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I've been dehydrating foods for more than 40 years. I've experienced most kinds of dehydrators, from home-made, to no-heat, to no-fan, to temperature controlled.
I've dehydrated fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, meats, eggs, potatoes, herbs, leathers, various foraged weeds for animal feed, leaves for animal feed, fruit peels for animal feed, and a bunch of other things that the average person does not dry.
I can say with a strong degree of authority that ALMOST ANY dehydrator with a FAN and a HEATING ELEMENT is going to perform JUST AS WELL for 95% of users, as an Excalibur.
For those that need more, a heat control is ALL you need.
Excalibur is one of the most expensive dehydrators out there. And their customers RAVE about them.
But the fact is, if their customers had bought one of any number of less expensive dehydrators with comparable controls, they'd be JUST AS THRILLED.
I've noticed that the high price is one reason people tend to be OVER THE TOP TICKLED with a purchase. I mean, you spent THAT MUCH, you sort of have to justify it, right?
I began with a Ronco. That is, after I left home where my mother had us filling a homemade dryer every summer.
The Ronco is still out there - and it goes by several other names also. It was one of the first round stackables, and remains the lowest cost dehydrator out there.
It has NO FAN. Heat rises, and it has fairly large vents on top.
It isn't good for high moisture foods, and you do have to be careful not to overfill it.
I used it for about 6 years, and it did just great for apples, not so well for peaches, ok on pears.
When I upgraded I bought a $30 dehydrator from Wal-Mart.
It was almost the same as the Ronco, as it was a round stackable, but wider, with slightly shorter shelves, and IT HAD A FAN! After using the Ronco, I knew that was the ONE feature I just HAD to have.
That little dehydrator, along with its twin that I bought a few years later, kept us going for about 10 years. I loved them because they'd do apples overnight. So every night I'd cut a batch of apples to dry, and in the morning we'd bag them up. I raised 7 kids, all fairly close together, so dried fruit never stuck around long.
I was given a replacement after one of those two died.
It had a ROTATOR. If you set it up right, it rotated. If you did not, then it burned everything. I learned that the hard way. Once the rotator was functioning though, the thing was wonderful, and dried everything nicely. It had a fan and a single heat setting.
That one was stolen. Seriously.
My next food dryer was a cooling rack, set on a cookie sheet, and placed under a ceiling fan. Really.
I then set up a rack system for three cookie sheets, with a little fan blowing across.
PURE AIR drying. And it worked GREAT, for mushrooms, herbs, and other small or low moisture items. It was SLOW, and it just could not handle the volume of higher moisture foods I wanted to dry.
I started to get desperate for a faster dryer, so I bought a Della that looked bigger than it was, and the thing was $70.
Do not buy a Della. They have no warranty. And they need one.
The thing died SIX WEEKS after I bought it. SIX WEEKS of temperature decreasing, then going cold, then no life at all.
So next, I bought an $80 food dryer. EIGHTY BUCKS!!! But it had a temperature setting, and since I was doing some things with mushrooms, it seemed a good idea. I don't regret it.
About this same time, we were living with my mother. She has an Excalibur. The nine tray model. The $200 model.
So she's drying with that, and I'm drying with my $80 Open Country rectangular dehydrator.
They hold about the same amount.
They are both made of plastic.
They both have a fan.
They both have heat, and time, settings.
Hers has fan blown heat that blows across the trays.
Mine has a fan that blows UP through the trays.
Hers has a cabinet that holds nine trays.
Mine has a base with six large stackable trays and a lid, plus two height extenders (good for incubating things in bowls or pans).
Hers has a thin rigid black plastic tray framework with VERY wide holes (about 1 1/2" diagonal), that won't hold any food, with a plastic mesh sheet over it - think needlework plastic mesh, the kind we all make tacky crafts from. The tray flexes diagonally and does not feel strong.
Mine has a white plastic tray type shelf, with 1/4" wide holes in about 1/8" thick plastic. It is really strong. Mine has the SAME kind of plastic mesh as a liner for very small foods.
Neither one has a leather tray. We make do with teflon sheets, parchment paper, or small 1/8 size bun pans.
They dry equally fast, except when I overload mine. I do that. It works. It just takes a little longer.
Mine can do ONE THING hers cannot... A stackable adjusts to the amount you are processing. If she wants to do ONE TRAY, she has to heat the whole cabinet. If I want to do one tray, I heat ONE TRAY. Stackables are flexible like that.
The thing is, the materials are the SAME.... All plastic.
The controls are the same - time and temp.
They work equally well.
The flexibility is in favor of the Open Country.
The price is in favor of the Open Country... LESS than HALF the price.
Now, I've heard that Open Country dehydrators are now more costly. But the fact is, ALMOST ANY dehydrator with temp controls is going to work JUST AS WELL as an Excalibur.
Some may not LAST as long. This is why I say ALMOST any dehydrator with a fan and heating element!
So when you ask what brand dehydrator is good, you can be assured that dozens of people will pop up to tell you that you just HAVE to spend $200 on an Excalibur or you might as well not bother.
Please believe me when I tell you, buy a dehydrator that costs LESS than $50 for your first food dryer!
Just make sure it has a fan, and you WON'T be disappointed.
And don't bother saying, "Some day, I'll get an Excalibur!".
If you really want to move up, go for size, or stainless, or something that really matters.
You'll have all that savings to smile about!
The information on this site is presented for informational purposes only, and consists of the opinions and experiences of the site authors. It is not to be construed as medical advice or to be used to diagnose or treat any illness. Seek the assistance of a medical professional in implementing any nutritional changes with the goal of treating any medical condition. The historical and nutritional information presented here can be verified by a simple web search.
I do what I do because I understand the science behind it, and I've researched worldwide sources to verify the safety of my practices to my own satisfaction. Please do your own research, and proceed AT YOUR OWN RISK.