How to Make Beef Jerky with a Dehydrator

Learn how to make Beef Jerky in a dehydrator. It's easy, fast, and delicious! |

Looking to learn how to make beef jerky with a dehydrator? Look no further!

There are plenty of dehydrators on the market. I use either my Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator FD-75A or Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator.

I like the Nesco model because it dries evenly and does not require me to rotate the trays throughout the dehydration process. The Excalibur works good too, but does require moving the trays half way through.

I have reviewed 4 of the top dehydrators currently on the market to see which ones REALLY work the best. So if you are looking for a dehydrator, take advantage of these Dehydrator Reviews!

The recipe I am using to show how to use a dehydrator is Cajun Beef Jerky.

I have added a VIDEO showing how to make jerky to the end of this post!

The recipe I use for that video is Dos Pepper Jerky.

1 – Start with a lean piece of meat. You can use Flank Steak, Bottom Round, Top Round, Eye of Round, Sirlion Tip, etc…. The goal is to find a piece of meat that has as little fat as possible. Fat will spoil and limit the shelf life of your jerky. You can even use ground meat and a jerky gun. I used a 2lb Beef Eye of Round for this recipe.

Eye of Round Before Trimmed

2 – Trim off the fat cap and other visible fat from the meat.

Eye of Round Trimmed

3 – Place the beef in the freezer for 1-2 hours to partially freeze for easier uniform slices. Your meat should be hard to the touch but not fully frozen. Slice the meat against the grain of the meat around 1/8″-1/4″ thick for an easier chew or with the grain for a more chewier jerky.

Slicing with the Grain

4 – Finish slicing all of your meat and set aside. Now it’s time to get the marinade ready. As I mentioned earlier, the recipe used here is Cajun Beef Jerky. Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl or ziplock bag.

Cajun Beef Jerky Mixing Seasoning

Cajun Beef Jerky Mixing Seasoning in a bowl

5 – Add the beef strips and shake the container so all the meat is evenly covered with the marinade. I marinated my beef in the fridge for 18 hours. Anywhere between 6 to 24 hours is a long enough time to have great tasting jerky. The longer the better.

Cajun Beef Jerky Marinating in Ziplock

6 – After marinating, drain and pat dry the jerky strips to remove any excess marinade before dehydrating. This helps in speeding up the dehydration process.

Cajun Beef Jerky Drained and Drying

7- It’s time for the easy part! As I mentioned above, I used my Nesco Dehydrator for this batch. Place the beef strips on the racks making sure that they are not touching or overlapping.

Leaving space in between the slices allows the air to better circulate and dry the meat.

Cajun Beef Jerky on Trays

8 – Turn the dehydrator to 160° and let it run for about 4 hours. You want the internal temperature of your jerky to reach 160°. This jerky took 5 hours to dry. Depending on how thick your slices are will determine how long it will take to finish dehydrating.

Nesco Dehydrator Controls

9 – Make sure you check your jerky throughout the drying process to avoid over drying. The jerky will be done when it bends and cracks but does not break in half. If it’s done, let it sit on the rack and cool for a couple hours.

Cajun Beef Jerky with all the heat and spice of New Orleans! |

10 – Now it’s time to either store it in ziplock bags, vacuum sealed bags, glass jars, or my favorite;  your stomach! The jerky will stay good for 7-10 days if kept in ziplock bags. For longer storage, using vacuum sealed bags will allow the jerky to last 1-2 months. Please visit my page on storing jerky for further information.

A Cajun Spiced Beef Jerky that will excite your taste buds! Easy to make jerky that's packed with protein. |

As I mentioned above, here is a video I put together of How to Make Jerky. Please “like” the video if you enjoyed it! Thanks.

Check out my Best Dehydrator for Making Beef Jerky page for dehydrator reviews and a breakdown of the top selling dehydrators currently on the market.

The Best Dehydrator For Making Beef Jerky

46 thoughts on “How to Make Beef Jerky with a Dehydrator

  1. Quick question. My dehydrator has no temperature controls. So instead I ran it for ten minutes and put in a thermometer to see how hot it gets. The thermometer put it at 190. How long do you think it would take to dehydrate at that temp? First time making jerky.

    • Its actually the FD-37 Food Dehydrator. I know its not the best. My in-laws lent it to me. I wanted to try out dehydrating stuff before going in and buying my own unit. But for the time being, what do you think?

      • That’s great! That unit will get you started! Dehydrating time heavily depends on how thick you slice your jerky. I would slice it about 1/4″ thick and dehydrate for 3 1/2 hours. Take a piece out and let it cool for about 2-3 minutes. Bend the piece of jerky; when done it should bend and crack but not break in half. If you slice the meat WITH the grain it will not crack as much as if you sliced the meat AGAINST the grain. I like to tear the jerky in half lengthwise when its sliced with the grain. If the meat tears and has white strands, it is done. If it’s not done, keep dehydrating for another hour and check again. Most jerky I dehydrate is done within 4-5 hours. Let me know how it turns out.

  2. Good article. I’m running my dehydrator right now with another 2lbs of eye of round using Alton Brown’s marinade off the Food Network site.

    If you’re looking for an inexpensive and decent dehydrator, check Amazon for the Presto 06301.It comes with a bunch of trays, but you can buy more to stack on top. The trays fit together really well. It’s round, so the drying air is well circulated. It’s got a great digital interface, with timer (both count-down and elapsed use) and temp scales easy to adjust. I used my ThermoPen to check a container of water in the unit for temp changes at all settings (also a great way to get that plastic smell out of the unit before actually using it to dry food), and the temps were only off by about 2-3 degrees at each setting across the board. Although you can’t recalibrate the thermostat, it’s easy enough to just add this to the stated temp. At least it’s consistent!

    This unit does 160F at the high end, and that’s where you want to do your jerky. I’ve seen sites say 135F for longer, but you need to get the meat to that higher heat point if you’re going to skip the oven “curing” step (actually, putting the wet meat in the oven FIRST and bringing it to 160F is recommended by the USDA, and THEN putting the meat in the dehydrator at 135+F until it’s cracking but not breaking). If you’re using a meat ‘cure’ which has nitrites (not nitrATEs) in your marinade, you can safely skip the oven step, but I don’t like the taste of it. I’d rather take the risk. 🙂

  3. I’ve got the Presto 06301 and I love it. I purchased several more screens and a few leather trays that were being sold at Walmart. Got at half price. I’ve made four batches… two London Broil and two 93% leave ground beef. Staring at my jar of goodies in front of me. My dog is looking at it too!

  4. I’ve been making deer jerky all my life and just recently started substituting beef eye of round, as i crave it all year long and hunting season only supplies so much venison lol. I can’t believe I never thought to freeze beforehand with beef! Thank you for the reminder =) I had the misfortune this last time of getting a roast that was terribly marbled for jerky. The end result was that I had uneven slices from cutting out excess fat (varying between 1/8th inch ans 1/4th). I came here to see if there was any extra precaution for my thicker slices, which are obviously taking longer. I’ve had the dehydrator running for 4 hours now, and the thin slices are definitely done, but the thick ones make me nervous. I have a presto dehydro that has no temp settings, and I’ve had it for at least 3 years. Do you have any advice? Should I cook it in the oven for a bit to be safe?

    • If you are not using any type of cure, putting it in the oven to make sure it gets over 160F is a good idea. Better safe than sorry!

  5. Thank you, Will, for everything you’ve put into this site. It has been really informative for me. It seems Nesco is the brand to go with. But what do you feel about investing just a tad more (based on Amazon prices) for the 77? Seems the same as the 75, minus a tray, but is digital. Or the 1040 for the bigger motor? Though some reviews say jerky time is still ~4 hrs or so with it. Thanks!

    • Glad you like the site George. I have not used the Nesco77 so I can not 100% recommend it. I would assume it is well made like the 75 just with the digital face like you mentioned. I DO like the timer. Since jerky takes hours to make, most of the time you are out of the house doing other things while it is going. So if you are a busy person and don’t mind spending a little more money, try the Nesco77. I do not see much benefit of going with the Nesco1040 unless you are making A LOT of jerky and need to expand to 15 trays or so (which is a lot of jerky to make at once). If you do stick with the 75, here is a little gadget that I use for my dehydrators that do NOT have a timer. It’s not fancy, but does the trick. Let me know which one you get and how you like it!

      • Will,
        I’ve been doing beef or deer jerky for the last 15 yrs. I use the Nesco and added trays I got it from Walmart. Normally I used to use London Broil til it got so high. But would slice 1/8-1/4 at most , marinate in Moores Original Marinate any grocer for 3 days, then lay out on 12 trays. I would start with 3 lbs of meet and rotate. First in the freezer to stiffen it while slicing, then marinate 3 days, Sprinkle with a mixture of Season salt, Black Pepper, Accent (no MSG). Actually used to taake and use 2 forks to juge the meat which is not really necessary but punched in the meat, then place on tray (much touched) then cooked 9-12 hrs over night take off and glad bag it. We have actually used it up to month, month and a half, sent it to Missionaries in Russia. Guys son showed me how one day and I got hooked. I’d buy up to 3 rotations at a time, then start again each day I could put a new batch on each night 2 times a week ending up with 6 batches a week. Love this stuff, just need a decent price on the meat. Hate the commercial rubbery and winey taste most produce.

        • That’s a lot of jerky making! I agree that making your own jerky is way better than store bought… you just can’t beat homemade beef jerky!

  6. When using ground beef in a Nesco dryer I should go for 160F. The strips I have in there are a quarter inch thick. Roughly how much time should I expect for this to dry?

  7. Will,
    Quick question: Just made our first batch of jerky using your guidance. the jerky! But, when the jerky seems finished by way of time, temp, and the bend/crack test…some of the pieces seem to have a little moisture on them. We then placed them in the oven for 10 minutes for the final step which seemed to bring a little more moisture to the surface of a few pieces. They taste great. …just wondering if the moisture is a sign of something we didn’t do correctly.

    • It is normal for some moisture to come to the surface during the drying process. This is also more common if using a more fatty cut of beef. If I see moisture while drying, I pat the strips down with paper towels every couple hours. You guys didn’t do anything wrong, as long as it passes the bend/crack test and the jerky is dried, you are good to go!

  8. A very nice recipe for jerky lovers. I never try that before. But I’m sure it will be so delicious.
    Thanks Will for sharing.

  9. Thank you so much Will for your meat jerky dehydration instructions. I just finished a batch of moose meat, perfect for dehydrating as it’s very lean….turned out Delicious !

  10. Hey Will
    Well just put my first batch of jerky in I made slices about 1/2 inch thick ( I like the thicker pc’s) I used a teriyaki recipe I found on line and use a cabelas 10 tray dehydrater with temp dial and a on off switch
    At half inch thick what amount of time u think about 7 -8 hrs

    Thanks Benn new to Austin

    • Hey Benn! I am not familiar with that dehydrator, but I would check it at 5hrs and then every hour after that if it needs more time. Welcome to Austin!

  11. I was pondering the pre-dehydrator oven process “curing” process that someone mentioned here… and I came across this

    For a safety precaution, it suggests to throw it in an oven preheated to 275º for 10 min after it’s been done dehydrated.
    The USDA recommends the previously stated “curing” method or boiling it in water or marinade supposedly leaves it a bit dryer and crumblier.

    I’m new to this. I use an Excalibur and I’d prefer not to use curing salt, so maybe none of this is needed. Yet, my thinking is that the post-dehydrator quick heat-up-for-safety may come out better, but I am trying tweaks to see what works best for me. But I’m just wondering if there was any thoughts on if it may be better to do it up before or afterwards.

    Regardless, love the site and the recipes are awesome and good for inspiration as well. Thanks so much.

    • I would have to search for the article, but there is evidence that bacteria is more heat tolerable after the meat has been dehydrated. Because of this, it is better to heat the meat at the beginning of the drying process, not after. If you are not using curing salt, I would recommend heating it in the oven before drying. However; I am not sure what Excalibur you have, but the excalibur I have (Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator) heats the meat pretty quickly when it is set at 165F, therefor I do not do the oven pre-heat that often. Glad you are enjoying the site! Thanks for coming by and checking it out!

      • Hi Will,
        love the sight !!
        Here is the pertinent part of that article:
        “The danger in dehydrating meat and poultry without cooking it to a safe temperature first. After drying, bacteria become much more heat resistant. Within a dehydrator or low-temperature oven, evaporating moisture absorbs most of the heat. Thus, the meat itself does not begin to rise in temperature until most of the moisture has evaporated. Therefore, when the dried meat temperature finally begins to rise, the bacteria have become more heat resistant and are more likely to survive.”

        Here is a link to the full article:

  12. I recently bought Bison Jerky (amazing!) and the store I bought it from had it frozen. It defrosted very quick. I am curious to know how long I can safely store Jerky in a ziplock bag before it’s consumed?

  13. Hi Will,

    Thanks for putting all of this together, I’m glad I found your site! My husband bought me a dehydrator for Christmas so I can make fruit leather and dehydrated fruits, and I’d also like to try making jerky. One problem though, I have some hand/finger issues, there’s no way I can slice all that by hand. Do you think I could do this with a mandolin if it’s partially frozen?

    • Congrats on the new dehydrator! I have never tried using a mandolin to slice meat, but I do not think that it would work that well even if the meat is partially frozen. I think your best bet would be to have your butcher slice the meat for you when you purchase it. They have heavy duty slicers that can easily take care of it. They normally do not charge for this and you can tell them how thick you want it as well. I wouldn’t even bother slicing it yourself if you have some hand/finger issues, it’s not worth it. Hope that helps!

  14. I’m going to turn a wine fridge into a dehydrator. The fans work to circulate air but it no longer cools. Along with dual fans, it has thermostats so I think it’s perfect. I’m going to cut and fit a heat lamp into it. My question is, do you need the air to move substantially or will two small built in air circulating fans suffice in about 2-2.5 cubic ft?

    • Nice! I would think that two small fans would work just fine. You do not need a lot of air movement, a little will suffice. Just make sure to test whether that heating lamp heats your jerky to 160F. This is an important safety step. If it does not, make sure to pre-heat the meat before putting it in the dehydrator. It sounds awesome!

  15. Hi my dehydrator broke down half way through the process i quickly ran down to the shops and purchased a new one and got it back on after about an hour. Is the batch ruined or will it be ok ?

    • Hey Dan. I am not sure what dehydrator you have, but mine heat the jerky to 160F in about an hour. If this is the case with your dehydrator as well, it should have reached the 160F and be safe to eat even though there was an hour “break” in the drying process.

  16. My wife and kids love jerky. I use flank steak from Costco and put it in a Nesco dehydrator. However, I never heat it up to 160. I use it on its lowest temperature setting (90 degrees) outside in winter here in pretty dry Colorado. If it’s 30 degrees outside, I guess it gets to about 50 degrees (I would expect that they assume that the dehydrator is used indoors at 70 degrees, and it doesn’t have a real thermostat). We have never gotten sick eating meat this way. I subscribe to the Alton Brown philosophy that jerky is dried meat, not cooked meat. However I think he is crazy with his weird prescription for a huge box fan and lots of disposable furnace filters. Just do it the way I described above and you’ll be fine. I use curing salt #1 for other kinds of prepared meat, but not for jerky.

    • Well I am glad to hear that you or your family has not gotten sick from the jerky, but I would not go as far as to say that because of that everyone is okay to use your method. I have seen Alton Brown’s drying method and do not agree with it. E Coli outbreaks have happened from non heated jerky and that is why the USDA highly recommends heating jerky to 160F. It only takes one time for bacteria to grow and possibly make a loved one sick. It is not worth the risk in my opinion…

  17. Hey will. I have the 9 tray Excalibur digital thermostat. My jerky is about 1/4 inch thick and I usually set it for 72c because it doesn’t read in f for some reason and cook for 6 hours. Is this to long? I’m trying to eventually get in the business to sell my own jerky. Any tips you can throw my way? I would appreciate it. Website is awesome. Thanks for everything.

    • Oh and by the way I have the meat department at my local grocery store (souther California) cut the meat for me. So the pieces look more like steaks but 1/4 thick, maybe less. Thanks again.


    • It really depends on the meat and your individual dehydrator on how long it will take. 72C is 160F, which is what I begin drying my jerky at. My Excalibur takes normally around 4-5 hours to dry the jerky to my liking. I don’t often have to dry it for 6 hours, but every machine is a little different. All the tips I have are on this site, so search away and I hope it really helps. Good luck on the jerky business!

  18. How do you know when the meat reaches 160* . Will a regular digital meat thermometer work? Just stick it in the meat or the inside temp or just check the temperature in the oven. I have a newco 06300. Can’t wait to get started!

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