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Last updated: July 31, 2021
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Do you know that the practice of dehydrating food has its roots centuries ago? Right from that time, it was common to let certain foods naturally dry in the sun to ensure a longer life but at the same time without losing their aroma and nutritional properties.
Today, this practice is back in the limelight more than ever. The dehydrator for jerky, especially, has become a common accessory in thousands of kitchens and is particularly appreciated because it ensures the healthy curing of lean meat that is free of preservatives and rich in flavor. In this article, we’ll introduce you to the six best dehydrators for jerky which we have selected based on their capacity, temperature range, design, and settings.
"This dehydrator comes with seven drying trays, including a fruit leather sheet, and a drip tray, and allows you using six at a time.Seven 12-by-12-inch trays.360º airflow circulation.Digital thermostat and timer."
Our overall best food dehydrator for beef jerky may come from a manufacturer that is still relatively not as popular as the brands of top-end kitchen products. However, this doesn’t take away the functionality of this device. With this dehydrator, you can have excellent dried meats and fruits in less than a day. Its family-sized dimension allows you to offer healthy and preservative-free foods to everyone at home.
This Magic Mill dehydrator takes up space in the kitchen, but it allows you to prepare as much dried food as possible. You can put as many lean meats and fruit slices into the device, thanks in particular to its six trays. With this machine, you can also dry herbs for later use.
Its buttons make life easier, allowing you to make precise cooking time and temperature settings. You can adjust the thermostat from 95 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
The design of this dehydrator has been thought, according to its designers, to ensure optimal airflow during the process, to obtain evenly dried slices of fruit or meat, avoiding the problem of overcooking.
If you want to keep a regular eye on everything going on in this device, a transparent window gives you this possibility. This is secure and energy-efficient with an automatic shut-off once the timer runs out.
Given the size of this dehydrator, we would expect a lot of power, and the device ultimately doesn’t disappoint, although there are models with more power. With its 600-watt capacity, it ensures the balance between energy efficiency and dehydrating efficiency.
Why is it special?
We liked the glass door. It ensures you can monitor the process. Also, it has a big capacity and 600-watt energy-efficient and dehydrating power, which we like.
With the Hamilton Beach 32100A stackable dehydrator, you have an efficient and easy-to-use dehydrator. This device is pretty compact for a dehydrator, although it can be a bit bulky if you’re short on space. The design is not excellent, but it’s not embarrassing: it allows the product to be more discreet.
However, this does not detract from the effectiveness of the product. First of all, it has five trays which allow you to simultaneously prepare a large number of dried fruits. Also included in the box is a fine mesh rack for drying herbs and a sturdy rack for dehydrating liquids.
The power of the machine is 500 watts: it is normal for it to be a bit noisy, but we consider that this inconvenience could have been mitigated all the same. You can use it to dehydrate all kinds of things: jerky, carrots, bananas, strawberries, etc.
These also allow you to set the timer, up to 48 hours, with automatic shutdown. An LCD screen allows you to read all the useful information. The product has a decent lifespan, it is plastic but quite strong, and Hamilton Beach offers a 1-year limited warranty.
What are its best features?
The Hamilton Beach appliance is a combination of reasonable price and versatility. We liked the fact you can time the device for up to 48 hours.
What could be improved?
The dehydration power could be better and the fan's noise could be reduced.
This is mainly a plastic model, but using the dehydrator does not pose any risk to your health. It is made with healthy materials that are guaranteed to be BPA-free. For food dehydration, you can choose from a temperature range of 95F and 158F. For preparation time, you can also set the timer between 30 minutes and 72 hours.
Also, the dehydration process is accelerated by the round hot air design of this device. Hot wind also circulates freely through the ventilation holes. You can arrange different types of food to dry on the five stacked trays which are both flexible and expandable.
This allows you to dehydrate more food at the same time. The model also has two additional trays and the roller tray is used to dehydrate liquid textured foods. If you are looking for an efficient and quiet device, this model is for you. The trays can go through the dishwasher without any problem.
What are our favorite features?
We like its lightweight and durable construction. The plastic is also BPA free.
Excalibur is a reliable brand and this tool it offers is suitable for drying meat, vegetables, aromatic herbs, fruits, fresh pasta, tea leaves, and other consumable plants. It can work with or without a timer. Here you can set the operating temperature between 105 degrees and 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The dehydration is carried out horizontally to allow the evenness of the results.
However, its qualities hardly mask annoying flaws in this price range. First, it would have been very desirable if a timer had been available. Also, the fan is excessively noisy.
Nonetheless, the Excalibur model remains a good long-term investment: its durability is well in line with its price and the manufacturer offers a 10-year limited warranty.
Why are we impressed?
It is efficient, easy to clean, and ideal for home use. We liked its thermostat which is adjustable from 41-74˚C (105-165˚F). This product also has the longest warranty (10-year warranty) in this review.
What negatives must you be aware of?
A food processing appliance like this requires a timer.
The Gourmia GFD1650 Premium is another of the best dehydrators for making jerky most requested by customers. It has seven drying spaces of 6.5 square feet that can accommodate a variety of foods.
Each of the foods can be efficiently supervised, as it contains a digital thermostat and timer. And, thanks to the Cuircusmart 360 airflow circulation, all trays will dry evenly.
The Gourmia GFD1650 aims to provide both high efficiency and quiet operation.
The general design is great: the six trays with bisphenol-A-free materials are inserted from the front. A transparent cover lets you check how each food has progressed, preventing potential mistakes while providing good protection from light.
Why are we impressed?
Its large trays provide for great production capacity. The 360° airflow design also ensures efficiency.
What negatives must you be aware of?
Too low dehydration power for its capacity. It could also be more compact.
If you have a small family and want to offer them the best possible recipes based on fruits, herbs, dried meat, or quality food for your dog, the small size and efficiency of this dehydrator will satisfy you.
With its dimensions of 11.81 x 10 x 8.27 inches, the device turns out to be quite compact. Still, it is an ideal dimension if you want to delight the taste buds of a family of three to five people daily.
This dehydrator comes with three stainless steel trays, which allow you to dry food in a space of 9 x 7 inches for each tray. All of these are easy to clean, just put them in the dishwasher.
The device automatically shuts off when the procedure is complete, or if it overheats, which adds safety. With the transparent glass, you can monitor the progress of dehydration. A memory function will allow you to keep your settings.
What stands out?
It's a top-of-the-range and high-quality dehydrator with large trays. We liked how compact and lightweight it is.
What cons did we manage to find?
Low dehydrating power.
Things to Consider
Why do you need to dehydrate meat and other foods? What types of meat dehydrators are there? What are the features to consider when buying one? In this section, we’ll be giving you a guide to making the best decision.
Why dehydrate meat?
Today, this preservation system is back in vogue since it allows you not to use preservatives. At the same time, it leaves intact and often emphasizes the taste of the meat. A jerky dehydrator eliminates water; and with it, many dangers of oxidation and contamination by bacteria go away.
The organoleptic qualities of taste and aroma remain almost intact after treatment, and it is certainly one of the gentlest preservation methods for the structure of the food.
It is also a method suitable for preparing other raw foods such as fruits and vegetables. The type of treatment to which the foods are subjected through the dehydrator, if limited to a temperature around 100 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, preserves the healthy molecules of the food. In this way, it is also possible to obtain preparations such as raw foods that cannot be cooked but can be dried.
Features to consider before you buy a dehydrator for jerky
If you’re convinced you need a dehydrator, some of the features to consider include:
There are different types of dehydrators for jerky. A distinction is made between horizontal dryers and vertical dryers. The horizontal dehydrators have the heating part and the fan that blows the air in the back, while on the front there is a door from which the food is introduced on the trays.
The vertical dehydrators, such as the Hamilton Beach 32100A, on the other hand, are usually stackable. They have the heating body and the fan on the lower or upper side.
This makes it more difficult for the air to circulate uniformly, creating unevenness in the degree of dehydration of the different trays.
The dehydrators can have power ranging from 125 to 1000 watts. It all depends on the size of the device. A larger device will need more power to be able to circulate the air evenly. It is therefore difficult to find a food dehydrator with a small capacity with a high number of watts. For example, the Nutrichef Premium Dehydrator has four trays and just 350 watts while the Magic Mill Commercial has six trays has 600-watt dehydration power.
Air dehydrators differ in the direction of the air. There are two types of dehydrators: vertical flow and horizontal flow. The vertical dehydrators, as we mentioned earlier, are stackable from bottom to top. They usually have a vertical structure, reminiscent of a tower, and take up less space than a drawer model.
The various trays are stacked on top of each other with the motor on top or, conversely, in the base. In this case, the air direction is vertical and spreads along the walls and between the various baskets from above or below depending on the position of the motor.
With a vertical airflow, the trays located near the engine are first reached by the heat and are subjected to a higher temperature. They, thus, dry faster. Meanwhile, the trays further away can receive a lower temperature, reducing the speed of the drying process. Furthermore, with this type of airflow, foods are more subject to contamination of odors and flavors between them.
The horizontal dehydrators, on the other hand, have the shape of a small oven with the typical drawer opening. In this case, the airflow is horizontal and ensures the same temperature and no contamination of odors and flavors between the various trays. Thanks to their shape, they are usually more capacious than tower dehydrators.
Depending on your needs and requirements, you can choose a more or less large food dehydrator. It is possible to find fairly small models with 3 to 5 trays such as the Nutrichef Premium model and others that can have 8 to 10 trays such as the Excalibur 3900B. This is suitable for those who want to dry many products at the same time.
The latter are professional appliances not very suitable for those that are just getting into the world of food dehydration for the first time.
The number of trays needed is very subjective and depends on the use you want to make of them. It is possible to dry different types of food at the same time, but it is better to use each shelf for only one type of food to avoid contamination.
Programmable temperature and timer
To have optimal results in dehydration it is very important to set the right temperature for each food.
The dryers on the market have almost all the same temperature range, which usually varies from 65 degrees Fahrenheit to around 150 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. But it is also possible to find professional models that can reach even higher temperatures.
To have a drying process as natural as possible, without spoiling the meat, food, vegetables, herbs, and without losing the scents and nutritional properties, it is good to keep the temperature as low and natural as possible.
Due to the loss of moisture, the food will remain approximately 50 °F below the set temperature during the dehydration process. In the first drying phase, the temperature can be set higher, so that the water evaporates easily. Subsequently, when the food begins to dry out, it is necessary to lower it to avoid losing its nutritional properties.
The timer and thermostat are very important features. They help you to set the dehydration intensity and time. It is advisable to eliminate all traces of fat and choose the leanest part for drying and leave it for about 8–10 hours at 158 degrees Fahrenheit. A very high temperature allows it to quickly evaporate the water and avoid the proliferation of bacteria.
When handling fish, leave it in the freezer for 96 hours. Like meat, to avoid the proliferation of bacteria, it is necessary to set a high temperature: about 158 degrees, but not less than 140 degrees is recommended.
If you sometimes make long trips, for example on vacation, you may need to acquire a particularly light device. It will be possible to take this with you. If the use of the dehydrator is exclusively for domestic reasons, then you can choose a large capacity model that can process food for the whole family.
On the other hand, the dimensions are always important. Some products can turn out to be particularly bulky. When you buy a dehydrator that takes up space, it can be noisy. So, take action and make a choice that suits your kitchen.
To dehydrate jerky, leave it for about 8 to 10 hours in the dehydrator. The duration of dehydration will depend on the dehydration power of the appliance. For models with 500 to 700 watts, 8 hours will do. For models with 300 to 400 watts, up to 10 hours will do.
For jerky, set the temperature to around 158 degrees Fahrenheit. This high temperature allows it to quickly evaporate the water and avoid the proliferation of bacteria.
If you’re concerned about safety, though, you can opt for post-drying heating in an oven at 275 °F for around ten minutes, making sure the internal temperature of the meat reaches 150–160 °F. This way, your jerky will be pathogen-free.
A dehydrated jerky will last two weeks in a sealed container. Dehydrating perishable foods can keep them healthy and edible for several months, if not years. Most of the nutrients and vital substances are retained during the drying process, and the taste of the products to be dried is even more intense. Modern drying with a hot air blower accelerates the dehydration process and at the same time protects the food to be dried.
Drying jerky to preserve it is an ancient practice that today can be done in the comfort of your home thanks to a food dehydrator.
With a rating of 9.8 out of 10, the Magic Mill Commercial Food Dehydrator Machine is our Editor’s Choice. With this dehydrator, you can have excellent dried meats and fruits in less than a day. It is our overall best dehydrator for jerky.
The model with the best value is the Hamilton Beach 32100A Digital Food Dehydrator. With the Hamilton Beach 32100A stackable dehydrator, you have an efficient and easy-to-use dehydrator that comes at a low budget price. This device is pretty compact for a dehydrator, hence, earning a rating of 9.6 out of a possible 10.
With a rating of 9.4, our best vertical dehydrator is the Elechomes 6-Tray Food Dehydrator. For food dehydration, this stackable model has a temperature range of 95F and 158F. For preparation time, you can also set the timer between 30 minutes and 72 hours.