If you need to know what jerky is on a basic level, please do your research before you spend your money.
Comparison of the Best Dehydrators for Jerky
Excalibur Food Dehydrator
Nesco Pro Food Dehydrator
Gourmia 6 Rack Food Dehydrator (with Cookbook)
How Does Using the Best Dehydrator Make Jerky "Safer"
If we look back in time, we can see that drying or dehydrating meat is a skill that was used to preserve meats long before any other method. To put it into perspective, canning meats to preserve them is a method that has only been around for 200 years, and freezing/freeze-drying has only come about in the last century.
But dehydrating meats to make jerky is a skill that has been safely used to extend meat's edible lifespan as far back as history can tell.
The scientific principal of preserving food by drying is that by removing moisture, enzymes (which are the nasty things that cause decay and break things down) cannot efficiently contact or react with the food. Whether these enzymes are bacterial, fungal, or naturally occurring autolytic enzymes from the raw food, preventing this enzymatic action preserves the food from biological action.
Standards and Safety for the Best Jerky Deyhydrator
Not all food dehydrators are created equal. and that is why we've taken the time to do the research to make sure you get all the information up front, and don't make the same costly mistakes as others. Let's go over what sets the best jerky dehydrators apart!
Box Style Dehydrators
The box style dehydrator is usually one that has a larger capacity and can work much quicker. This style also generally comes with pull out trays that the food is placed on to dry, making checking on the process much easier than a round style dehydrator.
However, these models do tend to be a bit more expensive. But most people who use them are using them multiple times per month, and say that it's worth the investment for sure!
Round Style Dehydrators
If you're a weekend warrior when it comes to dehydrating foods like jerky, then this is the model for you! These are generally a 1-3 step process with very few settings and very straight forward.
You put the meat in, set the timer, and in a few hours you'll have your jerky.
The downside is that there's not as much space in these models as the box style, and if you want to check the progress of the food you need to disassemble the whole contraption. Now once you get your system down you'll know how long a batch should take, but this can be pretty annoying at first.
Convection or Fan Drying?
What is convection drying? Heat, generated by a heating element mounted at the base of the box, rises through the trays. Living Foods' founder Jen MacManiman says a benefit of convection drying is that it eliminates the possibility of contaminating foods with dirt that fans can suck into a dehydrator. However, placing the fan-powered dehydrator in a clean space remedies that potential problem.
What is fan drying? Fan drying obviously uses a fan to dry the food by circulating the air out of the unit. However, you need to know about fan placement before you jump into one, as the best placements are usually at the top or back of the unit.
Tips Before You Buy ANY Food Dehydrator for Jerky or Otherwise
Determine your needs for a dehydrator and justify the purchase before you buy it. If you intend to use it one time, it might be better to find someone that will let you use theirs, or to find a business that will charge a reasonable fee to let you use theirs.
Start small if you're new food dehydrators are no cheap purchase. So if you are picking this up as a starting point it would be best to buy one that's not $300+.
Make sure it will fit your needs If you're wanting to dehydrate something other than meat to make jerky, make sure the dehydrator comes with the necessary accessories like a vinyl/leather mat for fruits.
Our Top 3 Choices
In a hurry? Here's a snapshot of the Best Dehydrators for Jerky:
Review of the Best Dehydrators for Jerky
Here's our complete review of the best jerky dehydrators:
Excalibur Food Dehydrator
Of course we're going to start off with our personal favorite, the Excalibur! Which we, and many others, have found to be holy grail like when it comes to getting everything you want in a personal food dehydrator! With a 10 year warranty this company clearly stands behind their product for the long term.
With 9 trays and all the settings you could ask for, this home dehydrator is one of the best in it's league. With a few minor tweaks, it's as close to perfect as you're going to get.
The one consistent complaint with this product is the noise. The power that this thing puts out is only rivaled by it's ability to make noise, so make sure it's in a place that isn't the center of activity.
It's also twice as heavy as plastic models, which could be bad if you intend on moving it around. But this is something you buy if you're serious about mass batch dehydrating and preserving food, so if you want it you can make space for it.
Nesco Pro Food Dehydrator
This is a great dehydrator for those just starting out. The fact that it's so small reinforces the necessity to make slices extra thin, which is a great habit to get into so that things move as efficiently as possible.
The make of this product is impeccable though, even for those who live in the swamps of Louisiana to the coast line of Brazil, the humidity in the environment doesn't affect the performance of this machine!
This compact little beast comes with 5 trays, which is impressive for such a small product (13x13x10 inches). The only unfortunate thing is that there's been reports of inaccurate temperature readings, which could make the whole thing a bust if you're going off a faulty temp.
But with experience it seems most people found this product quite amazing, and a helpful on-ramp to the adventures of dehydrating and self-preserving foods!
Usually box dehydrators are a bit fickle and reserved for the more experienced dehydrators, but Gourmia has done a fantastic job of simplifying the process with a few easy temperature settings. The quietness of this machine is what sets it apart from the other box style dehydrators that generally make as much noise as a 80's microwave.
As for the cookbook that it comes with, it wasn't the most useful thing to be produced. From other reviews it seems like Youtube videos might do better than the cookbook.
Other than that there's a vastly positive response to this dehydrator for being able to make the best jerky indoors!