How to Use a Dehydrator for Jerky – Your Ultimate Guide

One of the most ancient forms of food preservation, jerky making traces back to the 1500s when the Incans stored and preserved llama and other games by drying strips for hours in the.

Jerky making became popular in the last few centuries, with several different methods, tools, and varieties available.

And it’s so easy, you can make it at home with little to no special equipment required, nowadays.

Why dehydrate?

A dehydrator is an appliance that uses hot air for removing the water from fruits, meats, and vegetables. From beef jerky to dehydrated banana chips, easily create your favorite dried foods with a food dehydrator. Dehydrating snacks is budget-friendly and cheap, moreover, we could also control the quality of the ingredients used. This article elucidates the way to look for a food dehydrator and explains the different kinds of the same.

Types of food dehydrators:

Differences between the two emerge from drying processes, which are as follows:

· Vertical flow food dehydrators are budget-friendly and the most suitable for drying fruits and vegetables. They have stackable racks and a heating element. The racks are at the top or bottom of the unit.

· Horizontal flow food dehydrators work just like our ovens. They have a heating element in the back and a fan that blows warm air across the trays. They maintain their temperature and dry food evenly. They are exceptionally good for jerky and other tough foods but it can require a higher upfront investment, as well.

Best foods to dehydrate:

1. Tropical fruits such as melons and mangoes (apples, bananas, apricots, peaches, pears, cherries, blueberries) for eating as snacks or chopped in granola and trail mixes, or dried as purees for fruit leather.

2. Citrus fruits viz., lemons, limes, and oranges

3. Apples, pears, and bananas

4. Potatoes, beets, carrots and turnips (carrots, mushrooms, onions, peas, beans, tomatoes) for adding to soups, stews, and backpacking meals.

5. Kale and other greens

6. Tomatoes and mushrooms

7. Beef jerky and other meat jerkies for adding to backpacking meals or storing for soup and stew ingredients

8. (Walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia) after soaking or sprouting, to make them more digestible.

9. Sprouted grains (rice, buckwheat, barley, quinoa, amaranth) to preserve nutrients and to store for flours, granolas, and baking.

10. Herbs (oregano, basil, parsley, dill, fennel, mint, lemon balm, hyssop) for later use in teas, baking, and cooking.

11. Crackers, bread, and granolas for raw food diets.

Preparing foods to dehydrate:

1. We can slice the food so the pieces are of the same size and same thickness.

2. Vegetables should be cleaned with an antibacterial vegetable cleaner.

3. Airflow is very crucial for proper food dehydration. Trays should not be overcrowded.

4. Foods should be dried until hard or crunchy. Dehydrator’s manual should be followed for specific temperature and timing settings, thoroughly.

Tip: Lemon juice may be used in apples, pears, and bananas to prevent them from browning.

Storing Dried Food:

1. Dried foods Should be cooled to room temperature before storing them.

2. Preheat your dehydrator by turning it on before adding your fruits, vegetables, or meats.

3. Properly dried foods can last decades in an airtight container and environment.

4. Dried foods should be stored away from moisture, heat, and light.

Choosing the best hydrator:

Few points need to be kept in mind, before buying dehydrators:

1. Dehydrators with fans in the back of the unit tend to dry food more evenly.

2. An adjustable thermostat allows food to dry at the right temperature.

3. A dehydrator with an automatic shut-off feature makes an overnight or longer drying process a breeze.

Tip: We should always go for the smallest unit that will suffice our requirements.

Choosing the right meat:

Jerky can be made from any lean cut of meat. Any visible silver skin or fat from the meat should be trimmed as it increases the chances of it turning rancid.


1. Beef: Flank, the eye of round, top round, bottom round, sirloin tip roast

2. Poultry: Tenderloin, breasts

3. Pork: Tenderloin

4. Venison: Eye of round, rump roast, backstrap

5. Fish: Tuna steaks, Salmon (skin and fat removed)

Kinds of meat to make jerky with:

We can use any kind of meat to make jerky with. But beef is probably considered to be the most common. With beef jerky, it’s important that one selects lean cuts of meat. Like oils, fat can easily become rancid, so choosing lean cuts of beef like any of the following work best:

· Top Sirloin

· Sirloin tip side steak

· Porterhouse steak

· Eye of round steak

· Bottom round steak

· Top round steak

· Flap or flank steak

How long can we use a dehydrator for jerky?

4-6 hours is the range of using a food dehydrator to make jerky at 160°.

But the thickness of the strips or chunks of meat can vary wildly. Really thick strips could take as much as 15 hours.

The process can be speeded up by pounding your strips flat with a kitchen mallet before dehydrating the same.

We need to place the side of the strip by side between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and pound thin.

Hence, we always need to start checking at the 4-hour mark checking for excess moisture, tenderness, or bendability.

If any of those is seen, we should keep it going for at least another hour and check the same again.

How can we know that beef jerky is done dehydrating or not?

The jerky should be checked after 4 hours. If the strips are really thick, it will take a considerably longer period than that, but 4 hours is a great place for an initial check. We would know when our jerky is ready by:

1. It’s dry with no remaining marinade or temperature variations in different spots

2. It cracks easily when bent but still remains connected by a few strands

Can jerky be overcooked in a dehydrator?

Yes. While over-cooked jerky will stay fresh when it’s brittle and feels like a piece of leather.

That’s the reason why it’s crucial to set the dehydrator to 160° and then check it after 4 hours, time and again.

Jerky may need 6 or even 8 hours to fully dehydrate, but it should be monitored throughout the process, such that the right consistency can be achieved. Over-cooked jerky is safe to eat, but is not as tasty and can have an unpleasant texture.

If jerky is made in an oven rather than a dehydrator, issues with over-cooking rise up as the oven is just baking the meat instead of dehydrating it. Some ovens also don’t go as low as 160°.

For oven-baked jerky, it may help to crack the oven door a little bit with something like a wine cork, such that moisture can escape and it might begin checking at 3 hours.

Drying your jerky

There are several methods of drying your jerky which is as follows:


Set the oven temperature to 180°F. And, place loaded wire racks on cookie sheets. Then, place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour, then turn strips over. Turn every 30 minutes until done.


Full racks should be loaded into the dehydrator. Dry the jerky at 160°F for 4 to 6 hours. Rotate racks throughout the drying process and blot the surface of the jerky occasionally until dry.


Remove jerky pieces from the marinade and blot dry with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible. Set Air Fryer to 180° F and let cook for one hour. Allow to cool, dab with paper towels to remove excess oil.

Storing jerky

Properly dried jerky should be firm. Good jerky will break and crack, but not snap when bent. Jerky should be completely cooled and dried before storing, and store in a dark, dry place, between 50-60 degrees F. If moisture droplets start appearing on the inside of the storage container, the jerky should be dried further. Avoid storage in plastic containers or bags, as they can tear up, tall glass storage jars, which are highly recommended.

Making Safe Jerky using Dehydrators:

1. The kitchen, utensils, bowls, and all other equipment should be cleaned with water and bleach. Hands should be washed with soap thoroughly before handling any raw meat.

2. Thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator instead of at room temperature to prevent bacteria growth.

3. Marinate the meat at a temperature between 36-40°F (2°C-4°C). It should not be marinated at room temperature. Meat should be kept in the fridge while we mix the marinade together. After marinating, do not save and reuse a marinade.

4.At the beginning of dehydrating, heat the jerky to 160°F (71°C) to kill dangerous bacteria.

5. Store jerky in a cool dry place for up to a week or vacuum seal and freeze for up to 6 months.

6. Store the jerky in a cool dry place for up to a week or vacuum seal and freeze for up to 6 months.

Frequently asked questions while using dehydrators:

1. How long will dehydrated food last?

While dried food has been known to last five to ten years if prepared and stored correctly, it’s best to use between 4 months and one year.

2. Does dehydrating food kill enzymes?

Yes. Dehydrating food does lead to the death of enzymes. But most enzymes eventually become inactive when temperatures rise above 140 to 158 F.

3. How should I store dried food?

Food should be stored in clean, dry jars (home canning jars or mason jars) or packed into silicone bags or freezer containers with tight-fitting lids, such that moisture can’t escape.