Jerky is one of the most popular snacks around the world. Everybody loves jerky, it makes a great choice of snack for those who love camping or traveling. It's a delicious, high protein source that is good for your health, whether you are working out or are on a diet. And while you can buy this snack at almost any grocery store, you can easily make your own jerky by using a food dehydrator. With the hot air circulation inside, food dehydrators help in drying the meat that is kept in layers of tray without the need of sunlight.
There are hundred of jerky dehydrators available in the market. Therefore, it is difficult to make the right selection. If you are looking for a dehydrator that suits you the most, you are in the right place. Read on this comprehensive guide to find the best dehydrator for jerky.
What is a Food Dehydrator for Jerky?
Jerky is lean meat that is trimmed off fat, then seasoned (usually with salt) and dried for preservation. The jerky is rich in protein, is delicious and can be preserved for a shelf life of several months. Furthermore, many people love jerky for its convenience and portability. There are many types of meat you can use to make jerky, such as wild animals, poultry, fish and beef. The most popular among them is beef jerky.
Dehydration is the world's oldest method used to preserve food. There are many benefits of food drying, such as reducing the weight of the food, maintaining food for a longer period, and turning them into great snacks. Dehydration is a safe, simple option with minimal loss to nutrients as it helps in retention of almost 90% of the vitamins and minerals. Moreover, it prevents microbial attack because the water is taken out of the food.
Studies reveal that in ancient times, people dried food under strong sunlight for preservation purposes. Nowadays, modern food dehydrators are invented so that we can have the food dried inside our house. Food dehydrator is a kitchen appliance which helps in reducing the moisture content of food by using a heat source and air flow. This helps in extending the life of food without eliminating the useful and essential nutritional content. Dehydrator is a perfect choice for making home jerky. The best food dehydrators allow uniform circulation of air and ensure uniform drying of the jerky without it being spoilt.
There are many benefits imparted by the food dehydrator. It allows us to make tasty and healthy food in any weather conditions. The best dehydrator for jerky is the one that produces high protein, low fat jerky with all the essential nutrients retained. Another advantage of using a dehydrator is food transparency, which means you can find out if your food has been spoiled by bacteria. Not to mention, food dehydrators are an inexpensive way to add variation to your daily food consumption. Last but not least, food dehydrator is a small gadget, so it takes little room in your kitchen.
Choosing the Right Dehydrator
There are a few criteria to consider when choosing the right dehydrator. First of all, you have to determine the size of the dehydrator. Vertical flow dehydrators are usually takes up less space than the horizontal ones. But at the same time, they typically have a smaller capacity, which is the second important factor. Capacity decides the volume of food you can dry in one batch. You should consider choosing those that allow many expandable trays, in case you need to dehydrate more food than what the available trays can contain. There are various models in the market, which means you have a wide range of choices of capacity and sizes. It is up to you and your needs to make the wise decision.
Today, many manufacturers have equipped their latest models with built-in modern features. A dehydrator with adjustable thermostat is highly preferable, because different foods have different recommended temperatures. For instance, vegetables and fruits need to be dried at lower temperatures than fish and meat. Adjustable thermostat feature allows you to set the food dried at their optimal temperature. In addition, since we are searching for the best dehydrator for jerky, it is ideal to look for one with a respectable temperature. Another great feature you should consider is the timer. A timer ensures the food will not be over dried when you are away from home. The type of air flow through the dehydrator is also a crucial factor, we suggest you choose one that provides even air flow to all trays without rotating them.
Reviews of the Best Dehydrators for Jerky
The food dehydrator from Magic Mill is one of the best dehydrators you can find at an affordable price. It has a huge advantage over other competitors as it offers 6 stainless steel wire racks. The metal trays are a perfect choice for those who don't want plastic in contact with food, and they are also very easy to clean. This dehydrator is integrated with a rear-mounted fan which prevents overheating the jerky. The advanced air circulation technology helps in drying the food evenly without the need to rotate the shelves. It is also included with an adjustable thermostat that shuts off automatically when the built-in timer is done.
The temperature of drying ranges from 95°F to 158°F and it offers a drying time up to 19.5 hours. This model is easy to operate, efficiency in drying jerky which only takes about 5 hours to complete. With the transparent door, the food can be easily monitored and any residue from drying process is neatly collected on the drip tray. Besides the metal shelves, this dehydrator also comes with 2 plastic mesh trays for smaller items without leaving any plastic smell. When testing, we noticed that this dehydrator made very little noise.
This is a great product from Magic Hill, still it has some drawbacks. It is not very big in size and capacity, and the instruction isn't really great. Sometimes we wish it had more mesh trays as the stainless steel ones are not suitable for herbs. However, the overall performance of this model is truly worth your money.
- Adjustable temperature and timer
- Is very quiet
- 6 stainless steel racks
- Residual drip collection unit to prevent mess
- Overheating safety protection integrated
- Even drying with help of proper air circulation technology
- Instruction not clear
- Not so great for herb like products due to large mesh
- A little small
Nesco FD-75A is the perfect dehydrator whether you want to dehydrate jerky, fruit or vegetable. This model comes with a 5-tray system, and is expandable up to 12 trays. Accessories include two fruit roll sheets, two Clean-A-Screen flexible screens for small items, and three spice packs for making jerky. In case you have zero experience with dehydrating, a detailed instruction book with recipes from Nesco is extremely helpful. The dehydrator is equipped with a 600W top mounted fan, which ensures uniform circulation of air and even drying of the food within a few hours. No need to rotate trays at all.
The Nesco FD-75A has more features than you can expect from a dehydrator. It is integrated with the patented Coverga-Flow system that makes your jerky or any other foods done a lot faster than you think. Another wonderful feature is the adjustable thermostat with temperature setting range from 95 to 160 degree F. The Opaque Vita-Save reduces nutrients and vitamin loss as it prevents harmful light from destroying food. A big plus to this dehydrator is that it is surprisingly quiet, you can hardly tell if the machine is running. You can clean the product with ease in a few minutes.
- Compact and convenient design with 5 trays and expandable up to 12 trays
- Top Mounted fan for even air circulation
- Patented Coverga Flow System that reduces drying time
- Adjustable thermostat with temperature range of 95° to 160°F
- Opaque exterior prevents entry of harmful light that harms the food
- No switch to turn the dehydrator on and off
- The recommended times in the instruction not always right
- No timer
Another food dehydrator by NESCO that comes with a compact design, hence makes it essentially portable. Making your own jerky becomes surprisingly easy, and it only takes a few hours to complete with this model. The dehydrator includes a fruit roll sheet, clean sheet for drying herbs. It also contains 5 trays and is expandable to 12 trays. The coolest accessory that comes with the dehydrator is the jerky gun. This jerky gun does an amazing job in forming the meat into even strips, however it is a bit small.
The Nesco FD-61WHC dehydrator is integrated with patented flow drying system, which ensures even drying of food without having to rotate the trays. However, if you decide to purchase more additional trays, it might need some rotation since the top trays dry more quickly than the lower ones. The machine doesn't have a switch to turn on or off, so you have to unplug it to make the rotation. This model has a top mounted fan along with the adjustable thermostat feature. It is lightweight and the compact design makes it easy for one to carry. Cleaning up this dehydrator is easy using hot water and soap.
- Patented flow drying system for even circulation of air
- Even drying of jerky and food item achieved within few hours
- Top mounted fan of 500W integrated for better drying
- Adjustable thermostat for drying of food at optimal temperature
- Residual matter does not drip within the device
- No switch to turn the dehydrator on and off
- Jerky gun is not stable and small.
It'd be a mistake to talk about the best dehydrators without mentioning the famous Excalibur brand. The Excalibur 3926TB is one of the most technologically advanced food dehydrators in the market, suitable for both personal and commercial purpose. It comes with nine trays with 15 square feet of large drying space, which meets the needs of mass jerky production. This model has an on/off switch, a built-in temperature controller with a 26-hour timer provides convenience to customers. Food drying inside does not stick to each other as it includes a flexible poly screen tray. The Excalibur's exclusive Parallex Horizontal Airflow makes the food dehydrated faster, minimize nutrients loss and require no trays rotation.
The dehydrator operates at a voltage of 110V with a 600W fan located in the back. The air from the fan is distributed evenly to the trays. Though the fan itself does make some noise, it's not much of a problem. The Hyperwave Fluctuation Technology keeps the temperature low enough to conserve the food's enzymes, but also dries them high enough to prevent any spoilage. As the dehydrator is made of stainless steel, the trays and door are detachable so cleaning up is very easy.
- Adjustable thermostat with temperature setting of 105°F to 165°F
- In-built on and off switch with 26-hour timer
- 7 inch mounted fan for even distribution of air
- Consists 9 detachable trays for large amount of food
- Prevents sticking of food with flexible poly screen tray insert
- Drying time is slower as compared to its counterparts
- BPA lining on the inside of the device was found inconvenient by customers
- It is not very quiet
Easy to use, store, and cost-effective are the reasons that this model is in our top 5. Similar to the previous model, the Presto 06300 comes with a compact design. Owing to its small size, the dehydrator is portable and long lasting. It has a glass cover that allows users to see the drying progress on the top tray. It includes a bottom mounted fan with efficient heating element to ensures consistency in the flow of air, which gives optimum drying of the jerky.
The kit includes multiple useful accessories such as the jerky gun, fruit roll sheets and the nonstick mesh screens. It also comes with a guidelines manual shows you how to dehydrate different types of food. It uses a four-trays system which can be expanded to 8 trays for extra capacity. The trays and the cover are immersible and easy to clean. The dehydrator operates at a preset temperature around 165°F. Due to the consistent air flow, no tray rotation is required.
The product works great as it is promoted. However, it is limited in function. It has to be unplugged to turn off, no adjustable thermostat or timer. That being said, with the price they offer, this dehydrator is a great choice for basic dehydration.
- Ease to operate
- Compact in design and portable with four tray system
- Glass cover ensures ease of monitoring the process of dehydration
- Ease of washing and cleaning the drying trays as they are dishwater friendly
- Consistent airflow provides optimum drying with bottom mounted fan
- Easy to store with its compact frame
- No temperature control as it comes with preset temperature of 165°F
- No switch to turn the dehydrator on and off
- It makes quite a noise
Our Pick for The Best Dehydrator for Jerky
Jerky is a great snack, a good source of nutrients for our bodies, and it can easily be made with a dehydrator. However, there are many models of dehydrator in the market, and not all of them are suitable for drying jerky. Thus, finding the right product to meet your requirements is not an easy task. After personally testing a number of dehydrators, we have put together the best dehydrators for jerky.
We find that the MAGIC MILL PRO Food Dehydrator is the clear winner in our top 5 products list. The key difference to other products is that is has stainless steel trays which most people prefer than plastic ones. It also comes with so many great features at a surprisingly affordable price and doesn't have any significant drawback.