Best Dehydrator for Prepping and Food Storage

by Tommy Grant

Everyone needs a food storage plan for emergencies, and one of the main battles when storing food is shelf life. There are a few ways to improve the shelf life of food in your pantry, but one of the easiest methods is dehydrating food. You can buy dehydrated food, but you can easily get it done at home too. That’s where a food dehydrator helps, and the best dehydrator for prepping your food storage will get it done efficiently. There are several options to consider when it comes to dehydrators for prepping long-term food storage: features, noise, size, versatility, etc.

This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best dehydrators, tested each of them, and now the results are in: the overall best, a budget option, and an upgrade option. If you need a dehydrator that will help you stock your prepper pantry, one of our picks will help fill it.

Contents (Jump to a Section)

The Best Dehydrator

Cosori 6-Tray

Mid-Capacity, Quiet, and Easy to Use

Our top pick has the capacity and efficiency to get it done quickly and quietly.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Cosori has the power and capacity while being one of the quieter dehydrators in our roundup. It also doesn’t look bad on the countertop if you plan to leave it out and use it often with its stainless steel exterior.

Here is what you get with this medium-sized dehydrator:

  • 6 trays
  • 600W
  • 95°-165° F (35°-74° C) range
  • 48 dB
  • 18″ x 13″ x 12″
  • 23 pounds

With solid quality and a price that doesn’t break the bank, the Cosori 6-Tray Food Dehydrator edged out the competition.

Budget Dehydrator

Nesco FD-79 Snackmaster

Compact, Efficient, and Inexpensive

A solid entry-level dehydrator can pull its weight filling your survival pantry.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Dehydrating doesn’t have to be hard or expensive thanks to the Snackmaster. This model is expandable with stacking trays, making it ideal to scale however you like with your budget. It offers a powerful 600W heater, which is the key upgrade over the other Snackmaster models we compared.

Here is how it measures up:

  • 4 trays
  • 600W
  • 90°-160° F (32°-71° C) range
  • 54 dB
  • 13″ x 13″ x 10″
  • 7.5 pounds

Pick up a Nesco FD-79 Snackmaster to add dehydration to your food storage capabilities without breaking the budget.

Upgrade Dehydrator

Colzer Food Dehydrator

Commercial Grade, High-Capacity, and Fast

This easy-to-clean 16-tray dehydrator will power through your pantry with 1500 watts of drying power.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

If you are serious about dehydrating, then you will need a serious piece of equipment to keep up. This 16-tray dehydrator fits the bill with commercial quality to boot. Power through filling your pantry with 1500 watts of drying power but a low 55 dB noise level. You will need to dedicate some space to this beast- it’s not easy to move around with its weight. You will want to position it where you can remove the entire back for easy cleaning.

Here are the full specs:

  • 16 trays
  • 1500W
  • 104°-194° F (40°-90° C) range
  • 55 dB
  • 21″ x 16″ x 24″
  • 51 pounds

If you are looking for the best of the best, pick up a Colzer Food Dehydrator for your kitchen.

Everything We Recommend

Cosori 6-Tray

Our top pick has the capacity and efficiency to get it done quickly and quietly.

Where to Buy

$159* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

The Dehydrators We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to the several dehydrators that we tested: Nesco, Excalibur, Colzer, Cosori, Cuisinart, Magic Mill, and more.

You can see our full list of review criteria below in the What to Look For section, with an explanation for each.

We focused on small home appliance electric dehydrators. We excluded industrial and non-electric dehydrators, like solar dehydrators due to practicality and our goal of using a dehydrator for long-term food storage. Solar dehydrators may work well during emergencies where there isn’t power available, but our focus in this review was on pre-disaster dehydration.

We’re always looking for new and better equipment, so if you have a dehydrator that you swear by let us know in the comments. We review most of our tested equipment annually, so we can always try to pick one up for the next roundup round and see if it makes the cut and we can see if it will beat out our top picks.

What to Look For

The best dehydrators for prepping long-term food storage have several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Temperature Range
  3. Noise Level
  4. Size & Weight
  5. Versatility

When you get the right blend of these, you can find a reliable dehydrator that will pull the most moisture out of food. Below, we break down what each of these features means for the dehydrators that set themselves apart.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like a dehydrator shouldn’t blow out your entire budget. Don’t go overspending or overdo it. Budget according to your risk and your needs rather than just spending lavishly.

On the flip side, you don’t want to go too cheap or just plain get the wrong thing. If the dehydrator doesn’t get enough water out of the food it’s not going to do you much good for long-term food storage.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially something like dehydrators. It’s better to diversify your preparedness equipment to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios. There is a sweet spot where you get high value with not too high of a price, which is where our top pick sits.

Temperature Range

A wide temperature range can help you dehydrate a wider variety of foods. Dehydrators don’t get as hot as conventional ovens- they are meant to run at a lower temperature for a long time.

Noise Level

You don’t want your dehydrator to sound like a plane getting ready to take off unless you’re in an industrial setting. With dehydrators, even small changes in decibels are noticeable.

Because dehydrators run for long periods, the noise level will matter to you more than you might think. 60 dB is a normal conversation level, so you will want to have your dehydrator well below that.

Size & Weight

Depending on the size and weight of your dehydrator, you may need to set it up in a ‘permanent’ spot. Because they run for long periods, you will be stuck working around them so you don’t want it too big if you don’t have the space to accommodate one.


There are plenty of accessories that can come with a dehydrator. These range from actually being able to expand a dehydrator to include more racks, to just including recipes and guides for drying different types of foods. Most of these add versatility or make the dehydrator easier to use.

Having an integrated digital timer can help with drying projects, and a see-through window in the door of a dehydrator can help you monitor the food as it dries. Mats often come with dehydrators as they are necessary for certain types of food.

How to Use a Dehydrator

Here are the basic steps for using a food dehydrator, although they vary by model and what you are specifically drying:

  1. Wash and chop the fruit, vegetables, or meat into thin slices.
  2. Preheat the dehydrator to the appropriate temperature. Different types of food require different temperatures, so be sure to consult a recipe or a chart to determine the right temperature for your food.
  3. Place the food in a single layer on the dehydrator trays. Make sure that the pieces are not touching each other, as this can lead to uneven drying.
  4. Stack the trays in the dehydrator and close the lid.
  5. Let the food dehydrate for the recommended amount of time. This can range from a few hours for the fruit to a full day for meats.
  6. Check the food every few hours to ensure that it is drying evenly. If the food is drying too quickly on the outside but not fast enough on the inside, you may need to rotate the trays or adjust the temperature.
  7. When the food is fully dehydrated, remove it from the dehydrator and let it cool. Store the dehydrated food in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

You can also use a vacuum sealer to store your dehydrated foods to ensure that the water content stays low.

Darci gives some great beginning food dehydration tips:

Who Needs a Dehydrator?

A dehydrator is not necessary in most survival kits, but it does have a place in getting all of these kits ready. Dehydrating food can drastically increase shelf-life as well as give you more food variety.

We think you should consider having one in your home as part of your prepper pantry equipment:

Once you have used a dehydrator you’ll see how easy they are. I was skeptical that it would be worth the investment (both time and money) but a dehydrator is a great addition if you are working on your prepper pantry.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best dehydrator is useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical military and prepping experience:

Faith, N., et al. (1998). Viability of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in ground and formed beef jerky prepared at levels of 5 and 20% fat and dried at 52, 57, 63, or 68°C in a home-style dehydrator. International Journal of Food Microbiology. Volume 41. Issue 3. Pages 213-221. (Source)

Bowser, T., et al. (2011). Improvement of Efficiency and Environmental Impact of a Low-Cost Food Dehydrator. Open Food Science Journal. Volume 5. Pages 37-41. (Source)

Garg, H., et al. (1984). Design and development of a simple solar dehydrator for crop drying. Energy Conversion and Management. Volume 24. Issue 3. Pages 229-235. (Source)

The Final Word

Being able to dehydrate your food teaches you a valuable skill and lets you address weaknesses in your long-term food storage plan. A good dehydrator is a common tool preppers use to increase their pantry’s shelf life.

Here are a few related articles our readers have also found helpful:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found the Cosori 6-Tray Dehydrator to be the best option given its value, temperature range, noise level, profile, and versatility.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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