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how to make beef jerky without a food dehydrator


How to Make Beef Jerky Without a Food Dehydrator


Beef jerky is a delicious and nutritious snack that has been enjoyed for centuries. It is a great source of protein and can be packed with flavorful spices and marinades. While many people use food dehydrators to make beef jerky, not everyone has access to one. Luckily, there are alternative methods to create this tasty treat right at home without the need for special equipment. In this article, we will explore five different methods to make beef jerky without a food dehydrator.

Method 1: Using an Oven

If you don't have a dehydrator, your oven can work just as well. Follow these simple steps to make beef jerky using this method:

1. Slice the Meat: Start by selecting a lean cut of beef and slicing it into thin strips. It is crucial to cut against the grain to ensure a chewy texture in the finished product.

2. Marinate the Meat: Prepare your favorite marinade or use a pre-made one. Place the beef strips in a ziplock bag or a bowl and coat them thoroughly with the marinade. Let it sit for at least 4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to infuse.

3. Preheat the Oven: Preheat your oven to the lowest temperature setting. Ideally, it should be between 160°F (70°C) to 175°F (80°C). If your oven doesn't go this low, set it to the closest temperature.

4. Arrange the Jerky: Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on top. Arrange the marinated beef strips on the rack, making sure they don't touch each other. This will allow for better airflow during the drying process.

5. Bake the Jerky: Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and let it bake for 4-6 hours. Remember to periodically check the meat to ensure it doesn't burn or over-dehydrate. The jerky should be dry yet pliable when done.

Method 2: Air Drying

Air drying is a traditional method used for centuries to preserve meats. Here's how you can make beef jerky with this simple technique:

1. Prepare the Meat: Similar to the oven method, start by slicing a lean cut of beef against the grain into thin strips.

2. Season the Strips: Season the beef strips according to your preference. You can use a dry rub or a marinade to enhance the flavor. Let the seasoned beef sit for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to penetrate.

3. Hang the Strips: Take a clean piece of string or twine and thread it through the top part of each beef strip. Leave a small gap between each piece to allow for proper air circulation. Hang the strips in a well-ventilated area, such as near an open window or on a clothesline.

4. Patience is Key: This method requires ample time and patience, as the beef jerky will air dry naturally. It may take 1-2 days or even longer for the meat to dry completely, depending on the environmental conditions.

Method 3: Using a Box Fan

If you need beef jerky in a hurry, this box fan method can come to your rescue. Here's how to make jerky using this quick technique:

1. Slice the Meat: Start by slicing a lean cut of beef into thin, uniform strips. Cutting against the grain is essential for the best texture.

2. Marinate the Strips: Toss the beef strips in your desired marinade. Allow them to marinate for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

3. Construct a Drying Rack: Take a box fan and place it face-up on a table or counter. Next, take several air conditioning filters and stack them on top of the fan, making sure they fully cover the surface. These filters will act as a drying rack for the jerky.

4. Set the Jerky in Place: Arrange the marinated strips on top of the filters, ensuring they don't overlap. Once again, proper airflow during the drying process is critical.

5. Turn on the Fan: Turn the box fan on its highest setting and allow the air to flow through the filters and over the beef strips. Let the jerky dry for approximately 4-6 hours, flipping it once halfway through the process for even drying.

Method 4: Using a Smoker

Smoking your beef jerky imparts a tantalizing smoky flavor that many jerky enthusiasts love. If you own a smoker, follow these steps to create delectable smoked beef jerky:

1. Slice the Meat: Begin by slicing a lean cut of beef against the grain into thin strips, similar to the methods mentioned earlier.

2. Apply the Smoke: Build a fire in your smoker using hardwood or flavor-enhancing wood chips such as hickory, applewood, or mesquite. Once the smoker reaches a temperature of around 165°F (74°C), place the beef strips directly on the grates.

3. Monitor the Temperature: Maintain a consistent temperature during the smoking process by periodically adjusting the fire and adding more chips when needed. The ideal smoking temperature for beef jerky is between 150°F (65°C) to 175°F (80°C).

4. Remove and Cool: After approximately 3-4 hours, the beef jerky should be sufficiently smoked. Remove it from the smoker and let it cool completely before storing. The jerky will continue to dry as it cools down.

Method 5: Using a Sun-Drying Technique

If you live in a hot and dry climate, utilizing the power of the sun can be an effective method to make beef jerky. Here's how:

1. Prepare the Meat: Begin by selecting a lean cut of beef and slicing it into thin strips, similar to all the previous methods.

2. Season the Strips: Season the beef strips with your preferred spices and flavorings. Ensure that the seasoning is evenly distributed.

3. Place on a Drying Rack: To avoid any contamination or pests, place the seasoned beef strips on a clean, drying rack or mesh wire. Elevate the rack slightly to allow proper airflow from underneath.

4. Position in the Sun: Find a sunny spot in your yard that receives direct sunlight for most of the day. Place the drying rack with the beef strips in this location.

5. Monitor and Rotate: Check on the beef strips periodically throughout the day to monitor their progress. Rotate the strips or flip them over to allow for even drying. Generally, it may take 2-4 days for the jerky to dry thoroughly in sunnier climates.


Although using a food dehydrator is the most popular choice to make beef jerky, it is not the only option. By following the methods outlined in this article, you can still create delicious beef jerky without the need for additional equipment. Whether you prefer the oven, air drying, utilizing a box fan, smoker, or sun-drying, each method offers a unique experience and a chance to experiment with flavors and textures. So go ahead and enjoy your homemade beef jerky, knowing that you don't need any fancy equipment to indulge in this delightful snack.


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