When purchasing meats for jerky, choose lean meats with minimal marbling (fat), as fat tends to get rancid during storage. A lean cut of flank steak or round steak makes excellent jerky. Most lean meats will yield about 1 pound of jerky for 3 pounds of meat. Jerky may be made from a variety of meats including wild game meats, fish and poultry. Use filets of fish and breast of chicken.
You can make delicious jerky from ground meat, using NESCO®/American Harvest® Jerky Works™ Kit. It's best to use ground round or lean (or extra lean) meat. Season with NESCO®/American Harvest® Jerky seasoning mixes.
When making jerky from pork, chicken, or turkey for human consumption, prepare into strips or chunks as desired. Cook in your oven at a minimum temperature of 160°F (60°C) for at least 60 minutes as a precaution against risk of salmonella. Place pork, chicken or turkey on dehydrator trays. Dehydrate at 160°F until dry. If you are making jerky from pork, chicken or turkey for pet treats, you do not need to cook in your oven prior to dehydrating.
When you are jerking game meats, freeze meat for at least 60 days at 0°F (-18°C) before drying as a precaution against any diseases the animal might be carrying. Then thaw meat, add seasoning and press into strips or sticks, and place on trays to dry.
Depending on how thick meat is cut, how heavily dryer is loaded, and the humidity, jerky takes from 4 to 15 hours to dry. Marinate your meat for 6-8 hrs or overnight. Before dehydrating game meat, heat oven at minimum temperature of 160°F (60°C) for at least 30 minutes as a precaution against risk of salmonella. Be sure to dry it at highest temperature setting.
Pat jerky with clean paper towels several times as it dries, to remove oil that accumulates on top of jerky. When removing jerky from dehydrator trays, wrap it in paper towels and let it stand for a couple hours prior to packaging. Excess fat will be absorbed in the paper towels and shelf life will be extended.
With a sharp knife, remove all fat, gristle, membranes and connecting tissue. Cut into strips 1/4" to 3/8" thick and 5" to 6" long. It is easier to slice partially frozen meat for jerky. Cut meat in uniform thickness so it will dry in same amount of time. Cut strips across grain to produce jerky that is easier to break apart and chew.
Marinate cut meats in either store-bought marinade or your own recipe. Marinate 4 to 8 hours or overnight in refrigerator before drying. NESCO®/American Harvest® Jerky Seasonings can also be used to marinate by mixing one package of cure, one package of spice/seasoning and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water per pound of meat. Marinating adds flavor as well as tenderizes. The longer meat marinates, the more flavorful the jerky. If you use your own recipe, be sure to use a curing spice combination that includes Salt, Sodium Nitrite to prevent bacterial growth during the initial stages of drying.
Cure packs can be obtained by:
Calling our Customer Service Dept. at 1-800-288-4545
To make jerky from ground meat, choose 85% to 90% lean meat. Beef, venison, buffalo and turkey are the most popular choices. Ground meat jerky is easier to make, dries faster, and is less expensive and easier to chew than jerky slices. Add one package of jerky seasoning mix and cure per pound of ground meat. Mix well and form into strips by using our NESCO®/American Harvest® Jerky Works™ Kit or a cookie press. Place on trays and dry.
Beef jerky that is stored un-refrigerated will start to go rancid at room temperature after 2 to 4 weeks. Refrigerate or freeze to keep fresh longer until ready to use. If any ice crystals have formed inside bag, re-package in a dry container. If jerky is dried thoroughly, it will last for several weeks in the outdoors or while traveling. All types of jerky must be dried sufficiently to avoid mold. If mold is found inside of storage bag of jerky, the whole container must be thrown away.
Jerky Made from Ground Meat:
Jerky is a great snack!
Step 1. Blend one seasoning and one cure packet of NESCO® Jerky Spices with one pound of extra lean ground beef.
Step 2. To load gun with jerky meat mixture, hold silver tab down and pull red knob all the way back.
Step 3. Unscrew red ring from end of tube. Place meat mixture into tube. Insert desired tip attachment.
Step 4. Push red knob until it presses against meat. Hold jerky gun over dehydrator tray and squeeze silver trigger repeatedly to release mixture onto tray. Dry jerky at highest temperature (160 degrees F) until jerky is "leathery." It will take 4 to 15 hours to dry.
Jerky Made from Sliced Meats:
Combine: 1 pound lean meat, cut into 1/8" to 1/4" thick strips with 1/4 cup water, add 1 packet Nesco®/American Harvest® jerky spice and cure. (Choose from our 12 great Jerky Spice flavors.)
Mix Jerky Spice seasoning with water. Place Jerky marinade and meat in a storage bag, seal and shake to mix completely. Refrigerate meat and Jerky marinade 8 to 24 hours. Place meat on dehydrator trays and dry at highest temperature setting 5 to 10 hours, or until done. Enjoy great tasting Jerky!
This Homemade Jerky Recipe also is great for making venison jerky and turkey jerky.
DEHYDRATING COOKED MEATS
If you are drying meats for other purposes than jerky such as stew, soups, sandwich spreads, or stroganoff, meat should be tender and choice. It must be cooked so it will not be tough and chewy when reconstituted. Using remainder of a chicken, dinner roast or leftover steak saves the step of precooking the meat. Dehydrate those leftovers for snacks, backpacking and camping meals.
The shelf life of dried, cooked meats is 2 to 3 weeks at room temperature. Store in refrigerator or freezer to maintain the best quality until ready for use; backpacking; or camping. They will stay fresh and tasty for up to 6 months in freezer.
Lean fish can be used for jerky. You can also dry fat fish, but it will not keep at room temperature for more than a week. Fish jerky should contain about 15% moisture when it is completely dry. It will be pliable but firm. If there is any doubt about dryness, store in refrigerator or freezer to avoid risk of spoilage.
Cooked fish may also be dried, although it has a different taste than fish jerky. It still makes a nice snack. Re-hydrating cooked fish is not recommended because the resulting product isn't very good.
Choose fresh fish to dry. If you catch the fish, clean it promptly and keep on ice until ready to dehydrate. If purchasing fish, make sure it is fresh and not previously frozen. Frozen fish can still be made into jerky, but be aware that the quality is inferior to fresh.
Cut cold fish into 1/4" to 3/8" thick strips. Marinate in your own favorite marinade.
When using your own recipe, be sure to include at least 1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons curing spice combination which includes salt and sodium nitrite per pound of fresh fish. Salt slows growth of surface bacteria during initial stages of drying. Marinate at least 4 to 8 hours in refrigerator so fish will absorb salt and seasonings.
Dry fish jerky at 130°F to 140°F (55°C to 60°C) until they feel firm and dry, but don't crumble. There should be no moist spots.
Some pieces may dry in a shorter time than others. The dried foods should be removed and placed in an airtight container while allowing rest of pieces to remain in dehydrator until sufficiently dry.
Package all dried foods promptly to prevent contamination and to prevent stickiness and re-hydration caused by humidity. Store dried foods in airtight moisture-proof containers. Home vacuum packaging devices are ideal for packaging dried foods. They extend the shelf life of dried foods 3 to 4 times.
Since most packaging materials are transparent, store packaged dried foods in a plastic or metal container that will not allow light to penetrate. Do not store fruits and vegetables together in same container because flavor and moisture may transfer.
Fruit rolls are best if removed while still warm. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in airtight moisture-proof containers for storage.
Onions and tomatoes are especially prone to absorb moisture from the air and should be packaged immediately after removing from dehydrator.
The storage area should be cool, dry and as dark as possible. The darker and cooler the storage area, the longer dried foods will last with good quality and nutritive value.
The ideal storage temperature for dehydrated food is 60°F (15°C) to below freezing. The ideal storage place is your freezer or refrigerator, particularly for storing low acid foods such as meats, fish and vegetables.
Store dried fish jerky in freezer if it will not be consumed within 2 to 3 weeks.