The Best Freeze Dryer for Drying Food at Home

Canning and dehydrating are great, but if you want to make the longest shelf-life food you’re going to need a freeze dryer. Freeze-drying at home is one-third the cost of store-bought freeze-dried food. It is easy, versatile, and gives the food a whopping 25-year shelf life while maintaining its flavor. Preserve your garden and homestead harvest, or stock your pantry to prepare for emergencies.

Freeze-drying machines are very expensive, but they can give you unparalleled shelf life on a huge range of foods. You will need to plan on using it often to realize your investment, otherwise, you may want to stick to freeze-dried food kits.

There are plenty of considerations when it comes to freeze dryers: value, effectiveness, profile, capacity, etc. This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best freeze dryers, and now the results are in: the overall best, a budget option, and an upgrade option. If you need a freeze dryer that can help you stock the pantry with the longest shelf-life food out there, one of our picks will get it done.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


Harvest Right Medium Freeze Dryer

The Best Freeze Dryer

Harvest Right Medium

Best Selling, Mid-Capacity, and Consistent Quality

The Goldilocks of freeze dryers can churn through enough food to stock a small community.

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

The medium model from Harvest Right (the clear leader in freeze dryers) is their best-selling model, and it’s easy to see why. The capacity it provides is perfect for small families and is enough to ‘spread the wealth’ as well. Your friends, families, and community will inevitably come calling when they learn you have the best freeze dryer, and this bad boy can pump out the vittles to make them happy.

  • 7-10 lbs of food per batch (1,450 lbs per year)
  • 4 tray
  • 110 V (20A circuit recommended)
  • 18” W x 21” D x 28″ H
  • 112 pounds

With solid construction, perfect capacity level for the cost, and easy operation… the Harvest Right Medium Freeze Dryer takes our top spot.


Harvest Right Small Freeze Dryer

Budget Freeze Dryer

Harvest Right Small

Small, Easy-to-Use, and Effective

Get started with freeze drying with the most inexpensive option ready to stock your pantry.

You won’t find a freeze dryer cheaper or smaller than this option, but it still boasts the quality and effectiveness of our other picks. The main drawback is the capacity here. If you plan on using your free drying appliance occasionally or as a hobby, then this model will more than fit the bill.

  • 4-7 lbs of food per batch (840 lbs per year)
  • 3 tray
  • 110 V
  • 16.5” W x 18.5” D x 25″ H
  • 61 pounds

The Harvest Right Small Freeze Dryer is the budget choice that can get your family started down the freeze-drying path.


Harvest Right XL Freeze Dryer

Upgrade Freeze Dryer

Harvest Right XL Freeze Dryer

High-Capacity, Powerful, and Commercial-Grade

A new (and bigger) commercial-grade freeze dryer for the serious planner or entrepreneur.

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

Almost as big as a clothes dryer, this thing will pump out some serious shelf-stable food. With this, you can easily freeze dry over a year’s supply of food for a family of four in less than half a year. It’s easy to use and maintain, and comes with a few options you can select like a stainless exterior or an oilless pump.

  • 24-32 lbs of food per batch (5,000 lbs per year)
  • 6 trays
  • 110 V NEMA 5-20 outlet (20A circuit required)
  • 24” W x 34” D x 36″ H
  • 265 pounds

Harvest Right XL Freeze Dryer is what you want if you are stocking food for a community, a side job, or just have a massive pantry.


Everything We Recommend

Harvest Right Medium Freeze Dryer

Harvest Right Medium

The Goldilocks of freeze dryers can churn through enough food to stock a small community.

Where to Buy

$2,895* at Harvest Right

*at time of reviewing

Harvest Right Small Freeze Dryer

Harvest Right Small

Get started with freeze drying with the most inexpensive option ready to stock your pantry.

Where to Buy

$2,395* at Harvest Right

*at time of reviewing

Harvest Right XL Freeze Dryer

Harvest Right XL

A new (and bigger) commercial-grade freeze dryer for the serious planner or entrepreneur.

Where to Buy

$4,595* at Harvest Right

*at time of reviewing


The Freeze Dryers We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to the several models that we reviewed from Harvest Right, Cuddon, Fisher Scientific, Wave, 4Patriots, 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 freeze-drying machines designed for home food preservation rather than laboratory-grade pharmaceutical models and massive industrial models. Of course, those are useful for their purposes but our review is focused on increasing food storage shelf-life.

We’re always looking for new and better equipment, so if you have a freeze dryer that you swear by let us know in the comments. We review most of our roundups annually, so we can always try to coordinate testing one before the next roundup and see if it makes the cut and beats out our top picks.


What to Look For

The best freeze dryers for home food drying have several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Effectiveness
  3. Capacity
  4. Size & Weight
  5. Durability

When you get the right blend of these, you can find a reliable freeze dryer that will stock your pantry with a massive shelf life for decades. Below, we break down what each of these features means for the freeze-dryer models that set themselves apart.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like a freeze-dryer shouldn’t blow out your entire budget, but that can be tough with these price points.

You may want to go the pre-packaged route if your budget and time resources don’t make sense for owning your own machine. Freeze-dried food kits are still a great idea for maximizing your emergency food shelf-life.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially something like a freeze-drying appliance. There is a sweet spot where you get high value without overspending, which is where our top pick sits.

Effectiveness

Freeze dryers need to run a vacuum and get very, very cold in order to preserve the food. It uses a lot of energy to do this and can take a long time to freeze-dry a batch of food.

All of our picks use similar pumps and all get down to -40 degrees to effectively freeze dry the food within a reasonable amount of time. Industrial freeze dryers can do this more quickly but are of higher capacity and are much larger.

Capacity

The capacity of the freeze dryer isn’t necessarily how much you can fit inside, but also includes how long it takes to freeze-dry a batch. Our picks all have similar batch processing times, so they scale evenly based on batch size. Here are the Harvest Right capacity limitations:

  • Small: 4-7 lbs of food per batch (840 lbs per year)
  • Medium: 7-10 lbs of food per batch (1,450 lbs per year)
  • Large: 12-16 lbs of food per batch (1,250 lbs per year)
  • X-Large: 24-32 lbs of food per batch (5,000 lbs per year)

As you can see, the capacity more or less doubles with each model but the cost does not. The larger models use more energy to process the larger batches of food as well, so don’t neglect energy costs when you compare these.

Size & Weight

Each of our picks comes in different sizes and weights that affect how they can be used and where they can be placed. The Harvest Right Small can fit on a counter whereas the XL will need a dedicated spot. They also all come with external vacuum pumps that will need to be accounted for when you position the freeze-dryer.

Durability

Our picks have commercial-grade durability and most of them have the option to upgrade to a stainless steel exterior for around $100. Harvest Right includes a limited three-year warranty if anything goes wrong, but the machines are simple to maintain.

The only maintenance required is oil changes on the vacuum pump, if you selected the oiled version (there is an oil-free pump available on larger models).


How to Use a Freeze Dryer

Freeze dryers can be complicated to operate, but some of them are fully automated- like our top picks.

This way you don’t have to be a bioengineering scientist to run the thing, just follow the menu options and let it do all of the calculus for you:


Who Needs a Freeze Dryer?

Freeze dryers are not a necessity, but can quickly let you break even if your food plan includes a lot of freeze-dried food. Freeze-dried food is one of the longest shelf life options making it ideal for fire-and-forget food storage plans.

Having one of the most sophisticated food processing machines for preservation is something that anyone can benefit from. Many people with freeze dryers end up supporting their community with them or turn freeze-drying into a side hustle once they’ve filled their own 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 freeze dryer 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:

Bhatta, S., et al. (2020). Freeze-Drying of Plant-Based Foods. Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods. Volume 9. Issue 1. (Source)

Harper, J., et al. (1957). Freeze-Drying of Food Products. Advances in Food Research. Volume 7. Pages 171-234. (Source)

Ratti, C. (2001). Hot air and freeze-drying of high-value foods: a review. Journal of Food Engineering. Volume 49. Issue 4. Pages 311-319. (Source)


The Final Word

Food storage and long shelf lives can be hard to achieve with a variety of food, but high-quality equipment can make it happen. Freeze dryers aren’t for everybody, but if you take the plunge you may quickly find your pantry full and your preparedness groups and communities asking for more! There is no better preservation method, and the investment can quickly pay for itself.

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 Harvest Right Medium Freeze Dryer to be the best option given its value, effectiveness, capacity, profile, and durability.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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The Best Freeze Dryer for Drying Food at Home

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer by day, but a prepper 24/7. I am an Air Force veteran that developed emergency and disaster plans as an emergency manager and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters worldwide. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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