Beef Jerky Maker/Dehydrator From a Bar Fridge!




About: doing mechanical engineering at uni. id rather make things for myself rather than buying if i can.

This instrucable will show you how to make an easy jerky make/food dehydrator out of an old bar fridge!

Its not the prettiest thing in the world yet but it sure gets the job done.

I have also included my basic recipe for making jerky.

This is my first instructable so go easy and leave some CONSTRUCTIVE feedback.


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Step 1: Materials

First of all you are going to need to get your materials together. You will need to find:
# an old bar fridge
# a large computer fan (i used a 120mm fan)
# 8 400mm pieces of angle
# 2 100w incandescent lightbulbs
# 2 standard lightbulb holders
# 1m dual core powercable
# 1 square metre of flyscreen
# 16 lengths 400mm flyscreen surround frame
# 6.5m rubber molding to fit flyscreen
# 1 roll duct tape
# 2 speaker grills
# 2 disposable face masks
# 12 volt power supply ( i used an old car battery charger)
# 2 electrical ring connectors

Step 2: Removing the Refridgeration Unit

Better pictures to come...

First of all remove the radiator from the back panel of the fridge if it has one. Now unscrew the back panel to reveal the refrigeration unit, this needs to be removed as this space is used for wiring up the lights. Drill 2 5mm holes through to the inside of the fridge. These will be used to run the wires to the lightbulbs. Try to place them about 100mm from the bas of the fridge.

Step 3: Inserting the Fan

The fan is the critical component of the jerky fridge. Believe it or not the key to good jerky is airflow rather than heat. This is why its preferable to use a 120mm fan rather than a standard 80mm one.

On the top of the fridge cut out a hole large enough for the fan to fit into.
NOTE: make sure you dont cut all the way throught the plastic lining on the inside of the fridge, this is needed to hold the fan from falling through. If the foam insulation isnt holding together use some duct tape to hold it in. Make sure the fan blows air out the top of the fridge and with the fan's wires sticking out the top use some duct tape to secure it. If you havent already cutout a hole for the fan in the top panel you should do this now.

I have placed some flyscreen over the top of the fan. I have only dones this as i keep my jerky fridge in the garage where alot of debris tends to float about.

Step 4: Fridge Fitout

Drill 2 holes in the sides of the fridge as close to the fridge's base as you can. i cut my holes big enough to i could cover them with some old speaker grills i had lying around.

After you have cut out the holes line the exposed foam insulation with duct tape. To stop dust being sucked in, sandwich a dust mask between the outside of the fridge and the speaker grill.

Now you can screw in the angle which is used to support the racks. I spaced them about 150mm apart. I screwed them in with a slight slope downwards at the back of the fridge to stop drips falling on the lights.

Now its time to wire the lights up. Make sure you wire them in parallel otherwise the resistance is too high and they wont be as bright as they are supposed to be. Splice the wires into an old wall plug. If you arent a qualified electrician dont do this yourself :p

Now you can screw back of the fridge back on and give it a coat of paint if it needs it

Step 5: Tray Time

I made my trays out of flyscreen framing and used aluminium (say al-you-min-ee-um all you americans haha)

They are 400x400mm and have about 5mm gap to the edge of the fridge. I used a mitre saw to cut the corners and little plastic connectors to join up the frame. When inserting the flyscreen i found pre-rolling the flyscreen into the groove before putting in the rubber molding make the job alot easier.

I used four trays. if you want to put in more trays you are probably going to need another fan to keep sufficient airflow.

Step 6: Go Time

Crimp some terminals on the ends of the fan wires and hook them up the the charger. if you have accidentally put the fan in upside down you can make it blow air OUT of the top of the fridge by swapping the wires round on the terminals. You can use the different settings on the charger to change the rate of airflow.

Plug in the power for the lights and your jerky fridge is good to go!

Now you can place you jerky on the trays and dry it out. I have found it usually takes about 8 hours to dry.

Make sure you take it out when the meat can be bent, but wont snap for the perfect jerky!

Step 7: My Recipie

This is my basic jerky marinade. I have adjusted it over time to suit my taste.

For every 400g of raw meet i use...

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup worcester sauce
80g smokey BBQ sauce

For best results place the marinated strips on the trays then grind black pepper over them and some cayenne pepper if you like it hot!

Dry for ~8 hours and dont eat it all at once!

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    28 Discussions

    Thanks heaps, very useful, very well set out. I would have loved to have seen a picture of the top of the fridge because i wasn't quite sure how to put the fan on top of the fridge for the air to come out of the fridge, can you help me with that please? Thanks, Aussie Kim


    6 years ago on Step 5

    It's better to hang the meat so it dries out evenly especially with thicker cuts, i used the trays that came with the fridge and made some hooks out of stainless steel


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I had no 220v pc fans or a spare power supply so i bought an extractor fan for R180($18), no need for extra fans also if you only making biltong there is no need for lights either, it took me a while to strip my fridge since the coils where imbedded in the foam insulation i couldn't get it all out..anyway Thanx alot for this instructable the dehydrator works like a charm

    Hi, I'm thinking about doing exactly this, except using some 12v car lamps, fan and thermostat so I can regulate the temperature. Very much like the Polystyrene incubators. I already have a fridge, thermostat and fan from an incubator project, so just need to mount it in the fridge.
    I'm also thinking of putting an attachement on the bottom to connect to an external smoke box, so I could use this as a cold smoker too.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    chubsey best thing ive found on here mate i was going to spend a $100 on one mate looking forward for ur reply spotty


    7 years ago on Introduction

    ihave a electric 120 ml fan if i put a light dimmer on it would it be enough does fan need to be flat out or medium speed. and it needs to be sucking out not blowing in. eager to hear back from you =. spotty


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi was wondering I gotna small beer fridge but what's the toxicity chance from the plastic and what can I use to block the holes without poisioning meat with the toxins from glue


    8 years ago on Step 5

    We got tired of being made fun of, so we just changed the spelling. It's aluminum here in the US, haha. I just typed it into google and it shows the same thing for either spelling.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Chubsey I must say well done mate , I am a South African living in Hungary and as you know ,Safa´s do something similar to Jerky called Biltong. I built a Biltong box for myself with almost the same Idea. instead I used a wooden cupboard with one door about 60 CM h x 43 Cm d X 48 W . I stuck a light bulb in the bottom 2 x3 Cm CPU fans blowing air in 1 x120 Mm CPU sucking air out on the top with wooden dowels inside to hang the meat from. I must admit adding the fans on the bottom makes a big difference it works very well in circulating the air. Althought Biltong requires a different recipe and thicker cut it takes a bit longer to dry than the Jerky here, I am looking at 2- 5 Cm cuts depending on how wet or how dry I need the Biltong. I am actually looking to creatte the same box but running on Solar power so i can just leave it on the balcony as at the current moment it absolutely devours electricity . Thanks for the cool instructable.

    3 replies

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Chubsey .How long does it take the jerky to be fully dry?


    10 years ago on Step 1

    Its too bad that isn't the actual fridge. That black flag sticker ups the value at least 300% and makes everything beer flavored! I'm gonna have a T.V. Party Tonight!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I now you did a good job I made one out of a magic shife but I put a 250w heat lamp in my Dehydrator and put a dimer switch on it to control the tempt on it and put a tempt gauge on it so I no how hot it gets and added a pieces of flax glass so I can see in side if you put a piece of wire screen were the vent holes are you get better sercalasion into the dehydrator. but thanks for showing it. It helped me out allot.


    10 years ago on Step 2

    Save the Radiator part for you solar water heater


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Ok first Iw would like to say ALUMINUM! Second I use to make jerky in my oven over night. I think I will try this... I will need something to do in Tech-ed class next year... my teacher loves jerkey. Instead of useing a battery charger go to your nearest RC hobby store and but a 12v RC charger that way you can fit it inside your housing. And what if instead of 1 fan on top how about 2 fans on the bottom blowing air in???

    3 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I would just like to say it's 'using' not useing! Instructable looks good, but I'd like to find one that makes it easy to make a non-electric 'hanging' food dehydrator. I found one at Amazon, but it costs $60.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Ok first Iw would like to say ALUMINUM
    im from australia...its ALUMINIUM...just as it is spelled in every other english speaking nation apart from USA!

    i thought about blowing air in at the bottom, but came to the conclusion sucking air out the top draws air up past the shelves rather then just forcing it in.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Ya we Americans always do things the easy (lazy) way. We also spell Colour without the U. as most other English speaking countries do. But then again, it works without the extra letters. ah mate? lol