Okay, I have my freshly marinated meat strips in my food dehydrator for my homemade beef jerky. The temperature, or rather the thermostat is set to what my owner’s manual recommends.
How long should I dry it?
Homemade Beef Jerky – Is It Done Yet?
Well, hate to say this, but it really depends?
It depends on what, you might say?
Well, how thick did you slice those meat strips for your beef jerky?
How much of the marinade did the meat strips absorb? Mine absorbs about 2 or 3 ounces per pound of meat.
How much salt was in that marinade?
What was else was in the marinade?
How humid is it?
How many drying trays are in your food dehydrator?
The airflow in your food dehydrator?
What temperature is your food dehydrator set to?
What is the room temperature?
Yep, there are a lot of factors! A LOT OF FACTORS?
So, what I am saying is that drying beef jerky at home is not an exact science, BUT IT IS ALSO NOT COMPLICATED!!!
Like making your homemade bread, it just might be more art, or rather a good amount of practice, than it is a science! I have been making my own beef jerky since the mid 1980’s. So I do have a bit of practice under my belt!
Start checking your food dehydrator somewhere around four or five hours. Just peek at a few trays and see how it’s coming along.
Is It Done Yet?
When finished, your beef jerky should look dry and feel dry. When it is warm and fresh from the food dehydrator, it will be very pliable. It needs to cool a while, --to feel like “beef jerky.” Actually, it also needs to cool completely before storing it away anyway.
Checking To See If Your Homemade Beef Jerky Is Done
- First, wait until your beef jerky has completely cooled off
- Look at all of your dryer trays, do all of those beef jerky strips should look dry and leathery?
- Handle a few of the thicker pieces, --they should feel dry and not at all soft!
- Bend a few of the thicker pieces, --it looks like your bending a green stick, if you fold them in half they do not snap in half. Some of them might break, but overall, do they bend like a green stick?
If not, just put them back in your food dehydrator and let them dry longer.
Is Your Jerky Over Dried?
- Does it easily crumble, --if you cut your meat strips against the grain or you have extra thin jerky, it might crumble anyway?
- Does it snap in half, like a potato chip?
Sure, you might over dry your first few batches of your homemade beef jerky; I did that a lot when I started! I was concerned about eating under-dried beef jerky, but eventually I got over that. Looking back, it was probably a phobia from reading about all of the horrible things that could happen if I didn’t to this or didn’t do that. But, the “this or that” never did happen! Scare tactics?
I still over dry every now and again, lots of variables. Sometimes I get wrapped up in a task and forget to check. This is not rocket science, but you know what, it still comes out as a tasty snack.
Note: Your beef jerky will lose over half its weight in moisture when it has finished drying. If you’re curious, just weigh the trimmed meat strips, before you add them to the marinade and record this number. Then weigh them again when finished.
Tip: Keep notes on what you’re doing! Track what works for you and what does not work. Did you tweak a recipe and like the results. Be sure to write it down for next time.