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Nesco brings their expertise from years of experience developing home appliances. As one of the leading manufacturers of in-home kitchen appliances, Nesco offers some of the best dehydrators for the price on the market today.
The Gardenmaster FD-1040 is a perfect example of this top-notch engineering and dedication to quality.
Nesco FD-1040 1000-Watt Gardenmaster Food Dehydrator, available on Amazon
This model can handle the large amount fruits and vegetables that a large home garden can produce. Customers have come to expect high-quality, reliable products when they invest in the Nesco brand, and this particular model has an impressive userbase of satisfied customers on Amazon.
What makes this product even better? It’s made in the USA in the great state of Wisconsin. Yes, Nesco has NOT cheapened out like so many other manufacturers and outsourced everything to China.
Features of the FD-1040 Gardenmaster
- Programmable digital timer
- 1,000 watts of drying power
- Top-mounted fan
- Converga-Flow patented airflow system
- Expandable up to 20 trays
- Adjustable temperature control
Let’s take a look at each of these in a little more detail.
Like many of the more expensive models, the Nesco FD-1040 Gardenmaster includes a programmable timer that is capable of turning your machine off before your batch is cooked to a crisp if you need to step away and know how long whatever you’re processing will need to dry.
This is an important feature that is usually only found in higher-end machines, and it allows you to take part in other activities while your food is drying.
This particular timer is programmable for up to 48 hours and features a digital layout – something that you may or may not prefer.
In my opinion, I would rather see a trusty mechanical dial than a digital screen as these are often less prone to break, but your preference may be for a more advanced display that’s easy to read, even in the dark.
Regardless, you do want to select a dehydrator with a timer, whatever the type – trust me on this.
As we caution in almost all of our reviews and buying guides, wattage should only be used to compare models within any particular brand. In this case, 1,000 watts of power is the top end of the Nesco’s dehydrator line, which means the Fd-1040 Gardenmaster has enough oomph to efficiently process a large amount of food in one go.
Nesco claims this model is capable of handling 20 trays at once. It comes with four, and extras are available for purchase.
Although we did not test this particular model with that many trays, we are confident that 10 to 15 would work very well… although this depends on your selection of food items and the amount of moisture that is trapped inside.
At least one user on Amazon reported issues with mold when using 18 trays. That being said, we have no way of telling whether this individual allowed adequate separation between the chunks of food being processed.
Something important to note when using any dehydrator is that the food isn’t done until it dries thoroughly, all the way through. Anything stored before a sufficient amount of moisture has been removed is prone to developing mold, rather than this being the fault of any specific model or product.
Many of the lower-priced dehydrators have bottom-mounted fans designed to force air upward and through the trays.
While this may work better in theory than a top-mounted assembly, in the real world, juices from the drying food may fall onto the fan blades and gunk them up, and these are often a chore to clean.
On cheaper models (with the very cheapest offerings not even having fans), liquids and tiny pieces of whatever you’re drying can fall into the actual motor and eventually destroy it, leaving you with nothing but an expensive piece of plastic. Some models may include a filtering system to counteract this common problem, but the filters need to be replaced.
The Nesco FD-1040 Gardenmaster has eliminated this problem by incorporating a powerful 2,400 RPM fan motor on top of the unit, which eliminates any worries about drips or crumbs falling into the fan or clogging the motor.
Converga-Flow Patented Airflow System and Trays
Nesco states that their Conferga-Flow design allows for heated air to flow under pressure down the device’s exterior chamber, where it spreads across each tray before it returns up the center “chimney” to be reheated.
Nesco claims this system allows you to dry up 20 trays of produce or other items with no reshuffling of the trays required, as the pressure automatically adjusts according to the number of trays you have loaded.
Based on real world testing, if you have that many trays stacked on the machine, you may need to re-shuffle them around a time or two for the most even results – but not nearly as often as you would with a cheaper, less efficient appliance.
Nesco also states that the Converga-Flow system prevents flavors from mixing, but we did not test the machine with a variety of food items at once to verify this. One issue with this practice is simply the fact that different items will require different amounts of time to dry.
Speaking of trays, many reviewers on Amazon complained about the fact that only four are included with purchase of this product, and felt Nesco should provide more in the included kit. Our feeling is that this selection is perfect for beginners, and many super-users are happy to expand the capacity with an additional purchase – or these additional attachments make a wonderful gift.
Adjustable Temperature Control
The ability to adjust the heat level is a critical component to a quality dehydrator, and the Gardenmaster features a thermostat that adjusts from 90 to 160°F.
This allows you to dial all the way down for optimal drying of fruits and other delicate items, or scale all the way up to quickly dry jerky before it has a chance to develop mold or pick up a load of bad bacteria.
This is a feature that you need in any dehydrating device, and the cheapest models do not typically offer it, or they may offer a significantly narrower range. Be warned: you shouldn’t even consider a machine that has a fixed temperature.
The FD-1040 Gardenmaster ships with a four trays, a 52-page instruction and recipe book, one solid “no spill” fruit roll sheet designed for drying gooey substances like blended fruit purees, one flexible mesh “clean-a-screen” that allows you to dehydrate smaller items such as potpourri or herbs and spices, and one packet of jerky spices for making beef or venison jerky.
Many who own this model opt to purchase extra trays, and some users also purchase extra mesh sheets (although these mesh sheets aren’t listed specifically for the FD-1040 model, they fit).
If you are really into fruit roll ups, you may also consider purchasing some extra flexible sheets.
Extra packets of Jerky Spice Cure are also available, both in the original flavor that is provided with purchase and in a hot and spicy variety.
If you like the ground meat style of jerky, you could also consider the Nesco BJX-8 Jumbo Jerky Works Kit, which allows you to “squirt” your way to jerky-making success.
- Ease of Use
Construction – We appreciate that the plastics used are BHP free but with the exclusion of the BHP, the thinner plastic material that that they used is NOT all that robust. We wonder how long this dehydrator will last.
A couple of seasons? Five years? Either way, we don’t feel it will survive nearly as long as a beefy Excalibur model – either in the robust plastic build or the newer stainless steel varieties.
We love the fact that this machine is constructed in the USA but so is the better-built Excalibur (albeit at 2–3x the price). We also like the top-mounted fan, which is a much better design than those with the fan on the bottom.
Performance – No issues at all with this machine. This machine passes a copious amount of heated air throughout its trays. Unfortunately, we don’t possess an instrument capable of measuring airflow in cubic feet per minute (CFM).
However, in “seat of the pants” testing, we believe the the FD1040’s CFM rate to be significant, comparable to the lower-wattage Excalibur models. While a (very) few users on Amazon reported that it took much longer than stated by Nesco to dehydrate their food, we feel they may not have properly loaded their machines or prepped the ingredients.
Air space left around each piece is critical for any dehydrator to properly function. This machine performs very well.
Ease of Use – This appliance is fairly simple. First, prep your food – this is where the work is and this requires roughly the same process for any drying method.
Secondly, place the food items on the trays. Stack the trays on the base and then place the heater/fan assembly on the top. Turn on the machine, set your desired temperature and time, and you're set.
Some of the competition [read: Excalibur] features trays that slide out from the front, which are a bit easier to deal with and thus we feel the Gardenmaster is a solid 4 in this category.
Warranty – The warranty on this machine is nothing to write home about. As with most Nesco products, this dehydrator comes with a 1-year limited warranty vs. Excalibur’s beefier 10-year no-questions-asked policy.
Value – At just over $100 from most retailers (less if on sale) and with serious capabilities, the value rating of this machine is a solid 4. Although the thinner plastic construction and short warranty give us cause for concern, the performance is there and this is a great option if you can’t afford a pricier model, or won’t be using it often enough to warrant spending more. It’s ideal for someone who makes a few large loads of venison jerky once or twice a year, for example.
Into raw foods or serious prepping? We recommend taking a hard look at the Excalibur options instead.
Gardeners and Jerky-Heads Alike will Love This Appliance
The Gardenmaster can dehydrate vegetables, fruits, and many types of meats that people often buy in bulk, on sale, or hunt themselves without breaking the bank to get it done.
But even if you aren’t a serious foodie or paleo zealot, the Nesco FD-1040 Gardenmaster is probably all you will ever require in a decent dehydrator.
However, raw foodists and avid hunters would probably be better off paying the piper and upgrading to the 9-Tray Excalibur. As we always like to say, “buy once, cry once.”
About Lynne Jaques
Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!