Gardeners, raw food enthusiasts, preppers, and DIYers know it’s true: drying your food in a non-toxic food dehydrator is an economical way to reduce food waste by creating nutritional goodies that will last over a decade.
If you’re a gardener with a plentiful harvest or a prepper who wants control over their emergency food supply, have you considered food dehydration? Maybe you just like to prepare your own food or want to maintain natural enzymes by heating at low temperatures.
Food dehydration is an easy and inexpensive way to enjoy healthy food that will last for months without refrigeration when done correctly.
Before you jump into food dehydration, researching your options for the best non-toxic food dehydrator will help ensure your success.
In this article, I present my top choices for the best non-toxic food dehydrators. Because they are made without plastic or toxic, non-stick coatings that contaminate food, you’ll have peace of mind concerning the quality of your dehydrated foods. I highlight non-toxic stainless steel food dehydrators made in the USA.
Table of Contents
- How Do Food Dehydrators Work?
- What’s The Difference Between Food Dehydrators and Freeze Dryers?
- Are Food Dehydrators Safe?
- Are Non-Stick PFAS Coatings In Food Dehydrators Safe?
- Are Silicone Trays In Food Dehydrators Safe?
- Are Plastic Trays In Food Dehydrators Safe?
- Best Non-Toxic & Stainless Steel Food Dehydrators
- TSM D-5 Stainless Steel Food Dehydrator
- BigBite Stainless Steel Food Dehydrator
- Cosori Premium Stainless Steel Food Dehydrator
- Sedona Combo Dehydrator
- Sahara Folding Dehydrator
- Magic Mill Food Dehydrator
- Luvele Breeze Food Dehydrator
- Denali Beast Food Dehydrator
- Vevor Food Dehydrator
- Avantco Stainless Steel Food Dehydrator
- Key Takeaways On The Best Non-Toxic & Stainless Steel Food Dehydrator for Your Healthy Food Prep
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Featured Image Credit: Magic Mill
How Do Food Dehydrators Work?
Food dehydrators work via one or two motorized fans circulating warm air (up to 170°F) over trays of cut pieces of fruits, vegetables, herbs, or pre-cooked meats, removing moisture from them while leaving the nutritional qualities intact. Roughly 10-15% of the water content remains after dehydrating for 10-12 hours.
Since you’re dehydrating, you control what’s added to the food. This way, you avoid added salt or sugar and harmful sulfur-containing preservatives typically in commercial products of dried fruit. And you can season foods to your heart’s content. 🙂
Serious foodies who want to get the most out of their food dehydrator will find the Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook an essential component of their kitchen library.
Here’s a video demonstrating the use of a dehydrator to make apple fruit leathers.
What’s The Difference Between Food Dehydrators and Freeze Dryers?
There are many differences between food dehydrators and freeze dryers. I’ve summarized the major ones in the table below. Two key takeaways are that food freeze dryers consume significantly more energy than dehydrators and are prohibitively more expensive for doing essentially the same thing.
|Feature||Food Dehydrator||Food Freeze Dryer|
|Run time||4-12 hrs.||20-40 hrs.|
|Shelf life||15 yrs.||25 yrs.|
|Energy Usage (for same food quantity)||<$1||$28|
Are Food Dehydrators Safe?
Stainless steel food dehydrators that have not been coated with a non-stick substance (like PFAS) or other harmful chemicals are perfectly safe to operate. In this kind of food dehydrator, there is no risk of chemicals leaching into your food.
Food dehydration is not the same as cooking. So, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends that you cook meats to 160°F and poultry to 165°F before dehydrating it to ensure all harmful bacteria are killed.
Depending on how long you dehydrate, the food’s texture may become chewy or crunchy. However, the same nutritional quality remains. It’s just denser. When stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, dehydrated foods may last up to 15 years!
The wonderful thing about dehydrated foods is that they’re lightweight, so they’re perfect for hiking or backpacking. You can rehydrate them later in cold or boiling water if you want to.
Are Non-Stick PFAS Coatings In Food Dehydrators Safe?
Non-stick PFAS coatings (such as Teflon) are never safe in food dehydrators, nor any other cookware or kitchen appliances. There is a risk of these fluorinated compounds migrating into food. This is especially true when the coating is aged or scratched and exposed to high heat for an extended time.
Although food dehydrators rarely get above 170°F, the inherent risk of this large class of substances isn’t worth it. Known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment into non-toxic substances, PFAS build up in living organisms causing damage.
Exposure through eating contaminated seafood or other animals and plants can lead to cancer, hormonal disruption, or reproductive abnormalities. Production of PFAS also worsens the climate crisis as I detailed in another article.
We cannot recommend any product containing PFAS.
In my research into food dehydrators, customer service reps told me that PFAS coatings are not usually applied to stainless steel trays. This is unlike many brands of cookware where PFAS are commonly applied. I was honestly surprised—but glad—because in food dehydration, it is likely that you’ll have food sticking to trays.
The remedy for this is soaking the pans in hot, soapy water and applying elbow grease. Using eco-friendly parchment paper without a coating is another solution.
Are Silicone Trays In Food Dehydrators Safe?
The plastics industry (who largely makes silicone) says it is safe at temperatures found in food dehydrators. However, there is some research that shows this to be questionable or false, especially for fatty foods (like jerky).
Because of this, I adhere to the precautionary principle when it comes to silicone and do not recommend it, especially when it comes to cooking and baking. Research suggests that silicone is more likely to leach at higher temperatures, as opposed to room tempurature. The persistent problems with silicone breast implants are enough to make me concerned about silicone’s potential toxicity on food dehydrator trays.
You may think that this recommendation is not fully justified and if so, you’re certainly free to use silicone trays in your food dehydrator. One could argue that silicone is at least a better option than other plastics.
Keep in mind that despite what you may hear, over 95% of plastic, including silicone, is not recycled. When certain types are recycled, they are downcycled only once or twice into inferior products such as planters or benches.
Because it is cheaper to create virgin plastic than to recycle it, it’s unlikely this will change to any significant degree in the coming decades, especially if new fossil fuel projects are carried out as predicted. Systemic change is needed to prevent fossil fuel development from occurring.
But, as an individual, you can choose other materials, such as steel, which are infinitely recycled into high-quality, usable products. In terms of food dehydrators, stainless steel trays and drip pans are my preferred options.
In researching this article, I noticed how many companies sold silicone trays separately. Simply not purchasing them will eventually lead to companies discontinuing this tray alternative when the majority of their customers do not buy them.
If you decide to use them, please check with the company about any non-stick claims. It’s unclear whether PFAS non-stick coatings have been applied to silicone trays. Also, be sure that the silicone is pure. Plastic fillers add to potential toxicity issues.
Are Plastic Trays In Food Dehydrators Safe?
A general rule of thumb that I adhere to is to keep plastics of all kinds out of the microwave and/or oven.
The reason is that endocrine-disrupting additives, such as BPA, may detach from the plastic polymer, leach into food, and result in adverse health effects. Generally, leaching can increase with heat exposure.
Using the same reasoning, I’d advise you not to use dehydrator food trays that are plastic. Food dehydrators can get close to the hottest microwave temperature for water-based foods (212°F), which is half that for fat-based foods.
During my research for this article, most food dehydrators either came with plastic trays, or the brand offered plastic trays as an option to buy separately. Polyethylene and polycarbonate were the most common choices. Although companies stated BPA-free, it’s unclear if they used BPA alternatives such as BPS or BPF.
These “BPA-free” alternatives are very similar to BPA and have negative health effects, just like BPA. So, if you opt for plastic trays, it’s worth it to determine if a BPA alternative is used, and, if so, what is it?
However, when I emailed brands to ask for more information about whether or not there are other types of “BPA-free” bisphenols used in their trays, the customer service reps didn’t seem to understand my question. So, unfortunately, I was not able to get any more info about the potential safety or toxicity of these plastic trays.
Choosing stainless steel trays instead of plastic eliminates the need to make inquiries about BPA alternatives and their safety.
Another concern is the outer housing of food dehydrators, which may be plastic. Although this plastic is not in direct contact with food, chemicals released upon heating could still settle on food that you later ingest.
A 2014 study showed at 158°F (which is common in food dehydrators), significant amounts of carcinogenic antimony was released from polyethylene plastic after four weeks.
Companies told me that polyethylene or ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) are the most common types.
For all these reasons, I personally recommend getting a stainless steel food dehydrator instead of plastic.
Best Non-Toxic & Stainless Steel Food Dehydrators
There are plenty of food dehydrators on the market today. In this list of the best non-toxic food dehydrators, I’ve avoided those containing harmful non-stick coatings and those made mostly or entirely of plastic.
Not all of the best food dehydrators below are perfect, as some of them do still use plastic for certain parts. But I’ve included the pros and cons to consider—so you can make the best decision for you and your food preservation preferences.
I contacted all companies to be sure their products are truly non-toxic and I’ve included their responses below.
This food dehydrator is made in the USA of stainless steel and comes with five trays. The timer goes to 27 hours. There are no numbers on the color-coded temperature dial, so you need to use your own thermometer if that’s a concern.
TSM wrote to me that there is no non-stick coating in this dehydrator.
It’s good for making healthy snacks like kale chips, fruit leather, meat jerky, dried vegetables, and more.
Equipped with a 12-hour timer, there is no plastic in this dehydrator. It is made in China and is available in a few different sizes, with a varying number of trays.
I spoke with a rep for LEM, the company that sells these dehydrators. He told me there is no non-stick coating on the trays or interior walls. Nor is there a coating on the optional drip pan (which is sold separately).
You can preserve food like meat, make healthy snacks such as veggie chips, dry herbs to keep for years, and more.
I’m including the Cosori because it’s rated highly by influential food bloggers and has received great ratings. It boasts precise temperature control, so you can make everything from fruit leather and beef jerky, to dog treats and more.
Cosori wrote to me that “the outer casing, steel trays, and mesh screen are made out of stainless steel. The fruit roll sheet is made of plastic.”
The stainless steel trays are dishwasher-safe. The Cosori has a digital timer you can set in 30-minute increments for up to 48 hours (with automatic shutoff). Temperature range is 95-165ºF. It was manufactured in China.
The two-stage sequential temperature-timer digital control in the Sedona gives you the freedom to set it once without having to return later to power down until your food is dried to the level you want.
It comes with nine stainless steel trays and a temperature range of 85-155ºF.
It’s not completely stainless steel though; a customer service rep wrote to me that the outer casing is BPA plastic and aluminum. Tribest created a helpful comparison chart of all its food dehydrators that appears by clicking on comparison (next to what’s included) at the bottom of each product page.
This one is made in South Korea.
Brod & Taylor’s Sahara dehydrator receives excellent reviews and comes in sustainable packaging.
It’s unique because it quickly folds to one-third its size for easy storage. The stainless steel trays slide out and are dishwasher safe.
With seven stainless steel trays and digitally controlled dual heaters, this dehydrator has a 85-165°F temperature range and can run up to 99 hours (with an automatic shut-off). The dual heaters means initially wet food can be dehydrated on high power then the machine automatically converts to low power for slow dehydration to achieve the dryness level you prefer. You can set both temperature and time, even pausing during operation to reset.
The outer casing is ABS plastic. There are no non-stick coatings used. It’s made in China.
Rated highly by foodie influencers, this Magic Mill dehydrator comes with seven stainless steel trays that have no additional non-stick coating.
The outer casing is mostly metal, too. The digital display has a temperature range of 95°F to 167°F. You can set it up to 24 hours in 30-minute increments and it has an automatic shut-off. It’s made in China.
I’ve included Luvele because it has received some wonderful reviews. Although the trays are stainless steel, the outer casing and drip pan are polyethylene plastic according to the company. They also told me that there is no non-stick coating on the trays.
It comes with six trays that can be expanded to nine. A biltong hanging rack has 24 stainless steel drying hooks. Comes with removable drip trays that are also non-coated. The Luvele dehydrator has digital touchscreen controls and temperature setting options from 77 to 167°F. There’s a digital timer control you can set up to 72 hours. It’s made in China.
With eight stainless steel metal racks, the Beast has a digital display where you can set the temperature from 95 to 167°F and timer to 12 hours. There is one rear fan. It comes with one fruit leather silicone mat and eight non-stick veggie mats that are also silicone, according to the company.
The outer casing is plastic and it’s made in China.
The 10 trays that come with this Vevor food dehydrator are stainless steel and contain no non-stick coating.
I called to ask about the outer casing and learned it also is stainless steel. It’s worth noting that one reviewer complained he could not entirely remove the plastic film covering the trays upon purchase. All Vevor products are made in China.
Available only through distributors, this six tray dehydrator is all stainless steel.
I asked Avantco if they use a non-stick coating and have not heard back. It’s worth noting that several reviewers complain that the switches are flimsy and will break. This food dehydrator also comes with a CA Prop 65 warning label.
So, even though it’s an okay option since it’s made from all stainless steel, this one isn’t necessarily my top choice either.
Key Takeaways On The Best Non-Toxic & Stainless Steel Food Dehydrator for Your Healthy Food Prep
Bumper crops of fruits or vegetables from your backyard garden are great—if you’re set up to store them properly. As a complement to canning, food dehydration using a dehydrator is a time-saving, less messy way to keep your pantry full of sun-kissed dehydrated food for months—even without refrigeration.
Even if you lose power, dehydrated foods won’t go bad, making them a favorite for survivalists, too.
The best food dehydrators are made of stainless steel and have no toxic non-stick coatings such as Teflon. I’ve compiled a list of the best non-toxic food dehydrators—a few of which are made in the USA—in this article.