What’s the Difference Between a Dehydrator vs Oven, Microwave, Air Fryer and Smoker. What to Choose?

By Eric Mitchell •  Updated: Apr 9, 2022 •  8 min read

To have a gist on the differences between a dehydrator vs oven or a dehydrator vs air fryer or microwave or a smoker, you ought to have an idea of what dehydration is, and how a food dehydrator works, so let’s get into it.

What is food dehydration?

Basically, dehydration is the loss or removal of water from a body or object. These leads as to the question: “How does a food dehydrator function?

As explained a moment back, dehydration involves the loss of water. Therefore, a food dehydrator eliminates the same (water), to get its food cooked and dried.

A typical dehydrator consists of a heating element whose sole work is to provide heat into the system (mostly electric powered), which is then transferred to the trays containing the food to be cooked.

After setting the correct temperature, the food will start losing moisture after some period which also signifies the start of the cooking process.

It is at this moment that the fan (found on most contemporary dehydrators) plays an important role. It ensures that there is proper circulation of air inside the system.

More so, brings in dry air from the outside and pumps out the hot air that contains moisture. In so doing the food dries, eliminating any bacterial growth agent, such as moisture.

Models without fans self-regulate their temperatures, thus allowing moisture to escape from the system resulting to well cooked and dried out food.

Dehydrator Versus Microwave, Air Fryer, Oven and Smoker

In this millennial era, we do have a wide variety of cooking devices at our beckon. Therefore, we take a plunge and dissect how these devices compare with a food dehydrator.

Difference Between Dehydrator vs Oven


Although both perform dehydration they do differ in one way or another. If maintained at a constant temperature an oven can dry out your food. But most ovens don’t operate at low temperatures, unlike dehydrators.

In most cases, ovens are used for activities such as roasting and baking. Moreover, their fans are small in size compared to the dehydrators.

One common traits between a dehydrator vs oven is both of them can dry foods to a precision, occupy some counter space, have similar price tags and cook their food evenly.

The difference between a dehydrator vs oven, what sets them apart, are things like temperature control. For instance, most dehydrators do have some mechanism of adjusting the temperature according to the food cooked. But, the oven doesn’t have an option for lower temperatures.

More so, a dehydrator can cook a wide variety of foods as opposed to an oven, which takes care of a handful of items. Their holding capacity differs, while dehydrators can be expanded to accommodate more trays, ovens do have a limited number of trays, thus contain a small amount of food.

Some of the advantages of having a dehydrator against an oven include more room for work, convenience of use and versatility.

On the contrary, an oven is much faster than a dehydrator, retains food color and taste, and you can cook food using less oil.

Difference Between Dehydrator vs Microwave


A dehydrator and a microwave, they pose some close similarities. For instance, they both operate on high heat for a period and equally produce similar results in some foods. This confuses some folks regarding the better option.

Dehydrators accommodate a wide range of foodstuffs in their role, for instance, beef (to make beef jerky), fruits like apples and bananas, vegetables and honey among others. Their products can be used for an extended period while still retaining their initial nutritional value.

More so, they have temperature settings and timers that can allow you leave them to do their work, as you concentrate on other duties.

A significant difference between a dehydrator vs microwave is that a dehydrator is meant to drain all the moisture content from food and leave them dry, while the primary role of a microwave is to heat up food to acquire a higher temperature. Moreover, a microwave utilizes a microwave to gets its job done while a dehydrator uses a heating element and fan.

Regarding capacity, the dehydrator outwits a microwave. The former is expandable thus can accommodate more trays while the later has a fixed space. Besides, the controls on a dehydrator are easy to master and use, while the microwave has complicated controls, for instance, some functions require preheating.

Difference Between Air Fryer vs Dehydrator

Air Fryer

Another comparison is between a air fryer vs dehydtrator, as both these are two healthy alternatives of preparing food.

The main difference betwen an air fryer vs dehydrator is the fact that the dehydrator cooks by taking out water content from your food, the air fryer uses circulated hot air to get its job done.

More so, an air fryer machine consists of a motor-driven fan that pushes hot air around your food at high speed to acquire a crunchy and crisp output. You don’t need any fats for cooking, just hot air.Similar attributes between these two machines include their ease of use, no use of additives, offer a healthy alternative way of preparing foods and an even drying of food.

The differences between air fryer vs dehydrator also emanate from factors such the mode of working; dehydrators utilize trays and other accessories, while the air fryer uses the fast air technology. This technique might require some other forms of cooking depending on the type of food. Besides, the air fryer takes minimal time to get your food done, while the dehydrator will work for some hours.

An air fryer doesn’t eliminate water from the food; it cannot be stored for a more extended period. The appearance of food after processing for both the devices is different. The dehydrator causes color to fade due to the loss of water, while the air fryer makes the color more appealing.

Dehydrators are meant to produce food in large quantities due to their expandable nature. In the contrary air fryers can only provide a comparatively lesser amount while retaining the flavor.

Some of the pros of a dehydrator over an air fryer include their comfortability of use during extended periods, longer shelf life of their products, less storage space for their results, easier checking of the progress, larger capacity and versatility.

On the other hand, the air fryer does have its own benefits compared to the dehydrator which include the retainal and enhancement of the food flavor, takes less time to get your food ready, less expensive, can do other duties such as baking and roasting and makes food more tasty and crunchy.

Difference Between Dehydrator vs Smoker


Though both get rid of agents that can make microbes grow, they dehydrator and the smoker utilize different kinds of mechanisms.

One difference between a dydrator vs smoker is that while a dehydrator employs the use of a heating element and a fan to do its work, a smoker has its walls insulated for the maintenance of the heat, which is thermostatically controlled for your food to get evenly smoked.

Smokers use their earlier principles, but with a touch of modernity. They have evolved and are using electricity in their operations. Furthermore, programmable and are categorized according to their fuel sources such as the drum smokers, water, and ceramic types.

On the other hand, a dehydrator works on the principle of eliminating moisture which is the major causative of bad food.

What makes smokers tick over dehydrators is that their recent models do have twenty-four-hour timers with an automatic shut offs; this saves on power bills. More so, they enhance the flavor of the food being cooked.

In a similar way dehydrators too have their advantages over smokers. These include their versatility regarding the number of foods they can process, portability, cost of purchase and ease of use.


All these cooking devices do have their own pros and cons compared to a food dehydrator. It is essential for you to identify your specific needs and select the correct device that addresses them.

It is vital that use the right machine for the correct purpose to avoid any losses or damage to property, and you ought to conduct due diligence on what you intend to acquire.

Read here a detailed comparison between a convection oven and conventional oven and microwave oven.

Read our dehydrator reviews about the recommended products, or any other reputable source from the net before settling on any product. An alternative would be physically visiting your favorite stores and have a closer inspection of what you need.

Eric Mitchell

Eric is the owner, author, content director and founder of dehydratorlab.com. He is the lead architect and the main man in matters concerning dehydrators, their accessories, guides, reviews and all the accompaniments.Whenever he is not figuring out simple solutions (hacks) involving cookery and their eventual storage, you will find him testing out the different types of dehydrators, to bring us the juicy details regarding these devices.He is a foodie enthusiast, pasionate about making jerky has a knack for healthy and tasty food and won't hesitate to share out any ideas that might be of value around this subject.

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