One of the biggest challenges that families and commercial food institutions face is food waste. Most people prepare more food than needed. No wonder, methods of food preservation is on the rise today.
Unfortunately, most of the additives used in preservations have ultimate harmful chemicals or they drain out the nutritious value of the food. Everyone wants to use preservatives that retain the nutrients and flavour.
Your food dehydrator will ensure you have richly preserved fruits, vegetables or meat. You see, investing in the right kitchen equipment is a sure way to ease your cooking experience. While this is not a must-have tool in your kitchen, it is equally a saviour since you don’t have to spend that extra coin buying the branded jerky meat.
In fact, homemade jerky not only saves you the extra cost involved but also assures you to avoid the additives used in the preservation of commercial food. This article focuses on the 5 best dehydrators below.
- Chefman 5 Tray Round Food Dehydrator
- Nesco FD-61 Snackmaster Encore Four Tray Food Dehydrator
- Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator
- The presto 06300
- Aroma AFD-815B 6 Tray Food Dehydrator
What is a jerky dehydrator
A jerky is a kind of meat that has its fat trimmed then dried for preservation. In the ancient days, people added salt to reduce bacterial growth. Today most people marinate the meat in a seasoned spice rub. You can dehydrate beef, fish, kangaroo meat, buffalo among other meats.
With that said, a jerky dehydrator is a kitchen tool that you use in the dehydration of meat. The market is flooded with food dehydrators; therefore, this article focuses on choosing your best jerky dehydrator.
How does a food dehydrator work?
Quality food dehydrators are important when you need to make your jerky. The jerky dehydrator works by producing heat. This heat aims at removing the water content in the meat.
If you are like me, you probably remember in the olden days you would leave food outside under the scorching sun to dry. This was a form of preservation close to the dehydration process.
Now, the dehydrator works to dry your food in a cleaner process. It uses a combination of heat and air movement for the process.
There are 3 elements that are essential in the dehydrator which the heat, air vents, regulators, trays and fans.
You should ensure you have the correct temperature. This is never easy but since your dehydrator has a regulator, you can monitor the temperature.
A good dehydrator must have compartments to place the food/meat on. Once you place the food in the compartments the moving air will need to be released. This happens through the heating element/air vent that releases the meat moisture out. The best thing about a dehydrator is that it’s not easy for the food to burn.
Lastly, the air distribution in the dehydrator plays a major role in the drying of the items. The air fans help in this purpose while regulating the temperature.
How to make a beef jerky with a food dehydrator
The most important point to consider is to ensure your meat is lean. This is because fat doesn’t dehydrate, within a few days it begins to attract bacteria which reduces your meat’s shelf life.
Prepare your meat by trimming off the excess fat then place the meat in a freezer bag. Remove the excess air and zip it. Freeze the meat for 1-2 hours. Remove from the freezer and cut to your desired shape. I love making stripes although you can also make thin slices.
Place the stripes or slices of meat into another bag and into the refrigerator for 3-6 hours this is especially important if you have marinated your meat. Remove from the refrigerator and pat dry.
Preheat your dehydrator to about 140-160 degrees F. Place the strips into the compartments in a single layer. Once the dehydrator is nicely hot, place the compartments back to the dehydrator.
Dehydrate until cooked and leathery this may take about 4-6 hours.
Remove from the equipment and place in the food storage container.
The types of dehydrators
There are 2 types of dehydrators namely:
- Horizontal dehydrator/shelf tray food dehydrators
They are large and occupy a large space yet they are the best option for a jerky. It hits high in the pockets as opposed to the horizontal type.
- Vertical dehydrator/stackable unit
This is the most economic option although they don’t dehydrate uniformly. This is the best choice for vegetables, fruits and nuts.
Reasons why you need a dehydrator
- Most people would ask the reason why they should buy the dehydrator when the oven can do the same work. You see, when you have raw meat and would love to make some jerky the temperature needed may be lower than 117 degrees that the oven can’t work on. In addition, there is a uniform supply of air/heat.
- While jerky is readily available in every supermarket or grocery store, the brand you buy in the stores is bound to have chemicals and colours for preservation. If you make your own jerky at home, you will not only have chosen an economical option but also a healthy option.
- Besides, using a dehydrator allows you to use a natural preservative method that ensures your flavour is maintained as opposed to the freezers.
- Your food choices are bound to change since you will opt for the natural, healthy and nutritious meals.
- It helps reduce the food waste and increase the shelf life.
- If you love tasty meals then dehydrated meats will be your thing. I have never known this but with my recent research I discovered that dehydrated food tastes
- Your dehydrated food is portable because they are lightweight.
- This is a safe method of preservation and as long as you follow the instructions to trim the extra fat, the bacteria won’t grow.
Choosing the best food dehydration
When you intend to buy anything, you need to have the essential details that make your item outstanding. Below are the things to look for;
- Check its air and heat distribution
This is the essential aspect of a dehydrator. Regardless of the distance between the heating source and the compartments, dehydrator should assure you that it will work. Remember you should have even distribution of heat on your jerkies.
- The quality and durability
If you need your product to take long be observant about the quality. The best product is a high-quality plastic dehydrator. I would go for the BPA free tray and dishwasher safe to avoid the chemicals from spreading into the food.
Check the tray quality by considering the material that makes the tray. You can choose a metal or plastic one but note that it is easy to wash a plastic tray although it will not last long. On the contrary metal is durable but hard to wash.
- Easy to use
Make sure your item is easy to operate. This feature in your dehydrator will make a whole large difference because you will not need to flip your meat strips every so often.
- What is your budget?
There is a dehydrator for almost everyone. It all depends on what you are looking for, ensure you compare the value to the price. Remember, the fact that an item is expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it is suitable for your needs.
- What size are you looking for?
You see, if you have a large household or you want to use your dehydrator for commercial purposes, you will need a large one and vice versa.
- Ease of cleaning
You should find ease when cleaning the item. Example, the trays/compartments should be removable in order to ease the washing process.
Top 5 dehydrator reviews
1. Chefman 5 Tray Round Food Dehydrator, BPA-Free Professional Electric Multi-Tier Food Preserver, Meat or Beef Jerky Maker, Fruit, Herb, Vegetable Dryer, 9.5 Inch Diameter x 6.5 Inch Height
This is an easy to use multipurpose food dehydrator that you can use to dehydrate your jerky, fruits, vegetables and fish. What I love about it most is that the transparent lids make it easy to see the dehydration process and it is easy to wash the removable trays.
It has superior air flow for your even and consistent drying. In addition, they offer you cookbooks and videos for advisable recipes to try.
- It is easy to use.
- It is easy to clean and you can wash the removable trays in a dish washer.
- It has adjustable shelves thereby accommodating large slices of food.
- It is appealing and cheap.
- The highest temperature is 158 degrees which makes the dehydration process for the meat cumbersome since you have to heat the meat to about 160 degrees before placing in dehydrator.
- It’s small in size.
This is a modern design kitchen dehydrator that will dehydrate your meat with no fuss. One good thing about it is that it is easy to use and has an instruction book.
The dehydrator is powerful with 500 watts of power and the ability to dehydrate all foodstuff. It can do the work very quickly and efficiently. It has four trays that can expand to 12 and the energy increases with the increase in trays. It also has an adjustable thermostat for flexibility.
- It has multiple drying options. It can dry meats, fruits, nuts and vegetable.
- With the guidelines given you can set it up easily.
- It maintains the taste and flavour.
- It is powerful and precise.
- It is cheap.
- It has limited space.
- It is noisy during operation.
- Sometime the food sticks on the trays.
3. Excalibur 3926TB 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator with Temperature Settings and 26-hour Timer Automatic Shut Off for Faster and Efficient Drying Includes Guide to Dehydration Made in USA, 9-Tray, Black
It has the ability to control the temperature and the dehydration process. It also has a large storage capacity compared to the previous ones. It is powerful and best suited for commercial purposes. It works under a maximum power of 600 watts. It has a thermostat and a polyscreen for excellent drying.
- Its drying process is quick and smooth.
- It’s easy to clean and maintain.
- It has a thermostat and timer for flexible operation.
- Its drying space is adequately large.
- It’s expensive.
- Although it is noisy.
- The back-controller designer is not appealing.
This is a 600-watt dehydrator with a mounted bottom. It comes with 4 trays but allows you to purchase 4 more. It can hold up to 3 lbs of jerky. It is also light and easy to store compared to others. It can heat to about 150 degrees.
- It is cheap.
- It has expandable trays.
- It has dishwasher safe trays.
- The clear tray allows you to see the jerky as it is drying.
- It doesn’t take a lot of space in your kitchen.
- It is noisy during the operation.
- The low capacity holding is a drawback when you need to dry more meat.
- It has no timer.
It has an innovative design that suits your meat drying. It has a horizontal air flow which distributes heat on all the trays. I like the fact that you can dehydrate all shapes of meat with large storage capacity. It also has the adjustable thermostat with the ability to maintain the proper dehydration.
- It has a proper design with six trays.
- It has great performance with horizontal air flow system.
- It has extra trays.
- It has a large capacity with the capability of holding food items of any shape.
- It is a little expensive.
- Its internal temperature is not up to 160 degrees.
- It has no timer.
If you love meat and wouldn’t mind eating it anywhere and anytime, this tool is important for your healthy options. I will be sincere with you, despite the fact that I haven’t used all the above dehydrators, I have used a Nesco FD-61 Snackmaster Encore Four Tray Food Dehydrator. It’s an easy to operate tool that is versatile allowing you to dry many other foodstuffs.
I like the fact the heat is evenly distributed in all the trays. Furthermore, it’s durable and uses the advanced technology to ensure the food is perfectly dried. Its design is appealing and fitting in any kitchen.