Best Dehydrator for Jerky in 2023: Top 5 Reviewed & Compared + FAQs

By Eric Mitchell •  Updated: Nov 22, 2022 •  23 min read

We will review best dehydrators for jerky that have variable temperature controls with a maximum temperature of at least 160°F. We are also going to look at the various aspects that make them suitable for making jerky and to preserve food in general.

Whether you buy a simple, small, inexpensive model or a large model with all the extras, a dehydrator is a must in the modern kitchen so here are our top picks for the best dehydrator for jerky:

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Our Top Picks

If you’re looking for the best dehydrator overall, not just best suited for making jerky, read our in depth dehydrator reviews where we go into a lot of details, plus comparison charts, buying guides, tips plus FAQ and a lot more. Or you might consider a jerky gun.

Best Food Dehydrators for Jerky Reviewed

Read on our best food dehydrator for jerky reviews to find out which model is the best for your household.

Best Dehydrator for Jerky Overall: Excalibur 3948CDB 9-Tray Digital

TL;DR

Excalibur, one of the leading US producers of food dehydrators, has recently released its latest 948CDB 9-Tray Dehydrator model with a digital timer and fluctuating temperature setting.

The timer can be set to two different temperatures that can run for different lengths of time (can be set to a high temperature for a set time period, and then to a lower temperature for a further time period. The unit will automatically change to the lower temperature when the first time period expires, and will switch off when the second one does.) up to a total of 48 hours, with automatic switch-off at the end of the cycle. The timer also has a memory which allows it to retain its settings in the event of a power interruption. This also means that the door can be removed and replaced without the timer having to be reset. The varying temperature settings ranges from a low of 95°F up to a high of 165°F.

This enables fast removal of surface moisture to prevent mold and bacteria growth, followed by a longer drying cycle at a lower drying power in order to draw interior moisture to the surface for evaporation. The ParallaxTM Horizontal Air-flow System combined with HyperwaveTM Fluctuation Technology ensures even drying of foodstuffs in all areas of the dehydrator. The lightweight polycarbonate unit has a clear door and the body is available in only one color – black. It’s square, 9-tray design offers flexibility with efficiency.

The exterior dimensions of the Excalibur 3948CDB are 17” width, 19” depth and 12.5” height. The unit weighs 25.5 lbs.

This model can dry up to 9 trays of foodstuff at a time. Each tray is 15” x 15”, giving a total drying space of 14 sq. ft. Shelves can be removed to make room for dehydrated foods that need more height than the space between each rack.

Parallexx Horizontal Air-flow Drying System is the Excalibur’s own trademark system that distributes pre-warmed hot air evenly over the foodstuffs on all the trays assuring an even heat distribution.

The food trays in this Excalibur Digital Dehydrator are made of BPA-free polypropylene #5, the safest plastic for use in contact with food and they are also dishwasher safe trays.

The casing material is FDA-approved polycarbonate, which will not give off harmful fumes at the temperatures at which the dehydrator operates.

The clear polycarbonate sheet in the door is lightweight and shatterproof, so it is less likely to be dropped and broken.

The electrical components are housed in an enclosure at the rear of the unit, and the unit has three separate safety mechanisms to protect against electrical malfunction.

It has a see-through polycarbonate door which enables the user to monitor the state of the dehydrated foods without having to open the door, improving the overall energy efficiency of the unit. If the need arises, the door can easily be removed for cleaning.

PROS

CONS

Why We Picked Excalibur 3948CDB

READ OUR FULL Excalibur 3948CDB 9-Tray Digital Review

Best Jerky Dehydrator for Budget: Hamilton Beach 32100A 5-Tray

TL;DR

The Hamilton Beach 32100A 5-Tray dehydrator is a very affordable vertical flow dehydrator with rectangular trays and digital controls that make for an attractive, compact and practical appliance that is easy to use and to store. It has a clear lid to make it possible to monitor the dehydration process without having to open the unit.

The outside dimensions of the dehydrator are 11.2” x 5.9” x 12.8”, and it weighs 8 pounds. Its drying space is 0.9 sq. ft. per tray, with a total drying area of 4.5 sq. ft. when all 5 trays are used. There is no indication that additional trays can be used.

Features and Controls

PROS

CONS

Why We Picked Hamilton Beach 32100A

READ OUR FULL Hamilton Beach 32100A 5-Tray Review

Best Mid-Range: Presto 06301 Dehydro 6-Tray Digital Electric Review

TL;DR

The Presto 06301 Dehydro Digital Electric 6-Tray has built-in digital timer and temperature controls and a 48-hour timer making it more suitable for making jerky than the basic 06300 model. It is an attractive, affordable vertical airflow dehydrator with circular trays that can be inverted to reduce its vertical height for storage.

The digital thermostat allows a choice of drying power between 90°F through 165°F, and the timer can be set in half hour steps for up to 48 hours of drying time.

The storage space of the Presto 06301 is not indicated in its literature. It is shipped with six drying dishwasher safe trays, two fruit roll sheets, two nonstick mesh screens trays and cover which are also dishwasher safe. Six round trays at approximately 14.5” diameter gives a drying area of about 1 sq. ft. per tray, or 6 sq. ft. when all four trays are used. The unit is expandable to a maximum of twelve trays, increasing the total drying space to approximately 12 sq. ft. When the dehydrator is not in use, the trays can be installed upside down so that they nest snugly into each other in their inverted position to reduce the overall height of the appliance by 40%, making it easier to store.

The base and cover of the dehydrator are made of polycarbonate which, in earlier models, may have contained trace amounts of BPA. In response to concerns expressed by some customers, Presto Customer Service Department responded in May 2016 with the following statement:

“Current production of all Presto Dehydrators no longer contains BPA … Note: Prior production contained BPA in the cover, the indicator light, and an internal fan. Keep in mind that none of these parts come into contact with food.”

A see-through cover on the top tray lets you monitor drying progress.

PROS

CONS

Why We Picked Presto 06301 Dehydro

READ OUR FULL Presto 06301 Dehydro Review 

Best Compact: Nesco Gardenmaster FD-1040 4-Tray

TL;DR

The Nesco Gardenmaster FD-1040 cylindrical, stackable tray food dehydrator has a powerful 1,000 watt heating element with a maximum temperature setting of 160°F. It has a temperature range of 90°F through 160°F.

It is a compact, attractive but serious jerky maker that will be an asset to any kitchen. The 15.5” diameter circular, stackable trays provide a drying space of approximately 1 sq. ft. per tray, or 4 sq. ft. in total for the basic unit. Each tray can hold 1lb of meat and the dehydrator can accommodate up to 20 trays, according to the manual.

Most people find using 6 to 12 trays adequate (the extra trays, which must be purchased in pairs, are relatively expensive). With more than 12 trays comes the need to rotate trays vertically in order to get even dehydration. The nesco dehydrator storage space can be increased by adding pairs of trays, for up to a total of 20 trays. When using the dehydrator, at least four trays must always be used to ensure correct operation, even if some of them do not have any food on them.

The dehydrator has a digital timer and thermostat, and the timer can be set in half hour steps for up to 48 hours of drying time.

The patented Nesco Converga-Flow® design allows for a unique horizontal airflow within a stackable dehydrator, ensuring more even drying of food on each tray and an even heat distribution.

It has a top-mounted fan and heater unit that is not vulnerable to the potential problem of food particles and juices falling into the unit and burning, or causing electrical faults.

Its food contact surfaces are all BPA-free, for safe use with foodstuffs.

PROS

CONS

Why We Picked Nesco Gardenmaster FD-1040

READ OUR FULL Nesco Gardenmaster FD-1040 4-Tray Review

Best Entry-Level: Waring Pro DHR30 Professional 5-Tray

Waring pro dh30

TL;DR

The Waring Pro DHR30 Professional 5-tray food dehydrator is a basic vertical airflow dehydrator at an affordable price. Most customer reviews are positive about the resulting produce of the Waring Pro DHR30 Professional Dehydrator, especially the delicious beef jerky that it produces. The ability to switch the appliance on and off without having to unplug it from the wall socket makes it easier and more convenient to operate than many similar models.

The outer dimensions of the unit are a height of 13.5” and a diameter of 15.5”, but the trays are not exactly round, having flat ends 11.5” apart. The capacity of the Waring Pro DHR30 Professional Dehydrator is not stated in any of the literature, but a rough estimate based on the dimensions given produces a surface area of approximately 1 sq. ft. per tray. The capacity is thus approximately 5 sq. ft. when all five trays are in use. There is no indication that additional trays can be used.

The unit has three thermostat settings, Low, Medium and High, as well as a ‘Fan Only’ mode. According to the manufacturer, these settings represent temperatures of approximately 110°F, 140°F and 175°F.

According to the product insert for the Waring Pro DHR30 Dehydrator, all surfaces that come into contact with food are BPA-free, making it safe for drying foods including meats. Clear trays make it easy to monitor the dehydration process.

PROS

CONS

Why We Picked Waring Pro DHR30

READ OUR FULL REVIEW: Waring Pro DHR30 Professional 5-Tray Review

Comparison with other jerky dehydrators

Jerky dehydrators are a relatively new phenomenon that is growing in popularity, and more players are jumping on the bandwagon of supplying them. With all the different types, styles and brands available, many with brand names that represent suppliers rather than manufacturers, it is good practice to read reviews and to look at what is behind the name before picking one from the best dehydrators for jerky on the market.

RankModelEditor's RatingPriceTraysThermostatTempAirflowMaterialDimensionsWeightPowerWarranty
1.Hamilton Beach 32100A 5-Tray4.4/5$5Adjustable100-160 °FVerticalPlastic5.86x11.25x12.758 lbs500 watts5 years
2.Presto 06301 Dehydro 6-Tray4.4/5$$5 up to 12Adjustable90-165 °FVerticalPlastic15x14.5x7.258.5 lbs750 watts1 year
3.Ronco FD6000WHGEN3.5/5$5No133 °FVerticalPlastic13x11x135.3 lbs125 watts1 year
4.Nesco Gardenmaster FD-10404.4/5$$4 up to 20Digital Adjustable90-160 °FHorizontalPlastic15.5x15.5x9.58.95 lbs1000 watts1 year
5.Excalibur 3948CDB4.1/5$$$$9Adjustable95-165 °FHorizontalPolycarbonate21.6x19.2x16.325.5 lbs600 watts10 years
6.Waring Pro DHR304.2/5$5 up to 9Adjustable110-175 °FVerticalPlastic14.7x12.4x11.89.6 lbs620 watts5 years
7.Tribest Sedona Express4/5$$$$$11Digital Adjustable75-167 °FHorizontalBPA-Free Plastic12x17.5x1420.4 lbs450 watts10 years
8.STX Dehydra 1200W-XLS3.4/5$$$10Adjustable85-155 °FHorizontalStainless Steel12.5x19x13.7522.5 lbs600 watts3 years
9.TSM Products Dehydrator4/5$$$$$5Adjustable95-165 °FHorizontalStainless Steel18.8x16.5x931.4 lbs800 watts10 years
10.Raw Rutes 5-Tray4.7/5$$$$5Adjustable50-175 °FHorizontalStainless Steel20.8x10.5x2135 lbs800 watts3 years

FAQs

Jerky is a very healthy way to eat meat, given that only lean meat is used, it is not cooked with any oils or fats, and nor is all the nutrition boiled out of it. Homemade jerky is even better, in that you can control what ingredients are used in the flavoring and don’t need to add artificial preservatives or flavorants. Most importantly, the dehydrator preserves nutrients. But there are some questions that need to be addressed and here are the most important ones we selected for our best dehydrators for jerky page .

When is the beef jerky ready?

Jerky is considered ready if it cracks when it is bent, but does not break.

What kinds of meat can I use to make jerky?

Jerky can be made from most meats, including beef, pork, venison (game meat), chicken, turkey jerky and even fish.
When using venison, choose clean, non‐damaged meat and freeze it for 60 days at 0°F before drying, as a precaution against any diseases that the animal might have been carrying.
When making jerky from pork, chicken or turkey, it is best to use pre-cooked or processed meat.

Is it safe to make beef jerky at home?

Jerky-making has been a popular traditional means of preserving meat for centuries, well before the time of commercial dehydrators, so yes, it is safe to make jerky at home.
You must simply follow the instructions in the dehydrator’s manual carefully.
Cooking foods requires hygienic practices, but this is especially true when it comes to handling meat and making homemade jerky. All utensils and appliances, as well as your hands, should be washed thoroughly before starting. Rinse the meat that you are going to be using and ensure all your work surfaces are clean and tidy.
Ensure that your hands and all the utensils, equipment and surfaces that will come into contact with the raw meat are thoroughly washed with soap and warm water before and after use.
Use only lean meat with minimal fat or marbling.
The US Department of Agriculture recommends that home-made jerky is either pre-heated to an internal temperature of 160°F (165°F for poultry) prior to dehydrating, or else placed in a 275°F pre-heated oven for at least 10 minutes after dehydrating. This will destroy the most common food-borne pathogens of Salmonella and E. coli. Otherwise you will need to either pre-cook the meat or heat it after dehydration.
Note that the US FDA recommends that fixed temperature food dehydrators should not be used for making jerky, so only adjustable temperature models with a maximum temperature of 160°F or more will be considered.

How thin must I slice the meat to make good beef jerky?

It recommended that meat is sliced no thicker than ¼” to ⅜” to ensure thorough drying and an easy to eat snack. Cut strips to a length that fits easily onto the dehydrator trays.
Partially freezing the meat before preparing it will make it easier to cut it into thin slices.

Should I slice the meat with the grain or across/against the grain?

Slicing meat with the grain will produce chewy jerky, popular as healthy snacks especially in the Southwest.
Slicing the meat across the grain will produce a delicious jerky that is more tender, and easier to break apart and chew.

Is it necessary for the meat to still be heated if the dehydrator goes up to 160°F?

Although the interior of the dehydrator may reach a temperature of 160°F, the interior of the meat, where pathogens can occur, may not reach that temperature.
In order to be certain that all pathogens are destroyed, it is recommended that the jerky is heated at 275°F for at least 10 minutes in a preheated oven after drying.

Should I pre-cook the meat or heat it after dehydrating?

Meat that is pre-cooked before dehydration will have a shorter drying time, but the resulting jerky will have a dry, crumbly texture, which is not popular in areas where chewy, flexible jerky is the norm for healthy snacks.

How does the vinegar soak method work?

Pour vinegar into a glass, stainless steel or food-grade plastic container (do not use aluminum) and soak the meat strips for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and ensuring that the vinegar covers all the strips completely.
Drain the vinegar from the meat strips and marinate them in the refrigerator before placing them in the dehydrator.
The acidity of the vinegar (which is ascetic acid), combined with the heat of the dehydrator, will destroy the pathogens.

Can I marinate the meat before dehydrating it?

Yes, marinating whole muscle meat is a popular way of improving the flavor of jerky. Marinate the meat in a refrigerator and not at room temperature, and do not re-use the marinade. Thaw venison in the refrigerator before marinating it. Ground meat should rather be flavored by mixing it with jerky seasoning and dry spices before forming it into strips, for example with a jerky gun.
According to researchers, cure and spices aid the destruction of pathogens, even when mixed into marinades.

Is there an alternative to heating the meat to destroy pathogens when making jerky?

Yes, if you want to avoid heating the meat then you can use the vinegar soak method to kill pathogens that may be present in the meat. This method, along with pre-heating and post-heating of beef jerky, has been identified by scientists at the Universities of Georgia and Wisconsin and Colorado State University, as a safe method to prepare jerky at home. The vinegar soak method should not, however, be used on game meat, as its effectiveness in destroying Trichinella, a pathogen identified in some wild meats, has not been studied.

Wrapping It Up

There is a wide range of dehydrators for making beef jerky, but, depending on the amount of jerky you want to make, your available space and your budget, you will want to choose the one that best suits you, or you might go for a jerky gun.

When making jerky, as with other meat products, hygiene and health are of primary concern. For this reason, although manufacturers may claim that their dehydrators are safe for making jerky, it is best to follow the recommendations of the USDA regarding pre- or post-treatment of the meat.

Vinegar soaking is an alternative method that doesn’t involve heating the jerky beyond the dehydrator temperature, and is popular in some regions.

Whatever method is used, and whichever dehydrator is chosen, the production of home-made jerky is a rewarding past-time for a number of reasons, including the fresh taste, savings, and satisfaction of knowing that the jerky doesn’t contain any ‘unknowns’.

Dehydrate, and enjoy!

Eric Mitchell

Eric is the owner, author, content director and founder of dehydratorlab.com. He is the lead architect and the main man in matters concerning dehydrators, their accessories, guides, reviews and all the accompaniments.Whenever he is not figuring out simple solutions (hacks) involving cookery and their eventual storage, you will find him testing out the different types of dehydrators, to bring us the juicy details regarding these devices.He is a foodie enthusiast, pasionate about making jerky has a knack for healthy and tasty food and won't hesitate to share out any ideas that might be of value around this subject.