You can dehydrate ¼” strips of beef and make tasty jerky in 4 to 6 hours using a food dehydrator. Beef jerky takes around 3 to 4 hours in an oven and 2 to 3 hours in an air fryer. Dehydrating jerky should be done at a steady temperature of between 160°F to 175°F. The thicker you cut your beef, the longer it takes.
I’m a meathead. I can’t get enough jerky. I’ve been making my own jerky at home for years, so I know a thing or two about dehydrating meats. While dehydrating jerky takes some time, the end results will have you drooling.
I’m going to cover how long it takes to make the perfect beef jerky. Let’s go!
Dehydrating jerky at 160°F in a dehydrator should take 4 to 6 hours. Jerky strips thicker than ¼” may require up to 8 hours.
To determine if your jerky is done, conduct a bend test: the jerky should bend and crack but not break. The temperature of the meat should reach 160°F, according to the USDA. This will ensure that any bacteria present are destroyed. Once the beef hits 160°F, it’s done cooking.
The ideal temperature for making beef jerky is 160 to 175°F. Dehydrating jerky is best done slowly for optimal results. If you dehydrate jerky too quickly at too high of temps, you’ll ruin the flavor, and you’ll produce dry jerky. You don’t want dry, tough jerky.
Here are some critical pieces of info to keep in mind when using your dehydrator for jerky:
The simple recipe below will get you a delicious first batch of jerky. It’s way cheaper (and better) than store-bought!
Note: This recipe is sodium-free. If you want to use curing salt for your jerky, go nuts! Figure 1 teaspoon of curing salt per 5 pounds of beef.
Placing the lean meat in the freezer for an hour before cutting will make it easier to slice. While the beef is in the freezer, make the marinade.
In a bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients to make a wet marinade. Feel free to tweak the marinade recipe to pack more flavor. After an hour, remove the beef from the freezer and slice the meat into thin strips. A sharp knife works best. Remove any chunks of fat and discard them.
Cut the beef into strips that are approximately ¼” in size. Thicker strips will take too long to dehydrate, and thinner ones will dehydrate too quickly and crack. Cutting the strips to a uniform thickness will ensure even cooking.
Place the meat strips in a bowl or a ziplock bag and pour all the marinade on the beef. Ensure the beef strips are completely coated in the wet marinade.
Marinate the meat in the fridge for 24 hours. Remove the beef from the fridge and prepare your food dehydrator.
Dry the excess marinade from each strip of meat using a paper towel before placing the strips on the food dehydrator rack.
Ensure the beef strips sit separately without overlapping. Set the dehydrator temperature to 165°F. After around 4 hours, the jerky should be ready.
Preheat your oven to a temperature of 175°F. If you’ve got a convection oven, use it! The fan blows air through the oven, cooking food more evenly. Spread parchment paper on a baking sheet. Place the raw jerky strips in a single layer on the parchment paper. Use multiple baking sheets if necessary.
Dehydrating beef jerky in a preheated oven will take around 3 to 4 hours. The warmer oven temperature speeds up the cooking.
After 3 hours, take out a strip of jerky and conduct the bend test. If it is not completely dry, let the dehydration process continue for another hour. Track the meat’s internal temperature. You’re shooting for 160°F.
Convection ovens cook faster than conventional ovens. If you’re using the convection setting, check the jerky after 2 to 3 hours. Try the bend test after 2 hours.
An air fryer will make a smaller amount of jerky, but it is efficient. It’s essentially a countertop convection oven.
Turn on the dehydrator setting and set the temperature to 175°F. If your fryer doesn’t have a dehydrator setting, just set the temp to 175°F.
Dehydrating jerky should take 2 to 3 hours in an air fryer. Conduct a bend test after 2 hours and track the internal temperature of the beef.
Once your jerky is cooked, store it in an airtight container. Air is the enemy: it shortens the lifespan of the jerky. Remove as much air as possible. If you’ve got a vacuum sealer, use it!
Jerky can sit out for up to 1 week at room temperature if you don’t use curing salts. Store in a cool, dark place like your pantry. Sunlight exposure can accelerate mold growth.
Cured jerky will last 2 to 3 weeks.
This cooked jerky can stay fresh in the fridge for 2 weeks. If you use a cure, it’ll be good for about a month.
Both cured and uncured beef jerky can stay good for 6 months in the freezer. This is particularly handy if you want to store a huge batch of jerky.
You can, but I would advise against it. I think it’s best to be awake so you can monitor your cooking progress.
Yes, you can. I don’t recommend leaving jerky in the dehydrator for longer than 6 hours. The sweet spot for dehydrating beef jerky in the dehydrator is 4 hours to 6 hours.
Any longer will dehydrate the jerky too much. You’ll have jerky that’s hard and brittle. If the “bend test” results in a complete break of the jerky, then you have left it for too long.
Beef jerky is a rich source of protein and iron. When eaten in moderation, it is a healthy source of both.
Store-bought jerky is high in sodium content owing to the dehydration and marination processes. If you’re watching your salt intake, avoid jerky or reduce the amount of salt when making your own. The recipe I provided doesn’t have much salt.
Cooking jerky before dehydrating may ruin the flavor of the end product. The dehydrating process cooks the food to a safe temperature (160°F).
While any meat can be used to make jerky, lean beef produces the best results. Some cuts to look for include:
Fatty beef takes too long to dehydrate, and fat cells cannot be completely dehydrated. Go with lean beef.
Yes, you can.
You can dehydrate chicken to make jerky in a dehydrator, an oven, or an air fryer in much the same way as beef. Follow the procedures above and cook to an internal temperature of 165°F.
Jerky can be made in 4 to 6 hours in a dehydrator. You can also use your oven or an air fryer to whip up a batch. These cookers cut down on cooking time. Remember to experiment with different marinade flavors to find the perfect jerky recipe for you. Bon appetit!