How to Make Beef Jerky with a Dehydrator

How to Make Beef Jerky with a Dehydrator

Making your own beef jerky with a dehydrator is a fantastic way to get a quick shot of protein and is also so much better than the store bought jerky. Beef jerky is a delicious snack and homemade jerky can also last a good amount of time in the store cupboard.

The best way to make beef jerky is by using a food dehydrator. These machines are specifically designed for drying the moisture out of food and so will offer you the best beef jerky and the tastiest outcome. Here you can learn how to make beef jerky at home.


What are the benefits of homemade beef jerky?

As mentioned above, perhaps the biggest benefit of homemade beef jerky is that it tastes so much better than jerky that you can pick up in a store. There are so many jerky recipes available that you can impart your own unique flavor to the beef and add additional flavorings to suit your tastes.

It's also a great snack, full of protein, so perfect as a pick me up if you are out hiking or with the kids. It's even great as a snack post workout, to replenish your protein levels. With very few additives, beef jerky is a really healthy alternative to chips or candy!


What cut of beef can be dehydrated?

The best cuts of meat to use for beef jerky are basically any lean cuts of beef. You can make jerky using top round, eye of round, top sirloin or london broil.

However, if you are looking for a really premium cut, then flank steak is your go to option. It's the most expensive cut for jerky but it can be cut into thin strips and imparts the best flavor.

The beef should be as lean as possible, because fat does not dehydrate well and will ruin your flavor and outcome. Some people also choose to use ground beef, which results in a chewier but less hard piece of jerky. Ground meat is also a lot quicker to use as you don't need to slice it.

Different cuts can dehydrate at different rates and can reduce a lot of their volume. However, a good rule to follow is that 3 pounds of meat can make approximately 1 pound of jerky.

hands holding beef jerky


How to prepare beef for dehydrating

The first part of preparing the beef for jerky is to remove any fat, or as much as possible. All meat contains fat but it will not dehydrate, so it's best to remove it in the preparation stage.

Next, you will need to slice the meat using a sharp knife on a cutting board. There are two ways to do this, and each will provide you with a different texture. You can either cut with the grain of the beef, which will make your beef jerky chewy, or cut against the grain to make your jerky more tender. This is purely personal preference.

You will need to cut the beef as thin as possible, probably around 1/4 inch thick if possible. If you cut the meat too thick it will be difficult to dehydrate and hard to eat. A great tip for slicing the meat is to place it in a freezer for 1-2 hours until it is firm (not solid!) and then it is so much easier to slice.

The next process is to marinate your meat. There are so many beef jerky recipes and different marinade combinations out there that there is sure to be a flavor combination that is preferable to you.


What do you need to make beef jerky?

There are so many different flavor combinations for making beef jerky. You can add soy sauce, onion powder, worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper or numerous other flavorings. Each individual is likely to have their own personal preferences and their own preferred cut of meat. Here is a simple beef jerky recipe to try out:

  • A Lean Cut of Beef
  • Soy Sauce or low sodium soy sauce
  • Honey 
  • Liquid Smoke (optional) 
  • 1 teaspoon Onion Powder 
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder 
  • Salt 
  • Black Pepper

making beef jerky at home


Once you have prepared the sliced beef, you can season it directly with salt and ground black pepper. Next, mix your beef jerky marinade ingredients together and add the beef and mix. Place the mix into a fridge for at least 12 hours to allow the meat to soak up the flavor of the marinade.

As mentioned previously, it's best to use a dehydrator. Beef jerky using a dehydrator will give you a consistent end product time after time. You should set the dehydrator at a temperature of approximately 160 degrees, or 175 degrees if your machine will allow it.

Place your beef strips evenly spaced on the dehydrator trays, rotating them regularly and leave for around 4 hours. If they are not to your desired texture, then place them back in the dehydrator for a few more hours.

Your beef jerky is done when it is dry to the touch and does not bend without cracking. If it breaks immediately, then it is overdone.


How do I store it and how long does jerky last?

You do not necessarily need to refrigerate jerky. Beef jerky can be stored at room temperature but to preserve flavor and texture it is best stored in an airtight container or vacuum sealed. Glass jars are a great storage option or zip lock freezer bags.

Beef jerky will last a week in a non airtight bag or container and up to a month in an airtight container. In a vacuum sealed container it can last from 3-6 months - ideally in a refrigerator.

You can store it in an airtight container in the freezer with a shelf life of up to a year.


What's the best dehydrator to buy for homemade jerky?

The best dehydrator for your needs depends on your individual circumstances. If you like to make large batches of jerky, then the Tribest Sedona Express SD-6280, SD-6780 Digital Food Dehydrator is perfect. It can reach the necessary temperatures to effectively dehydrate your meat but also has 11 trays, so that you can use the dehydrator to make a bulk amount.

For smaller needs, the Samson Silent SB-106B Digital Dehydrator offers a cheaper solution, with less capacity but perhaps easier storage options in your kitchen.

You could also use the 9 tray Samson Silent SB-109-PT Digital Dehydrator, from the same manufacturer, which offers more capacity.

If you want to make beef jerky at home, or even as part of a small commercial venture, then Extreme Wellness Supply has a range of suitable home and portable dehydrators, perfect for dehydrating beef at home or in a commercial kitchen.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Bonus tip for using your dehydrator: check out how to make apple chips in a dehydrator!

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