Drying foods is a method of preservation that has been around for centuries. It can be beneficial to extending the life of food as well as preserving nutrients. Almost anything can be dried, but one of the best things to use a dehydrator for is meat.
Using a food dehydrator today, though, doesn’t take nearly as long as in the old days. In fact, in just a few hours, you could be enjoying a delicious jerky treat. That being said, you may find that there are a lot of options to choose from.
The one that you go with in the end will depend on certain factors (see buyers guide below). So knowing this, we have taken the time to use our list of features to compile a comprehensive list of the five best food dehydrators for jerky.
Best Food Dehydrators for Jerky Reviews
Chefman Food Dehydrator
Our first dehydrator uses an innovative design to ensure your food is dehydrated correctly. That, coupled with all the extra features included in the build, makes the Chefman RJ43-SQ-6T a good option.
- 6 adjustable trays (13″ x 12″)
- 14 digital preset settings (95˚F – 158 ˚F)
- Built-in countdown timer (up to 19.5 hrs.)
- 480W motor
- Dimensions – 13.6” x 17.5” x 12.4”
- Weight – 15.1 lbs.
- Auto shut off system
There is a lot that we can rave about when it comes to this dehydrator from Chefman. It is simply designed, which makes it perfect for the beginner dryer. The design of the unit is also crafted for the beginner, who may be a little impatient. With this in mind, the unit was designed with a transparent window so you can monitor the progress of your meat.
Speaking of the design, the model is built using high-quality materials that are both durable and lightweight. Because the built-in motor is smaller, it means a reduced noise level. On top of all that, the unit has a great timer and temperature control that is pretty diverse (14 different settings).
Even though there is a lot that really stands out with this model, we still think there are still a few issues that we believe could be worked on. The first is that though the motor is quieter, it is also a lower wattage. This means longer cooking times due to the lack of power.
Other than that, there are several customers that have received their model without an instruction manual. It is simple to use but having a manual for reference and also for the safety tips and maintenance would be handy.
Hamilton Beach 32100A
The next dehydrator comes from one of the biggest names in kitchen appliances, Hamilton Beach. The 32100A lives up to the reputation of being well crafted yet affordable.
- Timer function (48 hr.)
- Digital thermostat (100˚F – 160˚F)
- 5 stackable trays
- 500W motor
- Comes with multiple accessories
- Dimensions – 10.5” x 13” x 11”
- Weight – 8 lbs.
If you’re looking for a budget option, then you may have found a good candidate. Coming from Hamilton Beach, this well-crafted model is designed for easy use. The appliance is compact and lightweight, which is also good for those working with limited space.
When it comes to the actual operations, as we said, the controls are easy to use. Designed using a digital interface that has a wide range of temp choices, you will be sure to get the right temp every time. All of this makes the value you get for the affordable price tag well worth the investment.
With all of that being said, there are still some things that we would be remiss if we didn’t bring to your attention. The larger motor is great for power and time management, but it will produce a bit of noise. This could be a deciding factor for some.
The trays are also something that comes to mind. They are crafted in high-grade plastic but seem a little light and flimsy. This may lead to less food being able to store on them and a shorter lifespan.
The next model we will be taking a look at is a compact and easy-to-use model that won’t break the bank. It comes fitted with digital control features that make it well worth the investment.
- 5 trays
- Temperature control (up to 48 hrs.)
- Adjustable temperature ranges (95˚F – 165˚F)
- 450W motor
- Built-in memory function
- Crafted with overheat protection system
- Dimensions – 13.8” x 11.8” x 13.8”
- Weight – 9.3 lbs.
This dehydrator is one that offers the user a lot of great features that are perfect for someone who wants to craft their own jerky. The controls and the system are super easy to learn and use. Along with that, the design of the model is crafted with a lightweight material, which makes storage even easier.
The interior trays are dishwasher safe, and that means less time with clean up after the jerky has been made. Other great features like the auto shut off system coupled with the other features we have discussed are why this unit is a good investment.
Okay, there are some issues when it comes to the efficiency and ease of use that could be better. There are quite a few instances of inconsistent airflow. This is especially true in the upper stacks of the unit. Having inconsistent airflow can lead to uneven cooking and poor final results.
The unit is also oddly colored. It is crafted in an opaque material, which makes it hard to monitor the progress of your meat.
Magic Mill MFD-7070 Dehydrator
The Magic Mill Dehydrator is the model we will be taking a look at next. It is fitted with a powerful motor and is simple to use and maintain.
- Adjustable temperature and timing system
- 7 adjustable trays (13″ x 12″)
- Overheat protection system
- Auto shut off capability
- Temperature range – 95˚F – 167˚F
- 600W motor
- Dimensions – 14” x 17” x 18”
- Weight – 16.7 lbs.
This unit is designed for some serious dehydration. Of all the models that we are looking at, this one has the largest motor. This gives it more power, of course, which in turn can help ensure improved results in a shorter time. It is also crafted with metal trays as opposed to plastic trays. The use of metal trays means the unit will last longer and be more durable.
With the inclusion of metal trays, you also get a much easier cleanup. These metal trays can be wiped down and slapped in the dishwasher, and that is the extent of your clean up. (You should also wipe the unit down though as well.) The features and design of this unit are pretty darn good, and that is why we chose to add it to our list.
The motor is a great benefit in some ways, but it also comes with some flaws. The first is the larger motor will result in more noise. It will also take a lot more electricity to run, so you may see your power bill raise a bit if you use it a lot.
The other big concern is there have been some reports of inconsistent temperatures. This is not so much in the lower temps, but once you start getting to the upper range, the accuracy of the temps is questionable..
VIVOHOME Electric Dehydrator
Our last entry is compact but roomy and perfect for those working with small spaces. The VIVOHOME dehydrator is packed full of performance-enhancing features that make it easily one of the best options available.
- 400W motor
- Adjustable temp control (95˚F – 158˚F)
- Up to 24 hrs timer
- 5 trays
- Crafted with stainless steel
- Dimensions – 12.5” x 9.5” x 9.8”
- Weight – 6.6 lbs.
This compact offering from VIVOHOME is another great option for the jerky lovers out there. It is crafted with durable contamination-free plastics. This gives it a compact and lightweight frame that is perfect for small spaces and transportation. The overall design and materials used in that design also make it easy to clean and use.
Speaking of the design, though it is compact, it still has a good capacity with its five trays. In the end, when you look at the features and efficiency of the unit, you can see that it is a great investment and one that looks good too!
Now, if you are looking for a dehydrator that can be used for large batches, you may want to look at another unit. It is small and compact, and though it does offer some great capacity, it still may be too small to tackle some of your jerky projects.
The unit also doesn’t come with an instruction manual. This is a problem as if you have never used a dehydrator, as you may be a little lost.
We chose these models very carefully, with the guidance of a list of pertinent features we felt would lead to a well-crafted and high performing dehydrator. The features we use to craft our list may be of use to you in your decision-making process. So here are the features we looked at as we peruse the options available.
Size is a significant factor for multiple reasons. For dehydrators, size refers to the capacity or tray count that the unit is able to work with. When looking at the capacity capability, you will want to consider how much meat you are looking to make into jerky. You can choose from a box/shelf or a stackable model. Both have their pluses, but a stackable unit is often expandable when it comes to how much you can get into it.
Though we think you should focus on the tray count and capacity, the actual dimensions of the unit matter too. For this, you will need to think about the space you have in order to determine which unit is best for you.
There are two factors that fall under this feature. The first is the actual power of the unit itself. The wattage of the motor will play a role in how effective the drying power of the unit is. If you are looking for something that does the job faster, than you may want to consider a higher wattage. The smaller wattage options are typically cheaper.
Also, airflow and heat distribution affect the power of the model’s drying capability. You want a unit that is consistent and offers an even airflow. The best way to find one is to research and read reviews of the model.
Timer and Temperature Functions
If you’re cooking in any form, temperature and timing play a big part in how well the results turn out. It is no different when looking at dehydrators. To get the best model for you, we suggest looking for one that has adjustable temperatures in a good range. This will allow you to set the right temperature and time for the meats you are dehydrating.
Speaking of timers, you should find a model that delivers multiple time settings. Having this feature will allow you to set it and forget it and still turn out a good product.
Material, like many of the features, is to be looked at in two different ways. The first is the actual unit materials. There are many options, from metal to plastic to choose from. Plastic should be BPA-free and of a higher quality.
Because of this, the units do tend to be more budget-friendly. Steel or metal options exist as well, and they offer a pretty good lifestyle but will cost more.
The second place that materials come into consideration is when talking about the accessories and racks. Just like with the outside, plastic options will be cheaper but not last as long as metal options.
There are extra features that could make a marked difference in the efficiency and performance of the dehydrator. Some of the extras you should look for are:
- Auto shut off
- Air filtration
- Digital display and controls
- Transparent door
- Overheat protection
- Additional accessories
Food Dehydrator FAQs
With all that knowledge you have under your belt, you are ready to decide, right? No? We kind of expected that and that you would have plenty of questions still floating around in your brain. So we picked out some of the most commonly asked questions and answered them below for you.
What are the different types of food dehydrators?
There are two main styles of dehydrator you will be able to choose from. The first is the vertical flow model. These sometimes may be called stackable dehydrators. Of course, this is because the trays stack on top of each other for the process. The fan that circulates the air is at the top and pushes the air down evenly through the racks. These types tend to take up small amounts of space in your kitchen.
The other options are the horizontal flow. These are also called shelf dehydrators and have a fan that distributes the air located on the model’s sides. They look very similar to a convection oven. When it comes to beef jerky, these do tend to be the better option as they distribute the heat more evenly and often take less time than the other model.
How does a food dehydrator work?
If you are going to invest any of your hard-earned money into a new kitchen contraption, understanding how it works is a good idea. This can help you use the unit to its fullest potential. The simplest explanation is that a dehydrator is an electrical appliance that removes moisture from the food that you place inside of it.
This is done by the heat being raised higher and higher, which begins the process of de-moisturization. The fans built into the unit then begin circulating that hot air evenly so that all the food is dehydrated at the same time.
How much does a dehydrator cost?
The cost of the unit you choose will vary depending on the brand, the features, and many other factors. The price range is very vast. A low budget dehydrator that is made of plastic components and not very large can be as low as $30. On the other hand, if you get a steel model that is large capacity and a name brand, and you could be looking at a price upwards of $400. So you can see that there is an option for everyone, no matter what your budget looks like.
How much electricity does a dehydrator use?
This really depends on the unit and how big the motor is. Most dehydrators will cost between $.03 and $1.20 for a 10-hour period of electrical use. If you want to know exactly how much money you will have to do a little math.
The first step would be to figure out the kWh. The formula is below:
Wattage of dehydrator x hours of operation / 1000
Once you have that, you will need to look at your electric bill and see what you provide charges per kWh. Then you multiply that by the kWh you came up with, and you will have exactly how much electricity is used and the cost of that electricity.
What are the different ways to use a dehydrator?
Of course, you can make jerky as that is what we are talking about in this buyer’s guide, but there are so many other ways you can use this kitchen appliance. Along with meat, you can dehydrate herbs, fruits, and vegetables. You can even use your dehydrator to prove dough for baking. The options are limitless, and though you may be buying your dehydrator for jerky, you should still consider the other uses that you can get from investing in the right option for you.
Dehydrating food, especially meat, can be a good way to preserve food and make them go further. It is also an excellent tool for diversifying your snack profile. Whether you are solely buying it to produce jerky or looking to use it for so much more, it is key that you find the right model for your needs.
This is why we have created this list of the best food dehydrators for jerky. Hopefully, amongst our options, you have found a dehydrator that checks off all the boxes for you. If not, we hope that our buyer’s guide and all the information we have relayed will help you find one easily.