Freeze-dried foods are a favorite among homesteaders, survivalists, and serious hikers as well as for cooks who like to dabble in culinary experiments. Plus, using a freeze dryer can be just plain fun. These specialized kitchen gadgets feel futuristic and open up a range of ways to store and preserve food.
A home freeze dryer makes it possible to create freeze-dried ingredients, meals, and treats at home. Although they’re still relatively new on the consumer market, with the first home versions only coming out in 2013, we’ve researched the options and compiled some of the top freeze dryers available now. These machines are easy to use, effective, and churn out high-quality freeze-dried goodies. Read on to learn about some of the best freeze dryer options for preserving food at home.
- BEST OVERALL: Harvest Right Medium Home Freeze Dryer
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Harvest Right Small Home Freeze Dryer
- UPGRADE PICK: Harvest Right Scientific Freeze Dryer
- BEST LARGE: Harvest Right Large Home Freeze Dryer
Before You Buy a Freeze Dryer
Freeze-dried foods have a lot of benefits: They’re shelf-stable, lightweight, and the processed product is relatively unchanged from its fresh version. Because of this, they tend to have a better taste, texture, and nutritional content as compared to frozen, dehydrated, or canned foods.
These perks are what lead many shoppers to want a freeze dryer in the first place. However, freeze dryers aren’t a low-cost appliance, so it’s worth considering if the investment is worthwhile. Since many packaged freeze-dried foods aren’t cheap either, homesteaders, survivalists, and backpackers may save money in the long run by freeze drying at home. Or, for those who just want to experiment with freeze drying as a hobby, it might be desirable to own one of these space-age gadgets. When considering price, keep in mind the ongoing costs of freeze drying, like supplies for the vacuum pump, mylar bags for storing the finished foods, and overall electricity use.
Freeze dryers aren’t exactly a popular kitchen gadget, and there are only a few options for home use, so they can be hard to find. Shoppers can invest in a pharmaceutical or commercial freeze dryer, but consumer ones are better designed for typical home use. They’re more affordable, accessible, and user-friendly since they’re designed specifically for freeze drying food at home.
How We Chose the Best Freeze Dryers
Freeze dryers can be complex machines. For this guide, we looked for freeze dryers designed for home use since they simplify the process to make it easier. Consumer options are new and may be more limited than commercial freeze dryers, but the best home machines are designed for food use, are straightforward to operate, and are significantly cheaper than commercial options. They’re simply the best choice for most homes.
When choosing between home options, we evaluated convenience, price, and both ease of installation and use. Our top picks offer a suitable capacity for most home users, come at a reasonable price tag (at least for such a specialized machine), and have easily sourced supplies for continued use.
Our Top Picks
Whether users are interested in freeze drying food for camping, prepping for the end of the world, or just want to have some fun experimenting in the kitchen, freeze-dried foods are just a few steps away with one of the best home freeze dryer options ahead.
Striking a balance between a reasonable size and fair cost, the Harvest Right medium home freeze dryer is our pick for the best freeze dryer for home use. It’s straightforward to set up and use—it has all the bits and pieces to get started right away. Like all of Harvest Right’s home freeze dryers, it comes with a vacuum pump and stainless steel trays for freeze drying, mylar storage bags, oxygen absorbers, and an impulse sealer for storing the freeze-dried food.
In terms of capacity, this freeze dryer can process 7 to 10 pounds of food per batch, resulting in 1.5 to 2.5 gallons of freeze-dried food with each run. That’s enough to process up to 1,450 pounds of fresh food per year.
This freeze dryer is the ideal size to put on a table, countertop, or cart. It is 29 inches tall by 19 inches wide by 25 inches deep and weighs 112 pounds. It uses a standard 110-volt outlet and a dedicated 20-amp circuit is recommended, though not necessary. Choose among stainless steel, black, and white finishes.
- Capacity: 7 to 10 pounds (fresh), 1.5 to 2.5 gallons (freeze-dried)
- Dimensions: 29 inches tall by 19 inches wide by 25 inches deep
- Weight: 112 pounds (entire kit weighs 225 pounds)
- Suitable size and weight to put on a kitchen counter, table, or cart
- Good capacity for many users, with the ability to process 7 to 10 pounds of food per batch
- All of the required freeze-drying supplies are included with the appliance
- Still quite heavy at 112 pounds; may take 2 to lift and move around
- Brand recommends a dedicated 20-amp circuit for operation
Get the Harvest Right medium freeze dryer at Tractor Supply Co., or Harvest Right.
This freeze dryer is Harvest Right’s smallest offering as well as the brand’s least expensive option. While still an investment, it’s the best entry-level freeze dryer on this list for first-time experimenters and less frequent users. It has a fresh-food capacity of 4 to 7 pounds and creates 1 to 1.5 gallons of freeze-dried product. With frequent use, it has the potential to process 840 pounds of fresh food per year.
The capacity is less than Harvest Right’s other freeze dryers, but the trade-off is a compact and lighter machine. This small freeze dryer is 26.8 inches tall by 17.4 inches wide by 21.5 inches deep and weighs 61 pounds, so it’s both easier to move around and store. Available in black or stainless steel, it comes with everything needed to start freeze drying goodies and only requires a standard 110-volt outlet for power. Maintenance takes just a few minutes and involves filtering and replacing the oil.
- Capacity: 4 to 7 pounds (fresh), 1 to 1.5 gallons (freeze-dried)
- Dimensions: 26.8 inches tall by 17.4 inches wide by 21.5 inches deep
- Weight: 61 pounds (entire kit weighs 185 pounds)
- Small size and modest weight makes it easier to carry and store
- Plugs into a standard 110-volt outlet and does not require its own 20-amp circuit
- Relatively affordable compared to other freeze dryer options
- Fairly small capacity, with space for up to 7 pounds of food per cycle
- Not available at as many retailers as other home freeze dryers
Get the Harvest Right small freeze dryer at Harvest Right.
Made for the lab but also suitable for the home, Harvest Right’s Scientific freeze dryer is the best freeze dryer for those looking for flexibility. It’s a scientific freeze dryer, so it offers a variety of settings beyond the simple set-and-go of Harvest Right’s home freeze dryers. This one allows you to control the rate of freeze, final freeze temperature, time settings, dry cycle temperature, and more for recipe customization. While this is a scientific unit, it can also be used to process food.
It has a large capacity to process up to 2 gallons of material. All settings and monitoring can be controlled from the full-color touch-screen display. It’s on the larger side—30 inches tall by 20 inches wide by 25 inches deep—and while Harvest Right doesn’t share the unit weight, it is suitable for a counter or tabletop.
- Capacity: 1 to 2 gallons
- Dimensions: 30 inches tall by 20 inches wide by 25 inches deep
- Weight: Not specified
- Designed for the laboratory but also suitable for advanced home use
- Has a wide range of customizable settings to control freezing and drying time
- Full-color touch-screen display makes it easy to monitor and control unit
- Commercial-grade oil-free vacuum pump is included with appliance
- Does not include accessories for food storage
- Harvest Right does not specify unit weight
Get the Harvest Right Scientific freeze dryer at Harvest Right.
For households that need a large capacity but aren’t ready for a scientific model, consider the Harvest Right large home freeze dryer. This large freeze dryer can process 12 to 16 pounds of food per batch, resulting in 2 to 3.5 gallons of freeze-dried food. Annually, it can freeze dry up to 2,500 pounds of fresh food per year.
The unit is 31.3 inches tall by 21.3 inches wide by 27.5 inches deep and weighs 138 pounds, so it will likely require more than one person to move it about. Still, it’s suitable for a sturdy countertop or table. It’s available in black, stainless steel, and white.
Like other Harvest Right home offerings, it comes with all the bits and pieces for freeze drying and storing food. It does require more power due to its size, so a 110-volt (NEMA 5-20) outlet and a dedicated 20-amp circuit is required.
- Capacity: 12 to 16 pounds (fresh), 2 to 3.5 gallons (freeze-dried)
- Dimensions: 31.3 inches tall by 21.3 inches wide by 27.5 inches deep
- Weight: 138 pounds (entire kit weighs 245 pounds)
- Large capacity with the ability to process up to 2,500 pounds of fresh food per year
- Includes 5 large stainless steel trays to lay out food for freeze drying
- Suitable to use and store on a countertop, table, or kitchen cart
- Requires a 110-volt (NEMA 5-20) outlet and a dedicated 20-amp circuit
Get the Harvest Right large freeze dryer at Tractor Supply Co. or Harvest Right.
Or, DIY Your Own Freeze Dryer
It’s possible to freeze dry foods without an expensive freeze drying machine, though there are some caveats. DIY methods aren’t as reliable as using a designated freeze dryer and they might not get enough moisture out of the food. Therefore, the finished product is not typically suitable for long-term storage. The two methods ahead are suitable for short-term preservation and for experimenting with freeze-dried foods.
Use a standard freezer. The easiest way to freeze dry food without a freeze dryer is to use a standard freezer. Prep the food as normal by washing and cutting the food into small pieces. Place it on a cookie tray or large plate in an even, single layer. Place the tray in the freezer and leave it for 2 to 3 weeks. Remove the food when it is adequately freeze dried and store it in an airtight bag or container.
Use dry ice. Another way to freeze dry is with dry ice. This method requires a few more materials: a large Styrofoam cooler, dry ice, and freezer-safe plastic bags. Again, wash and prepare the food as normal. Place the food into the freezer bags and the freezer bags into the cooler. Cover the bags with dry ice and leave it for a minimum of 24 hours (or until it is freeze dried). Transfer the freeze-dried foods into an airtight bag or container.
What to Consider When Choosing a Freeze Dryer
A freeze dryer is a fairly large investment; these machines often cost more than a standard fridge or freezer. However, they’re necessary for those home cooks who want to effectively and efficiently freeze dry food. Before choosing the best freeze dryer, it’s important to consider a few features, which include the freeze dryer’s capacity, size and weight, noise level, and installation requirements.
A freeze dryer’s capacity refers to how much food it can process at one time. Freeze drying at home involves spreading the food in a thin layer on a tray and then placing it in the freeze dryer. Home freezer dryers generally display a fresh food capacity in pounds, which lets users know the rough amount of fresh food that can fit in these trays.
Freeze dryers also sometimes display a freeze-dried capacity in gallons, which gives you an idea of how much finished product can be produced after each round. Lastly, some include a measure of how much food (in pounds of fresh food or gallons of freeze-dried foods) you can expect to process in a year. This is a useful measurement for homesteaders and others who plan to use the freeze dryer often.
Size and Weight
Freeze dryers aren’t exactly small or light appliances, so size is a feature worth considering when weighing the pros and cons. A home freeze dry machine can range from about the size of a large microwave or toaster oven up to the size of a clothes dryer.
Small options can weigh more than 50 pounds, making them difficult for one person to move. Large freeze dryers can weigh more than 150 pounds. Shoppers will want to consider if their countertops or tables can accommodate the size and weight of the preferred freeze dryer. Also, consider other storage options and if there is another suitable space to give the freeze dryer a designated spot.
Noise can be an important factor when deciding to buy a freeze dryer. A typical batch time for a freeze dryer is around 20 to 40 hours, and freeze dryers are fairly loud, running at around 62 to 67 decibels. As a point of comparison, many vacuum cleaners produce 70 decibels.
With so few options available at the moment (Harvest Right freeze dryers dominate the home market), there’s not really a way to get around the noise. If possible, it’s best to put the freeze dryer away from important and frequently used living areas to reduce the effects of noise pollution within the home.
Home freeze dryers often come with everything shoppers need to get started, which usually includes the freeze drying machine, a vacuum pump, trays for the food, and materials for food storage. This is one benefit to buying home freeze dryers since commercial options may be missing some of these key components.
Installing a freeze dryer is usually a two-person job because of the appliance’s weight (which starts at around 60 pounds). Many freezer dryers will need to be installed on a counter or tabletop to allow for drainage. Like many appliances, freeze dryers do generate heat, so it’s important to leave space for them to vent.
Smaller freeze dryers can plug into a standard 110-volt outlet, and a dedicated 20-amp circuit is often recommended. Larger freeze dryers may require a 110-volt (NEMA 5-20) outlet and their own dedicated 20-amp circuit.
The Advantages of Owning a Freeze Dryer
Freeze-dried foods have several benefits. They usually retain an excellent nutritional profile. They also usually keep a good texture and taste after freeze drying, so the rehydrated product is comparable to freshly made food. This method means no more freezer burn from stuffing mason jars of food in the chest freezer. Owning a freeze dryer makes it possible to harness these benefits at home.
A home freeze dryer is very easy to use but has an excellent payoff, creating shelf-stable food in only a few steps. For most foods, it just requires prepping foods as normal for regular freezing (for example, portioning items, washing and blanching veggies, or dicing fruit). Then just load the food on the freeze dryer tray and press a couple of buttons to get the process started.
Freeze drying safely preserves food for future use, which is probably its biggest draw for most users. The finished shelf-stable product is lighter in weight and easy to store, ideal for bringing food on long camping trips or for homes with limited food storage space. Lastly, when used frequently enough, households can save money freeze drying their own food when compared to buying commercially freeze-dried foods.
- Makes it possible to freeze dry food at home.
- Easy to use and creates freeze-dried food at the push of a button.
- Creates a lightweight, shelf-stable, and easy-to-store finished product.
- Can be cheaper than buying commercially freeze-dried foods in the long run.
Tips for Using a Freeze Dryer
Almost all foods can be freeze dried, including vegetables, fruits, meats, sauces, and even entire meals. Freeze drying can process foods that other methods may have trouble preserving properly, such as dairy or egg products.
Quality is important, so start with high-quality and fresh foods. In most cases, freeze drying food is similar to prepping foods for regular freezing. For example, it involves washing and cutting fruits, blanching veggies, and portioning meats and meals. It’s harder to process foods after freeze drying, so do the prep before, such as cutting fruits into bite-size pieces.
Home freeze dryers are designed to be easy to use, so just make sure to follow the directions on placing food on the trays and using the machine to get the best result. Use parchment paper or silicone mats to prevent food from getting stuck to the trays, if needed.
- Almost any food can be freeze dried—don’t be afraid to experiment!
- Prep food as normal before freeze drying.
- Consider using parchment paper or a silicon mat to prevent food from sticking to trays.
- Follow the manufacturer’s freeze drying directions to get the best finished result.
Freeze-dried foods feel space age (remember astronaut ice cream?), but freeze drying meat, veggies, fruit, and other foods at home is possible with a food freeze dryer. This is a relatively new home kitchen gadget, so there’s bound to be questions around usage and convenience. We answer some frequently asked questions about freeze dryers below.
Q. What is a freeze dryer vs. dehydrator?
Freeze drying and dehydrating food are two different processes. Both remove the moisture from food for preservation purposes; however, freeze dryers remove more moisture.
Dehydrators work by using warm, dry air to remove moisture from food. These machines are cheaper and less complex than freeze dryers but also result in a different finished product. Dehydrated food often has a different texture and taste than the fresh version and is only shelf-stable for up to a year.
How does freeze drying work? The freeze drying process uses freezing temperatures and a vacuum chamber to preserve food. This method results in shelf-stable food that often has a similar texture and taste as the fresh product and lasts upwards of 8 years.
Q. Is it worth getting a freeze dryer?
It depends. Freeze dryers have a high upfront cost but can definitely be worth the price tag for frequent users. To decide if it’s worth it for your household, compare the amount you usually spend on freeze-dried foods to the cost of a freeze dryer.
Remember to consider the ongoing costs for using a freeze dryer (maintenance supplies, bags for storage, and electricity are the main ones) and also take into account the convenience and flexibility of owning your own freeze dryer.
Q. How much does a good freeze dryer cost?
There’s no way around it—a cheap freeze dryer doesn’t quite exist yet. Expect to pay around $2,500 for a small high-quality home freeze dryer. Extra-large, commercial, and pharmaceutical options can range into tens of thousands of dollars.
Q. Do freeze dryers use a lot of electricity?
Freeze dryers are generally not as energy efficient as other large modern kitchen appliances. Since they have to run for a long time (up to 40 hours per batch), they can add to your energy bill, depending on how frequently you run them. For the top pick on our list (the Harvest Right medium freeze dryer), Harvest Right estimates $1.25 to $2.80 a day in energy costs to run the freeze dryer.
Q. Can you freeze dry without a machine?
It’s possible to freeze dry food without a machine, but it can be tedious and is not as safe or effective as using a dedicated freeze dryer. Freeze dryers are specifically designed to freeze dry fruit, meat, dairy, and other foods, so they are safe for long-term preservation. Other DIY methods can result in food that isn’t properly freeze dried (it might not reach the correct moisture level) and therefore isn’t safe for long-term storage.
Why Trust Bob Vila
For decades, Bob Vila has helped Americans build, repair, renovate, and decorate their homes. As the beloved host of TV shows like “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he brought expert knowledge and the DIY spirit to American homes. The Bob Vila team aims to continue this tradition by distilling expert knowledge into accessible home advice. Jasmine Harding has been writing about kitchen appliances and other home products since 2020. Her goal is to cut through marketing hype and jargon to find the kitchen gadgets that truly make life easier. She did a deep dive into home freeze dryers to write this guide, consulting university extension resources to find trusted information on these relatively new kitchen appliances.