Jerky—a favorite snack for many. After all, what’s not to love about chewy, perfectly seasoned dried beef? In addition to being scrumptious, beef jerky is also ideal to take with you for camping. It’s protein-rich, keeps you full for a long time, doesn’t spoil for long, and is easy to store—see our point? Of course, there’s different types of jerky and you may have your own favorite. But whether you enjoy jerky made with ground meat or strips, you’ll enjoy it even more when its made at home. However, to make simply fabulous homemade beef jerky, you’ll need a reliable food dehydrator. While most models will do the job decently, there are some which are quite exceptional when it comes to drying beef jerky—creating the right texture without losing any flavor or nutrients.
Here are the 5 best dehydrators for beef jerky you can find on Amazon!
1. Editor’s Choice: Nesco FD-28JX Jerky Xpress Dehydrator Kit with Jerky Gun
Budget-friendly and suitable for beginners, this beef jerky dehydrator is incredibly simple to use. Switching it on is pretty much all you need to do, as the fan-flow technology doesn’t require you to rotate trays for even drying. The temperature remains at a consistent 160° F so there’s no pressure about finding the right temperature for making your jerky. The 4 trays give you enough space to dehydrate up to 4 lbs of beef jerky in one try, enough to keep you satiated for a while or maybe keep you and your friends company for a binge watching session, depending on how you may be feeling! You’ll find this dehydrator particularly appealing if you enjoy beef jerky made with ground meat as it comes with a beef jerky gun. That’s not all, this kit also contains jerky spice (cure) packets, ensuring that sans meat you have everything you need to make the most delicious beef jerky at home.
2. Runner Up: Excalibur 3926TB 9-Tray
Excalibur is one of the most popular brands in the market and it makes frequent appearances on the best dehydrators list for many reasons. The Excalibur 3926TB in particular is one of the best beef jerky dehydrators for making large batches at once. With its 9 trays, this food dehydrator offers a total of 15 square feet of drying space. It also features an adjustable temperature controller that ranges from 105°-165° F and a 26-hour timer, allowing you to dehydrate beef with convenience and meeting the safety temperature requirements for dehydrating beef jerky. The patented Parallex Horizontal Airflow speeds up the process of drying without compromising on quality and still yielding fantastic results. Its impressive capacity and glowing reviews make it well worth the slightly higher price tag.
3. Best Compact: Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator
You just can’t beat an affordable price that’s coupled with extraordinary quality. The Snackmaster Pro is definitely one of the most popular dehydrators on the market, and it’s one of the best choices for making homemade beef jerky as well. It comes with a temperature controller that goes up to 160° F, a powerful top mounted fan with 600 watts of drying power, and patented Converga-Flow that ensures no flavors are mixed during the drying process by forcing the air down the exterior pressurized chamber instead of the trays as is usual in many other dehydrators. The capacity is 5 trays, but you can purchase additional trays if you need more drying space for accommodating a large family or group of friends. You’ll also get 3 original spice packets for jerky and a 52-page recipe and instructions book with this purchase. Now ain’t that a good deal?
4. Best Commercial: Magic Mill Commercial Pro Xl
If you have a large family or simply want to dehydrate meat in huge quantities at once to avoid any hassles, then this is one of the best beef jerky dehydrators you can get. The Magic Mill Pro XL goes beyond most industry standard dehydrators to offer 11 large trays that can handle 13 pounds of meat at once. It also has a digital timer that can be set for up to 24 hours and an adjustable thermostat that ranges from 95°-167° F to ensure that the drying process goes smoothly each time. In fact, it also includes 5 plastic fine mesh trays, 5 non-stick trays, and 1 set oven mitts in case you decide to go a step further from beef jerky and try your hand at dehydrating other veggies and fruits. With Magic Mill Pro XL, you can prepare for your family’s camping trip or make big batches of any dehydrated snack you enjoy in just one night.
5. Best Express: Nesco FD-61WHC Snackmaster Express Food Dehydrator
The compact size and 5 tray capacity make the Snackmaster Express ideal for couples, people who live alone, or those to want to take it along with them on camping excursions. While this beef jerky dehydrator doesn’t offer enough space for massive batches, it does have a bunch of pros that are strong enough to make you ignore than potential con. For the compact design also means that this model by Nesco won’t take up too much space on the counter, and even better, won’t cost as much as bigger models. And although this dehydrator is quite cheap, it works like a charm—you’ll be making homemade beef jerky in no time! To accommodate the different tastes of jerky lovers, this dehydrator also contains a jerky gun and 5 jerky spices and cures as bonus. Some of the other bonus additions you can expect with this model include a fruit roll sheet, clean-a-screen for drying herbs or sticky fruit, and a recipe guide that’s sure to impress.
6. Honorable Mention: Presto 06300
The Presto 06300 is a great, compact way to dehydrate your favorite fruit, veg, and meat. It sports a 4-tray circular dehydrator system. Air is pumped upwards via a fan at the bottom of the unit. Although we prefer horizontal airflow systems, they do tend to take up a large amount of space. As such, the Presto 06300 is exactly what those with limited counter space might be looking for. Sous Vide Guy also liked that the trays themselves were dishwasher safe.
The Presto also comes with 4 trays, and a see-through cover so you can keep an eye on your dehydration process. This last point is particularly important because the 06300 doesn’t have an on/ off switch. Instead, you simply plug it in and it will start immediately. It’s also preset to heat at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why Make Your Own Jerky?
Making homemade jerky is less expensive than purchasing jerky that has been commercially made. You can buy the meat you use when it is on sale. You can also make jerky out of hunted and harvested wild game. Once you purchase a dehydrator for making jerky, the cost savings begin.
Taste & Health Benefits
Beef jerky is a good protein-rich snack that is high in vitamins and minerals including zinc, iron, vitamin B12, phosporase and folate. One of the greatest benefits of making your own beef jerky is that you have control of the amount and combination of ingredients that you use in your recipes. You can increase or decrease the amount of salt, sugar or spices based on your taste preferences and/or dietary needs.
Beef jerky is a snack that has a long shelf life. It is very portable, so it is a great snack for on the go or to pack on camping trips where refrigeration is not an option.
What is important to know about making beef jerky?
Temperature & Airflow
When you are dehydrating meat it is important to know that it is dehydrated too quickly at too high of a temperature your jerky can become dry on the outside, but can still remain moist on the inside, which can make it prone to spoiling. It is important to look for dehydrators that provide constant temperatures and adequate air flow.
Some dehydrators come with a sample of seasoning mixes. Salt acts as a seasoning, but also helps pull moisture from the meat and acts as a preservative.
You can make beef jerky by either slicing or grinding meat. Some dehydrators are designed so they can hang sliced jerky. Jerky can also be made by drying strips on the dehydrator trays. If you grind meat to make jerky you may want to use a jerky gun, which comes in some packages with dehydrators. A jerky gun is a handheld kitchen tool designed to help make jerky by expressing ground meat into strips or uniform pieces.
It is best to store your beef jerky in vacuum sealed packaging. Properly sealed dehydrated jerky stored in a cool, dark, and dry place has a shelf-life of several months. Freezing your packaged jerky can extend its shelf life to 7-12 months. Once opened it is recommended to store your beef jerky in a zip-top type bag in the refrigerator. You can store an open package of jerky in a refrigerator for 1-2 weeks, but that chances that it will last that long are slim, homemade jerky is a tasty, satisfying snack!
What is the best food dehydrator for beef jerky?
Overall, Sous Vide Guy recommends the Nesco FD-28JX kit. Part of the reason for this is that it comes with all the essentials for making your own jerky. This includes a jerky gun, spare sheets and nozzle adjustments.
How do you make beef jerky with a dehydrator?
Making beef jerky with a dehydrator is very similar to dehydrating fruits and vegetables. The main difference is that you’ll want to have a jerky gun on hand as well. This makes the process of flattening out your beef substantially easier, and makes tastier jerky too!
At what temperature should you dehydrate beef jerky in a dehydrator?
The ideal temperature for beef jerky is about 160- or 165-degrees Fahrenheit. This initial blast of heat will kill any pathogens in the meat. These organisms can survive up to 155 degrees Fahrenheit. For health and safety reasons Sous Vide Guy strongly recommends sticking to the 160-165 rule.
How long does it take to make beef jerky in a dehydrator?
Beef jerky takes about 4-hours to reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. With that said, you can easily run the system for up to five hours with no problems. The five-hour benchmark is best for making long lasting, drier jerky. At four hours the jerky will instead be moister and easier to munch on.
How do you clean dehydrator trays?
Dehydrator trays should be cleaned after every use with soapy, warm water. If oils are sticking excessively then you may need to use an abrasive sponge to get all of the bits. With all that said, Sous Vide Guy recommends that you consider dehydrator lines to circumvent this issue. These food-grade silicone liners are designed specifically to be easy to clean when it comes to oils and the like.