I love my dehydrator probably more than any other appliance I own other than my kitchen aide mixer. It is also my favorite preservation method. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dry everything I grow or bring home, and I actually canned far more than I dried, but I love my dehydrator for the versatility it offers me. There are so many things I can do with the dehydrator, in terms of snacks and extras I would not otherwise be able to afford, that if I had to choose one appliance from my kitchen, (again aside from my mixer) this would be the one.
There is a lot of question that comes up about which dehydrator to buy, and there is no simple answer to that. You might think if I am trying to sell dehydrators here, that I would want to sell the most expensive one. But I don’t work like that. I don’t spend money I don’t have to spend on things I don’t need, and I certainly do not want to recommend someone does that either. Far better to buy the model that will work best for you needs, and save your money for something else you need down the road.
Deciding Factors in Choosing a Dehydrator
As much as I love the Excalibur dehydrator it is not always what is right. It really depends on how much you plan to use the dehydrator and what you plan to dehydrate. There are a lot of good reasons to buy this particular model , but only if you are going to get the type of use out of it that justifies the cost.
Dehydrating is a great way to preserve everything, it is perfect of drying herbs or making onion and garlic powder. I have used it to dry fruits, make fruit roll ups, beef jerky, and my favorite sun dried tomatoes. I used it to dry kale to put in my smoothies and into soups, and made crackers with it. More often than not I have more food than I had trays.
If you do not plan such heavy use, then a smaller dehydrator is just fine. So I have decided to review 3 models, I have owned all three, and think that each one is ideal depending on what you want to get out of a dehydrator. If you just want to dry herbs for instance it would be a waste to spend a lot of money on a dehydrator. But if you plan to use it heavy, then you might want to consider stepping up the cost and quality of the dehydrator you buy.
Things to Consider
- Drying area
- Proper air circulation
- Thermostat and temperature control
- How you plan to use the dehydrator
Several years ago, Nesco and American Harvest Merged, and today, both the economy dehydrator I had and the middle of the road American Harvest dehydrator I owned many years ago, come from the same manufacturer. That said, this dehydrator is a great choice for a variety of reasons. When I had a very small garden, all I was interested in was a dehydrator I could use to dry and store my herbs, as well as something I could use to make spices such as minced onion and garlic powder. Because these items need to be as dry as possible when you make them, this little dehydrator was perfect for this purpose.
That said this dehydrator is small, even with the expandability it only dries a small amount of food at a time. That was fine for me at the time, because I only had a small amount of food to dehydrate. When I had a bigger piece of garden, I quickly outgrew this dehydrator and needed more space.
The other problem with this dehydrator is that it has only one preset temperature, 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the highest temperature available on most dehydrators so it will dry most everything, but the problem with that, is that it can easily over dehydrate fruits and vegetables which are usually dehydrated at 125 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally there is no timer, making it even more of a risk of over drying your foods.
Having said all of that, I still highly recommend this dehydrator for someone that only has a small garden plot and is only interested in a way to make herbs and spices. It is also fine for making beef jerky, provided that you protect the trays from grease drips. If you are on a budget, do not have a lot of space, and only have small ambitions for your dehydrator, this one is perfect for your needs.
They no longer sell the exact food dehydrator that I purchased from American Harvest all of those years ago, but this one is very close to the one I had. Like mine it expands up to 20 trays and comes equipped with a timer and temperature control. It is moderately price, with a price almost in the middle between what I paid for the little Nesco and my Excalibur.
I had this back when I had my 5 acre farm. I used it for everything from beef jerky, to fruit roll ups and banana chips and apple slices. I dried herbs in it and regularly experimented with a wide range of recipes.
Today’s model is a bit fancier than what mine was, air flow has been improved and they have made significant improvements on the thermostat. My only complaint about the Gardenmaster was that it did not dry very evenly so I was forever rotating trays to ensure that everything dried properly. Even so, some stuff took forever in this model. The trays are cumbersome, because you have to remove the top trays to check the bottom ones, and then you are supposed to rotate the trays. That does not sound like a lot of work until you have more than 10 trays on the dehydrator, and then it becomes a cumbersome task if you are drying something long term like tomatoes that have a high water content.
Still even so, this dehydrator worked very well and definitely got the job done. I had no complaints with it, except that it was a very hands on process. For someone that has a smaller garden, and does not need a lot of trays, but wants to do more than just the simple stuff, this dehydrator works very well.
This dehydrator is at the top end of the dehydrators and is consider by many to be the God of all dehydrators. There are a number of other similar brands on the market, some which are said to be better than these, but this is the last dehydrator I owned and the one that I would buy again if I needed to.
There are a lot of things that make this dehydrator well worth the money spent. Air circulation is much better on this model than on the Nesco models, and although the Nesco claims to have more space, the space in the Excalibur is far more efficient than trying to dry 20 levels of trays that the Nesco claims to dry. I found that with the Excalibur that most of my food was dry close to the same time, which indicated to me that the air flow was far superior.
Of course one of the things I liked best is that when rotating trays, something that you have to do with most dehydrators, it is much easier with the Excalibur than the Gardenmaster. The thermostat is considered to be one of the most accurate on the market, and the deluxe model comes with a timer something I highly recommend.
For those that want the Excalibur quality but do not need a lot of drying space, there is a 5 tray model or if you plan to put your dehydrator through some heavy use, there is a 9 tray model. You can also purchase these dehydrators with metal trays if you plan to only use it for drying meat, or you can buy the metal trays separately so you dry everything.
My favorite part about this dehydrator, was that it held a lot of food in a compact unit, and most of it was dried at the same time, so I could get going with a new load of food faster. I loved making fruit, spices, jerky, dried tomatoes and just about anything else you could think of with the Excalibur. If you plan to use your dehydrator a lot, and expect a lot from it, I highly recommend the Excalibur.
If you do not have a dehydrator yet or are considering an upgrade, keep in mind the size of your garden, and the types of things you want to dry. It is easy to get a backlog of things you want to dry, and just not have the space to do so. Some people I know have bought 2 dehydrators and used one for drying herbs and spices that do not really matter so much how dry they get, and the other for their fruits, vegetables, and meats. This lets you have two going at the same time, making it possible to meet your drying goals. I found the Excalibur perfect for my needs, but often wished I had kept my little Nesco.