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What Is The Best Meat Dehydrator for Jerky? The 5 Best for Home

Dehydrated meat, aka jerky, is an easy-to-make and healthy snack you can buy or make at home. Dehydrating meat at home can save some money and enable you to choose the ingredients and flavors to make a healthier jerky with your desired taste and texture. You can choose the best meat dehydrator for jerky after learning about the features different dehydrators offer.

What Is The Best Meat Dehydrator for Jerky? The 5 Best for Home
Highlights
  • A meat dehydrator is a machine that removes moisture from meat to make a jerky with more shelf life.
  • To choose the best meat dehydrator for jerky, look for those with enough capacity, temperature control, proper airflow, and a timer.
  • The best cuts of meat for jerky are top round, bottom round, flank steak, skirt steak, and venison.
  • Hamilton Beach Digital Food Dehydrator, Nesco Gardenmaster, Cosori Food Dehydrator, Colzer Food Dehydrator, and Excalibur Food Dehydrator are some of the best meat dehydrators.

What Is a Meat Dehydrator?

A meat dehydrator is a device used to remove moisture from meat to preserve it and extend its shelf life. It works by circulating heated air around the meat and allowing the hot air to slowly evaporate and remove moisture from the meat.

The low heat (130-165°F) used in dehydration allows the meat to dry out evenly without cooking completely. The dehydration process prevents the spoilage of meat and the growth of bacteria by removing the water content (which creates an environment for bacteria to grow).

Dehydrated meat is lighter and easier to store, so it is a good option for camping, hiking, or emergency food stores. The best meats for jerky in dehydrators are beef, turkey, chicken, fish, and exotic meats like venison or elk.

So, how can we choose the best meat dehydrator for jerky? Well, it should have features like temperature control, proper airflow, and consistent heating to help you make high-quality, evenly-dried meat sticks. But that’s not all.

Learn More: What Is The Best Meat Slicer? The 10 Best Types for Home and Industry

What to Look for In a Dehydrator?

  • Size/Capacity: Make sure your dehydrator is large enough to contain the amount of meat you want to dry in a single batch without overlapping slices. Dehydrators come in various sizes, from small 4-tray units to large 10+ tray models.
  • Temperature Control: Dehydrators should have a temperature range of 130-165°F because high temperatures will cook the outside of the meat before drying the inside.
  • Airflow: Look for a dehydrator with a fan and vents for air circulation around the meat for even drying.
  • Consistent Heating: Quality dehydrators have uniform horizontal-flow heating elements that distribute hot air evenly across all the trays for consistent drying.
  • Tray Materials: Trays should be made from food-safe plastics that don't leach chemicals.
  • Timer: Having an automatic timer helps with dehydration timing and prevents overcooking.
  • Ease of Cleaning: Removable trays and interior surfaces that are easy to clean provide simpler maintenance.

Although these factors are important, the meat you use and how you prepare it determines the texture, taste, and tenderness of the final result. The type of meat, slicing, marinating, and trimming fat are among the factors to consider before dehydrating meat.

Factors to Consider Before Dehydrating Meat

Here are some essential factors to consider before dehydrating meat:

  • Meat Quality: The best cut of meat for dehydration is fresh meat that is lean and has not been frozen before. Also, choose cuts of meat that don’t have high-fat content. Fat can become rancid during the drying process and can reduce the shelf life of the jerky.
  • Slicing: Slice meat into thin strips with 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Thicker pieces will take more time to dry.  Also, for ideal texture, slice the meat against the grain (across the muscle fibers) for a more chewable meat.
  • Humidity Levels: Low humidity helps dehydration, and it will take more time for moisture to evaporate from the meat in highly humid conditions.
  • Trim Excess Fat: Even lean cuts may have some visible fat, which should be trimmed as much as possible before slicing and marinating.
  • Marinating: Marinate the meat to add flavor and help the preservation process. This step not only enhances taste but also makes the meat softer by breaking down its fibers.

You can make meat chips, dried ground meat powder, or pemmican in a meat dehydrator, but the most popular dehydrated meat product is jerky, which is very delicious and easy to make.

Learn More: The 10 Best Meat Sticks: How to Eat Them?

How Is Jerky Made?

Jerky is made by dehydrating lean meat through drying at a low temperature for a long time. You can make jerky at home by following these steps:

  • Meat Selection and Preparation: Trim fat and connective tissue from lean cuts of beef, turkey, venison, or other meats, and then slice them into long and thin strips.
  • Marinating: Marinate the strips with ingredients like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, spices, salt, and other seasonings to add flavor and tenderness to the meat.
  • Drying and Dehydrating: Arrange the marinated strips on dehydrator trays or racks and set the temperature to 130-165°F for low and slow drying. The dehydration process will take 4-15 hours, depending on the dehydrator's power and capacity, humidity levels, and thickness of the strips.
  • Testing for Dryness: Properly dehydrated jerky should bend and crack but not break, as it will lose 50-60% of its original weight during drying.
  • Storing: You can store dehydrated jerky at room temperature for 2-3 weeks or freeze it for several months.

You can use many types of meat in this method for making jerky based on your taste and diet, but some meats will provide better jerky, especially if used properly in a dehydrator.

Learn More: The Best Meat for Beef Jerky and How to Select Them

'Meat saved our lives': These people lost 200 lbs and healed 5 common chronic diseases with Carnivore.

The Best Cuts of Meat for Jerky to Use In a Dehydrator

Choosing the best cut of meat for beef jerky in a dehydrator is a matter of taste, but dehydrating the following meats can provide high-quality jerky.

  • Top Round: It’s a classic choice for jerky, with a large and single muscle from the rear leg of the cow, which is very easy to slice into strips. (View on Amazon)
  • Bottom Round: It’s another lean and economical cut under the top round area of the animal’s body. It has a slightly coarser texture than the top round but makes delicious jerky. (View on Amazon)
  • Flank Steak: While slightly fattier than the top and bottom rounds, flank steak is a good option for jerky if you trim the fat. Also, It has a rich beefy flavor that many individuals will like (View on Amazon).
  • Skirt Steak: It is a flavorful cut with more fat than flank steak. If you want your jerky to be juicier, use skirt steak (View on Amazon).
  • Venison: Venison has a lean and natural flavor, and you should select lean cuts, such as backstrap or round just like beef (View on Amazon).
  • Turkey Breast: It’s a healthier and leaner alternative to beef, with high levels of protein (View on Amazon).

The above meats can provide a flavorful and delicious jerky only if used in a high-quality dehydrator from reliable brands like Hamilton Beach and Excalibur.

Learn More: The Best Meat to Smoke: 15 Best Cuts to Throw into the Smoker

The 5 Best Meat Dehydrators for Jerky

Here are the 5 best meat dehydrators for jerky you can use at home:

Hamilton Beach Digital Food Dehydrator

The Hamilton Beach Digital Food Dehydrator is an affordable dehydrator suitable for those getting started with making jerky at home. It is convenient for offering an auto shut-off option, an adjustable timer, 5 drying trays, and 500 watts of power.

It’s small in capacity, but its compact size could be an advantage if you have limited kitchen space. One potential drawback is that it can generate noticeable sounds when operating, which some may find disruptive in the kitchen.

ProsCons
Auto shut-off feature Small size
Clear lid for easy viewing Loud operating sound
Budget-friendly

Nesco Gardenmaster

The Nesco Gardenmaster is a powerful dehydrator with over 1000 watts that heats up quickly and evenly across its trays. It has 8 trays that can produce 3-5 lbs of jerky per batch, but you can add more trays - up to 30 - for larger batches

This dehydrator lacks a programmable timer and viewing window features. It’s also noisy like other models, and some users found its efficiency and quality reduced after heavy use over several months, so it may not be ideal for you if you want a dehydrator that works well for a long time and heavy use.

ProsCons
High power No programmable timer
Flexibility to add more trays for larger batches No transparent windows for easy viewing
Issues with long-term use

Cosori Food Dehydrator

The Cosori Food Dehydrator is an efficient, compact, and quiet option that offers adjustable temperature control from 95-165°F and runs at 600 watts.

The major advantage of this dehydrator is its ultra-quiet operation, which is under 48dB, making it one of the quietest machines. This quiet sound comes from a small size with only 6 trays.

The stainless steel and plastic components give it a sleek and durable design. It also has features, including an automatic shut-off, overheat protection, and a transparent door to monitor progress.

ProsCons
Quiet operation Low capacity due to small size
Auto shut-off feature
Transparent door for easy viewing

Colzer Food Dehydrator

The Colzer Food Dehydrator is one of the best meat dehydrators for jerky due to its large 12-tray capacity. Its fully transparent door allows easy monitoring during dehydration.

With 800 watts of power and temperatures up to 194°F, it is a highly efficient model.  Also, it operates at just 50dB, making it a quiet machine with high performance. The full stainless steel structure can get quite hot during the dehydration process so you should be cautious if your children and pets are around.

Its stainless steel trays are durable but can stick to the meat, so it’s better to use plastic mesh screens for easier cleanup.

ProsCons
Transparent door Heating of the outer structure during the dehydration process
High power Stainless steel trays instead of mesh
Quiet operation
Suitable for large batches of meat

Excalibur Food Dehydrator

The Excalibur is a good option for new and amateur jerky makers looking for a top-quality and reliable dehydrator. It’s made of sturdy plastic that makes it very easy to clean. Also, it can produce around 6 lbs of jerky per batch.

Other features include special heating technology, a vertical airflow system, and cycling temperature changes to ensure even drying inside and out without rotating the trays.

It comes with 9 dishwasher-safe mesh trays and runs at 440 watts. However, it lacks a transparent window to monitor the dehydration process.

The Excalibur Food Dehydrator is more expensive than other dehydrators introduced here, but if you want to make large batches of jerky over a longer time, it can be one of the best options.

ProsCons
Suitable for large batches No transparent door
Special heating technology for even hydration More expensive than other options
Dishwasher-safe trays
Durable and long-lasting

Summary

If you are looking for more meat dehydrators, check the following list for the best meat slicer based on price and +4star reviews. Clicking on each item will lead you to the related Amazon page, and you can purchase online.

The best meat dehydrator from $25 to $50

The best meat dehydrator from $50 to $100

The best meat dehydrator from $100 to $200

The best meat dehydrator from $200 and above

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