One of the basic requirements for survivalists is to know how to preserve food. This goes for jerky (any meat), fruits, veggies, and herbs. A
dehydrator is one of the most basic methods to dry foods, yet they are typically a big investment, messy to clean, heavy, and you typically have to
turn your items during the drying process.
After researching the interwebs for the best commercial dehydrator, I started researching DIY dehydrators, again, an investment in tools and hardware.
I then decided to build my own, as cheaply and easily as possible. Here's what I came up with. It's powered by a small 13x11 generic room heater,
800 watt power consumption, easily removed for other uses when the dehydrator is not in use:
My first version would dry jerky in 4-5 hours, and after MANY batches of jerky, I decided to make new version, with a few design changes. This model
is 27" long, 15" wide, and 21" tall. Yes, it is made out of two cardboard boxes. It's lightweight, and highly portable. To make your own, you
only need cardboard and 2" clear packing tape, and a sharp knife. No hammers or nails required. Version one of my dehydrator only held 14 skewers
total, this model has 16, with a total capacity of 160-188 pieces of jerky, depending if you fit 10-18 pieces of whatever you are drying, and how you
The lid slides back and forth, adjustable to whatever air flow you desire. The most important thing about drying foods and herbs is temperature
regulation. You want the temp to stay in the 120-160 degree range, otherwise the food cooks, so ventilation is how you regulate temperature. With
the lid cracked open this far, the temp stays at a constant 135 degrees F. I have a float able thermometer I also use for brewing my own beer, so it
doubles as the temperature gauge, hung inside with a small piece of "s" curved coat hanger.
The hanging method of drying meat eliminates the need to touch or flip your pieces around so they dry evenly. Notice the even spacing between jerky
pieces. This allow even air circulation, and the jerky dries uniformly from all sides. The skewers are simply straight 12 gauge wire, cut two inches
over the width of the box. You load a skewer up, place the skewer inside from the top, fitting it in one side before the other, and then space your
jerky accordingly. The batch I am doing now was 5 pounds of beef, which will dry out to about 3 pounds of dried jerky, so you can see I am still
under capacity. I am using 13 of my 16 skewers, so I could've done a 6-7 pound batch easily.
Notice the Aluminum foil pan at the bottom. This simple innovation catches all the drippings, and when you are done drying a batch of jerky, you
simply fold the foil inwards upon itself to contain any sticky goo, throw it away, and place a new foil sheet for the next batch. Virtually no
clean-up! Of course I know you ATSers don't want to give up your tinfoil hats, but it's a necessary expense. You have to clean your skewers, and
change foil. You put the box in a closet or on a shelf, and it sits until the next time you use it. How much easier is it than that? Oh, and the
smell jerky makes while drying, Heavenly!
So let's crunch a few numbers. Commercial jerky is $16.99 USD as a rough estimate. I'm making about 3 pounds, so this batch would cost about
I spent $14.00 on meat, plus the ingredients, so my grocery bill was like $20.00 USD. (I have several seasonings and ingredients on hand, so that's a
rough estimate, but basically, I spend roughly what it would take to buy a 1 pound package for 3 pounds of delicious jerky. But wait, there's
You can dry anything. Vegans, this is not only a meat drying contraption, you can also dry herbs and fruits by simply hanging or skewering. It also
dries venison and virtually any other substance with moisture that you want to preserve.
But it's really designed for Beef Jerky. That said, there are thousands of variations to beef jerky. Millions of recipes on the internet. I have a
clone recipe for Wild Bill's. The recipe I am using now is a modified version of the simplest recipe I use as a marinade base. I often marinade for
Simple basic beef jerky recipe:
5 lbs Meat.
20 oz. Soy Sauce
20 oz. Worcestershire Sauce
4 oz. Liquid Smoke
Marinade overnight and hang to dry. Wait 4-6 hours, then enjoy!
To that I added:
1 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Ground Ginger
2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
3 tbsp Garlic Powder
3/4 cup Pancake Syrup
1/2 cup Ketchup
Additions vary to the flavor you are trying to achieve, and I am calling this version "Mild Original".
I always try to cut my pieces cross grain, as it always better flavor absorption and keeps the jerky really tender. With those above ingredients, I
marinaded for 10 hours, and this morning I put the batch in.
Does anyone else have any good jerky recipes to try? I've been hunting far and wide for the best recipe ever.
Got any dehydrating tips to share?