Why do dehydration times vary so drastically?
Drying times vary due to several factors. The thicker the cut of beef the longer it is going to take to reach the desired result. Different methods of drying also vary the time. A dehydrator that circulates the air will work faster than an oven that does not. Different brands of dehydrators or smokers will also vary in performance which will affect drying time.
Do I need to buy a dehydrator to make jerky?
No. There are several different ways to make jerky. If you are just starting out, using the oven is a great way to start. You can also make jerky with a smoker. If you do want to buy a dehydrator, start with my reviews here on the Best Dehydrator for Making Beef Jerky.
Why is some jerky really tough and others tender?
This depends on how you prepare and slice your meat before making jerky. Visit my Slicing Meat for Beef Jerky page to learn more.
How long will jerky last before going bad?
It varies, anywhere from one week to several months. I have covered this in more depth in this post titled: How Long Does Beef Jerky Stay Good?
Can all of your recipes be used when making ground meat jerky?
Not every one, but a lot of them! I would use a recipe that does NOT have much liquid ingredients (soy sauce, worcestershire, vinegar…) Dos Pepper Jerky would be a good one to try. If the recipe calls for water, omit the water since you are using ground beef. I would also recommend using cure when making ground jerky since it will be handled more than whole muscle jerky (mixing the spices in by hand). Lastly, ground beef jerky sometimes requires more spices than whole meat jerky since you are mixing the spices into the meat instead of on the outside. If your first batch doesn’t have a really strong taste, increase the amount of spice for the second batch!
I also have more info on my How to Make Ground Beef Jerky page.
Why do some recipes have curing salt and others don’t?
I do about half my recipes with curing salt and half without to show that you do not NEED curing salt to make any jerky recipe. Cure makes the jerky last longer, gives it that red color, and also gives it that common “jerky flavor”. If you choose not to use cure, make sure that you heat the jerky to a temperature of 160F to kill any bacteria and eat the jerky within a couple of days. With that said, I do recommend using cure when making ground meat jerky because the meat has been handled and processed making it more susceptible to having bacteria. So in short… No jerky recipe NEEDS cure as long as the meat is heated to 160F. But it is another line of defense to kill bacteria and allows your jerky to last longer. You can read more information on my Jerky Safety Page.
If using curing salt, how much table salt do I add to a recipe?
If the recipe includes curing salt, make the recipe as stated. If the recipe does NOT include curing salt and you WANT to use curing salt; subtract the amount of curing salt used from the amount of regular salt listed. Example: If a 1 pound jerky recipe calls for 1tsp of table salt and NO curing salt but you want to ADD Prague Powder #1 curing salt. (1/4tsp Prague Powder #1 per 1 pound of meat). Use 1/4tsp of Prague Powder #1 & 3/4tsp of table salt.
I want to make low sodium jerky, do I have to use salt or can I leave it out?
You can leave it out. The salt does add to the flavor, helps prevent bacteria growth, which in turn helps the jerky last longer after it is finished drying; but is not NEEDED. If you leave sea salt or curing salt out of your recipe, make sure to eat the jerky within a couple of days. Also make sure to heat the jerky to an internal temperature of 160°F to kill any bacteria. Storing in the fridge would also help it last longer. I have found that spicy jerky still tastes great without salt.
Should the jerky meat be cooked before drying?
This depends. For jerky to be safe, it should be heated to 160°F for beef and 165°F for turkey jerky. This is best to do at the beginning of the drying process in an oven, not after it is finished drying. If you have a dehydrator that will heat jerky to this temperature, you can bypass this initial heating stage. I have tested dehydrators and list which ones were able to get beef jerky strips to 160°F, you can check it out here. If your dehydrator does not get to 160°F, pre-heat the meat in an oven. I always pre-heat any turkey jerky I make as well as use curing salt to make sure it is safe to eat. I like being as safe as possible when using fowl.
I have found that to pre-heat 1/4″ slices of beef to 160°F, it takes about 10-12 minutes in a 300°F oven. To pre-heat 1/4″ slices of turkey to 165F, about 8 minutes at 300°F does the job. This time can vary if you are heating the strips directly on a baking sheet (will heat faster) than if heated while on a rack or hanging in the oven (will take longer). I have also seen that it takes longer at my house in Colorado than it does when I make jerky at work in Oklahoma. I recommend folding a strip of meat around an oven thermometer while heating so that you can take it out exactly when it reaches the correct temperature.
Why do you pat dry the jerky strips before drying?
It comes down to personal preference with patting down the jerky. On most recipes, I pat the jerky strips dry as long as it won’t rub off most of the ingredients. The reason I pat it dry is because I hate having jerky that is sticky and messy. I don’t want to have to lick my fingers or have a napkin near by after taking a piece of jerky. It also cuts down on the drying time by having less liquid to dry on the surface of the jerky strips.
Can I use one of your photo’s on my website or blog?
Sure! The only thing I ask is that you credit the photo with two links. One linking back to the recipe post and one linking back to Jerkyholic.com