Are you a fan of jerky?
This lightweight, dried meat product is a popular snack for outdoor enthusiasts and backpackers. But when it comes to pork jerky, there are concerns about safety.
Is it safe to eat?
The answer is yes, as long as it’s made properly. In this article, we’ll explore the best practices for making safe and delicious pork jerky.
From choosing the right meat to avoiding cross-contamination, we’ll cover everything you need to know to enjoy this tasty snack without worry.
So grab a bag of jerky and let’s dive in!
Is Pork Jerky Safe?
When it comes to pork jerky, the main concern is the risk of contracting trichinosis, a disease caused by a parasite that can be found in raw pork. However, it’s important to note that trichinosis has been eradicated in the US for decades now.
That being said, it’s still important to take precautions when making pork jerky. The best way to ensure safety is to use farm-raised pork and to choose the right cut of meat. Pork loin is the best option for making jerky, as it’s lean and contains 10% fat or less.
It’s also important to avoid cross-contamination when handling raw meat. Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling raw pork, and use clean equipment and utensils. Keep the meat refrigerated at 40°F or below, and use ground pork within 2 days or freeze for later use.
If you’re using wild game to make jerky, it’s important to remember that the safety of the meat can be affected by the wound location and skill of the hunter. If the animal is wounded in such a way that its gut contents come in contact with the meat or the hunter’s hands while dressing the meat, fecal bacteria can contaminate the meat. It’s best to avoid making jerky from this meat and use it only in ways that it will be thoroughly cooked.
To decrease the risk of foodborne illness from home-dried pork jerky, it’s recommended to allow the internal temperature of the meat to reach 160°F. This can be done by heating the meat strips in marinade before drying or heating the dried jerky strips in an oven after the drying process is completed.
Choosing The Right Pork For Jerky
When it comes to choosing the right pork for jerky, it’s important to select a lean cut of meat with low-fat content. Pork loin is the best option for making jerky, as it contains 10% fat or less. This cut of meat is also flavorful and tender, making it a great choice for jerky.
It’s important to avoid using cuts of pork that are fatty or have a lot of marbling, as this can increase the risk of the meat going rancid. Additionally, it’s best to avoid using ground pork for jerky, as it can be difficult to control the fat content and ensure that the meat is evenly dried.
When handling raw pork, it’s important to take precautions to avoid cross-contamination. Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling raw pork, and use clean equipment and utensils. Keep the meat refrigerated at 40°F or below until you’re ready to use it.
If you’re using wild game to make jerky, it’s important to be cautious about the safety of the meat. Make sure that the animal was properly dressed and that there was no contact with fecal matter during the process. It’s also a good idea to freeze the meat before using it for jerky, as this can help kill any parasites or bacteria that may be present.
Ultimately, when making pork jerky, it’s important to choose a lean cut of meat, handle it properly, and take steps to ensure that it’s safe to eat. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy delicious and nutritious pork jerky without any worries about foodborne illness.
Preparing The Meat For Safe Drying
To ensure safe drying of pork jerky, it’s important to properly prepare the meat beforehand. First, choose a lean cut of pork, such as pork loin, and trim any excess fat. It’s also recommended to use farm-raised pork to decrease the risk of contamination.
Next, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling the meat, and use clean equipment and utensils. If using wild game, make sure the meat is properly dressed and free from any fecal contamination.
If you’re using ground pork, it’s important to cook it thoroughly before dehydrating to eliminate any harmful bacteria. For sliced pork, it’s recommended to heat the meat strips in marinade before drying or to heat the dried jerky strips in an oven after the drying process is completed. This will ensure that the internal temperature of the meat reaches 160°F, which is necessary for safe consumption.
Marinating The Pork For Flavor And Preservation
Marinating pork before making jerky is not only a great way to enhance the flavor of the meat, but it can also aid in preservation. Marinades are mixtures of oil, seasonings, and often acidic ingredients, like vinegar, wine, or citrus juice, used to enhance the flavor of foods. They can also help make leaner cuts less dry and make tougher pieces of meat more succulent.
When it comes to marinating pork for jerky, it’s important to consider the type of meat, the tenderness of the cut, and its thickness. Generally speaking, the tougher and bigger the cut, the longer it will take to marinate. A whole pork loin, for instance, should be marinated for at least 12 hours and will continue to improve in marinade for up to three days.
It’s important to note that while marinades can improve the flavor and texture of pork jerky, they should not be relied upon solely for preservation. To decrease the risk of foodborne illness from home-dried pork jerky, it’s recommended to allow the internal temperature of the meat to reach 160°F. This can be done by heating the meat strips in marinade before drying or heating the dried jerky strips in an oven after the drying process is completed.
When making a marinade for pork jerky, there are many options to choose from. Some popular ingredients include soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper. It’s important to note that acidic ingredients like vinegar or citrus juice should be used sparingly as they can give pork a mealy texture over time. Pineapple should also be avoided as it tends to break down proteins significantly.
Drying The Pork Jerky At The Right Temperature
When it comes to drying pork jerky, it’s crucial to maintain the right temperature to ensure that harmful bacteria are eliminated. The ideal temperature for drying pork jerky is around 165°F.
To achieve this temperature, you can use a dehydrator or an oven. If you’re using a dehydrator, simply place the pork slices on the dehydrator trays, making sure that the pieces are not touching or overlapping. Set the temperature to 165°F and let the dehydrator run for several hours until the pork jerky is dry and crispy.
If you’re using an oven, preheat it to 165°F and place the pork slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Again, make sure that the pieces are not touching or overlapping. Place the baking sheet in the oven and let the pork jerky dry for several hours until it’s ready.
It’s important to note that the meat doesn’t need to be at 160°F the entire time it’s drying. It just needs to reach that temperature at some point during the process to kill any potential bacteria. It’s best if it reaches 160°F towards the beginning of drying, within the first two hours or so, and then the temperature can be turned down for the remainder of the drying. Just maintain an internal temperature of at least 145°F for the remainder of the drying process.
Once your pork jerky is dry and crispy, remove it from the oven or dehydrator and let it cool down before storing it in an airtight container. Remember, allowing your pork jerky to reach 160°F during the drying process is an added safety measure that can help reduce the risk of foodborne illness, so don’t skip this step!
Avoiding Cross-Contamination During The Drying Process
During the drying process, it’s important to avoid cross-contamination to ensure the safety of the pork jerky. Cross-contamination can occur when raw meat juices come into contact with other foods or surfaces.
To avoid cross-contamination, use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw pork and other ingredients. Clean and sanitize all surfaces and equipment before and after use, including the dehydrator trays or racks.
When marinating the pork, use a separate container and do not reuse the marinade. Discard any remaining marinade that has come into contact with raw pork.
When placing the pork strips on the dehydrator trays or racks, make sure they are not touching each other or any other food items. This will prevent any potential cross-contamination during the drying process.
After the jerky has been dried, it’s important to handle it with clean hands and store it in a clean, airtight container to prevent any contamination from bacteria or other pathogens.
By following these steps, you can ensure that your homemade pork jerky is safe to consume and free from any harmful bacteria or contaminants.
Storing Pork Jerky For Maximum Freshness And Safety
Once you’ve made your pork jerky, it’s important to store it properly to maintain its freshness and safety. The best way to store pork jerky is in an airtight container or bag, and to keep it in the refrigerator at 40°F or below. Properly stored, pork jerky can last for up to 2 months in the refrigerator.
If you have a large amount of pork jerky and need to store it for longer periods of time, it’s recommended to freeze it. Frozen pork jerky can last for up to 6 months. When freezing pork jerky, make sure to use a freezer-safe container or bag, and label it with the date so you can keep track of how long it’s been frozen.
To improve the shelf life of your pork jerky, consider adding oxygen absorbers to the container or vacuum sealing it. This will help remove any excess air that can cause the meat to spoil more quickly.
It’s important to note that once you open your pork jerky, you should use it within a week. To ensure maximum freshness and safety, place the opened jerky in a zip lock bag and squeeze out all of the air before refrigerating.