How Long To Dehydrate Beef Jerky? A Complete Guide

March 24, 2023

You can dehydrate meat and make tasty jerky within 4 – 5 hours using a food dehydrator. It should take 3 – 4 hours in an oven and 2 hours in an air fryer. Dehydrating jerky should be done at a steady temperature of between 160 – 175 degrees Fahrenheit.

As a connoisseur of all things meat, I have been making my own jerky at home, which is why I know a thing or two about dehydrating meats. While it may take long to dehydrate jerky, it is well worth the wait.

In this article, I have taken a look at how long it will take to make the perfect beef jerky.

How Long To Dehydrate Beef Jerky

How Long Does Jerky Take In A Dehydrator At 160 Degrees?

Dehydrating jerky at 160 degrees in a dehydrator should take 4 – 5 hours.

Jerky strips thicker than 1/4 inch may require up to 8 hours. Conduct a bend test to ensure you do not overdo the jerky.

What Temperature Do You Dehydrate Jerky At?

The ideal temperature for making beef jerky is 160 – 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Dehydrating jerky is essentially curing meat so it should be done slowly for optimal results.

The temperature of the meat should reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that pathogens are destroyed. That said if you dehydrate jerky too quickly will ruin the flavor and produce a less tasty dry jerky.

Can You Leave Jerky In The Dehydrator For Too Long?

It is not recommended to leave jerky in the dehydrator for longer than 5 hours.

If you follow the instructions above, the sweet spot for dehydrating beef jerky in the dehydrator should be 4 hours or 5 hours if your raw meat was exceptionally succulent.

Any longer will dehydrate the jerky completely making it hard and brittle. If a bend test results in a complete break of the jerky then you have left it for too long.

Keep this in mind when using your dehydrator:

  • 1/4 inch thick beef strips
  • Single layer – do not stack the strips on each other
  • 160 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 4 – 5 hours to dry
process of making beef jerky

Can You Leave Meat In The Dehydrator Overnight?

Yes. If the beef strips are thicker than 1/2 inch and succulent, it would be better to leave the beef in the dehydrator overnight.

If you have placed the strips on top of each other, leaving the beef in the dehydrator overnight is best.

How To Dehydrate Jerky?

The simple recipe below will get you a sumptuous batch of jerky for a beginner.


  • 4 lbs of lean beef
  • 10 0z. Worcestershire sauce
  • 10 oz. Soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Garam masala
  • 1 tsp Chilies
  • 1 tsp Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp Black pepper
  • 3 – 5 oz. Liquid smoke

How To Prepare Beef Jerky Strips?

Using a sharp knife, cut away as much fat as possible from the beef. Place the lean meat in the fridge for an hour. This will make it easier to slice. As the beef cools down, make the marinade.

In a bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients to make 500 ml of a wet marinade. Feel free to tweak the marinade recipe to pack more flavor. After an hour retrieve and slice the meat into thin strips.

Ensure that the strips are approximately ¼ inch in size. Thicker strips may take too long to dehydrate properly and thinner ones may dehydrate too quickly and crack.

Place the meat strips in a bowl or a ziplock bag and pour all the marinade on the beef. Ensure the beef strips are evenly and completely coated in the wet marinade.

Marinate the meat in the fridge for 4 – 24 hours. Remove the beef from the fridge and ready your food dehydrator. If you don’t own a dehydrator, you can get one from Amazon.

How to Dehydrate Jerky In A 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 temperature to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. After 4 hours, the jerky should be ready. 

How To Dehydrate Jerky In The Oven?

Preheat your oven to an internal temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread aluminum foil on the baking sheet and ensure it is well covered. Place a baking rack on the foil and place the raw jerky strips in a single layer, on the rack.

Dehydrating beef jerky in a preheated oven will take 3 – 4 hours.

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.

holding dry beef jerky

How To Dehydrate Jerky Using An Air Fryer?

An air fryer will typically make a smaller amount of jerky but it is efficient.

Place marinated beef strips in the fryer and cook the beef at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for no longer than 3 minutes. This will dehydrate the beef quickly.

Switch to the dehydrator setting and set the temperature to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dehydrating jerky should take 2 hours to dry in an air fryer. After 2 hours the drying process should be complete and the jerky is done. Conduct a bend test just to be sure.

How To Store Homemade Beef Jerky?

Airtight Containers:

If your jerky is well-done, store it in an airtight container. It can remain in this container for up to 2 weeks at room temperature.

In the fridge:

Well-done jerky can stay fresh in the fridge for 3 – 6 months.

In the freezer:

Beef jerky can stay fresh for 1 year in the freezer. This is particularly handy if you want to store a huge batch of jerky.

Vacuum Sealing:

Vacuum sealing allows you to remove all the air from the storage bag, which in turn, extends the shelf life of your jerky. Most microorganisms require air to grow so this is an effective method of long-term preservation.

Is Beef Jerky A Healthy Snack?

Beef jerky is a rich source of protein and iron. When eaten in moderation, it is a healthy source of both.

Jerky is high in sodium content owing to the dehydration and marination processes. This makes it an unhealthy snack in the long term. Store-bought jerky is also preserved using sodium nitrite to prevent the proliferation of bacteria and extend shelf life.

While the amount may be too minimal to make any impact, people with ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, renal failure, and liver conditions should avoid the snack altogether.

Related Reading


Do You Have To Cook Jerky Before Dehydrating It?

No. Cooking jerky before dehydrating may ruin the flavor of the end product.

What Is The Best Meat For Making Beef Jerky?

Any meat can be used to make jerky but lean beef produces the best results. Fatty beef takes too long to dehydrate and fat cells cannot be completely dehydrated, which means the final product will begin to go rancid when stored. 

beef jerky in a bowl

Some commercial brands use ground beef but this is nearly impossible to execute using a food dehydrator or any other method at home.

If you don’t intend to store jerky meat, you can get away with using fattier cuts.

Can You Make Jerky From Chicken Meat?

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 let the temperature remain at a steady 165 degrees Fahrenheit for the chicken to ensure those nasty pathogens are destroyed.


Dry Jerky should have a curing time between 4 – 5 hours in a dehydrator to ensure it has lost two-thirds of its moisture content. Remember to experiment with different marinade flavors to find what appeals to your palate best. Bon appetit!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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