Homemade Meat Jerky

~Safely Preparing and Storing~

Fats are a problem. Even though you can make fantastic homemade jerky with your food dehydrator, you want to take pains to choose very lean cuts of meat. Too much fat in the meat will cause it to go rancid fairly quickly.

  • Properly dried jerky will keep at room temperature 2 weeks in a sealed container. For best results, to increase shelf life and maintain best flavor and quality, refrigerate or freeze jerky.
  • Very lean slices of meat are key for making jerky. Fat can go rancid, so always choose lean cuts and trim any excess fat from meat before dehydrating.
  • Marinate meat in the refrigerator. Do not save and re-use marinade.
  • Because the temperature of dehydrators isn’t high enough to kill harmful microorganisms that may be present on meat, you’ll need to cook your meat before dehydrating to keep your food safe.
  • NEVER dehydrate raw chicken or poultry because it could contain salmonella.
  • Dehydrating meat with other food products can cause cross-contamination. Dry them separately and be sure to wash your dehydrator thoroughly after drying meat.
  • Pork is not considered safe for home dehydrating. Pork must be adequately cooked to eliminate disease-causing parasites and bacteria that may be present. Humans may contract trichinosis (caused by the parasite, Trichinella spiralis) by eating undercooked pork.
  • Jerky can be made from ground meat using special presses to form or shape the product. Disease-causing microorganisms are more difficult to eliminate in ground meat than in whole meat strips. If ground meat is used, follow the general tips for safe handling tips. Be sure to follow the dehydrator manufacturer’s directions carefully when heating the product at the end of drying time. Again, an internal temperature of 160°F is necessary to eliminate disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli, if present.
  • Wild game requires special processing before it can be used for dehydrated jerky. When preparing jerky from wild game, it is important to remember that the wound location and skill of the hunter can affect the safety of the meat. If the animal is wounded in such a way that the contents of its gut come in contact with the meat or the hunter’s hands while dressing the meat, fecal bacteria can contaminate the meat. It is best to avoid making jerky from this meat and use it only in ways that it will be thoroughly cooked. Deer carcasses should be rapidly chilled to avoid bacterial growth.
  • Process all meats and seafood at the correct temperatures. Not doing so can put you at risk for food poisoning. The National Center for Home Food Preserving has tested guidelines, which are outlined in our article here.
  • Rubs and Seasonings for Dehydrating Meat can be found here.

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