Homemade Jerky Project

Find the Best Dehydrator for Jerky - Insider's Guide [2024]

When choosing the best dehydrator to purchase for making beef jerky, there are several key factors to consider: 

  • How much jerky are you dehydrating at a time?
  • Do you plan to use the dehydrator for a long period of time?
  • How much space do you have?
  • Do noise levels matter to you?
  • How much do you want to spend?

The good news is there’s a dehydrator for all types of beef jerky makers.  We’ll dive deeper into each recommendation but here is an overview of the best dehydrators on the market.

*These prices were provided at the time of writing this article. Make sure to check the listing for up-to-date pricing.

We’ve been in the beef jerky business for over 90 years and four generations. We’ve applied our commercial expertise and passion for DIY jerky to evaluate how each dehydrator delivers on quality, consistency, and durability. We’ve spent 25+ hours researching the available options through consumer reports, customer reviews, and industry forums. Once we narrowed down our list of contenders, we conducted in-person testing in our Test Kitchen to see how the jerky dehydrators hold up to multiple batches of jerky.

Here are the characteristics we evaluated during the testing process and what you should look for in a home jerky dehydrator: 

  • Durable construction
  • Adjustable thermostat to set temperature 
  • Size
  • Noise level
  • Ease of clean up
  • Programmable timer

This dehydrator guide will help you find the perfect jerky dehydrator for your needs.You will find a range in type, budget, size, and power. Ultimately, it’ll come down to your specific needs on your jerky making journey.

We’re here for you every step of the way with our Homemade Jerky Project.

Don’t forget to check out our Beef Jerky Seasoning Blends (Coming Soon! Sign-Up For Early Access) that will take your homemade jerky to the next level. 

Keep reading to find the best jerky dehydrator. 

1. Hamilton Beach Digital Food Dehydrator

Hamilton Beach Digital Food Dehydrator

If you want a solid dehydrator that doesn’t break the bank, look no further than the Hamilton Beach Digital Food Dehydrator. 

This is an excellent, entry-level dehydrator that is great for someone just getting into home jerky making. The Hamilton Beach Digital Food Dehydrator features an auto shut off feature, an adjustable timer, and a see through cover lid so that you can check in on your jerky. It also comes with 5 drying trays, and runs at 500 watts.

The Hamilton Beach Digital Food Dehydrator is on the smaller side. If your initial curiosity into jerky making turns into a full-blown obsession, you’ll have to upgrade to a dehydrator with larger volume. That being said, if you are operating in a small space, this might be an ideal option for you. 

Another drawback with this dehydrator is the sound. When operating, the dehydrator generates a fair amount of whirring sounds and can be a nuisance in the kitchen. 

However, for a comparatively low price, this is a great option for those that dabble in jerky making and aren’t ready to commit to a larger unit. 


  • Auto shut off feature
  • Clear lid for easy viewing
  • Budget friendly


  • Smaller size
  • Loud operating sound

Key Specs

  • Number of trays: 5
  • Dimensions: 10.5 x 13 x 11 inches 
  • Material: Plastic
  • Temperature range: 100-160° F
  • Programmable timer: Yes
  • Wattage: 500
  • 5 star ratings: 4,101 

Shop on Amazon: Hamilton Beach Digital Food Dehydrator - $65.99

2. Nesco Gardenmaster

Nesco Gardenmaster

Ready to step up to the next level? The Nesco Gardenmaster is an efficient unit that packs a punch when it comes to wattage (+1,000 watts).  The increased power allows the machine to heat up quickly and evenly heat the expandable drying dehydrator trays.

The standard Nesco Gardenmaster will produce about 3-5 LBS of meat per batch with the standard 8 trays. Additional trays can be purchased and added to the device to reach a total of 30 trays.The expandable capacity is a great option for the home jerky maker that wants to start small with the option to expand the size of the batches.

Some online reviewers complained of noise, but we found the Nesco Gardenmaster to be similar to other dehydrators we tested. We also noticed that some online purchases had issues with the expandable trays not fitting. Because they are made with plastic, this could become a problem with continued use. Also, make sure you are purchasing authentic parts.

A few other drawbacks of the Nesco Gardenmaster include a lack of programmable timer and no viewing window.

Some purchasers also complained of a diminishing efficiency and quality of the unit after several batches and months of use. We wouldn’t recommend this dehydrator if you plan to make batches of jerky for longer than a year.

But, if you’re looking to start small and scale up your production, the Nesco Gardenmaster is a great option for you that definitely gets the job done. If you’re already making large batches of jerky consistently, the more commercial dehydrators will provide better long-term value.


  • High power
  • Flexibility to add more trays for larger batches 
  • Built in the USA


  • No programmable timer
  • No transparent windows for easy viewing
  • Issues with long-term use 

Key Specs

  • Number of trays: 8 (can add additional trays to reach up to 30)
  • Dimensions: 17 x 15.5 x 14 inches
  • Material: Plastic 
  • Temperature range: 95-160°F
  • Programmable timer: No 
  • Wattage: 1000
  • 5 star ratings: 1,791 

Shop on Amazon: Nesco Gardenmaster - $135.99

3. Cosori Food Dehydrator

Cosori Food Dehydrator

For jerky makers that want efficient drying power in a compact, quiet package, then the Cosori Food Dehydrator is your best bet. It features an adjustable temperature, ranging from 95 to 165 degrees fahrenheit. It runs at 600 watts and comes with 6 trays. The noise levels are less than 48dB, lower than the sound levels recorded in a silent library. Out of all the dehydrators that we tested, the Cosori Food Dehydrator was one of the quietest units. 

This dehydrator is made with stainless steel and plastic components which gives it an attractive and durable construction. Additionally, it features an automatic shut off feature as well as automatic overheat protection. With a clear door, you can easily see your jerky.

For jerky makers that are looking to dehydrate meat in larger quantities, the six tray capacity is on the smaller side which poses a potential drawback.

For those that are looking for an attractive solution that can easily live on the kitchen countertop, then the Cosori Food Dehydrator is a great option.


  • Quiet operation
  • Auto shut off feature
  • Clear door for easy viewing
  • Attractive design
  • Durable materials


  •  Smaller in size

Key Specs

  • Number of trays: 6
  • Dimensions: 17.8 x 13.5 x 12.2 inches
  • Material: Stainless Steel 
  • Temperature range: 95-165°F
  • Programmable timer: Yes
  • Wattage: 600
  • 5 star ratings: 10,509

Shop on Amazon: Cosori Food Dehydrator -  $159.99

4. Colzer Food Dehydrator

Colzer Food Dehydrator

Our top pick for easy viewing, quality construction, and overall capacity is the Colzer food dehydrator. 

Featuring a large capacity for big batches, this dehydrator for jerky has 12 stackable trays that do not require rotation and features a completely transparent door for easy viewing. At 800 watts, this dehydrator is highly efficient and generates the most heat out of all the dehydrators going up to 194°F.

It also operates at the low noise level of 50dB, which is amazingly silent for the power.

The stainless steel construction makes the unit durable, but presents issues with heat. The unit gets hot to the touch when running. It’s strongly advised to store away from children or pets during operation. 

The Colzer Food Dehydrator comes with stainless steel trays which are durable, but can present sticking issues. We recommend purchasing plastic mesh screens that will make for an easy clean up. 

With ample space, a transparent door, silent operation, stainless steel material, and high power wattage, this dehydrator truly has it all. It’s a great option for home jerky makers looking for quality design and best value.


  • Transparent door
  • High power
  • Quiet operation
  • Suitable for large batches


  • Heat issues
  • Stainless steel trays instead of mesh

Key Specs

  • Number of trays: 12
  • Dimensions: 16.2 x 12 x 17.3 inches
  • Material: Stainless Steel 
  • Temperature range: 68-194°F
  • Programmable timer: Yes
  • Wattage: 800
  • 5 star ratings: 701 

Shop on Amazon: Colzer Food Dehydrator - $259.99

5. Excalibur Food Dehydrator

Excalibur Food Dehydrator

Our top pick for the amateur jerky maker is the Excalibur Food Dehydrator. 

This is the jerky dehydrator that we use in our Test Kitchen and have run thousands of pounds of tests without any issue.

The dehydrator unit is made with a durable plastic that balances ease of cleaning with durability and longevity. It produces approximately 6 LBS of jerky per batch. 

Featuring special heating technology and a unique vertical airflow system, this hydrator changes temperature throughout the drying process ensuring that both the inside and outside of the food are both dried, making for an even heat distribution, requiring zero rotating of trays. With the incorporation of cold air in this process, more nutrients are retained. It also comes with 9 dishwasher safe mesh trays and runs at 440 watts. 

Only downside? There’s no glass door for easy viewing. We find taking off the lid and checking to see if the jerky is done doesn’t cause any issues.

The Excalibur Food Dehydrator definitely comes at a premium price when compared to the other dehydrators on the list, but for those that are making large batches of jerky over a longer period of time, it offers incredible reliability and consistency. 


  • Suitable for large batches
  • Special heating technology for even hydration
  • Durable and long lasting
  • Dishwashable trays (BPA free)
  • Built in the USA


  • No transparent door
  • Expensive

Key Specs

  • Number of trays: 9
  • Dimensions: 19 x 17 x 12.5 inches
  • Material: Plastic
  • Temperature range: 105-165°F
  • Programmable timer: Yes
  • Wattage: 440 
  • 5 star ratings: 2,512

Shop on Amazon: Excalibur Food Dehydrator 9-tray Electric - $329.99

Bottom Line

There are many factors to consider when trying to answer the question — what’s the best dehydrator for jerky?

  • How much jerky are you dehydrating at a time?
  • Do you plan to use the dehydrator for a long period of time?
  • What size are you looking for? How much space do you have?
  • How much do you want to spend?
  • Do noise levels matter to you?

Once you determine your specific needs, one of the jerky dehydrators on our list is guaranteed to help you make delicious, homemade jerky. They’ve been vetted for quality materials, durability, and efficiency. 

Now the fun part is determining what flavors of jerky you’re going to make! To get started, check out our list of Unique Beef Jerky Recipes.  

And of course, don’t forget to shop our homemade seasoning. (Coming Soon! Sign-Up For Early Access).