Beef Jerky Air Fryer Vs Dehydrator! What Is The Difference

One unique way of preserving beef is drying and salting. With the right appliance, you get a flavorful, healthy jerky snack. There are many options to accomplish this process. Traditionally, the process involved sun or wind drying, but nowadays, there are modern appliances for this task.

The air fryers and dehydrators deliver the most savory, flavorful, well-dried beef jerky. But what’s the difference between making beef jerky with an air fryer and a dehydrator? 

I have had a chance to try out these two meat preservation gadgets. One of them is my old Cosori dehydrator. This unit makes beef jerky at 165 °F, in an express five to ten hours, depending on the beef strips’ thickness. Also, with a new air fryer upgrade, I had a perfect time to test the magical gadget with this awesome snack!

So, I now know the difference between the beef jerky air fryer and the dehydrator from first-hand experience. 

The air fryer dries beef at high temperatures while the dehydrator uses low temperatures. Also, the air fryer takes a short to make jerky, while the dehydrator takes longer. I will tell you how. Stay here and learn more about the differences between the beef jerky air fryer vs. dehydrator.

Comparison Chart Between Beef Jerky Air Fryer Vs Dehydrator

Key differencesBeef Jerky Air FryerBeef Jerky Dehydrator
Temperature300°F to 400°F 95°F to 165°F
Time 2 to  3 hours4 to 12 hours
Speed Fast Slow 
Texture Crispier Chewer
Crispiness X
Energy consumptionHighLow
Appliance costHigherLower
Appliance versatilityX
Flavor retentionChanges flavorMaintains flavor

Beef Jerky Air Fryer

When I acquired my first air fryer, the Cosori Toaster Oven Combo, I wanted to try out dozens of the recipes that the unit promised. That included the beef jerky snack. At least, I would preserve more meat without needing a freezer. Also, the snack is crunchier and crustier than that of a dehydrator. Besides, the magical appliance seemed to do everything so I could try it out instead of my old dehydrator. 

Making beef jerky with an air fryer must have the dehydrator function to give you the best output. So, check if your air fryer has this crucial button. With this feature, the job is straightforward. Some models with the dehydrator feature include Cosori, GoWise, Emerial, Nuwave, Ninja, and Dash. 

My Cosori gives me tasty and nutritious, from jerky to roasts, all without a drop of oil. If your model has a dehydrator knob, you can make this awesome snack. But before you get the recipe for this awesome snack, get the pros and cons of beef jerky air fryer.


  • The air fryer beef jerky has a crispy and brown outcome.
  • It takes less time to dehydrate beef jerky with an air fryer. 
  • The air fryer is more versatile and can cook foods other than dehydrating jerky.
  • The outcome is not chewy, thus great for snacks.


  • The air fryer consumes more energy.
  • Air fryer jerky is less flavorful than dehydrator jerky.
  • The air fryer is more expensive than the dehydrator.

To enlighten you more on the beef jerky air fryer vs. dehydrator, I had to try out both recipes. Here are the ingredients that you need for a beef jerky air fryer;

  • Lean tender beef strips (top/bottom round steak, Sirloin tip, flank steak)
  • Marinade (your choice)


  1. Cut your lean beef steaks into thin strips, about a ¼”. To get the best strips cut against the meat’s grain. Also, trim any extra fats from your meat. My preference is lean, tender beef because it gives a crispier outcome. When I tried tough beef, it gave me chewy jerky and jaw fatigue. Also, chewy jerky takes longer to eat, thus not a perfect choice for a quick and convenient snack.  

2. Prepare your marinade. I prefer Worcestershire sauce because of its rich, smoky flavor. Add honey or brown sugar and a tablespoon of soy sauce. I also add onion powder, ground, and garlic for Teriyaki flavor. Other flavors that I have tried out and came out perfect include the spicy beef jerky, where I added chili flakes, and the smoked beef jerky. I added smoked paprika or liquid smoke for the latter to best outcomes.  

3. Once you make your preferred marinade, add the beef strips. Ensure you cover all of them with the marinade for best absorption and flavor.

4. Place your strips (in marinade) in the refrigerator and wait for about 24 hours. Sometimes, I refrigerate overnight. However, the longer the beef stays in the refrigerator, the better the outcome.

5. Once the 24 hours are over, remove your beef strips from the marinade and pat them dry. 

6. Put your steak strips on the air fryer tray. Leave spaces between the strips to ensure they do not touch each other.  

7. Set your air fryer to the Steak setting and cook it at 350° Fahrenheit until the internal temperature is 160° F (USDA recommendations) and there is no pink at the center of the meat. It will take the air fryer about three to five minutes.  

8. Switch your air fryer to a dehydration setting once the meat has no pink and has reached the internal temperature above. Set it at two hours, the time your air fryer takes to make beef jerky. I usually extend this time to five hours until my jerky is firm and can bend easily without breaking. My beef jerky air fryer is crispier; however, it is less flavorful than the dehydrator jerky!

9. Remove the jerky from the air fryer and store it in air-tight and resealable plastic bags or jars. I like storing mine in vacuum-sealed bags to ensure freshness and longevity. You can also refrigerate or freeze your jerky. Although it is not necessary, it extends the jerky’s life shell. Keep checking for any signs of spoilage, including odor, molds, and changes in color.  

Jerky Dehydrator

To make Jerky, you will need a dehydrator. The unit is specific to this function. I am a lover of Cosori, so I have the Cosori Premium dehydrator. The dehydrator is large capacity and comes with precise temperature and time. With the timer, I can set it up to 48 hours, depending on what I am dehydrating. But I don’t need all that time for my beef jerky. Just three hours and I have the crustiest and the tastiest beef jerky.

The unit’s temperature ranges between 95°–165°F, which cuts across most dehydrators. So, whichever your model, you have the above temperature range.  After using the dehydrator for many years, there are pros and cons that I have discovered with this unit.


  • The dehydrator maintains the jerky’s traditional flavor and chewiness.
  • It consumes less energy, so less power bills.
  • The dedicated function works better than that of the air fryer.
  • It is cost-effective to buy a dehydrator.


  • The dehydrator takes long hours to make jerky.
  • This single appliance is not versatile as it only dehydrates and doesn’t have other cooking programs.
  • Jerky comes out chewy, which takes more time when enjoying the snack.

Making homemade beef jerky is easy with a dehydrator. You only need to prepare your meat strips, place them in the dehydrator, and set the time and temperature. The ingredients are similar to those of the beef jerky air fryer. You will need lean, tender beef (top/bottom round steak) and marinade of your choice.

As I said, I have tested the Teriyaki, spicy, and smoked beef jerky, so, choose your preferred seasoning. My favorite is Teriyaki. Here is the most straightforward process.


  1. Prepare your lean beef strips by cutting ¼ “thickness. 
  2. Marinate with your favorite marinade and leave the meat overnight-24 hours in the refrigerator.
  3. Arrange your beef strips on the dehydrator racks and then on the tray. Ensure that there is no overlapping for better hot air circulation.  
  4. Please turn on your dehydrator and turn it at 165°F. The unit will run for over four hours until the Jerky’s internal temperature is 160° (USDA recommendations). I usually let the dehydrator run for 6 hours to get the perfect jerky snack. The results are flavorful and irresistible beef jerky that bends easily and doesn’t break. However, it is chewy and not as crustier as the air fryer jerky. 
  5. Store the jerky in resealable bags and refrigerate for a week or two. 

Similarities Between The Beef Jerky Air Fryer And Dehydrator

While beef jerky air fryers and dehydrators have different operations and functionalities, the two units share similarities. Find out here;

  • Drying Function

The air fryer and dehydrator are designed to remove moisture from food through a slow drying process. These include meat, fruits, and veggies. It preserves the foods and creates a concentrated and flavorful snack.

  • Preservation 

The primary purpose of a dehydrator is to preserve meat by reducing its moisture content. Same as the air fryer’s dehydrator function. Both reduce water in the food, which inhibits bacteria and mold growth. So, your food stays longer without spoilage.

  • Texture Control

Another similarity between these two appliances is that they enable you to control beef jerky texture. You can control the temperature and time if you want a chewy or crispy jerky. Besides the above factors, the texture will depend on the thickness of the slices and marinades that you use on your beef jerky.

  • Versatility

The primary work of a dehydrator and the dehydration function of the air fryer is to dry food. Both appliances are versatile because they can dry snacks, including meats, fruits, and vegetables. The air fryer is even more versatile because it can cook, bake, and fry other foods.

  • Home/Commercial Use

You can use these two appliances at home or in a restaurant setting. The production depends on the air fryer/dehydrator, where some units can produce more.

  • Healthier Snacking 

Whether using an air fryer or a dehydrator, you do not need fat. So, your homemade jerky will be low in fat and protein, which is a healthier snacking option compared to many other processed snacks, as it is typically low in fat and protein. 

  • Customizable

You can customize both appliances to get your favorite jerky. For instance, use different marinades, spices, and seasonings to fit your taste and preferences. You can also add or reduce the cooking times to get the desired jerky texture. 

Differences Between A Beef Jerky Air Fryer And Dehydrator

Before you choose between a beef jerky air fryer and a dehydrator, you need to know the differences. The appliances differ in dehydrating temperatures, time, texture, energy consumption, etc. Keep learning;

  • Temperature 

The temperature and time are some of the main differences between the beef jerky air fryer and the dehydrator. When dehydrating meat with the air fryer, you will set it at high temperatures ranging from 300°F to 400°F which is about 149°C to 204°C.

On the other hand, the dehydrator jerky uses lower temperatures that range between 95°F to 165°F, which is about 35°C to 74°C. 

  • Time 

With the above temperature ranges and variance, I realized that your air fryer takes a shorter period to make thin strips of beef jerky, about 3 to 5 hours. To achieve the best jerky, you will set the temperature higher at 350 °F 

Conversely, depending on your beef strip thickness, the dehydrator works on your jerky longer for more than 6 hours, sometimes up to 10 hours. It takes longer to make jerky when you compare it with the air fryer. The best temperature setting for the dehydrator is 165°F.

  • Texture

My air fryer jerky gave a crisper texture, similar to a store-bought one. The reason is higher drying temperature and shorter time. The dehydrator produces a chewier texture due to the lower drying temperatures and longer drying periods.

  • Speed

The air fryers dehydrate meat faster due to their higher temperatures. It completes the process in three to five while the dehydrator may stay overnight to make your jerky.  

  • Versatility

Although versatility is a common feature in both appliances, when you buy the dehydrator, have one purpose in mind: to dry foods, thus less versatile. On the other hand, the air fryer can fry, bake, roast, dry, and slow cook, depending on the features.

  • User Interface

The air fryer has many settings and cooking functions, including the dehydrator. The functionalities depend on the model. Some users find the units complex to use as the settings are many. The unit requires more learning and mastering, whereas the dehydrator is straightforward. It comes with a few knobs, adjustable temperature and time settings.

  • Energy Consumption 

When I switched from the standalone dehydrator to an air fryer, I noticed a shot in energy consumption. I guess it is due to the high temperatures that the unit uses. With the dehydrators, the temperature setting is low, meaning a lower energy consumption. Nevertheless, you have to wait for longer processing times.

  • Flavor Retention 

The faster dehydration period affects the flavor of air fryer jerky. The slower drying process in the dehydrator helps retain flavor and makes it more concentrated.

  • Cost 

Air fryers are multipurpose appliances, thus more costly than dehydrators. The reason is the latter has a more specialized function while the former is versatile and can bake, among other functions.

  • Crispiness

Air fryers produce crisper beef jerky with a texture closer to traditional store-bought jerky. Also, the appearance is even brown. On the other hand, the dehydrator jerky is darker and chewy.

The Verdict: Beef Jerky Air Fryer Vs Dehydrator

Choosing between a beef jerky air fryer and a dehydrator depends on your preferences and needs. After testing the two units, I found out that the air fryer offers a faster drying process. It dries at higher temperatures, resulting in a crispier texture.

The air fryer versatility extends beyond dehydration, making it a multifunctional kitchen tool. However, the quick process may sacrifice your beef jerky’s flavor and chewiness and increase energy consumption. An air fryer is also a costly appliance.

On the other hand, the dehydrator operates at lower temperatures, preserving a chewier texture and concentrating flavors over a longer period. While the unit dedicates its service to dehydration, it excels at producing a range of dehydrated snacks. The dehydrator is often more budget-friendly and energy-efficient. Ultimately, the decision hinges on whether you prioritize speed and versatility. If so, I would go for an air fryer.

Go for a dehydrator if you love that traditional, slower drying method focusing on chewiness and dedicated dehydration. Consider factors like outcome, time, and overall kitchen versatility to make the right choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can You Make With An Air Fryer?

There are many foods that you can make with an air fryer. The ability depends on the model and the features available. You can make beef jerky, roast meat, bake a cake, or dehydrate fruits and vegetables. 

What Can You Make With A Dehydrator?

The dehydrator has a dedicated function that dries food to your liking. It can dry fruits, nuts, meat, vegetables, and many more foods. The unit has few options and only the settings for customizing your times and temperature for different foods.

Can You Dehydrate Jerky In An Air Fryer?

If the unit has a dehydrator setting, you can dehydrate jerky in an air fryer. This setting is unique to some air fryer models. So, be sure that your model has the dehydrator option.

Can I Use Air Fryer Instead Of Dehydrator?

You can use the air fryer instead of a dehydrator, but it must have a dehydrator setting. Some air fryers, especially the earlier models, do not have a dehydrator feature. 

What Does The Dehydrate Function Do On An Air Fryer?

The dehydrate function on an air fryer dries or reduces your food’s moisture content. When the levels are low, your food can stay longer without spoiling. Also, when you dehydrate the food, you do not need to refrigerate it unless you want to extend its shelf life. 

Is A Dehydrator Good For Beef Jerky?

A dehydrator is good for beef jerky as it slowly dries it, thus reducing its moisture content to the lowest level. Dehydrator jerky is flavorful, maintains the traditional chewiness, and stays longer without spoiling. However, dehydrator jerky lacks crispiness and has a brown texture.

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