Best Dehydrators for Beef Jerky

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piece of beef jerky

Find the best dehydrator to make the best beef jerky.

If you’re like me, beef jerky is your go-to snack for hikes, hunting trips, camping, and long road trips. 

It tastes amazing, is high in protein and best of all, is a lightweight, nutrient-dense snack that will give you the fuel you need for all the energy you will exert during these activities.

The problem is beef jerky is far too expensive to be purchasing in bulk. My suggestion is to get yourself a dehydrator and make the jerky at home. 

The way a dehydrator works is by heating up the air inside of it to dry out the meat, resulting in the sweet and savory snack we know as jerky. 

The most popular variety is beef jerky, although it can be produced from any type of meat. The meat is cured with salts to prevent bacterial growth. 

Best Dehydrator for Beef JerkyWhy We Like It
1. FD-61 Snackmaster this is a great, basic dehydrator for small families or couples
2. Open Country FD-62BJX Trailmaster Dehydrator Kit this machine is good for dehydrating significant amounts of food at once
3. Chefman Food Dehydrator convenient glass front of this model makes it easier to prevent overdrying of food
4. BioChef Sol Food Dehydrator 6 this is a high-quality machine at a comfortable price
5. Crawford Kitchen offers the Commercial Food Dehydrator this dehydrator comes with a year's warranty and is a great machine for beginners to dehydrating food

In a hurry? I recommend the BioChef Sol Dehydrator.

Why make it at home?

Walk into any supermarket, you can find dozens of brands, flavors, and varieties of jerky. So why bother making it at home? First of all, and I’m sure this is not a big shocker, store bought brands can be full of chemicals, colors, and unnecessary sodium. Make your own organic jerky at home.

Eating a raw food diet? You’ll still need a dehydrator. Check these out.

Also, making your own jerky, as with most do-it-yourself projects, is considerably more economical than buying it off of the rack. Be creative and find your own mouth-watering recipes. Who knows, maybe you can even sell it!

Why get a dehydrator?

You have an oven, why can’t you use that? Put it this way – it would basically be like lighting a cigarette with a blow torch. Just too much.

Jerky is a ‘raw food,’ which means that it is cooked at a temperature less than 117°F. The purpose of cooking at a low temperature is to conserve nutrients and dietary enzymes. Most ovens do not have a low enough setting for proper preparation. The dehydrator is designed for low-heat, has proper airflow for efficiently pulling moisture from the meat, and requires minimal supervision.

Things to consider

There are two main types of dehydrators: vertical flow (aka stackable unit) and horizontal flow (aka shelf tray food dehydrators). Vertical flow dehydrators are usually the more economic option but do not dehydrate as uniformly. While this is okay for fruits, vegetables, and nuts, the horizontal flow version is generally preferred for jerky. Just keep in mind the horizontal flow versions hit heavier in the pocket, and generally are quite large in size, requiring more counter and storage space.

There are a couple of other things to consider. One is the ease of use. A dehydrator that does not require switching around shelves means you can set it and forget it. The size and capacity, noise level and features (such as a thermostat, timer, and auto shutoff) can vary from product to product.

Let’s take a look at some of the better dehydrators available, so you can start making your own jerky!

There are two different types of dehydrators; stackable and box-and-shelf. Let’s look at a few models.

FD-61 Snackmaster

Nesco FD-61 Snackmaster Encore Four Tray Food Dehydrator

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Number one on the list is the FD-61 Snackmaster by Nesco. It is great for single-family households who are just looking for a basic dehydrator and don’t need all the bells and whistles that come from the higher-priced dehydrators.

The FD-61 gives you 500 watts of heating power in a basic, stacking system unit. It comes with 4 trays but is expandable to 12, and the trays are dishwasher safe.

It works at temperatures of 95 to 160 degrees with an adjustable thermostat for easy temperature control. The FD-61 is about the middle of the road when it comes to pricing, but you can expect to be able to use this machine for years to come.

Should you buy this dehydrator?

If you are a small family or only need enough jerky for a few people, I would recommend this one. It is a basic dehydrator, and it is relatively easy to use, so if you are new to making beef jerky go ahead and get the Nesco Snackmaster.

It's right about here that I start craving jerky.

It’s right about here that I start craving jerky.

Here’s a knife that will get you nice thin slices on your jerky.

Open Country FD-62BJX Trailmaster Dehydrator Kit

Open Country FD-62BJX Trailmaster Dehydrator Kit, 500-watt

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For dehydrator number two, we’ll take a look at the Open Country FD-62BJX Trailmaster.

This model is a bit more expensive than the Nesco, but it has more drying capacity and more drying power.

The temperature control lets you set the desired temperature and there’s no need to rotate the trays:  the drying is consistent with this model.

The Open Country dehydrator also has five more degrees of drying temperature, going from 95 to 155 degrees and has a capacity to hold up to 12 trays simultaneously.

Should you purchase this dehydrator?

I would go for this one if you are looking to dehydrate a significant amount of jerky all at once.

It will cost you more than a basic dehydrator but is well worth the convenience of not having to go through multiple cycles. This is probably the machine I would recommend the most  here because it will fit the needs of most people.

 

Spices are the key to great jerky. Why not grind your own?

And here are some awesome spices for beef.

 

Wondering what kind of beef to get for your dehydrator? Here’s a guide to beef. 

 

Chefman Food Dehydrator Chefman Dehydrator Machine Professional Electric Multi-Tier Food Preserver, Meat or Beef Jerky Maker, Fruit & Vegetable Dryer with 6 Slide Out Trays & Transparent Door, 6 Tray, Black

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The Chefman Food Dehydrator is slightly more expensive and offers a more innovative design, which assists the airflow and ensures consistent drying throughout the trays. The trays are also plastic and BPA free. There is the option of 6 or 9 trays. This product also includes access to Club Chefman, which has a variety of videos and recipe ideas. 

Should you purchase this dehydrator?

This dehydrator is smaller than others, yet still has a rather large capacity.  If you are looking for something to dehydrate food for your family, this is a great buy.  Plus, it comes with a one-year warranty.  It also has a convenient glass front so you can see your food as it dehydrates, which is great if you’re afraid you’re going to overdo it dehydrating fruit and more.

Delicious beef jerky at home is just a quick dehydrating session away.

Delicious beef jerky at home is just a quick dehydrating session away.

BioChef Sol Food Dehydrator 6

BioChef Arizona Sol Food Dehydrator with 6 x BPA FREE Stainless Steel Drying Trays & Digital Timer + Accessories - Horizontal airflow for meat, fruit, herbs and vegetables food preserver, white

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The BioChef Sol Food Dehydrator 6 is a horizontal flow machine with easy to clean stainless steel drying trays. BioChef has a patented EPT (Enzyme Protection Technology) with the obvious benefit of preserving the nutritional benefits of the beef. For such a high quality machine, the price is comfortable. The product is complete with the digital timer and digital heat control and is available in black or white.

Should you purchase this dehydrator?

With a two-year warranty on motor and parts, there’s really no danger in trying out the BioChef 6.  If you want to dehydrate smaller batches of food at a time, this dehydrator is a pretty good choice.  Plus, the stainless steel removable trays are BPA-free and easy to clean.

Crawford Kitchen offers the Commercial Food Dehydrator Crawford Kitchen Countertop Food Dehydrator | Easy To Clean Body & Trays | 48h Digital Timer And Heat Control | Ultra Quiet High Efficiency Design (5 Tray)

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Crawford Kitchen offers the Commercial Food Dehydrator, which is an entirely stainless steel horizontal flow machine. Like the BioChef, this product also offers a digital timer and digital heat control, but this machine has more capacity. There are more trays and the tray size is slightly larger. This is a very decent low-end option for a commercial use. 

Should you purchase this dehydrator?

If I were just starting out experimenting with dehydrating foods, then, yes, I would absolutely get this machine.  Its price is much lower than other dehydrators on the market and it still comes with a one-year warranty.

Beef, chicken, buffalo, kangaroo, dinosaur, the jerky possibilities are endless. Get your dehydrator and get inventive, in no time you will be making your favorite snack at home.

Wrap-Up

If you’re into getting outdoors, then beef jerky is a snack that you probably like to keep handy at all times.

Unfortunately, beef jerky seems to cost more than most any other snack you will find. If you want to bypass the ever increasing prices of this delicious snack, then you must own a dehydrator.

And you don’t just have to dehydrate beef. It works for deer, elk, and even fruits and vegetables. Dried apples are an awesome snack for the trail. Pretty much any fruits, vegetables or meats that you like to eat will taste good when dried. Ok, almost. Maybe not dried celery. The dehydrator I would recommend most is the Open Country Dehydrator.

Find out here if you can use those old chilis you found in your cupboard to spice up your next batch of jerky. 

There is one thing I should mention. When dehydrating, your house might begin to smell like jerky. And while jerky may be good as a snack, it’s possible you do not want your house smelling like beef jerky. So go ahead and move your dehydrator outside when you use it.

Wondering what the best dehydrator is for backpacking meals? Check out this post. 

Dehydrators aren’t just for jerky. They’re perfect for vegetables too. Just make sure you slice each piece the same size for even drying. The best way to do that? Use a mandoline.

Read here for my review of the best mandoline slicers for the money. 

Next time you go camping, bring the best cooler. Here are my top choices. 

Additional Resources

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: Arnold G., Eric T.,  and Dennis A. “Jerky jewel” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by ryan.dowd