The Excalibur dehydrator is our go-to recommendation for anyone looking to make some jerky at home. Excalibur is arguably the world’s leading food dehydrator brand.
KOOEE! has humble origins. Our co-founder Shaun couldn’t find any healthy jerky, so started making his own at home as a hobby. Suffice to say, by this stage we have picked up a thing or two about dehydrators. Shaun started his hobby on a little Excalibur dehydrator that are tiny in comparison to the fully ducted professional dryers that we use today. We’ve already learnt things the hard way, so now you don’t have to… Here’s way more than you ever wanted to know about an Excalibur food dehydrator!
What is a food dehydrator?
Dehydrators are not high tech machines.
A food dehydrator will have a tray for food to be dried. When a food dehydrator is turned on it will begin to generate a flow of hot air across your food. This moving hot air (~70C max) will slowly remove moisture by accelerating evaporation. Functionally, a professional food dehydrator is similar to a clothes drying machine.
You can dry just about anything – meat, fruit, spices, hiking meals, etc. Once moisture is removed from food it will normally have concentrated flavours and improved shelf life. Dehydrating is a completely different process from freeze drying, but the finished products have are low moisture food (albeit with different textures). Foods lose over 50% of their original weight in the drying process. In the case of jerky, it’s about 65%.
How is a food dehydrator different from an oven?
Whilst it is possible to make jerky (and other dried food) in an oven, it won’t consistently yield great results. Ovens and dehydrators are completely different machines.
- Airflow: Ovens are sealed, the same air circulates continuously.
- Temperature: Ovens are not really designed for temperatures below 100C
- Airflow: a dehydrator is an open system that is constantly sucking in cold air, heating it, and exhausting it with moisture.
- Temperature: will typically operate between 30-80C
If you want to get into jerky as a serious hobby then you’ll need to invest in a dehydrator, or risk being labelled a filthy casual by the KOOEE! team. If you’re going to do it, we recommend an Excalibur dehydrator.
Excalibur 5 tray dehydrator vs Excalibur 9 tray dehydrator
This is easy, buy the 9 tray Excalibur dehydrator. It is definitely worth the extra $50.
- Greater Capacity: You can make more jerky! Jerky takes a lot of preparation, if stored in the right conditions it will last for months. So it’s best to cook in big batches.
- Similar size: Both machines are quite large and heavy. However, the 9 tray does not take up too much more real estate than its smaller brother.
The Excalibur dehydrators range can be confusing. However, the only differences in the range are material, capacity, and power.
- Case and Trays: Food grade plastic <<buy this
- Optional extra: Stainless steel trays (at extra cost). Expensive and only aids in cleaning, wouldn’t recommend.
- Optional extra: Stainless steel body, this is for show only. No added benefit.
- 5 Tray: Approximately 3kg of thinly sliced beef.
- 9 Tray: Approximately 5.5kg of thinly sliced beef. <<buy this
- 5 Tray: 400W
- 9 Tray: 600W
- 5 Tray: RRP $429
- 9 Tray: RRP $499
Excalibur Dehydrator: Tips for use
Below are some tips on how to get the most from your Excalibur Dehydrator from the team at KOOEE!
Timers: Jerky can take 4-12 hours to cook. A timer allows you to set and forget. Imagine doing your daily errands knowing that homemade jerky is waiting for you when you get home!
Pro tip: If your dehydrator does not have a timer you purchase wall-socket timers for under $10 that do exactly the same job (pictured).
Rotation: The airflow of Excalibur Dehydrators is significantly better than its cheaper competitors. However, they’re still pretty gutless and your cooks will benefit from rotating the trays halfway through a cook. This means that every tray should be rotated 180°, and it’s also good practice to swap the top and bottom trays.
Hot air rises, this means the top trays will dry out quicker than the bottom. In addition to this, the “leading” edge of the trays closest to the heating element will dry out quicker as the air cools when traveling to the far side of the tray.
Heat: When it comes to dried meat, food safety is extremely important. The internal temperature of the meat should reach 65°C for 10 minutes to kill bad bacteria. This can be difficult to achieve in a hobby dehydrator, and to be frank, we’ve never seen a “hobby-style” Excalibur Dehydrators that can achieve it without modification. This means any product made with the Excalibur should not be sold and is for personal consumption only.
Meat Thickness: Be sure to cut everything to a similar thickness. This ensures everything dries evenly.
Cleaning: Heat the trays in the dehydrator first, this will make cleaning a lot easier. After they have been cleaned you can store (and even dry!) them in the dehydrator itself.
What other options are there?
Excalibur dehydrators are decent value, but a $400+ price tag can be hard to justify. Here’s a couple of options to eat quality jerky on the cheap:
Round style dehydrators: Start at $40! So cheap! These are fine, but have a few downsides:
- low capacity – they don’t it much product
- low heat – take a long time to cook and won’t get even close to 65C
- inconsistent airflow – always leads to inconsistent product
Ovens: Jerky can be made in an oven. You can use a wooden spoon to prop open your oven door, and make jerky like a filthy casual. We cover this technique in our guide on making jerky, so please send us a photo if you have a go!
Buying jerky: You had to know this was coming – the soft plug. Hear us out. Making jerky is time consuming and can be difficult to get 100% right. You would need to make a LOT of jerky before a dehydrator can pay itself off, and we’re ready to do the hard work for you. So if you’re feeling a bit lazy, Check out our online store.