Dehydrating Jerky and Jerky Making Tips!
Not all dehydrators are created equal when it comes to dehydrating jerky from meat, fish or poultry. Pathogenic bacteria are likely to survive the dry heat of a warm oven or some food dehydrators so it is essential to research before purchasing a dehydrator for dehydrating jerky. Tests have shown that the Sedona dehydrator is one of only two brands that can safely dehydrate jerky or meat plus are much more environmentally friendly than using an oven. Included here is the the safest procedure to follow when making homemade jerky.
What is Jerky?
Jerky is a nutrient-dense, lightweight dried meat. One kilo of meat or poultry will yield approx 250 grams of jerky (depending on the thickness of the slices). Because most of the moisture is removed, it has a longer shelf life and doesn’t need refrigeration. This is a handy food for backpackers and when you don’t have access to refrigerators. Jerky has been around since ancient Egypt. In African countries dried meat or game is called Biltong. North American Indians make pemmican using dried minced meat mixed with dried fruit or suet.
How can meat be dried safely?
Dehydrating is the world’s oldest and most common method of food preservation. It is simple to do and available to everyone. Removing moisture prevents bacterial, fungal, or naturally occurring autolytic enzymes from biological action or reacting with food. Sun drying is not recommended for making meat jerky due to a lack of a steady heat source and the potential for contamination from animals, insects, dust, and bacteria. Dehydrating jerky from an artificial heat source is done by placing food in either a warm oven or a food dehydrator. The main components of an electric food dehydrator include:
- a reliable, adjustable source of heat
- horizontal air flow to efficiently circulate the dry air
- food-safe trays to hold the food during the drying process
Sedona stainless steel trays are handy for commercially made jerky, they are dishwasher safe and can be scrubbed to a commercial standard.
Why is temperature important when dehydrating jerky?
Current recommendations for dehydrating jerky safely is to heat meat to 70°C/160 °F and poultry to 73°C/165 °F before the dehydrating process (place meat and marinade in a preheated oven for 10 mins). This step assures that any bacteria present will be destroyed by wet heat. Another recommendation is to freeze at or below -20°C for 60 days especially game meat. After heating to 70°C or 73°C, maintaining a constant dehydrator temperature of 60 to 68°C/140 to 155 °F during the drying process is important to dehydrate fast enough before food spoils and remove all moisture so that microorganisms are unable to grow. Sedona dehydrators are renowned for their ability to maintain these temperatures and are perfect for dehydrating jerky. Here are some home grown jerky making tips:
- A 9 Tray Sedona Dehydrator will hold approx 12kg of meat at a time cut to 6mm-1/4″ strips. This will make very chewy jerky, thinner slices of 3-5mm are easier to eat.
- Use high quality, lean cuts of meat. Fat will not dry properly and will turn rancid.
- Slice the meat while it is still a bit frozen.
- Even slices are the key, we like our jerky cut to 3mm but you may prefer a thicker slice. If you don’t have access to an electric slicer, try one of our very sharp, non-stick knives from Kuhn Rikon. They are made with hardened Japanese steel and the non-stick coating goes through food like a laser!
- Jerky strips from minced meat can be dried on Paraflexx sheets for a flat even surface.
- Marinate the meat (remember that dehydrating intensifies flavour) in the refrigerator.
- When ready to dry, place on trays in a single layer allowing sufficient space around the pieces for airflow.
- Store in a cool, dry place in ziplock bags, airtight containers or vaccum seal for extra shelf life.