The amount of time that it takes to dry meat will depend on time, temperature and the kind of meat. Since reducing moisture content requires low temperatures, generally speaking, it’s important to know how to prevent food poisoning.
The most common and effective way to dehydrate meat is with a jerky dehydrator. Other methods include smoking, curing, freeze drying and hang drying. We’re going to walk you through the process with a variety of meats and show you how to get the job done!
Dehydrated beef - time and temperature
Dry beef jerky is a snap to make. No matter the seasoning or marinade your use, it desiccates ideally at 160-165 degrees F for about 5 hours. The most important factor is reaching an internal temperature of 165 degrees to ensure that it’s fully cooked.
Beef dries differently based on the thickness of cuts. The accepted standard is 1/8”, however since it can be difficult to make slices this thin many people opt for 1/4” thickness. You can overcome this by lightly freezing the meat, or using lean ground beef with a jerky gun.
Another option for dehydrating meat is to leave it drying for longer than necessary. This reduces water content, which is better for long-term storage but also makes the meat chewier. Peruse our articles to find out additional ways to preserve, flavor and tenderize your beef.
Homemade jerky with other kinds of meat
Chicken is very similar to beef, in terms of dried meat. It generally contains more moisture, so at the same heat setting of 165 degrees F, it may take an additional hour or two to complete drying.
The same is true with deer jerky. It’s actually more similar to beef in the amount of time it takes to dehydrate (about 5 hours, generally speaking), but can be a lot tougher. One bit of expert advice is to cut against the grain of the meat, while also using cures and marinades, to tenderize and flavor your venison.
Fish is a kind of jerky meat that has special requirements. A lower temperature of 145 degrees F over 8-12 hours is generally more effective for this kind of meat, because it’s so naturally tender. Higher heat is generally more favorable for meat that has strong muscle fibers.
Insights for your home dehydrator
The consistency of a jerky dryer machine is fairly sound. With a quality model, you should have enough wattage power for the tray capacity to match our time estimates.
There are some challenges that should be considered when making jerky. Avoid or trim away fat and/or oil content. This will allow you to preserve your meat for much longer, and will also keep drying times stable.
Use a meat thermometer to ensure food safety. Making beef jerky will often mean having a batch that gets eaten quickly, so many people will dry their beef for shorter time periods. We recommend cutting against the grain of the meat and using citric ingredients like wine, apple cider vinegar or pineapple juice to tenderize the meat, instead.
A meat dehydrator is a reliable and effective way to make jerky with total convenience!