One of the most life-changing pieces of cookie decorating tools for me has got to be the dehydrator. It has significantly helped reduce how long it takes for me to finish a batch of cookies, and improved the aesthetics of my cookies. By the end of this post, I hope you’ll have a better grasp of how to use a dehydrator for your cookie decorating needs and whether or not you would be interested in investing in one.
This post is pretty in-depth (please get comfy with your beverage of choice), and if I missed anything, please do not hesitate to drop your questions in the comments! And I’ll be up front in saying that if you’d rather listen or watch over read, please make sure to check out our video on this (and please like & subscribe!! It helps us out a ton).
A dehydrator is commonly known as a kitchen appliance used to remove moisture from food placed inside of it. Most people use dehydrators to make jerky or dehydrated fruit/herbs. I’ve known many people to dehydrate their own dog treats! Think fish, chicken feet, etc.
When using a dehydrator in your royal icing cookie decorating process…
- Royal Icing dries faster and shinier if there is airflow — a fan would do something similar, though would not be as effective in drawing out moisture from the icing as a dehydrator
- IF you use a thick flood icing and get it in the dehydrator ASAP, that puff tends to stay much… puffier.
- The added element of heat from a dehydrator helps your icing set faster– this means you can work on the next layer sooner, saving time.
- Airflow and having your icing dry faster means reducing potential color bleed while also reducing craters in small areas of your icing.
The bottom line is that you want to use a dehydrator to set the surface of the icing, but not leave it in so long that it adversely affects the moisture in your cookie.
Is a dehydrator absolutely necessary for cookie decorating? No. But it can significantly impact your cookie production time and cookie aesthetics so if that’s of value to you then please read on.
So how do we use a dehydrator to aid in the cookie decorating process??
I can share some general guidelines/tips with you, but you HAVE to keep in mind the following:
- The dehydration process CAN dry out your cookies– especially if you bake your cookies for longer, or you have thinner cookies. If you have or enjoy a crispy cookie base, no big deal. Just be mindful. BUT since cookies are mainly FAT, it will take MANY HOURS (we are talking 12-16 hrs+) to dry out your cookies.
- Keep in mind — this is all happening at the steady low temp of 95 degrees F
- When you live in an area with low humidity, you don’t need the dehydrator for as long as those who live in humid climates
- My general rule of thumb is 15 minutes per layer you want to be dried before moving on to the next layer of piping
- If you want to airbrush, leave it in there on the lowest setting for up to 25-30 minutes
- Living in an area with higher humidity– you folks will love the dehydrator more than us who live in desert climates.
- If you live in areas with humidity 80%+– you can leave your cookies in there for hours (I’m talking up to 8 hrs) and be fine
- If you live in moderate humidity, total dehydrator time should stay under 4 hrs
I have accidentally left my cookies in the dehydrator for 4 hours straight and they were not particularly dry. No one could tell the difference from the ones left in there for a shorter amount of time.
Keeping all this in mind, be prepared, like with many other cookie decorating related techniques, to test, experiment, adjust, and most importantly don’t give up! Context is very important and I don’t have every combination of parameters to tell you exactly what to do.. I never will 😉 — learn to embrace the process, make tons of mistakes and learn along the way!
Here are my basic guidelines for using a dehydrator to speed up icing drying time and to get that shine (noting the challenges as well!!):
- I always use the dehydrator at the lowest setting, which is commonly 95 degrees F. You can go a tad higher (no more than 105 in my experience), but any higher and your icing starts to ripple, potentially crack while it’s in the dehydrator and will dry unevenly.
- Use a liner for your dehydrator trays– it keeps the bottom of your cookies from drying. DO NOT cut up silicone mats with FIBER GLASS: they can potentially cause harm if someone has a reaction to it. (this is new info learned in Dec. 2021, there have been reports of people having adverse reactions to exposed fiberglass – learn something, change appropriately) Wash or wipe clean between use. I would steer you away from parchment– it’s flimsy and you still need to replace it often. DO NOT use wax paper– that wax is gonna melt in heat and come off on your cookies. And of course, you can also consider dehydrator liner sheets. I actually use these Bright Kitchen silicone liners and they are AMAZING- they fit both my Cosori and Gourmia.
- I don’t see a difference if I kept the door on or off. My Cosori has a hinge door and I always keep it closed. I know people who prefer to keep it open – try both to see what you prefer.
- I like to dehydrate my flood layer for 15-20 minutes at 95 degrees F before moving on to the next icing layer. If I’m airbrushing, I do up to 30 in the dehydrator before cooling and applying airbrush with a stencil.
Pro tip- it really helps to get your icing consistency as thick as you are comfortable with — helps to dry faster, smoother, and puffier.
- Let your dehydrated cookies cool for about 5-10 minutes before moving them, or else risk them cracking if you’re not super careful. When the cookies are still warm, the icing is still soft– the icing will harden more as cookies cool. If you try to move them whilst still warm, make sure you put your hand DIRECTLY in the MIDDLE of the bottom of the tray to ensure that the weight of the cookies do not cause the tray to bend, transferring the force to the surface of the cookies, resulting in cracks in the icing crust. You can also move them one at a time, but best to just give it a few minutes to cool. I can’t tell you how many people have returned their dehydrator because of this.
- Preemptively taking out your cookies can result in reduced shine, ultra fragile crust that will crack easily upon any movement.
- Large, underbaked or high moisture cookies that have a lot of icing on them (usually 4 inches or larger in length), have the tendency to ripple and crack easier– just physics, look at that surface area.
- DO NOT put fondant or modeling chocolate in the dehydrator. Due to the heat, they will melt. … and slowly lose their shape. You’re going to be super sad.
- Dehydrators are not meant to be used to fully dry your cookies– they are meant to help speed up the layering process. You should still allow your royal icing cookies to dry uncovered for 8-24 hours depending on humidity levels. When they are FULLY dry, you can then package them. I usually bake, ice and package my cookies within a 24 hour period with the help of a dehydrator. It was 36-48 hours pre-dehydrator life– and living in a warm climate, leaving cookies out for 2-3 days was enough to dry my cookies out a bit.
- NOISE!! I forgot to talk about this point in the video, but some are definitely noisier than others– and it depends on the door design. The ones that have the hinge door closure tend to be quieter. But even after all this, it’s a gentle fan noise and pretty much is “white noise”.
OK, so which dehydrator should you buy?! The short is answer is that they all get the job done, but there are various parameters to consider based on how much money you want to spend and your personal preferences.
Things to think about — and I’m going to tell you what I personally find most important– this doesn’t mean it’s the same for you, so make your decision based on YOUR needs and preferences.
- You want a size that fits well into the space that you have. I would LOVE to have a dehydrator that fits as many cookies as possible, but it’s not practical.
- Dehydrators usually come in rectangles or rounds. I find that round dehydrators are usually trays that have to be stacked on top of each other, vs. rectangular models where trays slide out and there’s a door.
- I personally prefer rectangular models– they fit better in most spaces and because of the shape, are easier to find mats for.
- Most dehydrators are a mix of plastic and stainless steel. Plastic is usually more economical. Stainless or other colored metals are more aesthetically pleasing and easier to clean. I now own one of each finish and I’ll tell you I prefer the steel.
- Tray Logistics
- How much space is in between each tray and it is enough clearance for you? Some people have thick cookies, and sometimes we’ll have thick icing — look for at least 1.5 inches between sheets.
- Tray position — do they actually stack like THIS one and you’ll need to remove them one by one? Which is a huge pain. Or can the trays all slide out individually and you don’t need to worry about the skeleton of the dehydrator and other trays? I prefer the latter.
- Material and design: It doesn’t matter if your trays are metal or plastic. It does matter if they have ridges on the side to prevent your cookies from accidentally sliding off– it always helps to have ridges.
- Door Mount position
- If you choose a circular dehydrator, your lid is your door. You gotta unstack it one by one. Dislike.
- For rectangular models, most have doors that fully slide on or off, but some models have open hinges. I really like having hinges so I don’t have to worry about a loose piece of equipment
- Fan position
- Don’t get one with a fan on the bottom– the angle of the airflow is not best for drying out your icing
- If you use liners and the airflow is from the bottom– that can block air flow, period. So the trays on may not even dry properly.
- Just trust me on this one and get one with a top fan or side fan– if you have to pick, side fan so you get the most airflow at the best angle to hit the most cookies consistently.
- Temperature Control
- The lowest temp should be no higher than 105degrees F. If you can’t adjust to 105 or below, don’t buy it. It will ruin your icing. You’re going to be super upset. Luckily, most dehydrators I’ve seen and researched go to 95 degrees, which is ideal!
- Price is last on here, but that doesn’t mean it’s the least important. I have to be candid and tell you that get what you pay for when it comes to dehydrators (and so many other products).
- If you’re in an absolute pinch and can’t afford a dehydrator, using a fan can be similarly effective– it just won’t dry quite as fast, especially if you leave in humid climates.
- I find the sweet spot for dehydrators to be around $100 for the unit.
All that said, here are the top dehydrators I recommend based on overall best user experience- and no one paid me to say these things or put this guide together. For some links, if you end up buying from them, I get a referral kickback at zero additional cost to you– this is a great way to support us and help us keep the website ad-free.
If money was not a limiting factor, if you do higher-volume production (beyond hobby baking):
- Excalibur 3900B: High quality, high capacity.
Should you want other options for higher-end models, look HERE. All the Excaliburs are amazing quality models with a range of size options.
Practical, mid-line, decent quality dehydrators:
- Cosori Premium — I didn’t know this brand existed but have now owned their air fryer for a year and it’s a fabulous piece of equipment. The only downside for this guy are the trays. They are flat, stainless trays and I WISH they had ridges on the side so I don’t risk my cookies sliding off accidentally. (EDIT 05-Oct-2020: One of our readers NITA indicated in the comments that she flipped her tray and it’s got a ridge!!) Using silicone mats as a grip is helpful, but I still have to be super careful. I own this and love this.
- All rectangular Gourmia Dehydrators – holy smokes this option is POPULAR. I’ve owned one of these for years and it’s a solid choice. Well known brand, reliable, solid construction and super easy to use. I own an older Gourmia and love it. But if given an excuse I’d pick up one of the more modern models…
- Aroma Housewares Professional 6 Tray Food Dehydrator – solid reviews, super similar to the Gourmia.
- Chefman — looks pretty much EXACTLY like my Gourmia. I don’t doubt they are pretty much the same thing.
- Magic Mill — another alternative that looks just like my Gourmia. I actually know a few people who have this and the Chefman, both get the job done!
When you start looking at $60 or below — most of those are circular with heat and air source from the bottom– that isn’t the BEST for your cookies. However, if you are on a MAJOR budget, these two options seem like they’ve got the best reviews:
- NutriChef PKFD12 (Round) — I used to own a version of this and it did the job well– but noticed the air circulation was wonk (some trays got better circulation than others! And the round shape did me no favors. I didn’t use a liner when I first started dehydrating cookies — lining a round shape is a pain in the ass.
- NutriChef PKFD06 (Rectangular) — no personal experience, but the reviews are fabulous. Considering this is a brand I’ve used before, I feel good about recommending them. This still stacks, so not preferred, but definitely a good start if you’re on a budget.
- Cosori (Round) — I love Cosori as a brand. I own both their air fryer and stainless dehydrator. Both pieces of equipment are SOLID and I’m happy to recommend their brand as a solid choice.
EDIT – Other recommendations from our cookier firneds:
The bottom line: from my perspective, if you want to buy a dehydrator — go for the Mid-Line options since they typically have all of the features you would need to get the most out of your dehydrator. Try to opt for one with side ran rather than bottom fan.
I hope this post has been valuable for you, and answers some of your most dire dehydrator questions. If you have any other questions or comments at all, please leave them below, and I’ll be here to help you. If you also have dehydrator models you love OR hate, drop em below!
What is the size of the trays in your Gourmia? I’m looking for the mats that work the best in measurements
Approx. 10.5 x 12 inches. I use cup up silicone mats — haven’t found silicone mats that exact size 🙂
Merci pour ces infos,
J’ai également acheter un déshydrater.
Malheureusement à la première utilisation j’ai constaté que sur le bord de mon glacage blanc il y avait une bordure jaune qui s’était formé comme si c’était humide ou comme si le gras du sablé remonté à la surface.. c’est bizarre. Auriez vous une indication ?
Without knowing anything about your recipe, I’m guessing this is butter bleed- do a little research on butter bleed 🙂
Hi thank you for all your information. I just purchased the Cosori dehydrator. Question if I’m late night decorating, flooding . Is it ok to leave the cookies inside the dehydrator overnight with it off? And if so with the door open or closed?
Yes it’s fine to leave them in the dehydrator with it off– I always like to keep door open so normal air can continue to circulate and dry the icing 🙂
Thanks so much for he wealth of information on the Dehydrator.
I’m seriously considering buying one of the ones you recommended. I thought I read that you can get a kickback from the manufacturer if I purchase one of them. How do I go about that so you can receive a credit?
Hi Naomi, if you click and purchase via the embedded links in the blog post, it will send a kickback, if available 🙂 Thanks!!
Thank you so much for all of this great information. How long would you place your cookies in a dehydrator if you wanted to use a stencil with icing (so not a stencil with airbrushing)?
Hi– your cookies should be fully dry if you are stenciling with icing. A dehydrator does not fully dry your icing for you. I’d let it sit at room temp for 8 hours before stenciling with icing, as it requires quit a bit of pressure.
Hola hermosa no tengo deshidratador pero tengo un horno pequeño q es finde horneo mis pasteles y una de las funciones es Deshidratar mi pregunta es puedo usar mi horno para secar mis galletas? Apenas estoy enseñánDome a decorar galletas y me encontré con tu página y estoy encantada…soy tu nueva fans
Some people use their oven light to dry cookies– you only know if it works if you experiment. So I encourage you to try.
Great article! How soon after icing do I need to get my cookie into the dehydrator to get that nice, shiny appearance? And if I’m doing more than one layer, do I dehydrate 15 minutes again after the second layer?
Stevie, airflow is required for shine, so minimally get it in front of a fan. Yes regarding the layers 🙂
Hi Lisa! So since I started using a dehydrator is when I would notice that my cookies dry with a sweat appearance to it? It’s completely dry but the inner part looks dry and the outer part looks wet, if that make sense? I was wondering if you’ve ever had this issue and if you had any advice? I was reading your dehydrator tips, and I’m wondering if it’s bc I leave my cookies in the dehydrator too long during drying sessions, or I’ll often leave my cookies in the dehydrator trays (not on) overnight covered? But it doesn’t happen all the time? I live in California so not too dry but not too humid either. So I can’t really pin point where I’m going wrong. Any advice helps! Love your work, I actually learned how to cookie through your videos!
Not sure what you’re describing here…. a photo would be nice..
I’m looking into the Excalibur models and I noticed that the lowest setting they offer is 105 degrees, but 95 degrees is more recommended. I know these models are high end, but I’m worried the 105 degrees will be too high. Would it be better to go with a mid-range model that goes down to 95 degrees instead?
Hi Karissa, thanks for reading! I have TONS of friends use the Excalibur at 105 with no problem. If you’re comfortable taking a VERY SMALL risk and know you’ll want the quality/volume it can handle, I say go for it.
Loved this article. I’m just starting my cookie journey after making some for my son’s birthday and now being flooded with requests for cookies. That said, I just got a convection oven with a dehydrator in it. It goes down to 100°F. Would I use it the same as a standard dehydrator? I have a small house so counter drying is tough and I live in the northeast so the humidity currently is not ideal.
Hi Nicole, sorry for the late response! Yes, you should be able to- but there’s only one way to find out! Curious to hear about your results.
Just watched your very helpful video. The gourmia link above goes to the “ivation” brand, which looks soo similar to your gourmia one in the video. Is it the same thing? I would like to spend about $100 and I think it’s the best option, I just don’t see it on amazon..
My gourmia isn’t available now, so I linked to the closest one with good reviews!
My convection oven allows for dehydration. I’m assuming this would work just as well?
Best way to find out is to try it!
Hello! I just bought a cosori through amazon then within the hour I ran across your site! I’m loving the cosori. Just wanted to comment on the “non-ridge” sides of the shelves. I just turn the shelves over so there is a rim. Works great! Thank you for taking the time for this informative video and write up. 🙂
NITA!!! THANK YOU. Why didn’t I think of that?? I’m going to drop your comment into the blog post now, THANK YOU!!
Hope that helps! I am absolutely loving my Corsori 10 shelf. Thanks for helping me learn the ins and outs to use it for cookies.
Where did you find a 10 shelf Cosori? The only one I’ve found has six shelves.
Hi! Thanks so much for this info! Question, from your experience, do the cookies lose their shine after freezing the cookies? I usually bake & decorate cookies in advance and freeze them.
I’ve never really paid too close attention TBH so it didn’t make a huge difference for me and my clients definitely don’t notice things like that (it’s been 1.6 years since my last pop up) — but it sounds like it can lose their shine (moisture permeating throughout the package).
Hope that helps! I am absolutely loving my Corsori 10 shelf. Thanks for helping me learn the ins and outs to use it for cookies.
When you say if you live in a humid climate which i do, murtle Beach, you can leave them in the dehydrator for up to 8 hours. I understand that I will have to do trial and error of my own, but it only takes 8 hours for the icing to fully dry and you said this isn’t a drying replacement. After leaving them in there for 8 hours would I still need to leave them out uncovered for an additional 8 hours? And if my dehydrator goes below 95 degrees, should I put it at the lowest setting posible?
Makena, you’re going to have to play with this to be sure, but I always let my cookies air dry for a few hours (up to 12) after it has been in the dehydrator. I think it’s fine to use it at a temp lower than 95
Thanks for the GREAT post!! So, if you still leave your cookies out to air dry…is the main benefit of the dehyrator to speed up drying between layers and to help add shine to the cookies? I’m just starting out so trying to make sure this is a necessary investment at this point. :). Or if I should start with a basic fan method to begin with. THANKS!
Yes 🙂 Start with a fan if you don’t want to invest and then if that works for you, great, maybe you don’t even need a dehydrator!
Thank you for the great info!
If I’m making transfers on a wax paper lined piece of cardboard will the cardboard block the air flow? Also will the wax paper melt?
Hi Christy, I mention to avoid using wax paper (use parchment instead or cello bags). Wax can melt onto your transfer. Having cardboard on the bottom is fine, just make sure to not cover up the top of the icing to allow for air flow.
Hello, Thank you for all the great information. I’m currently using a round dehydrator with the the fan on top. I think it’s drying out my cookies even if I don’t leave them in for just a few minutes. Do you think the top fan is drying them out.
Thank you again for your help,
Hi Karen, without context, I can’t say definitively. If it’s only happening to the top layer, it’s possible.
your video is very helpful:) I live in Switzerland and I can get a Wartmann dehydrator do you anything of this brand? Would it be also good as the cosori?
Thanks for your feedback,
Hi, I don’t have any experience with that. I only have very limited brand specific experience and provide general guideline. You should read some review and see what the general feedback is like. If it works well for normal stuff, it should be more than adequate for cookie decorating.
Great video. I have a couple questions about the Cosori dehydrator I just purchased. If I put four (4) trays of cookies in it, how long do I set the timer? Is it 15 minutes a tray (60 minutes) and 95 degrees? Also do you have a suggestion or recipe that my frosting will not get so hard? I am using Royal Icing recipe made with egg whites . Also any suggestions on how to make the icing so that i can just “dip” the cookies, I am not good at outlining them.
Thanks for your help and suggestions.
Wow Nancy, that’s quite a few questions jammed into one comment 😉
The timing depends on what you’re trying to achieve– just get the set so you can detail?
You can add few squirts of corn syrup to your icing for a softer bite. You need to get the consistency right for dipping, about 10 seconds. Good luck.
Please check out our classes here: https://baking-with-borderlands.teachable.com/courses
Thanks for sharing such tips & information with us. really great work 😀 keep it up 😀
This post has been so helpful! Quick question on the models (like the Excalibur) where the door isn’t on a hinge… can it be removed with one hand(while a tray of cookies is in my other hand?)? And when taking the door on and off, does it shake the machine at all? Thanks!
Hi Lauren, some models are easier to remove one handed than others – the gourmia is fine. You will need to learn to do it with finesses to reduce movement as you move things around. Applies to moving doors as well as trays 🙂
Hiiiiii. Thank you for this great video. Question…. do I dehydrate for 15 minutes after flooding my cookies? Then dehydrate another 15 minutes for the second layer as well? After that…. do I finish the drying period under my fan? Thank you again. Susan Telge
Hi! Yes on the 15 min increments, and then I just lay it to dry in open air uncovered overnight (minimally), or more if you live in humid climate
That video was excellent! I bought my (LEM) dehydrator a year ago and use it for dog treats, never thought to use it for cookies. I live in 75~90 % humidity FL and wonder it makes sense for me to give the baked (pre-dec) cookies a spell in the dehyd b4 i ice them? I will have them out on my farmstand so my concern is keeping the cookies less soggy as well as (as you point out here) getting that multilayered icing solidified.
Unless if your cookies are so moist that they fall apart, there is no need to dehydrate your cookies naked before icing.
Hi thank you for all your information Just wanted to comment on the “non-ridge” sides of the shelves. I just turn the shelves over so there is a rim. Works great! Thank you for taking!
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I have a Gourmia. Is it okay to leave cookies in the dehydrator (door off) overnight to finish drying? I have curious cats.
You have saved me SO MUCH TIME! Endless thanks for this comprehensive information. Quick question: my cookies are done and dry. I’d like to package them and freeze them. I have a heat sealer… should I put the cookies in their individual bags then put them in a freezer bag? Freeze them in the freezer bag then thaw and put in individually sealed bags? Thanks, in advance!
Hi Janice, thank you! I have a post about freezing- maybe it will help: https://blog.borderlandsbakery.com/cookie-decorating-resources/how-to-freeze-cut-out-cookies-at-various-stages/
Hello!! Holy cow!! Your dehydrator info was so amazing!! Thank you for taking the time to make it!! I was wondering if a dehydrator would help with bleeding?? I made such cute toy story cookies. I thought the yellow base layer was crusted so I did the black and white cow print as a second layer….the black bled into the yellow. So sad. I’d having a dehydrator helpful for this??
Bleeding has more to do with the drying of the layers – if you bottom layer is too dry, the moisture from your wet (new/top) layer will leech into your dry layer, causing bleeding. This can also happen if your icing is underbeat (looks a little translucent), and seems to be more common with people who use pasteurized egg whites as a base in their royal icing instead of meringue power 🙂
Thank you for this amazing post! I am making cookies for a dog bakery. Not a ton, just supplementing the easier things and leaving the heavy lifting to the pros. I just wanted to say that I am loving my Breville Air Fryer/Oven/Dehydrator and am even more thrilled to have another use. To make the dog cookies last in retail they need to be fully dehydrated but now I know I can also speed up the icing as well. I live on the coast of South Carolina and after 36 hours air drying my first layer it was still sticky. Two hours in the dehydrator and I am ready to roll!
Love getting this kind of insight!! Thank you 🙂