As we all know, when cooking with raw meat in general it’s crucial to ensure that you do so safely. The same is very much true when it comes time to make beef jerky, chicken jerky or indeed any other kind of meat jerky. As such before throwing your raw meat in the food dehydrator it’s important to make sure you’re following recommended drying methods. You’ll likely have many questions when first starting. However, an obvious one should be, do you have to cook jerky before dehydrating?

How To Make Safe Jerky To Eat

Experts in the field of preserving foods stress safety as a top priority that should always be in the back of your mind. Improperly prepared and preserved meat strips can be a breeding ground for a variety of deadly bacteria including salmonella and e coli. This is because the meat that didn’t reach a sufficient internal temperature to kill bacteria. As such it will harbour more heat resistant bacteria that are easily able to endure the drying process.

In order to prevent the beef jerky you produce from being unsafe to eat it is instead recommended that you subject the meat to additional heat treatment. This will ensure that the internal temperature of the meat reaches sufficient levels to destroy harmful microorganisms.

When you plan on making beef jerky then to be perfectly safe you should steam or roast meat strips to temperatures of at least 160°F, as recommended by the USDA meat and poultry hotline. Although when you make chicken jerky you should instead heat poultry to temperatures of at least 165°F.

Do You Have To Cook Jerky Before Dehydrating?

Do You Have To Cook Beef Jerky Before Dehydrating?

When you do cook beef jerky before the drying process, however, there is a downside. Whilst the process is likely to make things safer when you make beef jerky this way it will noticeably differ from traditionally dried meat.

As such when you make homemade jerky in this manner, you may be disappointed with the results you get. However, it will be able to marinade better in the oven, therefore picking up more flavours such as from teriyaki sauce and soy sauce. Additionally, whether

Whilst the above method is likely the safest way, beef jerky can still be homemade safely as long as you can guarantee the internal temperatures reach the appropriate temperatures. This will be more easily done via oven dehydrating than by using a food dehydrator. With your jerky being done in a conventional oven or a toaster oven, your jerky strips will be done in approximately the same amount of time.

Can Beef Jerky Be Undercooked?

Beef jerky may not be obviously undercooked when viewed from the perspective of the human eye. However, when making jerky if not heated warm enough, the internal temperature of beef strips does not reach high enough temperatures, then bacteria will survive. These heat resistant bacteria will be able to easily endure the conditions of a typical food dehydrator. As a result, the beef jerky will be unfit for consumption.

Do You Have To Cook Jerky Before Dehydrating?

Is Jerky Better In The Oven Or Dehydrator?

A convection oven and dehydrator can both be used to dry meat. However, to ensure food safety whilst making jerky is maintained it’s important to be certain that your dried meats have reached an internal temperature of 160°F for beef or 165°F for chicken. As mentioned above, this will ensure that no harmful bacteria typically present in raw meat was able to survive the dehydration process.

When using a full-sized oven, it should be perfectly safe to dry them in the oven. When doing so use dehydrator trays or a cake racks on a baking sheet to dry your jerky once it has finished marinating in the fridge.

With a dehydrator, however, things get a bit tricky. Most will only heat the internal temperature of the meat to around 130-140°F. This isn’t enough to do the job of ridding the jerky of bacteria.

Whilst using curing salt will help with ridding your jerky of common bacteria growths, using thinly sliced pre-cooked meats will help prevent foodborne illness. As such, your lean cut slices of meat should be cooked at the safe internal temperature required before being used in the dehydrator.

These methods will produce drastically different results when it comes to jerky. This is because the oven-dried jerky will take more than what you’d typically expect. However, the dehydrated variation will have a different texture and slightly altered taste. Additionally, the colour will look slightly unusual. As a result of these differences, many would find the dehydrator made jerky to be unappealing compared to the oven made variant.

How Long Should I Cook Jerky In A Dehydrator?

When using a dehydrator you should use preheated jerky to ensure that all bacteria has been killed. To preheat this jerky you should cook four strips at a time for ten minutes at approximately 300°F for beef jerky. When doing so for chicken jerky, however, roughly eight minutes should be sufficient.

However, since not all ovens will heat at the same rate, it is wise to wrap one piece of jerky around an oven thermometer. This will give a more accurate gauge of the actual internal temperature of the pieces of jerky being precooked.

Alternatively, if your dehydrator can heat jerky up to 160°F (or 165°F for chicken), then the prior step can be skipped entirely. From here you can simply allow the dehydrated jerky to dry out for four to five hours.

If the dehydrator can’t heat the jerky enough, however, precooking in the oven before transferring to the dehydrator should do the job. Either way, you should expect the jerky to be ready in approximately four to five hours.

Do You Have To Cook Jerky Before Dehydrating?

So Does Jerky Need Pre-Cooking Then?

Whilst jerky doesn’t necessarily need to be pre-cooked before dehydrating it may depend on the equipment at your disposal. If your cooker or dehydrator is unable to heat the inside of the jerky to the appropriate temperature to kill bacteria it will need to be precooked. Doing so, however, will ultimately alter the texture, colour and taste of the jerky somewhat.

FAQs – Eating, Making And Storing Homemade Chicken and Beef Jerky

Can You Put Too Much Cure On Jerky?

On average you should use half a pound of curing salt per pound of meat. When the meat has been cured properly the middle section should appear slightly pink.

How Long Does It Take To Make Jerky In Dehydrator?

Jerky should be dehydrated for roughly four to five hours before being ready. However, if having to pre-cook beforehand, the jerky making process would take slightly longer than normal.

Do You Cook Meat Before Dehydrating?

Whether you need to cook meat before dehydrating it depends on the temperature the oven and dehydrator can heat the jerky to. 160°F is required to get rid of bacteria from beef jerky. Meanwhile, 165°F is required to eliminate the bacteria in chicken. Not eliminating this bacteria can lead to illness from e coli and salmonella.

Does Dehydrating Meat Kill Bacteria?

Dehydrating meat will not necessarily kill bacteria. This is because in order to do so 160°F is required to get rid of bacteria from beef jerky. Meanwhile, 165°F is required to eliminate the bacteria in chicken. Many dehydrators don’t have the capability to reach these temperatures, as such, they will be incapable of eliminating this bacteria.

Does Homemade Beef Jerky Need To Be Refrigerated?

Homemade beef jerky should be stored in a cool dry place for up to a week. Meanwhile, if you instead wish for it to last longer you can freeze it for roughly six months. If freezing, however, you should keep your jerky in a vacuum-sealed container.

Is Beef Jerky Keto Friendly?

Beef jerky can be an excellent choice for those on the keto diet. These for this being that it is very high in protein whilst being quite low in carbohydrates. The downside, however, is that is also quite low in fat due to being made from lean cuts of beef. Due to this, if snacking on beef jerky whilst on keto, it is best to supplement it with some particularly fatty foods such as nuts and cheese. This is because doing so will result in a snack combo rich in both protein and fats.