I love homemade jerky, I often prepare this snack in different ways especially since it can be stored for a looong time.
I have to admit that there is nothing difficult about preparing the meat, although this task does require adequate equipment – which is a dehydrator.
A good dehydrator allows to easily prepare delicious jerky without worrying about bacteria. The warm heat going through the meat removes humidity in order to dry it, which results in something we call jerky.
For that purpose, a dehydrator has to be used that can easily reach a temperature of 160 F.
Based on my experience and on research, I have chosen for you several best dehydrators for making jerky available at different prices.
The Best Food Dehydrators for Jerky in 2020
1. Best Overall NESCO FD-75A, Snackmaster Pro
Due to its efficiency, quality and obviously the price, it is definitely number one for me. I believe that it’s a perfect choice if you’re buying your first dehydrator and don’t actually know if you’re going to use it a lot or not.
The most important thing is that NESCO FD-75A, Snackmaster Pro makes it possible to easily make delicious jerky.
The basic version includes 5 trays with a total capacity of about 3 pounds of meat. It is possible to buy additional 7 trays separately, which increases the capacity to as much as about 7 pounds.
The ventilator is located on the top, which means that hot air is distributed vertically. In practice I have to admit that drying takes place relatively evenly. The difference between the upper and lower tray isn’t big (up to 2 degrees F).
The thermostat offers a temperature range of 95 to 160 degrees F.
When it comes to noise, it is one of the most silent dehydrators out of all that I have come across.
It’s a great alternative to the fairly expensive Excalibur.
Sadly, it isn’t quite as durable due to the materials used to build the entire construction. Despite that, I still believe that it’s a phenomenal choice for this kind of money that I always recommend first to beginners.
2. Upgrade Pick Excalibur 9-Tray Dehydrator
If you expect much more space because you eat a lot of jerky and expect much better quality and functionality then a most basic dehydrator won’t live up to your expectations.
Excalibur 9-Tray is a perfect suggestion in such situation.
I recommend it to people with significant experience who make jerky very often.
It is worth noting that Excalibur offers whole 10 years of warranty for this model, it is the longest warranty out of all my suggestion.
The temperature range is perfect for making fully safe jerky (105 to 165 degrees F).
It comes with a digital display complete with a very useful timer (up to 26 hours) as well as a convenient temperature regulation. It is possible to program the drying process so that the system changes the temperature on its own after a few hours.
It makes it possible to program it and then leave it unattended and the system will take care of everything on its own.
It is not very loud, but it’s not among the quietest either – I’d pretty much place it in the middle.
A downside to many people is certainly the high price, which is why I believe this suggestion is for those who prepare a whole lot of jerky. On the other hand, whole 10 years of warranty is a good argument despite the high price.
I can see a lot of negative opinions regarding damages during transportation. If you’re ordering online, make sure if everything works as expected and if nothing got damaged right after receiving the delivery.
Another downside is the lack of ability to buy extra trays, although it is possible to simply buy a bigger model.
3. Budget Pick Presto 06300 Dehydro
A very simple, small-sized, easy to use and above all a very cheap dehydrator.
Presto 06300 is perfect for jerky as the preprogrammed temperature is 165 degrees F. It is not possible to adjust the temperature here, which might be a downside if you want to dry something different from jerky.
In this guide, however, I am focused on dehydrators that are perfect for making jerky, which is why this model is featured on my list of recommended options.
If you have a very limited budget then it is also a perfect choice.
The ventilator was mounted on the bottom which means the heat is distributed vertically.
The basic version comes with 4 trays that can fit up to 3 pounds of meat, with the option of doubling it by buying four more trays separately.
An upside of Presto 06300 is a compact size and its very lightweight construction which makes it easy to store. It doesn’t take much space, is lightweight and even comes with a convenient handle.
Sadly, in practice it turns out that the difference between the lower and upper tray is several degrees, and on top of that the food’s internal temperature never reaches 160 degrees F.
That’s very important in terms of safety.
In order not to take any chances, I suggest simply heating up the meat in an oven up to 160 degrees F, then moving it to the dehydrator. That way you are guaranteed that the meat has reached the right temperature to kill the potential bacteria.
It is also among the loudest dehydrators on the market.
Sadly, such are the downsides of one of the cheapest options on the market, which aren’t terrible but they require adapting to the situation adequately.
4. Best Mid-Range Aroma Housewares Professional 6 Tray Dehydrator
My last suggestion is available in the medium price range.
Aroma Housewares is a solid dehydrator, but just like with Presto, it has a problem with reaching the right temperature inside the meat.
It causes the risk of bacteria being present in the meat. For that reason, I also recommend the method of cooking the meat in an oven first until it reaches 160 degrees inside, and then dehydrating it safely.
Other than that, it is a fairly large and solidly built dehydrator that is covered with whole 5 years of warranty.
It has 6 trays that can fit a total of about 4 pounds of meat.
The wide selection of temperature range available makes it a versatile device (95 to 155 degrees F).
The see-through window in the front makes it possible to watch the food dehydration process.
If you’re planning to only make jerky then it’s better to buy something that can certainly reach 160 degrees F.
If you want a solid and versatile dehydrator and you’re not bothered by a slightly more complicated jerky drying process (preheating in the oven), however, it will be a very good choice.
Buying a dehydrator for jerky should be a well thought-out process, especially if you have no experience in this regard. For that reason, I have prepared several valuable tips for you that will make it easier to make the final choice.
What to look for
Budget – First and foremost, define your budget, it will make choosing much easier. The price range is really huge depending on the size, function and quality of workmanship.
Size – The food drying process takes many hours and for that reason it is important to choose the right size. If you need a lot of jerky then it is necessary to check out larger dehydrators. Due to how many hours drying takes, there is no point splitting the drying process into two parts, it is much better to simply buy a more spacious dehydrator.
Temperature – A very important aspect, it is a must for a dehydrator to be able to reach 160 degrees F (preferably at least 165 F). It is very important because that’s the temperature where potential bacteria in the meat get killed (read more on the safety of drying jerky).
Air flow – There are two options to choose from – horizontal or vertical airflow. Both are actually good and commonly used, but you need to learn their upsides and downsides in order to avoid surprises.
Why do you need the right dehydrator for jerky?
Not every food dehydrator is perfect for meat.
When it comes to fruits, it doesn’t take a temperature as high as with meat.
Meat might contain bacteria that may have a very bad influence on your health. In order to get rid of them, it is necessary to reach the right internal meat temperature that will simply kill the bacteria. It differs depending on the type of meat so I encourage you to research the topic.
Plenty of food dehydrators don’t have such large temperature range, which makes them unsuitable for meat drying. It is simply dangerous, as too low a temperature won’t kill the potential bacteria in meat, which is very important.
For that reason, it is necessary to buy the right dehydrator for jerky based on all the basic safety principles.