You can dehydrate meat, and it’s a relatively simple process. There are both soft and chewy versions of dried meat, which can also be tenderized and dried out for long-term storage.
The most effective method of drying meat is to use a beef jerky dehydrator. In terms of cost and effort, this is easily the most effective way to dehydrate large amounts of meat at once, and get the results you want. You’ll generally see a 50-75% reduction in moisture, thus preventing bacteria growth.
How to make beef jerky
The first fundamental of dehydrating beef and other kinds of meat, is curing, seasoning and marinating. Most commercially-sold meats will be cured using sodium nitrates, which keep it fresh for longer periods while refrigerated.
Venison jerky, when caught on your own while hunting, should be cured at home. You can find pink curing salt in the grocery store, and there are also many vegetable-based curing salts that you can make at home.
Salt is another fundamental aspect in drying meat. Using regular salt in your curing process will draw moisture out of the meat, leading to a dryer result, thus preventing mold and bacteria growth.
Combine your meat, curing salt, seasonings and/or your choice of marinade. Place your meat on drying racks and dehydrate at 160 degrees until the internal temperature of your meat reaches 160 degrees. Here’s a ground venison jerky recipe to demonstrate.
- 10 lbs. ground venison meat
- ½ cup pink Himalayan salt
- ½ cup water
- 2 ½ tbsp. garlic powder
- 2 tbsp. black pepper
- 1 ½ tbsp. smoked paprika
- 1 ½ tbsp. onion powder
- 2 ½ tsp. curing salt
Secrets to homemade jerky
Beef jerky marinade can come in many different forms and flavors. Many times, you’ll simply use a seasoning blend, ass in the venison jerky recipe shared previously.
However, when using meat strips, like with steak jerky, it’ll take time for the curing salt to actually blend into the meat. You could dehydrate BBQ sauce and combine it with dried tomatoes into a seasoning powder. After marinating for 8-24 hours, this will cure, tenderize and flavor your jerky in one sitting.
As you know, dryer meat will last longer in the refrigerator. Using citrus juices and powders or a tenderizer mallet will help soften the meat so that it’s also enjoyable to eat.
Your choice of meat dehydrator will also determine the quality of your beef jerky. To a large extent, having an external air flow mechanism will prevent flavor blending and lead to consistent cooking. For large batches of 10 or more trays, you’ll also need at least 600 watts of drying power.
Storage methods for homemade jerky
After making beef jerky, you can store it for months at a time. This will depend on your storage method, whether vacuum sealing or simply using zip-lock bags and storing the meat in your freezer.
We recommend vacuum-sealing your beef jerky and using oxygen absorbers. This will dramatically increase its shelf life, both in the freezer and in the refrigerator. An effective vacuum sealer will cost more than simply using oxygen absorbers, so choose at least one of these options for meat storage.
As mentioned previously, curing salt will also increase shelf life. When using all of these methods, your jerky meat can last for up to a month at room temperature. Using zip-lock bags will only guarantee about a 2-month shelf life at room temperature, in a cool, dark location.
You can also freeze your jerky for up to a year. This isn’t recommended as it will reduce the quality of the meat, in terms of enjoyment. Refrigerating your jerky will last for about 3-6 months, as well.
A jerky dryer will allow you to enjoy and preserve large amounts of meat very effectively!