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How to choose the best food dehydrator for jerky

A food dehydrator for jerky is an appliance designed to remove moisture from meat, fruit, and vegetables to make homemade jerky. Jerky is a popular snack that has been enjoyed for centuries and can be made with a variety of meats, such as beef, pork, or poultry.

A food dehydrator for jerky works by circulating warm air through the drying racks, removing the moisture from the food and preserving the flavor and nutrients. Making jerky at home with a food dehydrator allows for customization of flavors and ingredients, and is often more cost-effective than buying store-bought jerky.

It’s also a great way to make healthy snacks that are high in protein and low in fat. Whether you’re an avid outdoor enthusiast or just looking for a healthy snack option, a food dehydrator for jerky is a valuable addition to any kitchen.

What are the best food dehydrators for jerky?

There are many food dehydrators on the market that are great for making jerky. Here are some of the best food dehydrators for jerky:

as of June 2, 2023 2:05 am
Last updated on June 2, 2023 2:05 am
  1. Excalibur 3926TB – This dehydrator has nine trays and a large capacity, making it great for making large batches of jerky. It also has a timer and adjustable thermostat, which allows for precise temperature control.
  2. Nesco FD-75A – This dehydrator is budget-friendly and perfect for beginners. It has five trays and a top-mounted fan for even drying. The temperature is also adjustable, allowing for customization of the drying process.
  3. Presto 06301 – This dehydrator has six trays and a bottom-mounted fan, which allows for even drying. It also has a clear cover, which allows you to monitor the progress of the jerky without opening the unit.
  4. Tribest Sedona Express – This dehydrator has 11 trays and is perfect for making large batches of jerky. It also has a dual-fan system for even drying, and the temperature is adjustable for precise control.
  5. Magic Mill Commercial Pro – This dehydrator has 10 trays and is perfect for those who make jerky on a regular basis. It has a digital display with a timer and temperature control, and it also has a see-through door for monitoring the drying process.

When choosing a food dehydrator for jerky, consider the capacity, temperature control, and ease of use.

Can you make jerky in a food dehydrator?

Yes, you can definitely make jerky in a food dehydrator. In fact, a food dehydrator is one of the best tools for making homemade jerky. The process involves marinating strips of meat in a flavorful mixture, then laying them out on the dehydrator trays and drying them at a low temperature for several hours. The drying process removes the moisture from the meat, preserving it and creating a shelf-stable snack that can be stored for months.

Food dehydrators provide a consistent temperature and air circulation, which helps ensure that the jerky is evenly dried and safe to eat. Making jerky in a food dehydrator is easy and cost-effective, and it allows for customization of flavors and ingredients.

What meat is best to dehydrate?

When it comes to dehydrating meat, some of the best options include beef, poultry (such as chicken or turkey), and game meat (like venison or elk). These meats have a low moisture content and are relatively lean, which makes them ideal for dehydrating.

When selecting meat for dehydration, it’s important to choose cuts that are low in fat and connective tissue, as these can make the meat difficult to dry properly. It’s also important to use fresh meat that has been properly cleaned and trimmed.

Before dehydrating meat, it’s a good idea to marinate it for several hours or overnight to add flavor and help tenderize the meat. You can use a variety of marinades, depending on your personal preference, including soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, or fruit juice.

When dehydrating meat, it’s important to follow proper food safety guidelines to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. This includes preheating the meat to an internal temperature of at least 160°F (71°C) before dehydrating, and drying the meat to a moisture content of 10% or less. It’s also important to store the dehydrated meat in an airtight container in a cool, dry place to prevent spoilage.

What kind of dehydrator do I need to make beef jerky?

To make beef jerky, you will need a dehydrator that can maintain a consistent low temperature for several hours. Ideally, you will want a dehydrator with a temperature range of around 145-160°F (63-71°C), as this is the recommended temperature range for safely dehydrating meat.

When choosing a dehydrator for beef jerky, look for models with adjustable temperature settings, a timer, and good air circulation to ensure even drying. Also, consider the capacity of the dehydrator and how much beef jerky you plan to make.

Some popular dehydrator models for making beef jerky include the Excalibur 3926TB, Nesco FD-75A, and Presto 06301. These dehydrators are all affordable and have the necessary features for making delicious and safe beef jerky.

Is jerky better in a smoker or dehydrator?

The choice between using a smoker or a dehydrator for making jerky ultimately comes down to personal preference and the equipment you have available. Both methods can produce delicious and flavorful jerky, but there are some differences to consider.

Smoking jerky involves using wood chips to create smoke and heat, which adds a unique smoky flavor to the meat. The process can take several hours and requires careful monitoring to ensure that the temperature stays within a safe range. Smoking can also be a bit messier than using a dehydrator, and it may require more preparation time.

Dehydrating jerky, on the other hand, involves using a dehydrator to remove moisture from the meat, which concentrates the flavors and creates a chewy texture. Dehydrators are generally more convenient to use than smokers, as they require less monitoring and are easier to clean. Additionally, dehydrating jerky requires less time and energy than smoking.

In terms of taste and texture, some people prefer the smoky flavor of smoked jerky, while others prefer the concentrated flavors of dehydrated jerky. Ultimately, both methods can produce high-quality jerky, so the choice comes down to personal preference and the equipment you have available.

Benefits of using food dehydrator for jerky

There are several benefits to using a food dehydrator for making jerky:

  • Convenient and Easy to Use: Food dehydrators are easy to operate and require minimal setup. Simply season and prepare the meat, place it on the trays, and turn on the machine. Most dehydrators have temperature and time controls, which allow you to set the optimal drying conditions for your specific recipe.
  • Preserves Nutrients: When you use a food dehydrator to make jerky, the meat is dried at low temperatures over a long period of time. This gentle drying process helps to preserve the nutrients in the meat, making it a healthier snack option.
  • Saves Money: Buying pre-packaged jerky can be expensive, but making your own jerky in a food dehydrator is much more cost-effective. You can purchase meat in bulk and create large batches of jerky at a fraction of the cost of store-bought options.
  • Customizable: When you make jerky in a food dehydrator, you have complete control over the ingredients and seasonings. This means you can customize the flavor to suit your taste preferences or dietary needs.
  • Long Shelf Life: Properly dried jerky can last for months without spoiling. This makes it a great snack to take on camping trips or other outdoor activities where refrigeration may not be available.

Overall, using a food dehydrator for making jerky is a convenient, cost-effective, and healthy way to enjoy this popular snack.

How to use food dehydrator for jerky

Here are the basic steps for using a food dehydrator to make jerky:

  1. Prepare the meat: Choose a lean cut of meat, such as beef or venison, and trim off any excess fat. Then, slice the meat into thin strips, against the grain. You can also marinate the meat in a seasoning mixture of your choice for added flavor.
  2. Load the trays: Arrange the meat strips in a single layer on the dehydrator trays, leaving space between each piece to allow for air circulation. You can also add a layer of parchment paper or a non-stick sheet to prevent sticking.
  3. Set the temperature and time: Refer to your dehydrator’s instructions to determine the optimal temperature and drying time for jerky. Typically, the temperature ranges from 140-160°F (60-70°C) and the drying time can range from 4-8 hours or more, depending on the thickness of the meat.
  4. Check the progress: Check on the jerky periodically throughout the drying process to ensure it is drying evenly and not over-drying. You can also flip the meat strips over halfway through the drying time for more even drying.
  5. Store the jerky: Once the jerky is fully dried, remove it from the dehydrator and let it cool completely before storing in an airtight container or vacuum-sealed bag. Properly dried jerky can last for months without spoiling.

Remember to follow all safety guidelines when preparing and drying meat, including using clean utensils, washing your hands thoroughly, and properly storing the meat during and after the drying process.

How thick should jerky in a dehydrator be?

The thickness of jerky in a dehydrator can vary depending on personal preference, but generally, it is recommended to slice the meat into thin, even strips that are around 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. This allows for more even and efficient dehydration, as the moisture can escape more easily from thinner strips of meat. Thicker pieces may take longer to dehydrate and may not be as evenly dried, leading to potential spoilage or texture issues. It is important to also follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific dehydrator being used, as drying times and thickness recommendations may vary.

What temp do I dehydrate jerky?

The ideal temperature for dehydrating jerky is between 145°F (63°C) and 165°F (74°C). This temperature range is considered safe for drying meat and will also help to kill any bacteria that may be present. It is important to follow the instructions on your dehydrator and use a meat thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature of the jerky reaches 160°F (71°C) to fully eliminate any bacteria.

It is recommended to start the dehydrator at a higher temperature (around 160°F/71°C) for the first hour to help prevent bacteria growth, then reduce the temperature to the ideal range for the remaining drying time. The drying time will vary based on the thickness and type of meat being used, as well as the humidity and temperature in your area. It is important to check the jerky regularly and use the recommended drying time as a guideline only.

How do you know if jerky is dry enough?

It is important to ensure that jerky is fully dried out before consuming it to prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Here are some ways to check if jerky is dry enough:

  1. Bend Test: Pick up a piece of jerky and try to bend it. Jerky should bend without breaking but should not be so flexible that it folds in half. If the jerky snaps in half, it is too dry and overdone.
  2. Visual Check: Look at the jerky and check for signs of moisture or grease. If there are any visible droplets of moisture or grease on the surface, the jerky is not yet fully dried out. The jerky should have a dry, leathery texture.
  3. Tear Test: Tear a piece of jerky in half. It should be stringy and fibrous, rather than brittle or crumbly.
  4. Weight Test: Weigh a sample of jerky before and after drying. Jerky should lose approximately 75% of its original weight during the drying process.

It is important to note that the drying time for jerky may vary based on the type and thickness of meat, as well as the temperature and humidity levels in the dehydrator. It is always better to err on the side of caution and allow the jerky to dry longer, rather than risking under-drying and potential foodborne illness.

Why does jerky take so long to dehydrate?

Jerky takes a long time to dehydrate because it needs to be completely dried out in order to make it shelf-stable and safe to eat. When making jerky, the goal is to remove all of the moisture from the meat, which prevents bacteria and other microorganisms from growing and spoiling the meat.

Removing all of the moisture from the meat is a slow process because water is trapped inside the meat’s fibers, and it takes time for it to evaporate. Additionally, meat has a natural barrier called the pellicle, which is a thin layer of proteins that forms on the surface of the meat during the drying process. This pellicle helps to trap in flavor and moisture and provides a protective layer that helps to keep the meat safe.

Dehydrating jerky requires low and consistent heat, which allows the moisture to evaporate slowly without cooking the meat. The dehydration process can take several hours or even overnight, depending on the thickness of the meat slices, the humidity levels in the air, and the temperature of the dehydrator. The slow and low heat ensures that the jerky is fully dried out and safe to eat, while still retaining its flavor and texture.

Should I flip jerky in dehydrator?

Yes, it is a good idea to flip the jerky occasionally while it is in the dehydrator. This helps to ensure that the jerky dries evenly and does not stick to the drying trays.

When you flip the jerky, you should also rotate the trays to promote even drying. This is especially important if your dehydrator has multiple trays and is stacked vertically.

How often you should flip the jerky depends on the thickness of the meat and how quickly it is drying. As a general rule, you should flip the jerky every 1-2 hours during the drying process. You can also check the jerky periodically to see if it is drying evenly and adjust the drying time and temperature as needed.

Overall, flipping the jerky and rotating the trays will help to ensure that it dries evenly and produces the best possible texture and flavor.

Do I need to cure meat before dehydrating?

It is generally recommended to cure meat before dehydrating it to make jerky, as this helps to kill any potential harmful bacteria that may be present. Curing involves soaking the meat in a mixture of salt, sugar, and other seasonings, which not only helps to preserve the meat, but also adds flavor.

Some food safety experts suggest that for an added layer of safety, you can also briefly heat the meat to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) before dehydrating it. This can help to kill off any remaining bacteria and ensure that the jerky is safe to eat.

That being said, if you are using a food dehydrator with a built-in temperature control and follow proper food safety guidelines, such as using clean utensils and washing your hands thoroughly, you may be able to safely dehydrate uncured meat. However, curing the meat is generally recommended for best results and safety.

Can you dehydrate meat too long?

Yes, it is possible to over-dehydrate meat in a food dehydrator. Over-dehydration can make the jerky brittle and tough, and it may lose its flavor and nutritional value. The ideal moisture content for jerky is around 20-25%, which gives it a chewy texture while still being shelf-stable.

If you leave the meat in the dehydrator for too long, the moisture content can drop too low, making the jerky too dry and hard to chew. It is important to check the jerky regularly as it dehydrates, and remove it from the dehydrator once it has reached the desired level of dryness.

The amount of time needed to dehydrate jerky can vary depending on factors such as the type of meat, the thickness of the slices, and the dehydrator’s temperature and humidity levels. As a general guideline, it can take anywhere from 4-12 hours to dehydrate jerky properly. It is always best to refer to the instructions provided with your dehydrator and to monitor the jerky closely to ensure that it is not over-dehydrated.

How long will dehydrated jerky last?

Dehydrated jerky can last for several weeks to several months if stored properly. The shelf life of dehydrated jerky depends on a variety of factors such as the storage conditions, the type of meat used, and the moisture content of the jerky.

If the jerky is properly dehydrated and stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, it can last for up to 2-3 months. It is important to check the jerky for signs of spoilage such as mold, off odors or flavors, or discoloration. If any of these signs are present, the jerky should be discarded.

It is recommended to store the jerky in the refrigerator or freezer for longer shelf life. Dehydrated jerky can last for up to 6 months in the refrigerator and up to a year in the freezer if stored properly.

How to choose the best food dehydrator for jerky

When it comes to choosing the best food dehydrator for jerky, there are a few key factors to consider:

  1. Temperature Control: The ideal temperature for dehydrating jerky is around 155°F to 160°F (68°C to 71°C). Make sure the dehydrator you choose has an adjustable temperature control that allows you to set the temperature within this range.
  2. Airflow: Good airflow is essential for dehydrating jerky properly. Look for a dehydrator with a fan that distributes air evenly across all trays, ensuring that all pieces of jerky are dried evenly.
  3. Tray Capacity: Consider the amount of jerky you plan to make at one time and choose a dehydrator that can accommodate that amount. Larger dehydrators typically have more trays and can hold more jerky, but they also take up more space.
  4. Ease of Use: Choose a dehydrator that is easy to assemble, disassemble, and clean. Look for a model with dishwasher-safe trays to make cleanup even easier.
  5. Price: Dehydrators come in a range of prices, from basic models to more advanced, feature-rich units. Determine your budget and choose a model that fits within it, while still meeting your needs.

Some recommended dehydrators for making jerky include the Excalibur 3926TB, the Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro, and the Presto 06300 Dehydro. These dehydrators have adjustable temperature controls, good airflow, and ample tray capacity, making them ideal for making jerky.

How to clean food dehydrator for jerky

Cleaning a food dehydrator after making jerky is important to prevent the growth of bacteria and maintain its performance. Here are the steps to clean a food dehydrator for jerky:

  1. Unplug the dehydrator and allow it to cool down completely before cleaning.
  2. Remove the trays, and wash them with warm, soapy water. Some dehydrators have dishwasher-safe trays, so you can also clean them in the dishwasher.
  3. Wipe down the interior of the dehydrator with a damp cloth or sponge. If there is any residue or stuck-on food, use a non-abrasive cleaner or a mixture of baking soda and water to clean it.
  4. Clean the fan and heating element carefully using a soft-bristled brush or a toothbrush to remove any debris or dust buildup. Do not use water to clean the heating element.
  5. If your dehydrator has a removable drip tray, empty it and wash it with warm, soapy water. If it’s not removable, use a damp cloth to wipe it down.
  6. Allow all the parts to dry completely before reassembling the dehydrator.
  7. Store the dehydrator in a dry, cool place until the next use.

It’s important to clean your food dehydrator after each use, especially if you’re using it to make jerky. This will help prevent bacteria growth and keep your dehydrator working efficiently.

How to maintain food dehydrator for jerky

Proper maintenance of a food dehydrator is essential to keep it in good working condition and extend its lifespan. Here are some tips for maintaining a food dehydrator for jerky:

  1. Regularly clean the dehydrator as described in the previous answer. Cleaning the dehydrator after each use will help prevent bacteria growth and keep it working efficiently.
  2. Inspect the heating element and fan periodically. Over time, dust and debris can accumulate on these components, which can affect their performance. Use a soft-bristled brush or a toothbrush to gently remove any buildup.
  3. Check the door gasket for signs of wear or damage. The gasket creates a seal between the door and the dehydrator, which helps maintain the temperature and airflow. If the gasket is damaged, replace it to ensure proper operation.
  4. Store the dehydrator in a cool, dry place. Avoid exposing the dehydrator to extreme temperatures or humidity, which can damage its components.
  5. Replace any damaged or worn-out parts promptly. If you notice any cracks, breaks, or other damage to the trays, door, or other components, replace them before using the dehydrator again.
  6. Use the dehydrator according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Following the instructions will help ensure that the dehydrator is used safely and effectively.

By following these maintenance tips, you can keep your food dehydrator for jerky in good working condition and ensure that it produces high-quality jerky for years to come.

Troubleshooting about food dehydrator for jerky

Here are some common problems that you may encounter with your food dehydrator when making jerky, and some troubleshooting tips to help you resolve them:

  1. Jerky is taking too long to dry: If your jerky is taking longer than expected to dry, it may be due to inadequate airflow or incorrect temperature settings. Check to ensure that the air vents and fan are not blocked, and that the temperature is set to the recommended range (around 155°F to 160°F). If the dehydrator has adjustable air vents, try opening them up to improve the airflow.
  2. Jerky is too dry and tough: If your jerky is coming out too dry or tough, it may be over-drying. Check to ensure that the temperature is not too high, and that you are not leaving the jerky in the dehydrator for too long. Try reducing the temperature or shortening the drying time.
  3. Jerky is not drying evenly: If your jerky is drying unevenly, it may be due to uneven tray placement or inadequate airflow. Try rotating the trays periodically during the drying process to ensure even drying. You can also try adjusting the air vents or fan speed to improve the airflow.
  4. Jerky is sticking to the trays: If your jerky is sticking to the trays, it may be due to insufficient drying or a lack of oil or seasoning. Try lightly coating the trays with oil or seasoning before placing the jerky on them. You can also try increasing the drying time or reducing the thickness of the jerky slices.
  5. Dehydrator is making unusual noises: If your dehydrator is making unusual noises, such as rattling or grinding, it may be due to a loose or damaged component. Check to ensure that all the components are properly assembled and tightened, and that there are no damaged or worn-out parts. If the problem persists, contact the manufacturer for assistance.

By following these troubleshooting tips, you can help ensure that your food dehydrator for jerky is working properly and producing high-quality jerky.


In conclusion, a food dehydrator is a great tool for making jerky at home. When choosing a food dehydrator for jerky, consider factors such as size, temperature range, and ease of use and cleaning. To make high-quality jerky, use lean meats, marinate them in your favorite seasoning or marinade, and dry them at the recommended temperature for the recommended amount of time.

Proper maintenance of your food dehydrator is also important to ensure that it continues to work effectively and produce high-quality jerky for years to come. With the right equipment and techniques, you can make delicious, healthy jerky at home with your food dehydrator.

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