How To Tell When Ground Beef Jerky Is Done? A Full Guide

Are you a fan of beef jerky but always wondered if your ground beef jerky is actually done?

Look no further!

In this article, we’ll provide you with tips and tricks on how to properly dehydrate your ground beef jerky and how to tell when it’s ready to be devoured.

With just a few simple steps, you’ll be able to make delicious and perfectly cooked ground beef jerky every time.

So, let’s get started!

How To Tell When Ground Beef Jerky Is Done?

When it comes to making ground beef jerky, the key to success is knowing when it’s done. Overcooking can result in a tough and dry texture, while undercooking can lead to spoilage and foodborne illness.

The best way to tell if your ground beef jerky is done is by doing the bending check. To do this, lift the lid from your jerky dehydrator and remove a piece. Set it aside on the counter to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, because the jerky will be more pliable when it’s warm. Take the piece of jerky and gently bend it to about a 90-degree angle.

If any moisture squeezes out, it’s definitely not done yet and can go back into the dehydrator. If it cracks and breaks, you’ve left it too long, and it’s already past the point of best flavor and texture. Ideally, the jerky should be pliable like leather, and it should just fray and crack slightly at the bending point.

If that’s what you see, your next step is to take a bite. The jerky shouldn’t crack or crunch, but just give way grudgingly between your teeth. If it’s tasty, no longer has a “fresh meat” feel, but doesn’t crumble as it’s chewed either, you’ve gotten it right.

Preparing The Ground Beef For Jerky

Before you can start making ground beef jerky, you need to prepare the meat. Start by selecting a lean package of ground beef with a minimum of 90/10 fat content. If you don’t have a jerky gun, you can still make ground beef jerky by mixing the meat with your favorite seasonings and refrigerating it for 3-24 hours so that the meat can bind together.

If you’re using a recipe, choose one that has very little liquid ingredients. One ounce of liquid per pound of meat is about the perfect amount. If there are no liquid ingredients, cold water can be used to help mix the seasonings and meat. Once the meat has been seasoned and refrigerated, take it out and place it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Use a rolling pin to flatten the beef to about a quarter-inch thickness. Score the jerky into strips with a dull knife or pizza cutter about an inch wide. Don’t worry about making sure they are completely cut all the way to the paper; you’re just trying to score the strips so that they will break apart easily after drying.

If you’re drying your jerky in an oven, preheat it to 300°F and place the beef inside for 10 minutes with the door closed to preheat the strips to an internal temperature of 160°F. Then turn down the oven to 170°F or your oven’s lowest setting and bake for 2 hours with the oven door partly open. Flip the meat after 2 hours, pat dry with a paper towel, and continue to dry for another 2 hours or until the jerky is finished.

If you’re using a jerky gun, mix all of your spices with ground beef except Worcestershire, liquid smoke, and ketchup. Load the mixture into the jerky gun and use it to load your dehydrator trays. Dry at 145° –165°F for 4-12 hours until jerky is hard but still flexible and contains no pockets of moisture.

By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to making delicious ground beef jerky that’s perfectly cooked and safe to eat.

Choosing The Right Dehydrator

When it comes to dehydrating ground beef jerky, choosing the right dehydrator is crucial. An electric dehydrator or an oven works best, as temperatures can be easily controlled. Sun drying is not recommended, as temperatures are harder to control.

Research shows that home dehydrators can vary considerably as far as how quickly they heat up to an appropriate temperature, and how well they maintain temperature during drying. Some dehydrators fluctuate 30-40°F, while others vary as much as 40°F. It’s important to choose a dehydrator with a thermostat control that goes up to at least 150°F. The meat must maintain a temperature between 145°F and 155°F to be safe.

Before using an oven to dry meat, test the air temperature in the pre-heated oven with a thermometer for one hour, checking it regularly. The oven should be able to maintain a steady temperature of 145°F to 155°F for the entire time. If it’s too hot, the meat will form a hard, protective shell that keeps the moisture from escaping. If it is too cool, the meat will not dry fast enough and it can spoil.

It’s also important to use clean equipment, utensils, and work surfaces when handling meat products. Sanitizing solutions can be made from 1 quart of warm water and 1 teaspoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach. Additionally, always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after working with meat products. By following these guidelines and choosing the right dehydrator, you can ensure that your ground beef jerky is safely and properly dehydrated.

Setting The Temperature And Time For Dehydrating

To ensure that your ground beef jerky is properly dehydrated, it’s important to set the right temperature and time. The recommended internal temperature for beef jerky is 160°F, as per guidelines from the USDA.

The dehydrator should be set to 165°F, and the jerky should be left to dry for about 4 hours. However, the thickness of your slices will determine how long it takes to dehydrate. Thicker slices will take longer to dry, while thinner slices will dry faster.

It’s important to note that not all dehydrators are created equal. Home dehydrators can vary considerably in terms of how quickly they heat up to the appropriate temperature, how well they maintain temperature during drying, and how closely the air temperature inside the dryer matches the temperature dial setting. Therefore, it’s important to choose your dehydrator carefully and make sure you can control the temperature.

If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use an oven instead. Oven drying can work just fine, but it can take up to two to three times as long as an electric dehydrator because there is no regular air flow to remove moisture. Before drying meat in the oven, test the air temperature in the pre-heated oven with a thermometer for one hour, checking it regularly. The oven should be able to maintain a steady temperature of 145°F to 155°F for the entire time.

Checking The Jerky For Doneness

To check if your ground beef jerky is done, you can perform the bend test. Start by taking out some of the jerky from the dehydrator using a pair of clean tongs. Wait for a few minutes and let the meat strip cool to room temperature. Once cool, try to bend it. Perfectly dried jerky should not break in half, but rather be flexible enough to be bent at will.

Jerky that splits in half means that it’s not perfectly dried out yet, and needs more time in the dehydrator. Also, check out the texture of the jerky itself. It should not feel soft or greasy to the touch. The surface texture should be dry and leathery, with no hint of moisture whatsoever.

Another way to test for doneness is by taking a bite. The jerky should be pleasantly chewy, not overly tough. If it crumbles when you take a bite, it’s overcooked. On the other hand, if it feels too soft or has a “fresh meat” feel, it’s undercooked and needs more time in the dehydrator.

When you’re testing for dryness, get clean tongs to hang the strips on a wire rack. Let them cool at room temperature then slightly bend the beef strip. When bent, an adequately dry jerky does not break in half but should crack instead. The dry strip should exhibit a firm, flexible form that can easily bend completely back on itself without snapping.

Dried jerky should not be crumbly but instead displays a leathery texture that tastes palatably chewy. The chewy quality of dried jerky should have a nice crunch that breaks easily whenever you bite off a strip. Plus, even if it has a dry surface feel, it should still be tender on the inside.

Storing And Enjoying Your Ground Beef Jerky

Once you’ve successfully made your ground 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 in a cool, dry place such as a pantry or kitchen cabinet. It’s important to keep the jerky away from direct sunlight and in a dry environment to prevent spoilage.

If you’ve opened the container of beef jerky, it’s important to refrigerate it to maintain its texture, flavor, and freshness. To keep your jerky fresh for up to a week, place it in a zip lock bag and squeeze out all of the air from the bag before refrigerating.

The storage time for ground beef jerky will depend on whether it’s homemade or store-bought. Commercial beef jerky is best enjoyed within one year, but for premium flavor and texture, we recommend consuming it within six months of purchase. Homemade beef jerky should last one to two months if stored in an airtight container after making it.

If you’re looking for long-term storage options, dry canning your beef jerky in mason jars is a great way to preserve it for months at a time. You can also use vacuum seal bags with an oxygen absorber to keep your jerky fresh for well over 12 months.

When it comes time to enjoy your ground beef jerky, make sure to take a bite and savor the flavor. If it’s pliable like leather and doesn’t crumble as you chew, you’ve gotten it right. And remember, always handle and cook wild game with caution recommended for other meats to prevent foodborne illness.