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How Do You Know When Beef Jerky Is Done Dehydrating

Beef jerky is a protein-packed, delicious snack that’s popular throughout all of America. Not only it is rich in protein, but jerky is also a great source of vitamins and minerals like zinc, iron, folate, and B12.

One of jerky’s biggest drawcards, however, has got to be its long shelf-life which makes it the perfect snack to make, store and eat at home. 

Making jerky at home is popular with anyone who takes their jerky seriously. If your family eats 18 oz of jerky per week (which is easy to do), then you could be saving around 21$ per month (which is $253 per year) if you make it at home, as opposed to buying shop-bought.

However, there are a few things to consider before you set up your own jerky production line, and knowing when the jerky is dehydrated, is, arguably, your most important consideration.

Different Methods Of Making Jerky At Home

There are three different methods of turning beef into jerky at home. Using a purpose-built dehydrator is the most popular because it’s the easiest way to get good results.

If you’re looking to make jerky for the first time and don’t already have a dehydrator, then the oven is another fairly common method that skips on the initial outlay of a dehydrator.

Smoking beef in a pellet smoker is another way to dehydrate, and turn it into jerky. Smoked jerky can take on a complex, smokey flavor, which can be appealing, but it’s also harder to get right the first time. 

How To Tell When Beef Jerky Is Done Dehydrating

How Do You Know When Beef Jerky Is Done Dehydrating

Because of the many variables, there is no black and white when it comes to telling whether jerky is done. For instance, not everyone will use the same cut of beef and slice it the to exactly the same thickness.

Different brands of dehydrators, ovens, and smokers all have contrasting results for dehydrating beef and cooking food.

This means that an across-the-board time frame is also not always workable either. So how exactly are we meant to know when our jerky is done? 

  1. Use A thermometer 

On account of being thin, it’s near on impossible to get an accurate temperature reading of your beef jerky by using a meat thermometer. What’s not impossible is to use a thermometer that measures the heat of the unit that you’re using.

While some smokers and dehydrators have in-built thermometers that are ready to go, if yours doesn’t, you can pick up a dial-style thermometer for not a lot of money.

Every home oven should already have a thermometer built into it which will make dehydrating beef an easier task.

Through trial and error you will find what temperature works best for you and your meat, however, there are plenty of methods easily found online that will give you a detailed breakdown of how to perfect jerky using a thermometer. 

  1. Follow A Time Frame

Although time isn’t always the most effective means of knowing exactly when your jerky is sufficiently dehydrated, it’s certainly not a silly idea to have a rough guide to work off.

Depending on the method and cut of meat that you use, jerky can take anywhere from 2 – 15 hours to properly dehydrate, although the 4-6 hour mark is most common.

If your jerky has moisture after 24 hours of dehydrating then something in your process is likely wrong and it’s recommended to discard this beef and try again. 

  1. Test The Texture

One of the best ways of knowing for sure whether your jerky is done is to give it a texture test. Take a piece of jerky out of the dehydrating unit and lay it on a drying rack.

Be sure to let it cool down to room temperature because it will be more pliable when it’s straight out of the oven.

Once the jerky has properly cooled down (about 5 – 10 minutes), pick it up and attempt to bend the piece at a 90-degree angle in its middle.

If you notice any amount of moisture squeezing out of the jerky then it’s clear it will need longer.

On the other end of the dehydrating spectrum, if the jerky breaks when being bent, then, unfortunately, this is a sign that it is too far gone. So getting the sweet spot between the two is key. 

  1. Investigate The Surface 

Another way to tell whether jerky is dehydrated enough is its appearance. The surface of your jerky should give off the impression of dry leather. If the jerky is soft and has a surface that’s still glistening with moisture then back in the dehydrator it goes.

If by touching the jerky, your hands and fingers are left with a greasy residue, then this is another way of telling there’s still moisture that needs evaporating. 

  1. Taste The Jerky

In conjunction with the above methods, one way of knowing whether beef is dehydrated enough is to taste it. We all know what jerky should taste like, it should be chewy but not too tough.

If the beef strips are tough to chew through then this is a good indication that it will need longer to dry out.

On the other side of done, if your jerky crumbles and breaks as you bite it, then you have likely overcooked it, and a new batch will be in order. 

Summary

Making jerky at home can be a fun and rewarding experience that leaves you with bulk jerky and a new skill to boot. Not only will your jerky pile be at an all-time high, but you’ll be saving money and, once you get good at it, you’ll be able to spice and get your jerky just right.

To make sure your family is chewing on the kind of jerky you like, it is super important to know when the jerky is done.

By highlighting the tips and tricks that surround perfectly dehydrated jerky, this article has ensured your first batch of jerky to be a good one. 

Jess Smith
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