Are you a fan of beef jerky? Do you want to make your own at home using a dehydrator?
If so, you may be wondering how long it takes to cook beef jerky in a dehydrator. The answer is not as straightforward as you might think, as it depends on various factors such as the thickness of the meat, the humidity in your space, and the type of dehydrator you are using.
In this article, we will explore different methods for making beef jerky in a dehydrator and provide tips on how to achieve the perfect texture and flavor.
So grab your apron and let’s get started!
How Long Do You Cook Beef Jerky In A Dehydrator?
When it comes to cooking beef jerky in a dehydrator, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The cooking time can vary depending on the thickness of the meat, the humidity in your space, and the type of dehydrator you are using.
Generally speaking, it takes about 4-5 hours to dehydrate meat and make tasty jerky using a food dehydrator. However, this can vary depending on the model and brand of the dehydrator. If you have a unit that dries from the bottom up, you will need to rotate racks to keep things drying evenly. And if you fill your dehydrator, it can also take longer to finish drying.
To achieve the perfect texture and flavor, it is important to dehydrate jerky at a steady temperature of between 160-175 degrees Fahrenheit. This will ensure that the meat is fully dried without becoming too tough or chewy.
If you are using an oven instead of a dehydrator, set your oven on convection at 175 degrees and your jerky should be done with the drying process in around three hours. However, it is still recommended to rotate the racks in case your oven has any hot spots.
It is important to note that ovens have difficulty maintaining consistent temperatures when set extremely low, such as 175 degrees. To monitor the temperature swings, use a digital oven thermometer and open the door slightly as needed to let heat out when it gets too hot.
The Basics Of Making Beef Jerky In A Dehydrator
Making beef jerky in a dehydrator is a simple process that requires only a few basic steps. First, you need to select the right cut of meat. Lean cuts like top round, flank steak, or sirloin work best for making jerky. Trim off any excess fat and slice the meat into thin strips using a sharp knife.
Next, prepare the marinade. You can use a pre-made marinade or create your own using ingredients like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper. Place the meat in a shallow dish or resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over it. Make sure that all the meat is coated evenly with the marinade. Cover the dish or bag and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Once the meat has marinated, it’s time to dehydrate it in the dehydrator. Set the temperature to 160-175 degrees Fahrenheit and arrange the meat strips on the dehydrator trays. Make sure that no two pieces are touching each other to allow for even drying. Depending on your dehydrator model and brand, you may need to rotate the trays periodically to ensure that all the jerky is drying evenly.
The drying time will vary depending on the thickness of the meat and the amount of moisture in it. Generally, it takes around 4-6 hours for jerky to dry completely in a dehydrator. To test if your jerky is done, take a piece and bend it gently. If it cracks but doesn’t break, then it’s ready.
Once your beef jerky is done, remove it from the dehydrator and let it cool completely before storing it in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag. Properly stored beef jerky can last for several weeks at room temperature or even longer if refrigerated.
Factors That Affect Cooking Time
There are several factors that can affect the cooking time of beef jerky in a dehydrator. Here are some of the most important ones:
1. Thickness of the Meat: The thickness of the meat is one of the most significant factors that can affect the cooking time. The thicker the slices of meat, the longer it will take to dehydrate. It is recommended to slice the meat less than 1/4 inch thick but more than 1/8 inch thick.
2. Method of Dehydration: Depending on whether you use a dedicated food dehydrator, oven, or even sun drying, it will have an effect on dehydration time. The quickest and most efficient method is with a dehydrator. Sun drying and oven drying will, in most cases, take longer as there is less airflow.
3. Marinade and Salt: If you are using a wet marinade, then you will need to blot this thoroughly before you start dehydrating the jerky. If you leave a wet marinade on the surface of the meat, then this has to dry out before the jerky even begins to dry. Salt levels also affect the amount of moisture in the meat before drying.
4. Dehydrator Temperature: The temperature in which you need to dehydrate jerky is important. To make meat safe to eat and kill possible pathogens, the jerky needs to be heated all the way through to 160°F / 71°C and 165°F / 74°C for poultry. Once this temperature has been reached internally, you can lower the heat in which you dehydrate jerky to around 130°F – 140°F.
5. Humidity: The humidity in your space can also affect the cooking time of beef jerky in a dehydrator. If you live in a humid area, it may take longer for your jerky to dry.
Preparing The Meat For Dehydration
Before you start dehydrating your beef jerky, it is important to properly prepare the meat. The first step is to trim all the fat off the meat. Fat does not dehydrate or preserve well, so lean meats should be used, and all excess fat should be removed. To get rid of fat, use a clean, sharp, and flexible knife. This easily slices off unwanted fat, gristle, and other parts like bone that aren’t consumable.
If there is a line of fat and silver skin, slice under the fat starting from the top of the meat while keeping the knife parallel to the cutting board. This way, you can remove most of the fat safely and quickly. The trimming step is followed by cutting the meat into strips or grinding it.
Once you have trimmed and cut the meat, it’s time to cook it well. You can steam, braise, simmer in a small amount of water, or cook in a pressure cooker for 35 minutes. After cooking, slice the meat thin or cut it into 1/2 inch cubes or grind it if you like (it will dehydrate faster when ground up).
When using a dehydrator, spread the cubes sparingly over trays and dry at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) for about 6 hours (or follow the directions that came with your dehydrator). If using an oven, spread over trays and dry at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for about 6 hours, then stir cubes/slices and lower temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celsius) and continue drying until hard. Keep the door of the oven ajar.
If you prefer to use sunlight to dry your jerky, spread cooked cubes in a thin layer over trays and place them in a well-ventilated place in full sun. Dry until hard, stirring occasionally. Drying time will depend on the weather and the moisture in the meat but should take from 2-3 days. Take trays inside at night.
It is essential to dehydrate your meat until it is dry to the touch and slightly leathery. If meat is not dehydrated long enough, bacteria can still grow. The shelf life of meat that has been properly dehydrated will last for several months without refrigeration, although it will begin to lose flavor over time. Meat that has been dehydrated at too high of a temperature will be dry and tough.
Different Methods For Making Beef Jerky In A Dehydrator
There are several methods for making beef jerky in a dehydrator. Here are some of the most popular methods:
1. Thinly Sliced Lean Beef: This is the most common method for making beef jerky in a dehydrator. To prepare the meat, place it in the freezer for 1-2 hours to partially freeze for easier uniform slices. Slice the meat against the grain of the meat around 1/8″-1/4″ thick for an easier chew or with the grain for a more chewier beef jerky. Once sliced, place the meat into a glass container and pour marinade overtop. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, drain meat in a colander and place on dehydrator trays. Dry at 145°F for 8 to 10 hours.
2. Ground Beef Jerky: This method involves using a jerky gun to create strips of ground beef that can be dehydrated. To do this, mix ground beef with seasonings and spices, and then load it into a jerky gun. Use the gun to extrude thin strips of beef onto dehydrator trays. Dry at 160°F for 4-6 hours.
3. Marinated Beef Strips: This method involves marinating thinly sliced beef in a mixture of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, and other seasonings before dehydrating it in a dehydrator. To prepare the meat, slice it thinly against the grain and place it into a glass container with the marinade mixture. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Drain meat in a colander and place on dehydrator trays. Dry at 145°F for 8 to 10 hours.
4. Smoked Beef Jerky: This method involves smoking the beef before dehydrating it in a dehydrator. To do this, smoke the beef over low heat (around 160°F) for several hours until it is fully cooked but still pliable. Once smoked, slice the beef thinly against the grain and place it onto dehydrator trays. Dry at 145°F for 8 to 10 hours.
No matter which method you choose, it is important to follow safe food handling practices when preparing and storing beef jerky. Always use clean utensils and equipment when handling raw meat, and store finished jerky in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. With a little practice and experimentation, you can create delicious homemade beef jerky using your dehydrator!
Tips For Achieving The Perfect Texture And Flavor
Here are some tips to help you achieve the perfect texture and flavor for your beef jerky:
1. Choose the right cut of meat: Not all cuts of meat are created equal when it comes to making beef jerky. Leaner cuts like top round, bottom round, and flank steak work best because they have less fat and will dry out better.
2. Slice your meat thinly: The thickness of your meat slices will affect the drying time and the texture of your jerky. Slice your meat as thinly as possible, around 1/8 inch thick, to ensure that it dries evenly and doesn’t become too tough.
3. Marinate your meat: A good marinade can make all the difference in the flavor of your jerky. Use a marinade that includes soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, brown sugar, and spices for a tasty and flavorful jerky.
4. Pat dry before dehydrating: Before putting your meat in the dehydrator, make sure to pat it dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture. This will help the meat dry out more quickly and evenly.
5. Rotate racks: If your dehydrator has multiple racks, make sure to rotate them every hour or so to ensure that the jerky dries evenly on all sides.
6. Test for doneness: To test if your jerky is done, bend a piece in half. If it bends without breaking and has no moisture in the middle, it’s done. If it snaps in half or has any moisture, it needs more time in the dehydrator.
By following these tips, you can achieve a perfectly textured and flavorful beef jerky every time you use your dehydrator.
Storing And Enjoying Your Homemade Beef Jerky
Once you have successfully made your homemade beef jerky, it’s important to store it properly to maintain its flavor and freshness. The ideal way to store beef jerky is in an air-tight container saved in a cool, dry place such as a pantry or kitchen cabinet. This will help prevent any moisture from seeping into the jerky and causing spoilage.
It’s also important to eliminate any oxygen in the packaging when storing beef jerky. This can be done by using food-grade oxygen absorbers or vacuum packaging. Eliminating oxygen helps prevent bacteria growth, extending the shelf life of your jerky.
If you plan on storing your beef jerky for longer than 1-2 months, you can freeze it for up to 6 months. However, freezing can alter the taste of jerky, so it’s recommended to make smaller batches and eat within a month or two rather than making a big batch and having too much jerky at once.
When storing homemade jerky, it’s best to use an airtight container away from any heat, humidity, or direct light. A resealable, plastic freezer bag is a reliable and effective option for storing homemade jerky. It creates an air-tight and vapor-proof seal that prevents contact with ambient air or humidity. The malleability of the material allows for the removal of any extraneous air inside the bag, minimizing the jerky’s exposure to air and moisture.
Label each bag or jar with the date that you made it on and be sure to keep an eye on it from time to time. You will know if it’s going bad because it will generally become much drier and will usually turn a darker color. The smell of it will often slightly change as well.
When it comes to enjoying your homemade beef jerky, simply take it out of the container and enjoy as a snack or add it to your favorite recipes. Homemade beef jerky should last one to two months if stored properly in an airtight container after making it. So go ahead and enjoy your delicious homemade beef jerky!