Raise your hands if you like beefy snacks, specifically jerky! Keep those hands raised if you have been wondering how to make your own jerky at home. I see you. Now call up the butcher and tell him to slice up the best meats for you, because in about five minutes you will have found a reliable dehydrator to help you make your very own beef jerky.
Our review of the top 5 best dehydrators for jerky will make your search easier. But before we hook you up with a dependable snack preparation companion, let’s first explore how to go about buying a jerky dehydrator.
We will cover the most critical criteria to get you started because we know your time is precious.
Table of Contents
- How To Choose The Best Dehydrator for Jerky?
- Top 5 Best Dehydrators for Jerky for 2020 Reviews
How To Choose The Best Dehydrator for Jerky?
I am not an expert. I don’t have a degree in food and beverage or a fancy culinary qualification from school. As a matter fact, I am just like you; I don’t know how to make jerky. But my father goes gaga over these things.
He used to make jerky from chicken, turkey, deer, and every other edible creature that roams the earth. But lately, due to arthritis, the family DIY master has downsized his tools, from the garden to the garage and now the kitchen.
I have been scouring the web looking for an easy-to-use solution so he can at least keep enjoying his beloved jerky. Of course, right now, he cannot start struggling with a smoker or oven.
What I want for him is something that has ease of use, versatility, and a little automaticity if that exists. Here is what I have found:
There is a big difference between vertical versus horizontal airflow
Dehydrators with vertical airflows are the most affordable. Fans are placed at the bottom of the unit, and they are smaller in size compared to horizontal dehydrators. The placement of the motor and fans at the base of the unit can make them susceptible to malfunction as they get exposed to dripping fluids.
Horizontal dehydrators are the most efficient. Fans are placed at the back. As such, air flows through the entire length of the strips of meat. This design also protects the electrical components from moisture damage.
There are dehydrators of varying capacities
The size of a dehydrator is determined by the number of trays it contains. A bigger dehydrator comes with more trays so you can prepare all your meats, fruits, and vegetables at once. It saves time and energy.
A smaller machine, on the other hand, could be ideal for personal use and may help to save costs. For me, I want my old man to be able to make enough jerky to last several weeks. I, therefore, must find a model with a good number of trays.
Temperature adjustability is of critical importance
Authentic jerky preparation requires temperatures of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. But a machine that allows you to play around with lower or higher temperatures can be highly convenient when you want to prepare different meat types as well as fruits and vegetables.
An integrated adjustable thermostat is, therefore, one of the things I am going to look out for when choosing a good dehydrator.
Watch out for noise levels
Turns out, dehydrators for jerky can make a lot of noise. There is vibration, which can be unbearable when you are old and have aching joints all over your body.
So, I have just found out that before I pay for any of these products, I must check the noise levels in the instruction manual and product specs.
Top 5 Best Dehydrators for Jerky for 2020 Reviews
Now that you know what to look for, let’s go through the list of the 5 best jerky dehydrators on the market.
#1. NESCO FD-75A, Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator
As stated in my notes, a dehydrator with an adjustable thermostat may deliver the best experience. This model comes with that feature, letting you monitor and set different temperature levels during jerky preparation.
The temperature is adjustable between 95 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit, a versatility that could help you prepare a variety of food items with the same machine.
The drying action is from a 6000-watt fan at the top, which should be able to deliver enough speed for faster and safer dehydration of food.
You will also likely appreciate the versatile tray capacity you get with the NESCO dehydrator. It comes with five trays, but the unit is expandable vertically to fit 12 plates, according to the makers. In other words, you can cook all your meat in a single round.
This product also comes with a light-blocking exterior. This feature, the manufacturer says, helps to keep out harmful light that could tamper with the flavor of your food. When in direct sunlight, dehydrated food can lose a significant amount of nutrients.
The airflow system is created with a patented design. The air can move down to the cooking chamber without passing through the trays. This, the manufacture says, is a solution against flavors mixing when you are drying more than one food at a go.
- The “fan on top” design keeps mechanical components safe from liquids
- The unique airflow system helps attain and retain authentic tastes
- A light-blocking exterior helps to preserve your food’s nutrients
- Takes a long time to dry certain foods
- Some parts are quite fragile
#2. Excalibur 3926TB 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator
You get nine trays in this unit, meaning that you have plenty of space for your food preparation. That’s one advantage the Excalibur 3926TB has over the NESCO model, reviewed above. This dehydrator could come in handy for next weekend’s get-together.
In addition to the spaciousness, you might be able to dry your foods much faster with this unit. That’s because it uses a 7-inch fan that lets in ample amounts of air. To keep the fan safe from moisture, the manufacturers have placed it at the back of the unit. I believe that this design is good for performance reliability and motor durability.
There is also the opportunity for good flavor retention when preparing different food items. That is because the Excalibur 3926TB comes with an adjustable thermostat, making it easier to play around with varying temperatures when drying. The temperature range is between 105 degrees and 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another equally compelling feature in this unit is the timer. Users tend to leave jerky dehydrators running for hours, as I have learned. That may be not only unsafe but also costly when it comes to power consumption. A timer feature on this device could remind you about your jerky preparation if you’ve gotten busy and forgotten about it.
Better still, the manufacturer confirms that this feature can automatically shut off the machine. So, if you are the type of person who tends to hit the “snooze” on your alarm, this should be of help.
- Large capacity for when you have several pounds of meat to prepare
- The airflow design speeds up the dehydration process
- Automatic shutdown feature saves your energy
- Fragile motor
- Requires consistent rotation of plates
#3. Open Country FD-28SK Jerkymaster Dehydrator
Unlike its contenders, this model takes on a simple design that could prove highly useful for beginners. Straightforward features and a compact design are some of its highlights.
You also get a set temperature configuration, which means that you must only work with one food item at a time until you master the process.
On the flip side, however, this design could lead to a compromising experience where you can’t control two things: one is the speed of dehydration, and the other is the potential for nutrient loss. These both require the ability to vary temperature settings.
Even so, I like the ease of cleaning that you stand to get with this jerky dehydrator. The tray is detachable and machine washable. Thank the heavens for this feature if you dislike doing the dishes (as my dad does).
In terms of capacity, the Open Country dehydrator has seven plates. Although not as large as the nine trays of the Excalibur, you can still fit in a good amount of dehydrating in a single go.
The two earlier reviewed devices both came with airflow ingenuity for increasing circulation and improving drying speeds. The Open Country unit has a similar yet unique feature, which could lead to satisfactory results. Its rib-like design twirls and whirls air inside its vertical chambers, thus accelerating the desiccation process.
Finally, to speed you along in this hobby of jerky-making, the device comes with spice packs and recipe guides.
- Friendly for beginners
- Dishwasher-safe trays
- Efficient air circulation
- Single temperature setting
- Durability may not be on the cards
- Might not be ideal for someone picky with their equipment
#4. Presto 06300 Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator, Standard
The Presto Dehydro might be ideal for those looking for a small dehydrator for their first jerky preparation attempts. It has a capacity of four trays, which, in all honesty, limits it for personal use. The small size could be ideal for those who are willing to put up with extended hours of food preparation. (Patience is not my dad’s biggest virtue.)
It also comes with a preset temperature of about 165. That could limit the variety of food items that you get to safely and successfully prepare with this dehydrator.
Even so, you can expect some ease of use. This dehydrator is specially designed for beginners. No more having to fiddle around with temperature controls. There is not even an on or off switch. It is a “plug and go” type.
A see-through cover is one other thing to like with this model. This ingenuity gives you the ability to monitor how your meat is drying up. You will likely be able to know when it’s time to unplug.
One major drawback is the position of the fan and heating element. These components are placed at the bottom, making them susceptible to damage from the dripping juices.
- Easy to use for beginners
- See-through cover for monitoring the dehydration process
- Trays are machine washable
- No temperature control
- Fan and heating components located at the base, making them vulnerable to damage
- No temperature control
- Fan and heating components located at the base, making them vulnerable to damage
#5. Hamilton Beach 32100A Digital Food Dehydrator
The Hamilton Beach Digital Food Dehydrator bears semblance to the Excalibur 3926TB, given that both of them have a timer and an auto shut down feature. You also get to monitor the process yourself via the clear lid at the top.
Unlike the Presto Dehydro machine reviewed earlier, this model comes with an adjustable thermostat. The temperature varies between 100 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit, making it possible to get excellent desiccation results with a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables.
Five trays is the capacity you get. That size might be limiting when dealing with larger amounts of food. Nonetheless, its simple design is a consolation. Aligning the trays is a cinch, according to the manufacturers.
After you adjust the temperature, the rest of the desiccation process is hands-free, which I like. You don’t have to keep turning things around on this model. Continuous airflow helps to achieve consistent drying in all the chambers.
And if you wish to dry spices and other smaller items, the manufacturers have included a fine mesh sheet to help with that.
- The simple design comes with an adjustable temperature
- Includes a timer
- Fine mesh sheet included for adding herbs and spices
- Small capacity
- Vibration a little too loud
The Excalibur 3926TB 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator outshines all the other models in the review. It has the largest capacity-nine trays. This could be highly convenient if you want to prepare several food items at once.
This kitchen machine uses a 7-inch fan that might blow powerfully for faster dehydration of your meats. Also, the fan and motor are positioned at the back where they can remain safe from moisture and serve you for long periods of time without breaking down.
Heat adjustability is another advantage. In my dad’s case, he will be able to play around with temperatures between 100 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit when drying a variety of food items.
There is a timer feature that could make it possible to multitask when working with this dehydrator. And if that “multitasking” involves catching some ZZZs as you dry meats and fruits, this machine will automatically shut down once the process is complete.
These features and more make the Excalibur 3926TB 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator the top gift choice for my jerky loving father. It could do the trick for you, too.