Look at the size of the dehydrator, and the number of racks it has. If your needs are minimal, a smaller and less expensive machine will suffice. However, if you have a large garden (or a large family), you may want one of the larger models with 9+ racks.
Choose a model with 500+ watts of power.
Try not to choose a dehydrator with the heating element on the bottom. You will not want anything to drip onto it. Most dehydrators heat from the top or along the back wall.
Be sure the temperature can be adjusted by a significant amount. This way you can dry different types of foods at the best temp for them.
A timer is a nice feature, but not required. If your machine does not have a timer built-in, you will need one of your own to use.
How to Use a Dehydrator
Using a dehydrator is incredibly easy, and yours will likely come with an informative guide of how to use it and the temperature settings for different types of foods.
On your end, all you have to do is thinly and evenly slice the meat or produce that you’re drying, lay it evenly across the racks, and set the temperature. Over time, you will become familiar with the best thicknesses for each item.
Dense food like meat will take longer to cook than soft food like fruit.
Dehydrators work by applying a consistent, low heat to food over time. Unlike when you put food in the oven at a high temperature for a short time, foods in the dehydrator will shrink and dry out, and have the exact same texture throughout.
The Best Dehydrators on the Market
If you’re ready to buy a dehydrator, make sure the model you choose is the right size and price for your needs. The most highly recommended dehydrators vary significantly, with stackable trays in the lower end models, and shelf trays in more advanced models. Prices may vary, but are included for reference.
The Excalibur 3926T
This model has 15 sq ft of drying space on its shelf trays, giving plenty of room for those with more food on hand. Price tag: $200+
Excalibur 3926TB 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator with Temperature Settings and 26-hour Timer Automatic Shut Off for Faster and Efficient Drying Includes Guide to Dehydration Made in USA, 9-Tray, Black
- 10 YEAR Limited Coverage
- CAPACITY – The 9-Tray electric food dehydrator has 15 square feet of drying space and offers plenty of space for your favorite snacks.
The NESCO FD-1040 Gardenmaster
This dehydrator is less than half the price of the Excalibur, making it a great choice for beginners at dehydrating.
It has significantly less space, (although additional trays can be purchased and added) and it is made of less durable plastic. Price tag: $100
Nesco FD-1040 Gardenmaster Food dehydrator, White
- 1000 watts of drying power provides even heat distribution
- Adjustable digital time & temperature control (90°F – 160°F)
If you’re looking for something even more budget-friendly, you should check out the Presto 3601 Dehydro which provides convenient features and fun accessories for making things like fruit leather and drying small items like herbs and spices.
This is a great choice for those only planning to use a dehydrator occasionally, and it should run you about $70.
Looking for something with 6- trays but the Excalibur is a bit out of your budget? The Aroma Professional 6-Tray is a shelf tray model similar to the Excalibur, but with fewer features and a little less space. The price tag is about $100-150
If you’ve got a bigger budget and want all the bells and whistles, we recommend either the STX Dehydra 1200W ($300+) or the Tribest Sedona ($300+).
STX International STX-DEH-1200W-XLS Dehydra Commercial Grade Stainless Steel Digital Food Dehydrator – 10 Trays – 1200 Watts – 165 Degree Fahrenheit – Jerky Safe with 15 Hour Timer
- The STX Dehydra Model 1200W-XLS is an Extra Large Stainless Steel Commercial Grade Food & Jerky Dehydrator with 10 Each 100% Stainless Steel Drying Racks that Measure 16 Inches Wide x 14.5 Inches Deep each. The 10 Drying Racks are manufactured from 304 Grade Stainless Steel (NOT Chrome Coated) and the Square “Holes” in the Racks are 1/4 Inch x 1/4 Inch which helps accommodate almost any Fruit, Vegetable or Jerky that you wish to dehydrate.
- This Dehydrator also Features 1200 Watts of Dehydrating/Heating Power with 7 Preset Heat Temperatures that Range from 97 °F to 165 °F (36 °C to 74 °C). This unit is, what is commonly referred to, as a Horizontal Air-Flow Food Dehydrator as it is powered by a Rear Mounted Motor with a 7 Inch Fan Blade that Blows the Hot Air Forward towards all of the food you are drying on the racks. Also Included is a Stainless Steel Drip Tray that slides into the bottom of the Front Drying Section.
No matter which dehydrator you choose, your well-preserved Prepper’s Pantry will thank you.
You can comfortably buy in bulk and confidently preserve a great harvest.
- Preserving Your Harvest: How to Dehydrate Summer Vegetables
- Dehydrated Foods to Try This Weekend
- How To Dry Meats, Fruits & Vegetables In A Car