How to Use a Dehydrator for Jerky?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “How to Use a Dehydrator for Jerky?” and will discuss how to properly dehydrate a jerky.

How to Use a Dehydrator for Jerky?

To use the dehydrator for jerky, on the dehydrator tray place the evenly sliced pieces of meat thoroughly cleaned with a cleanser. Place the meat slice in an orderly manner to direct the proper airflow. Let the meat pieces dry at high temperature and adequate pressure.

Jerky manufacturing dates back to the 1500s when the Incas used to dry strips of llama and other game for hours in the sun to store and preserve them. Several techniques, equipment, and variations are available for producing jerky, which has been popular in the past several centuries. And it’s so simple to produce today that you don’t even need specialized equipment.

Despite moderate beef consumption per capita (around 16 kg/person/yr), the European Union (EU) is the world’s third largest producer of beef after the USA and Brazil, producing 7.9 million tonnes of carcasses per year (1).

What is a dehydrator?

Fruits, meats, and vegetables may all be dehydrated using a dehydrator, which utilizes heated air to remove the water. A food dehydrator makes it simple to make anything from beef jerky to banana chips. In addition to being cost-effective, dehydrating food allows us to keep an eye on the quality of the components. These guidelines will show you where to start your search for a food dehydrator and describe the many models available to you.

Preparing dehydrated foods:

·         We may cut the meal into uniformly sized and uniformly thick pieces by slicing it.

·         Use an antibacterial vegetable cleanser to clean your vegetables.

·         Proper food dehydration requires adequate airflow. Overcrowding on trays should be avoided.

·         Dried foods are those that have been exposed to heat and pressure until they become hard or crunchy. The temperature and time parameters in the dehydrator’s handbook should be strictly adhered to.

Lemon juice may be used to keep apples, pears, and bananas from browning while storing them.

A typical commercial whole-meat jerky process starts with frozen meat that is thawed, sliced, and spiced (or marinated). The slices are racked, heated, and dried. The heating and drying steps are sometimes combined. Studies indicate that home-style drying procedures for jerky made from ground meats may be insufficient to eliminate bacterial pathogens due to possible distribution of pathogens throughout the product, and that the traditional drying process for whole-meat strip jerky (10 h at 60°C) was insufficient for destruction of pathogens in jerky made from ground meats, which must be oven heated to 71°C prior to drying to ensure microbiological safety (2). 

Storing Dried Food:

·         Before storing dried goods, bring them to room temperature.

·         Prepare your dehydrator for use by turning it on and putting in the food.

·         When stored in an airtight container, properly dried goods may survive for decades.

·         When storing dried goods, keep them out of direct sunlight, heat, and moisture.

Commercial manufacturers must use Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point-based procedures to ensure Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella destruction. The dried jerky is cooled and packaged for distribution. Commercially packaged jerky can be kept up to 12 months at room temperature. Properly home-made dried jerky can be stored 1 to 2 months at room temperature. Refrigeration or freezing can be used to prolong the quality of home-dried jerky (2).

What dehydrator to buy:

·         Before purchasing a dehydrator, keep the following things in mind:

·         Food dries more uniformly in dehydrators with back-mounted fans.

·         Food dries more quickly and evenly when the thermostat is set to a more appropriate temperature.

·         Drying overnight or for a longer period is simple with a dehydrator that shuts off automatically.

Recommendation: Whenever possible, use the lowest unit possible.

Meat selection:

 Jerky may be prepared from almost any lean meat. The leaner the meat, the better the finished product. Either fresh or frozen meat can be used (5). Ensure that the meat is free of obvious silver skin or fat since this increases the likelihood of it becoming rancid. A wide variety of cuts of beef, including ribeye, sirloin tip roast, the eye of round, top round, and bottom round

·         Tenderloin, thighs, and breasts from poultry

·         Tenderloin of pork

·         Veal: Ribeye, rump, and blackstrap are all delicious options.

·         Tuna and salmon steaks are two of the most popular fish dishes (skin and fat removed)

We can use any kind of meat to create a jerky, so feel free to experiment. However, beef is perhaps the most popular choice. It’s critical to use thin cuts of beef while making jerky. Because fats, like oils, may quickly become rancid, it’s better to use lean cuts of beef like these:

·         Sirloin of Beef

·         Sirloin tip steak on the side

·         steaks, particularly porterhouses

·         Round sirloin

·         Tenderloin from the bone

·         Prime rib of beef

·         Flank steak, often known as a flap steak.

How long can we dehydrate beef jerky in a dehydrator?

Making jerky at 160° takes 4-6 hours in a food dehydrator. To be sure, there is a lot of variation in the thickness of the flesh. It may take up to 15 hours to make very thick strips. Before dehydrating, pound your strips to get them as flat as possible.

Pinch thin the strip by sandwiching it between two pieces of plastic wrap. For this reason, we must start monitoring at the 4-hour mark, looking for excess moisture, softness, or bendability. Any of them should be kept running for at least another hour and checked again if they are discovered.

According to research publications, jerky must have a moisture-to-protein ratio of lower or equal to 0.75:1 and a water activity (aw) of lower or equal to 0.85. An aw lower than 0.70 is recommended to prevent mold growth (2).

How can we tell whether the beef jerky is dehydrated to perfection or needs more time?

Four hours after the jerky is made, it should be tested for quality. This will take much longer if the strips are very thick, but 4 hours is a good starting point for testing. When our jerky is done, we’ll know because:

You can tell it’s dry since there isn’t any marinade or temperature fluctuation throughout. When bent, it fractures readily, yet a few strands keep it together.

However, for home-made jerky and based on several studies into drying jerky at home, the USDA recommends cooking beef, pork, venison, and poultry to 71°C followed by drying at 54 to 60°C in a standard home-style dehydrator. Accurate thermometers should be used to monitor temperature of both the meat and the dehydrator. In addition, research results have shown that several methods using marinades can be recommended for the safe drying of meat jerky  (2).

When using a dehydrator to make jerky, can the meat be overcooked?

Yes. Overcooked jerky, on the other hand, will remain fresh until it becomes brittle and crumbly to the touch. As a result, setting the dehydrator to 160° and checking it every four hours is critical.

Jerky may take 6 to 8 hours to dehydrate completely, but the process should be closely watched to ensure the proper consistency is reached. Jerky that has been overcooked is still safe to consume, but it won’t taste as good and will likely have a strange texture. Test for doneness by letting a piece cool. When cool, it should crack but not break when bent. There should not be any moist or underdone spots (4).

As the oven just bakes the meat instead of drying it, overcooking problems arise when making jerky in an oven rather than a dehydrator. Also, some ovens only go down to a temperature of 160°F. If you’re making oven-baked jerky, try cracking the oven door open with a wine cork to let moisture escape. Start monitoring the jerky after three hours.

To learn about the other dehydrating recipes, click here 


In this brief guide, we answered the query, “How to Use a Dehydrator for Jerky?” and discussed how to properly dehydrate a jerky.


  1. Smith, Stephen B., Takafumi Gotoh, and Paul L. Greenwood. Current situation and future prospects for global beef production: overview of special issue. Asian-Austral j anim sci, 2018, 31, 927. 
  2. Nummer, Brian A., et al. Effects of preparation methods on the microbiological safety of home-dried meat jerky. J food protec, 2004, 67, 2337-2341.
  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture–Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS). 2016. Food safety of jerky.
  4. Marchello, M. J., and Julie Garden-Robinson. Jerky Making: then and now. 1999. North Dakota State University.
  5. Oehler, Nellie, and Carolyn A. Raab. Meat jerky. 1988. Oregon State University.