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The Best Dehydrator For Making Beef Jerky

The dehydrator is one of the best tools you could have when making homemade beef jerky. I have tested and reviewed 4 of the top dehydrators on the market to find out which one is THE BEST DEHYDRATOR FOR MAKING BEEF JERKY.

Disclaimer – Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I have NOT received anything from these companies in return for these reviews. I personally purchased with my own money these dehydrators and the ratings are my opinion from the tests I performed.

Basic Jerky Information:

Dehydrators work by passing heated air over the beef to remove moisture in order to dry it making what everyone knows as Beef Jerky. There are two main different types of dehydrators you will find when looking for a unit.

The first is a unit that has a fan mounted on top or bottom of the trays and blows air vertically through the trays to dry the beef. These units tend to be round and less expensive than the second type of dehydrator, the “professional” style dehydrator.

The professional style unit has a fan at the rear of the unit and blows the air horizontally over the beef from the back of the unit to the front. These units tend to be square in construction.

Below I reviewed two of the top selling dehydrators from each style and have ranked them from what I thought was the best dehydrator for the casual beef jerky maker. Some of the things I took into account when ranking these units included: even heat distribution, unit capacity, running noise level, ease of use, accessories, etc….

Nesco Dehydrator Heat Test*I tested the heating of the dehydrators by placing 1 hot dog with a thermometer inserted at a spot closest to the fan and one hot dog with a thermometer inserted at a spot furthest away from the fan. I chose hot dogs because they were the same size and an easy constant when determining the internal temp. This method was used to find out how long a dehydrator took to heat up and if the hot dogs reached the safe internal temperature of 160°F that beef jerky needs to be heated to in order to kill bacteria. Click here for more Jerky Safety Tips.


The Reviews:

These reviews are strictly reviewing how well these dehydrators are for MAKING BEEF JERKY. They all have capabilities to dry other products such as fruit, but these reviews will focus ONLY on how well they are for making jerky. So here we go… Read below to find out what the number one dehydrator I would recommend buying to make Beef Jerky.


#4. The Aroma Housewares Pro 6 Tray ($$$)Aroma Dehydrator

The Aroma Housewares Pro dehydrator came in at #4, powered by a back mounted 400 watt fan. This dehydrator is quiet! You almost don’t even know that it is running. It came in at a max 55 decibels, the quietest of the four dehydrators tested.

The Aroma comes with 6 trays which can hold about 4lbs of meat. I believe it could fit about 10-12 trays depending on the height of the jerky strips. These trays would have to be purchased separately, but unfortunately I cannot find extra trays for sale for this dehydrator.

I also like the clear front window of this unit allowing you to keep an eye on your jerky without opening the unit.

The dehydrator is well made and has a temperature control that ranges from 95° to 155°F. However, during the test drying, after 4 hours and 30 minutes the test food only reached a max internal temperature of 140°F at the back of the unit (closest to the fan) and 131°F at the front of the unit. This dehydrator failed in reaching the all important 160°F internal temperature for making beef jerky.

Aroma Dehydrator Heat Testing

As I mentioned above with the Presto; If purchasing this dehydrator for making beef jerky, I recommend heating the beef strips in the oven until they reach an internal temperature of 160° before removing them and finishing the dehydration process in this dehydrator.

Pros

  • BPA Free Trays
  • 5 Year Warranty
  • Quiet while running
  • Clear front window

Cons

  • Did not reach internal temperature of 160°F
  • No timer
  • Trays are NOT dishwasher safe
  • Made in China
  • Low capacity
  • High Cost

Aroma Housewares Pro


#3. The Presto 06300 ($)Presto Dehydrator

Coming in at #3 is the Presto 06300 600 watt bottom mounted fan dehydrator. This was the lowest cost dehydrator out of the ones reviewed, but had some good features. It is made in China but appears to be well made.

It comes with 4 trays with the option to purchase up to another 4 trays for a total of 8. With the 4 trays, this unit can hold about 3lbs of jerky, or a total of 6lbs after purchasing an extra 4 trays.

I did like how the Presto allows you to stack each tray inside another for a very compact storage. Out of the four dehydrators tested, this is the unit that was the lightest and easiest to store away being about 1/2 the size of the other units. It also has a clear top that allows you to see the jerky while it dries.

Presto Dehydrator Clear Lid

During the drying of the test food, this unit only differed by 8°, the bottom tray (closest to fan) being hotter than the top tray. However, what was NOT good was the overall internal temperature of the test food. The test food reached a 150°F in 91 minutes, but never reached the all important 160°F internal temperature for making beef jerky. The test food on the top tray only reached a high of 144°.

Because this unit did NOT heat the test food to a safe internal temperature of 160°F, further steps would have to be taken when making beef jerky with the Presto. Does this mean that you will get always get sick if making jerky with this dehydrator? No. But I would not want to risk the safety of my family or friends.

If purchasing this dehydrator for making beef jerky, I recommend heating the beef strips in the oven until they reach an internal temperature of 160° before removing them and finishing the dehydration process in this dehydrator.

The Presto was also the loudest dehydrator I tested with a max of 69 decibels when running. This still is not very loud, but louder than the others.

Pros

  • Low cost
  • Requires small storage space, very compact
  • Dishwasher safe trays
  • BPA Free
  • Clear top (see jerky while dehydrating)
  • Expandable Trays

Cons

  • No temperature control (Does not heat to 160°F)
  • No timer
  • Low capacity with the 4 supplied trays
  • Only 1 year warranty
  • Noisy when running
  • Built in China

Presto 06300


#2. The Excalibur 3926TB ($$$$)Excalibur Dehydrator

The Excalibur is the #2 dehydrator I would recommend for someone looking to buy a dehydrator for making beef jerky. The first thing you notice is the over all size & capacity of the unit, allowing for a total of 6lbs of meat to be dried at once.

This dehydrator is made in California and is of very high quality. The unit comes with a 10 year warranty, the best and longest warranty of all the units tested. The 600 watt fan is mounted in the back of the dehydrator blowing air horizontally over the 9 trays. More trays can NOT be added to this unit to increase the capacity.

The Excalibur has a temperature control that ranges from 95° to 165°F. One thing I really love about this unit is that it has a timer that allows you to set it and leave without worrying about over drying your jerky. LOVE IT!

Excalibur Dehydrator Controls

It took 75 minutes for the test food to reach an internal temperature of 150°F and 180 minutes to reach 160°F. The temperature did differ 15°F from the back of the unit (closest to the fan) to the front of the unit. Because of this, I would recommend rotating the trays half way through dehydrating.

The Excalibur was the third noisiest dehydrator reaching a high of 63 decibels while running.

Pros

  • Temperature control 95° to 165°F
  • Built in timer
  • Dishwasher safe trays
  • Built in the USA
  • 10 year warranty
  • BPA Free Trays

Cons

  • High cost
  • Have to rotate trays during drying
  • Fixed number of trays, cannot increase capacity

Excalibur 3926TB


#1. The Nesco Snackmaster Pro ($$)Nesco Dehydrator

Coming in at #1 is the Nesco Snackmaster Pro! This was the first dehydrator I purchased when I began making jerky and I still love using it today. This unit is made in Wisconsin and produces great beef jerky! The Nesco comes with 5 trays which will handle about 3lbs of meat, however, 7 extra trays can be purchased (a little over ten dollars for a pair of 2) making a total of 12 trays for 7.5lbs of capacity. That’s a lot of jerky!

The design of this unit allows a 600watt top mounted fan to evenly distribute the heat throughout the unit for even and fast drying. A temperature control allows you to select a temp from 95° to 160°F. Out of the 4 dehydrators tested, this was the only unit that maintained the same temperature throughout the entire unit making it great for drying jerky evenly.

Nesco Dehydrator Controls

It took 92 minutes for the test food to reach and internal temperature of 150°F and 195 minutes to reach 160°F. The temperature between the top and bottom trays never differed more than 2°F.

The Nesco was also the second quietest unit, reaching a high of 58 decibels allowing it to be run in the kitchen without bothering you while watching t.v or having dinner.

Pros:

  • Low cost
  • Temperature control 95° to 160°F
  • Expandable tray capacity
  • BPA Free Trays
  • Quiet when running
  • Built in the USA

Cons:

  • No timer
  • Trays are NOT dishwasher safe
  • Only 1 year warranty

Nesco SnackMaster Pro


 

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I hope this has helped you decide what dehydrator is right for you when making beef jerky. Visit my page on Making Beef Jerky with a Dehydrator for more in depth information on using these great jerky making machines! Then find a great Beef Jerky Recipe, I have dozens to choose from!!!

20 comments

  1. Richard L. says:

    Great website! I’m not far down the road from you here in San Antonio so it wouldn’t be that far for you to bring me some of your jerky :-). I am in the learning process (trial and error) of making jerky. I believe, as you do, that temperature to kill possible bacteria in the meat is important. I am looking at getting another dehydrator or two in the near future and I appreciate the time you took to test these products. I noticed that you tested temperature with a hot dog. Since the hot dog would be thicker than say an 1/8 in slice of beef, is it possible that the beef (being thinner) might have reached the 160 degree mark on some of these units? Much appreciated! Keep up the good work!

    • Will
      Will says:

      Hey Richard! I love San Antonio! My wife and I make it down there every once in a while to ride bikes down by the river walk (the part NOT crowded by people). That’s a great question. I used a hot dog so that the test food was a constant density and size when testing the 4 dehydrators. I know the hot dog is bigger than a slice of jerky, but the only other way to test would have been to fold a slice of beef in half with the thermometer in the middle. Going this route, I thought the slices could vary a little bit and the thermometer would not be totally encased which could allow in hot air, giving me a false reading. Hot dogs are not as dense as a slice of beef, which allows them to heat up faster as well. Also, these units ran for over 4 hours without reaching an internal temperature of 160F. I do not think that these units would heat a slice of beef to the all important 160F. I really appreciate you stopping by! Let me know what dehydrator you get and what you think about it!

    • Will
      Will says:

      It really depends on how thin you sliced the meat. Start with 4 hours and continue from there if needed. Pull a piece out and let it cool for a couple minutes and bend it. If it bends and cracks, but does not break in half; it’s finished. This page has some more information about making jerky in a dehydrator.

  2. Flemin says:

    Thanks for the informed reviews on the dehydrators. Would definitely love to get one to make my own jerky. Huge fan of jerky. Which do you think would be the most recommended one if I am on a budget?

  3. Tim Romero says:

    The Nesco has never failed me however cleaning the trays can be a bit tedious. I’m still trying to find a solution that is not so time consuming. If anyone can pass along any suggestions I’d be grateful.
    Thanks!

    • Will
      Will says:

      I hear you on cleaning dehydrator trays, it can be a pain in the butt! Some recipes are worse than others when it comes to clean up, but spraying the dehydrator trays with PAM nonstick cooking spray helps prevent the marinade from drying to the trays. Definitely makes clean up a little easier. Any nonstick spray will work and you can easily find it at your local grocery store.

  4. Dennis Schukman says:

    What do you think of using an electric smoker for drying beef jerky? Have you ever tried one? I am thinking of getting one and am curious if it would work for bj.

  5. Rob says:

    Very informative video and web page. We’ll try this today. On a side note, I never understood the practice of laying down foil to keep surface clean. A simple wipe of the countertop (which was designed for food prep) would clean the mess instead of adding yet another ball of aluminum garbage to the earth.

    • Will
      Will says:

      Thanks for visiting and watching my video! It’s a very valid point about the aluminum foil Rob. I guess it’s an option for who ever is making the jerky. A quick swipe of the counter with a good cleaning agent would definitely take care of the mess as well.

  6. Kerry Deardorff says:

    Great information – very helpful. I came close to purchasing the Presto and decided I should really do some research first. I’ve never used/owned a dehydrator, but am looking forward to it.
    I realize there are a lot of products on the market and it would be difficult (and expensive) to test them all. But I am curious if you have heard anything or have any thoughts about the Hamilton Beach Dehydrator. The reviews I’ve read for it are generally better than the Nesco and (at Amazon) it’s under $50 which makes it attractive to this first-time buyer.
    Thanks again for the great information you’ve provided.

    • Will
      Will says:

      I have not tried or tested that dehydrator so I can’t give any advice on it. I would comb through the reviews and look for whether people have to rotate trays to get an even dry on all the jerky. See if anyone mentions the dehydrator heating jerky to 160F. I will try in a couple months to test some other dehydrators, I will make sure this one is on my list.

  7. Laurie Lee says:

    Hi, l make jerky using a Nesco Snackmaster and noticed it was one of the dehydrators you tested. In your review you mentioned the con of the trays not being dishwasher safe….l am hear to report, l put my trays in the dishwasher with no issues for the last 4 years. What was the problem you ran into? Thanks! Don’t want to rid my trays!!

    • Will
      Will says:

      I always hand wash my trays and classify them on here as not being dishwasher safe because Nesco claims that they are NOT dishwasher safe. That’s awesome that you haven’t had any problems, it’s so much easier than washing by hand!

  8. Hi,
    I have a Ronco dehydrator. I’ve used it only for jerky, so far. It’s been chaotic in my life ( moving across country and other life events…..). I’m going to bestarting making jerky again. It’s so expensive to buy it. And I just remember that the jerky I’ve made tastes soo much better!!! I’m so glad I found your blog!!!
    I remember it took like 12 hours to make. But it’s been years since I’ve made it. Maybe I will look at the booklet… yes I still have it. It also came with a huge recipe book full of various food dehydration recipes. I plan on buying some ‘extra’ foods to dehydrate and store in canning jars. The jerky will not be stored. I like to eat it at night before bed.
    ATM I am nursing my last child and I find I need more protein and jerky is perfect!!!

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