Food dehydrators to make your own dried fruit, beef jerky, and biltong

From muesli to jerky, this kitchen gadget makes it all with ease.

Electric food dehydrators work a little like very small fan ovens, with temperatures that usually don’t exceed around 70°C to ensure that food doesn’t get cooked, but instead has the water removed from it. Removing the water means that bacteria, yeasts, and mould are less likely to grow, so food can be kept for much longer than in its natural state. Some forms of dried food—such as mushrooms—work best when rehydrated, while others become foods in their own right—dried beef is biltong, while grapes become raisins, and plums become prunes.

MisterChef® Food Dehydrator
An inexpensive dehydrator with five round trays, variable temperature setting, and a timer.Amazon

While most dehydrators have an adjustable temperature setting that may be anything from around 30°C to 70°C, others—like this option by Chef Dehydrator—also have timers that allow you to set the dehydrator to run for up 48 or 72 hours and just forget about it. This dehydrator also comes with five stacking trays to provide maximum drying space with a relatively small footprint.

Andrew James Food Dehydrator
This dehydrator comes with a 48-hour timer, six height-adjustable drying trays, and an adjustable digital thermostat make for a versatile machine.Amazon

Dehydrators are a very energy efficient way of making long-life snacks from everyday foods with running costs of only a few pence an hour. So, whether you’re making banana chips to sustain you on your next outdoor adventure, drying fruit for your breakfast muesli, or preserving mushrooms to use in a risotto down the line, you can get gourmet ingredients for a fraction of the price that they’d cost in store. When looking for a dehydrator, think about its footprint, and space efficiency. There’s an argument that square or rectangular designs like this one by Andrew James offer larger capacity than their circular counterparts, so this is worth bearing in mind.

SousVideTools® Hendi 6 Tray Shelf Fruit Dryer
Six removable and dishwasher-safe stainless steel wire trays and a 500W heater and fan for highly efficient drying.Amazon

Some owners have reported that, over time, plastic trays can become brittle because they’re subjected to low, dry heat for long periods of time. So, if you see your dehydrator as an investment purchase, it’s worth looking for stainless steel trays like those found in this dehydrator instead. Not only will these have more longevity, but they’re also easier to clean as they can be popped straight in the dishwasher.