6 Easy Steps to Using a Beef Jerky Dehydrator

I can remember the first time my Papaw showed me how to use a beef jerky dehydrator. At first I was overwhelmed until he broke it down into steps for me. These are those six simple steps to using a dehydrator for beef jerky.

1. Choosing The Right Cut

The quality and taste of your jerky is going to be in large part determined by the cut of meat you choose. When selecting your cut of meat you want to consider both the actual cut, the section of beef, but also the fat content and marbling.

Check out this article for more information on selecting the right cut of meat.

2. Freezing The Meat For Easier Slicing

Cutting your meat to the right thickness can be very difficult. One simple hack is to freeze it before attempting to slice it. You only want it partially frozen, otherwise it will become too hard to cut properly. Partially freezing meat helps to firm the meat, making it easier to handle.

To get the right freeze, you will want to put the full cut of meat in the freezer for about 30 minutes. If it is not cold enough, your meat will still flatten under the pressure of the knife. If it is too cold, you will end up shaving your meat rather than slicing it.

Partially freezing the will not dry it out, and is perfectly safe. According to the USDA, freezing food in any amount will not kill bacteria, nor encourage it to grow. Food that is thawed creates a breeding ground for bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Therefore, make sure you cook the beef thoroughly during the dehydration process at temperatures of at least 140° F.

3. Slice The Meat

How you cut your meat is going to determine how tough it is to chew once it is done. There is no one right answer for this, but it is really dependent on the cut of meat. If your meat is more tender, you will want to cut with the grain of the meat so that it does not fall apart. On the other hand, you will want to cut your meat against the grain if it is already more tender to be sure you can actually chew it.

If you do not understand the difference between with the grain or against the grain, you are not alone. It is actually quite easy to understand, and can make a huge difference between jerky you can chew and jerky that will wear out your jaw.

As you slice the meat, you want make cuts of one-eighth to one-quarter inch thick.

4. Season With Marinate Or Rub

You will want to add some flavor to your beef before dehydrating it through either a marinade or a rub. Most marinades have some curing agent already added to help eliminate potentially harmful bacteria. They are very easy for even novice jerky chefs to use.

Rubs are a little more challenging to have evenly flavored the meat, potentially leaving some portions overly flavored while others are unflavored altogether. However, rubs allow you to use the herbs and seasonings you like most, giving you more control over the flavor. If you do use a rub, consider using a curing agent as well to help keep your jerky healthy and safe.

Be sure to read the directions for whatever recipe you decide to use for the length of time to allow your meat to marinate or cure. Marinades often call for anywhere from six to 24 hours to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat fully. Rubs take far less time to set, but do not penetrate throughout the meat as deeply or as evenly.

5. Drying Any Excess Moisture

Before putting the meat in a dehydrator for beef jerky, you want to remove any access moisture. Extra moisture on the meat will prolong the drying time as well as could toughen the meat and cause it to cook unevenly.

6. Using a Beef JerkyDehydrator

beef jerky dehydrator

When it is time to dehydrate your meat you have two options, use your oven or use a beef jerky dehydrator. Most people opt for the dehydrator because it is easy, has a high capacity, and generally produces a better tasting beef jerky.

Once you have your dehydrator setup, you want to set up your meat. Be sure to coat your racks with a non-stick spray to prevent your jerky from sticking. It is best to place your meat in a single layer on each tray, leaving a little room for air to circulate correctly.

Some models have a temperature setting, so you want to be sure it heats to at least 130° F, with a goal of bringing the internal temperature of the jerky to at least 120° F. This ensures you are killing any bacteria, especially botulism.

Most dehydrators will take 8 to 12 hours to fully dehydrate the jerky.

Shout out to Kyle Brammer for the tasty jerky images!

Hey there. Jimmy here. Hope you found my guide on how to make beef jerky helpful. Nothing is more satisfying than opening up a bag of homemade beef jerky and munching on it. Delicious. Healthy. Easy.


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