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Why do dehydration times vary so drastically?

Drying times vary due to several factors. The thicker the cut of beef the longer it is going to take to reach the desired result. Different methods of drying also vary the time. A dehydrator that circulates the air will work faster than an oven that does not. Different brands of dehydrators or smokers will also vary in performance which will affect drying time.

Do I need to buy a dehydrator to make jerky?

No. There are several different ways to make jerky. If you are just starting out, using the oven is a great way to start. You can also make jerky with a smoker. If you do want to buy a dehydrator, start with my reviews here on the Best Dehydrator for Making Beef Jerky.

Why is some jerky really tough and others tender?

This depends on how you prepare and slice your meat before making jerky. Visit my Slicing Meat for Beef Jerky page to learn more.

How long will jerky last before going bad?

It varies, anywhere from one week to several months. I have covered this in more depth in this post titled: How Long Does Beef Jerky Stay Good?

Can all of your recipes be used when making ground meat jerky?

Not every one, but a lot of them! I would use a recipe that does NOT have much liquid ingredients (soy sauce, worcestershire, vinegar…) Dos Pepper Jerky would be a good one to try. If the recipe calls for water, omit the water since you are using ground beef. I would also recommend using cure when making ground jerky since it will be handled more than whole muscle jerky (mixing the spices in by hand). Lastly, ground beef jerky sometimes requires more spices than whole meat jerky since you are mixing the spices into the meat instead of on the outside. If your first batch doesn’t have a really strong taste, increase the amount of spice for the second batch!
I also have more info on my How to Make Ground Beef Jerky page.

Why do some recipes have curing salt and others don’t?

I do about half my recipes with curing salt and half without to show that you do not NEED curing salt to make any jerky recipe. Cure makes the jerky last longer, gives it that red color, and also gives it that common “jerky flavor”. If you choose not to use cure, make sure that you heat the jerky to a temperature of 160F to kill any bacteria and eat the jerky within a couple of days. With that said, I do recommend using cure when making ground meat jerky because the meat has been handled and processed making it more susceptible to having bacteria. So in short… No jerky recipe NEEDS cure as long as the meat is heated to 160F. But it is another line of defense to kill bacteria and allows your jerky to last longer. You can read more information on my Jerky Safety Page.

If using curing salt, how much table salt do I add to a recipe?

If the recipe includes curing salt, make the recipe as stated. If the recipe does NOT include curing salt and you WANT to use curing salt; subtract the amount of curing salt used from the amount of regular salt listed. Example: If a 1 pound jerky recipe calls for 1tsp of table salt and NO curing salt but you want to ADD Prague Powder #1 curing salt. (1/4tsp Prague Powder #1 per 1 pound of meat). Use 1/4tsp of Prague Powder #1 & 3/4tsp of table salt.

Can I use one of your photo’s on my website or blog?

Sure! The only thing I ask is that you credit the photo with two links. One linking back to the recipe post and one linking back to Jerkyholic.com

30 comments

  1. Jeff says:

    Hi Will,
    I found your site and love it, great job. My problem is I’ve tried to join and it doesn’t seem to be working, any help would be appreciated.
    Thanks
    Jeff

    • Will
      Will says:

      Hey Jeff. You mean you are trying to sign up for the e-mail list? I just tried it and it seems to be working. I would try it again. If it still isn’t working, let me know and I will try to figure it out!

  2. Michele Chronister says:

    Hi Will, my husband eats a lot of beef jerky!! a lot, and it is not cheap (as I am sure you know), so I got him a dehydrator for Christmas this year. So I cannot sign up on your blog for now. I have your information written down so my husband will be able to after Christmas. We share the same home email, so that is why, for now I just put my work email down to ask you a question.

    Can you use a meat slicer to to cut the meats? If so, do you recommend using one, instead of using a sharp knife?

    • Will
      Will says:

      Meat slicers are great for getting consistent slices and helps when making a lot of jerky. If he is just starting off making jerky, a sharp knife would be a lot easier and less expensive. I make A LOT of jerky and use a knife to cut my meat. You can also ask your local butcher to slice it for you. I would wait on the meat slicer, and if he starts making a lot of jerky…. That’s a great Birthday present!

  3. Max says:

    Hello Will! Absolutely love the site and thanks for all the recipes.

    I was just wondering I was going through your recipes and noticed that most of them use soy sauce or worcestershire sauce. If I were to not add them to my jerky marinade (for less sodium intake) would it affect how long the jerky lasts since I believe the soy sauce and worcestershire sauce helps with the curing due to the salt.

    Correct me if I am wrong.

    Thanks
    Max

    • Will
      Will says:

      Salt definitely helps the jerky last longer so leaving out ingredients that contain salt will make the jerky spoil faster. You can keep it in the fridge as well as vacuum seal it to help it last longer. Or you can make small batches and just eat it quickly! I normally make jerky in 1-2lb batches and eat it pretty quick!

  4. Scott C says:

    I’m trying my first batch of jerky. Heated for an hour and a half at 160 on my Master built smoker, increased temp to 190 and added some applewood chips for 1 hour, turned temp back down to 160 for 3 more hours and it seems pretty dry. Any way to increase the moistness after its already been on the smoker for 6 hours?

    • Will
      Will says:

      I have never tried to re-hydrate jerky before. Possibly adding a little water to the water tray and keeping it at a low temp could give it back some moisture. Let me know how it works, I’m interested….

  5. Cliff says:

    My strips of venison fall apart. What am I doing wrong. The piece do taste good though. I take frozen venison from freezer to refrigerator over night. The venison is still “icy” but cuts easily. While mixing I end of with pieces and very few strips. Thanks

    • Will
      Will says:

      I am not sure, I have not had that problem to a big extent. I like using the round from the hind leg, I find that to be the best meat for jerky. I am not sure how you are slicing your meat, but try slicing the meat with the grain at about 1/4″ thick. Slicing with the grain should prevent it from falling apart. I didn’t make any venison jerky last year due to not harvesting a deer, but next week I will be making some with a buck I shot a couple of weeks ago. I’ll pay close attention to see if I have any of the same problems. If I do, I will try to figure out what is happening and comment back on this post. At least your jerky tastes good!!!

      • Cliff says:

        Operator error. Still being partially frozen, didn’t notice already cut in thick strips. Genius me cut again and made thick chunks and pieces. Problem solved. Just didn’t notice processor had already cut in strips. Thankfully it’s much easier now.

  6. Ryan says:

    Have you ever made pork jerky? If I was to grind my own beef, what cut would you use? With ground beef, should I cook it first and get it up to 160 or is my cabelas dehydrator set at 160 good enough?

    • Will
      Will says:

      I have never made pork jerky. Sometime here soon though I feel I should get a couple recipes going for some pork. If you are going to grind your own beef, I would just pick any inexpensive lean cut such as the roasts. Really the same cuts you would use for whole muscle jerky… Bottom round, top round, eye of round… Check out my page on Best Cuts of Beef for Jerky. I have never used or tested the Cabelas dehydrator, so I am not sure if it actually heats the meat to 160F. With that said, I would recommend heating it in the oven at 350F for 10 minutes first, then dehydrating. Ground meat is more susceptible to bacteria and requires more safety precautions. Hope this helps!

  7. David Rudometkin says:

    My dehydrator only goes to 155 degrees. Do you think its safe to just use curing salt and set to 155? Or do I need to put in the regular oven initially to get it to 160? Thank you sir.

    • Will
      Will says:

      I don’t know what dehydrator you are using, but it sounds like it won’t heat the meat to 160F. I would heat it in the oven for 10 minutes at 325F to bring it to 160F, then dry it in the dehydrator. Even when using cure, it’s good practice to heat the meat to 160F.

  8. Paul Singh says:

    Hey Will, just found your page. I’m in the military and will be coming home to San Antonio in about 10 months. In South Korea right now but I also love homemade beef Jerky. I have my Dehydrator with me and will be trying out your recipes. Maybe I can find some unique Korean spices to make Jerky!

    • Will
      Will says:

      Nice man! Enjoy your time overseas, but I’m sure you are ready to get back to Texas! I bet there are some amazing flavors over there for jerky!!!

  9. Erika says:

    Hi – love your site! Great recipe ideas. One question, I’ve been using the oven set to about 170 and putting the jerky on a mesh cooling rack over a cookie sheet. Have had some good flavor, but how do you get it to come out with more of the chewy texture that most of the commercial jerky has? Depending on cooking time, mine is either brittle or seems underdone. Does curing salt help? I have some on order but haven’t gotten it yet. Thanks!

    • Will
      Will says:

      Curing salt does help a little. There are a couple big jerky brands that I enjoy their “tender” jerky and have wanted to know how they get that texture. Unfortunately, they do not make their jerky making process public. I have been trying a couple things to try and figure out how it’s done. As soon as I figure it out, I’ll let you know!

  10. Mike says:

    Going to try making my own jerky tomorrow. The recipie I chose (Cajun Beef) calls for seasoning salt. Is this something you make or buy?

    • Will
      Will says:

      Seasoning salt is something you buy at your local grocery store. It will be in the same aisle that they sell all the other seasonings. (garlic powder, pepper…)

      • Mike says:

        Thanks Will. Made my first batch, flavor was good, but too dry. Next time I’ll make the slices of meat thicker and watch it closer after the first few hours dehydrating. Even witht he errors, it disappeared pretty quickly… ; )

  11. Aaron says:

    Hello. Great site just started making beef jerky. Got tired of paying twelve plus dollars. Anywho was curious if you have used Tajin for seasoning? I’m thinking for two pounds of meat will need two tablespoons Tajin an 1/2 cup water. What do you think?

  12. Mark says:

    Just signed up and really loving the info. I’ve seen recipes using an oven but haven’t seen any comments with regards to convection ovens. Most of the recipes say to crack the door which shuts the fan down on a convection oven. Ever tried a convection oven? How about propping the door open and at the same time keeping the switch depressed with a wine Cork to keep the air circulation going?

    • Will
      Will says:

      I don’t have a convection oven and so have not made jerky in one. I would think they would be great for making jerky. The circulation of air is the reason the door is left open. This way fresh air can come in and moisture can exit. A convection oven vents the air already, so you probably don’t need to leave the door open. With the door closed it will blow air around and vent it keeping the moisture level down. Please let me know how it works, I’m interested in how it turns out!

      • Mark says:

        I cooked the jerky at 200° for a half an hour with the door closed to get the temperature up quickly and try and inhibit any bacterial growth. Then I used a wine cork to keep the switch depressed that keeps the convection fan running, lowered the temperature to 170°, (lowest setting) and cooked it for another three and a half hours. The moisture content seems to be about right and I think it did an awesome job. The oven is gas and cracking the door allowed the convection fan to remove the moisture instead of just circulating air around it.

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