|Best Overall||MEAT! 10-Tray||SEE IT||
The MEAT! 10-Tray is durable, powerful, and accurate.
|Best Budget||Cabela’s Harvester 5-Tier||SEE IT||
This unit is high quality, lightweight, and affordable.
|Best for Big Batches||Weston 6-Tray||SEE IT||
Maximum drying power in minimal space.
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Jerky is one of my go-to snacks anytime I hit the outdoors. It’s easy to pack and lasts forever. It can be expensive at the store and it’s so easy to make at home, where your customization options are endless. The best way to make your own delicious jerky is with a dehydrator. Sure, you can make it in the oven, or over a fire, or in a smoker—but for optimum control and consistency, a dehydrator with a precise temperature control thermostat is the way to go. If you’re looking for the best dehydrators for jerky, these options are worth considering.
- Best Overall: Meat! 10-Tray
- Best for Big Batches: Weston 6-Tray
- Best Cabinet-Style: LEM Mighty Bite 5-Tray Countertop
I tested them by making venison jerky and dehydrated apple slices at 150 degrees while using an accurate thermometer to verify the dehydrator’s thermostat and temperature consistency. The test allowed me to see how efficiently they dehydrated, their ease of use, and their cooking consistency. Here are the results of my testing.
How We Picked the Best Dehydrators for Jerky
I picked the best dehydrators for jerky that I thought fit various kitchen and budget scenarios. To test the dehydrators, I dried two trays of jerky and one tray of apple slices per unit at 150 degrees, or as near as the temperature controls allowed. I placed the jerky trays on the lowest rack and center rack of each unit, and the apple trays on the top-rack position.
During the test, I used a digital thermometer on a center rack the temperature accuracy. While a few degrees won’t make a difference in the finished jerky, some meats like wild hog or bear require hotter temperatures for parasite control and need accurate temperature readings.
Best Dehydrators for Jerky: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Meat! 10-Tray
- 10-tray cabinet style for large capacity
- Metal construction
- Quiet, powerful fan
- Efficient drying time
- Durable, easy-to-clean metal trays
- Cabinet style holds a large capacity
- Powerful fan dries the jerky quickly
- Heavy, large footprint
- Premium price
The MEAT! 10-Tray Dehydrator’s large capacity, powerful fan, and accurate thermostat quietly turned out evenly finished jerky in a short amount of time and required little tray movement. With a large drying space, fast drying time, quiet fan, and most consistent top to bottom drying rates, this dehydrator is the best dehydrator for the serious jerky maker. The jerky and apple slices dried in the shortest amount of time. During the test, the MEAT! 10-Tray Dehydrator held a consistent temperature but rose and fell on an even cycle. The digital thermostat presets don’t rise one degree at a time but skip up or down with each push of the button. With the thermostat reading 149 degrees (the closest I could get to 150 degrees) the actual temperature inside the unit would rise to 149-150 degrees.
The temperature then slowly fell to 142 before rising again to within a degree or two of the preset, which is more than accurate enough for any jerky making or drying task. Total time from loading the trays to finished jerky was a speedy 4 hours and 15 minutes, and the jerky on the meat unit finished about 30 minutes faster than the sliced apples. While this unit is a beast to move around and store, if you love jerky and make it often, this dehydrator will get the job done in a hurry. If you don’t want to spend this much on a dehydrator, go in with your hunting buddies and share this one. It cranks out jerky so efficiently that you can do enough for the entire camp in just a few batches.
Best for Big Batches: Weston 6-Tray
- Six large trays for high capacity
- 800-watt heater
- Powerful fan for fast drying
- Large capacity
- Quiet fan
- Accurate thermostat
- Stacking design requires tray rotation for even drying
- Plastic trays can be delicate
If you are looking for a mid-range unit with capabilities of drying large batches of jerky, the Weston 6-Tray unit is the way to go. This powerful yet quiet fan and 800-watt heater dried thick jerky relatively quickly. The Weston 6-Tray maximizes the amount of jerky you can dry, while minimalizing storage space. Make sure you get the 75-0450 model with the 800-watt heater, because Weston makes similar units with smaller heaters that don’t dry as quickly.
With a small footprint and attractive appearance, the Weston is a dehydrator you can leave on the counter all season. While the Weston 6-Tray held the most consistent temperature, it did run roughly six-degrees below the preset temperature. Jerky at the rear of both trays dried noticeably slower than that at the front, necessitating a 180-degree rotation when we swapped the lower and middle trays midway through the drying time. Total time from loading trays to dry jerky was five hours, 45 minutes, with jerky and apples finishing at the same time.
Best Cabinet-Style: LEM Mighty Bite 5-Tray Countertop
- Large-capacity trays
- Cabinet style for even drying
- Low cost
- Rear mounted fan and snap on front door make for speedy jerky drying
- Rugged cabinet style design
- Large capacity
- Economical for cabinet style design
- 2-year warranty from LEM
- Large footprint requires lots of space for storage
- Lower wattage heater compared to other units of this size
- Dial style thermostat instead of digital
The cabinet-style design dries evenly front to back and top to bottom without tray adjustments during the drying cycle. LEM’s cost is comparable to the stackable tray designs with cabinet style features. The Mighty Bite 5-Tray is a cabinet style with trays that slide in and out for easy loading and unloading without having to move any of the other trays for the process. The rear mounted fan allows air to move evenly from top to bottom, but trays may need to be rotated for even drying. This unit has a 550-watt heater with temperature ranges of 95-155 degrees, and the temperature is controlled by a dial style thermostat. The Mighty Bite has a 30-hour timer with an automatic shutoff, and the clear, snap-on door helps hold in heat and speed the drying process.
Things to Consider Before Purchasing the Best Dehydrator for Jerky
If you plan to use the dehydrator often and make large amounts of jerky at a time, then a larger 10-tray model might be the best choice. The downside to large dehydrators is weight and storage space, so if you only make a small amount of jerky at a time or if storage space is at a premium, the smaller, stacking tray style models might be the best option for you.
Q: At what temp should I dehydrate jerky?
You should dehydrate your jerky at a temp between 150-160 degrees. The key to making good jerky is low and slow. Dehydrating the meat at this temperature for an extended period ensures that all you remove all the moisture and any chance of bacteria growth. Of course, the time you dry the meat at this temperature will depend on which unit you use and the size of batch you make—but you should expect to spend anywhere from 4-8 hours drying the meat.
Q: Can you dehydrate meat too long?
Depending on how you prefer your jerky, you can dehydrate the meat too long. The longer you dehydrate the meat, the drier it becomes, so it largely depends on what you plan to do with the jerky. If you’re planning to store the jerky for an extended period, you might want to dehydrate it longer. But if you’re making jerky to take camp for the weekend, you (and your friends) might prefer a tastier and easier-to-eat batch that doesn’t require as much drying time.
Q: Do you need curing salt for jerky?
While there are different opinions on whether you need curing salt for jerky or not, there are benefits to using it. Curing salt (sodium nitrite) helps combat some bacteria that may thrive in jerky making conditions. While you can get sick from eating too much curing salt, using the proper amount is a great way to make sure you and your friends don’t get any foodborne illnesses. Check out this article, How to Make Deer Jerky, in an Oven, Smoker, and Dehydrator, to see how to use curing salt.
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I’ve made a lot of jerky over the years. I’ve tried low temperatures for longer drying times, and higher temps for shorter periods. Now, I’ve settled on 150 degrees as the best option for safely and efficiently making jerky. Having an accurate thermostat on a dehydrator makes maintaining the correct temperature easy, and depending on your storage situation, any of these dehydrators will make a great option.