Preserving food is all the rage, and with good reason. With so much food being wasted, anything you can do to minimize this is a good thing right? With preserving, we want to keep as much nutritional value and taste as possible, while extending the life of the foodstuff.
A food dehydrator is an excellent way to do this. Great for fruits, vegetables and also meat (who would have thought it?)
Jerky is a dehydrated meat product, generally from beef, but elk, buffalo, bison, fish and kangaroo are other meats that are frequently used. There are plenty of dehydrators on the market today, we’re going to focus on choosing the best food dehydrator for jerky.
Table Of Contents
- My Picks: Best Food Dehydrators For Jerky
- What to Look For In A High Quality Food Dehydrator
- Best Food Dehydrator For Jerky – Our Top Pick
- Top Pick Dehydrator For Jerky
- Runner Up – A Beef Jerky Dehydrator For The Enthusiast
- The Magic Mills Is MAGIC Alright!
- Also Great – The Hamilton Beach Rocks!
- Budget Buy Pick
- Budget Jerky Production Anyone?
- Want To Make Jerky? See The Nesco Jerky Maker In Action
- Final Thoughts
- Our Picks: Best Food Dehydrators For Jerky
My Picks: Best Food Dehydrators For Jerky
What to Look For In A High Quality Food Dehydrator
There are many things to look for when buying a food dehydrator for jerky. All dehydrators attempt to do the same thing, but some are more effective and resilient than others.
Much of the ready made jerky in the stores is extremely high in salt, making it at home gives you a lot more control over the end product. You’ll be using fresh meat so won’t have to ingest the additives and preservatives that many manufacturers us.
When making your purchase, you’ll need to ensure that the machine you choose has the right combination of features for your jerky production and consumption levels.
Build Quality and Durability
Build quality is always important, especially when the product you are buying will be working long and hard, as is the case with a food dehydrator. High quality plastics work great, all the dehydrators will be manufactured with food grade plastics. Ensuring that the trays are BPA free and dishwasher safe is important, the last thing you want is for chemicals to leech into your jerky.
Tray quality is an important consideration. Most dehydrators use plastic trays, but some do offer metal grill trays. Obviously metal trays are less prone to breaking, although cleaning may take a little longer.
All the machines reviewed here are of an acceptable to excellent build quality, which should provide you with many years of food dehydrating.
High Capacity Stacking Trays
All food hydrators use stacking trays. It allows you to dehydrate different fruits and vegetables simultaneously. As mentioned in the previous section, ensuring that the trays are dishwasher safe and more importantly, food safe is essential.
In this review we selected dehydrators that come with a full complement of trays, so you’re not going to need to purchase extras right off the bat. Mesh grills for herb drying are a nice addition. Most companies have accessories that you can purchase, but we were interested in complete, ready to go packages.
Even Airflow System
Airflow is vitally important when dehydrating food. It’s so obvious, but often not considered when making a purchase.
Continuous airflow systems ensure that the food drys evenly and you get a uniform end product, time and time again. Systems like the patented Converga-Flow system used by Nesco work extremely well, but most mid-range food dehydrating machines offer a continuous flow that ensures an even airflow inside the machine and around the food.
Temperature Control with Adjustable Thermostat
All the review items here have adjustable thermostats with safety cutouts. Drying temperatures for dehydrating jerky, vegetables and fruit vary, but look for a temperature range of between 95 – 160 deg F.
Cost Effective And Economical to Run
The best food dehydrator for beef jerky should be cheap to run, and provide a good quantity of product. So one needs to be looking at capacity as well as wattage. Dehydrators tend to range from 500 – 1000 watts, with 600-700 being the average. A higher wattage unit can potentially produce quicker drying results, but uses more energy to do so, albeit in a shorter time. The difference in performance between these higher and lower wattage machines is probably not worth focusing on too much.
Best Food Dehydrator For Jerky – Our Top Pick
Top Pick Dehydrator For Jerky
The solid design, build quality, and included accessories make the Nesco Snack Master a great buy. Make beef, turkey and even fish jerky in this compact and well priced dehydrator.
Also perfect for dehydrating fruits and vegetables.
Our top pick ‘best food dehydrator for jerky’ machine is well priced, solidly built, and has a ton of great features that make it stack up really well against the ‘big boys’.
The Nesco Snackmaster Pro dehydrator is an excellent beef jerky maker. It’s been around for long enough to allow us to take a good look at what existing buyers think. Always a good idea to wait to see if there are glaring flaws with a new model.
The Nesco Snackmaster uses Nesco’s own Converga-Flow system, Nesco are proud of the drying times their machine offers. Thickness of slices, percentage of water content in the food play a factor, but Nesco are confident that their 600w powered unit dries food super quick. This system ensures that trays never need to be rotated.
The Nesco comes with 2 solid sheets, 2 mesh sheets and 3 spicy jerk packets, in addition to the 5 standard drying shelves. The unit can be expanded to 12 sheets. There is also a 52 page recipe book included.
All surfaces that come into contact with food are BPA free and dishwasher friendly.
With over 3000 reviews and a 4.5 star rating average, Amazon customers seem to love it. If you’re looking for a long term dehydrator, this is a great option, if your budget doesn’t stretch to the Magic Mills, our runner up pick.
You can also make yoghurt in it!!
Runner Up – A Beef Jerky Dehydrator For The Enthusiast
The Magic Mill Food Dehydrator looks the part. It looks like a dehydrator should, or at least in my eyes.
The design looks commercial, not just a mass market product for the gadget lover.
It’s certainly not the cheapest, costing more than double the price of our top pick.
We ‘relegated it’ to runner up not because of inferior quality, it excels in that department.
The Magic Mills Is MAGIC Alright!
More like a commercial food dehydrator at first glance, the Magic Mills is a cut above the competition.
With a great capacity, stainless drying trays and a variety of included accessories, this is a great machine for the discerning beef jerky enthusiast.
But in making review recommendations, the extra cost was hard to justify for someone looking to just produce a few pounds of their favorite beef jerky each week. The Nesco performs the task admirably.
What we love about the Magic Mill is the digital thermostat and timer, the NINE stainless steel drying racks, and the included silicone oven mitts that come as standard. This unit also comes with a couple of no-stick trays for making fruit rolls and a fine mesh tray for herbs.
The upsides of the steel trays, in terms of durability comes with a slight downside. They are not dishwasher safe, but a good old fashioned bowl of soapy water is all that is needed.
Definitely a great purchase for the jerky and dehydrating enthusiast. If you’ve got the spare cash, it’s an excellent purchase.
Also Great – The Hamilton Beach Rocks!
When I first set eyes on the Hamilton Beach 32100A Food Dehydrator, it caught my eye.
No, it wasn’t the great reviews, the high quality information on the manufacturers website, it wasn’t even the price.
Nope, it was because some of it was made of metal! AND it looked more like a dehydrator.
Seriously, Although the Hamilton Beach is only slightly cheaper than the Nesco (by around $8), it looks sturdy.
Great Build, Delivers On Price
The 48 hour timer, continuous flow and 5 stacking trays make the Hamilton Beach a great buy. Includes a fine mesh sheet for drying herbs.
Even drying and a digital temperature adjustment between 100-160 deg F, this is a great buy for the price conscious.
Budget Buy Pick
The Presto 06300 DeHydro food dehydrator is a low cost alternative to the others in this review. It’s around $20 cheaper than the next cheapest model, and around $100 cheaper than the the most expensive.
It’s a great buy, but with only 4 trays and no adjustment possible to the temperature, we feel that this is a great introduction to food dehydrating, or for occasional use.
Budget Jerky Production Anyone?
It might be cheap, coming in at under forty bucks, but the Preston 06300 punches above it’s weight. Over 1400 reviews with an average 4.5 star rating can’t be wrong.
No temperature adjustment, only 4 trays, but if you’re just venturing into dehydrating, it’s worth a shot.
If you’re serious about making this form of food preservation part of your lifestyle, then holding fire and spending the extra few dollars is going to be money well spent.
It certainly boasts the features required to be included in this review. Price is good, customer feedback is positive on the whole, although there are some criticisms regarding noise and lack of a timer and temperature control.
It is what it is, a low cost machine that works. For jerky production, a variable temperature control really is a desirable element, which sadly, this machine does not feature.
But, you CAN make jerky in this, and dry vegetables, fruit and more. So if you’re cash-strapped, or just want to dip your fingers in the water, the Presto is a good option.
Certainly not the best food dehydrator for beef jerky, but certainly not hopeless.
Want To Make Jerky? See The Nesco Jerky Maker In Action
We might have overloaded you guys with jerky machines, but if you love your jerky, and want to produce your own, healthy jerky, free from additives and preservatives, picking up a food dehydrator makes perfect sense. You’ll quickly pay the money back in savings once you stop buying the store bought stuff.
Making jerky is a simple process with the right tools. Sure, you can do it in the oven if you have decent temperature control, but with the low cost of food hydrators for jerky making, it’s a no-brainer to go and pick one up. The great features in these machines are amazing considering the prices. We definitely recommend you give one of these a try.
Our Picks: Best Food Dehydrators For Jerky
Hi again. I hope this has been a useful review. I've been making jerky for a while, and although I haven't owned all of these dehydrators ( I do have the Nesco jerky maker), I've done a ton of research on the company sites, on review sites, and just done my utmost to get a feel for what people think is good, or not so good.
Hope it helps