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Methods for Drying Beef Jerky

There are the two main methods for making beef jerky: drying and smoking. Drying meat in a smoker will add a smoky flavor to the beef jerky, but a smoker can also add smokiness without dehydration. The various methodologies for creating beef jerky are as follows:

Beef Jerky drying methods:

  • Sun-dry: Although sun-drying is a time-honored technique, it is not recommended for beef jerky, except for very lean beef. In order to successfully sun-dry meats, you must live in an arid, hot, sunny area with good breezes. The potential for food poisoning is not worth the risk.

  • Oven-dry: In general, the oven works fairly well for drying beef jerky. However, it is important that the heat setting be as low as you can make it. Do not use the broiling element. The lowest bake setting should do the trick with most ovens. If your broiler element comes on even at the lowest bake setting, you can place a cookie sheet or heavy-duty foil on the top shelf to help deflect the heat. If your oven is not vented, leave the oven door ajar by placing a wooden spoon in the opening to hold it open. You may find it necessary to have a fan blowing toward the open door to encourage air circulation. Do not overload the oven. In general, optimum drying temperature is 140 degrees F.

  • Dehydrator: These machines usually have multiple layers of stacking trays. In general, they operate at 140 degrees F., but keep in mind that the lower trays will get more heat than the top trays. As such, you’ll need to keep an eye on your beef jerky and rotate the trays from top to bottom regularly, at least at one-hour intervals and perhaps even every half hour, depending on the food. As it approaches the final stage, you may need to reduce the heat by ten degrees to avoid scorching. Meat should be arranged a single layer deep per each tray with no edges overlapping.

  • Microwave: Although you will find some recipes for jerky made in the microwave, it is generally not recommended due to uneven heating.