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how to use a food dehydrator for jerky


Food dehydrators are a valuable tool for making delicious jerky right at home. Jerky, a tasty and protein-packed snack, is loved by many for its long shelf life and snackability. With a food dehydrator, you can easily create your own flavorful and customized jerky variations. In this article, we will explore the process of using a food dehydrator to make jerky. From preparing the meat to seasoning and drying, we will cover it all. So, let's dive in and discover the secrets of making mouthwatering jerky with a food dehydrator.

1. Choosing the Right Meat Cuts for Jerky

2. Preparing the Meat for Dehydration

3. Marinating and Seasoning

4. Loading the Dehydrator Trays

5. Drying and Storing Jerky

Choosing the Right Meat Cuts for Jerky

The first step in making delicious jerky is selecting the right meat cuts. Not all cuts of meat are suitable for jerky, as some may be too fatty or tough. Ideally, lean meats like beef, venison, turkey, or chicken breast work best for jerky. These meats have low-fat content, ensuring your jerky doesn't spoil quickly.

To achieve perfect jerky, it is crucial to slice the meat against the grain. Doing so reduces the toughness of the beef. Cutting the meat into thin and even slices is essential to ensure that it dries uniformly. A thickness of about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch is ideal for most dehydrators.

Preparing the Meat for Dehydration

Once you have chosen the meat, it's time to prepare it for dehydration. Begin by trimming away any visible fat from the meat. Fat tends to go rancid faster than the rest of the meat, affecting the jerky's shelf life. Removing it ensures a longer-lasting and tastier end product.

After trimming, place the meat in a resealable plastic bag or a container suitable for marinating. This step allows you to infuse the meat with different flavors and tenderize it. Before marinating, it's essential to let the meat chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Chilled meat is much easier to slice uniformly and results in better jerky.

Marinating and Seasoning

Marinating is a crucial step in adding flavor and enhancing the taste of your jerky. It tenderizes the meat and allows it to absorb a variety of flavors. A great marinade typically consists of a combination of salty, sweet, and tangy ingredients. Common ingredients for marinades include soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, honey, garlic, onion powder, and various spices like paprika or chili powder.

Ensure that your meat is entirely coated with the marinade by gently massaging it. Once the meat is well-marinated, seal the container and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least a few hours, or overnight if possible. The longer the meat marinates, the stronger the flavors will be.

Loading the Dehydrator Trays

After marinating, remove the meat from the container and pat it dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Excessive moisture can significantly increase the drying time. Arrange the pieces of meat on the dehydrator trays, ensuring that they do not overlap. Overlapping can prevent proper airflow and slow down the dehydration process.

Depending on your dehydrator model, you might need to line the trays with a non-stick sheet, specifically designed for dehydrators. These sheets prevent the meat from sticking to the trays and ease the cleaning process.

Drying and Storing Jerky

Now comes the exciting part – drying the marinated meat to transform it into flavorful jerky. Place the loaded trays in the food dehydrator, ensuring there is enough space between them for proper air circulation. The ideal drying temperature for jerky is around 145°F (63°C). However, different dehydrators might have varying temperature settings, so adjust accordingly.

Leave the jerky to dry for several hours, typically around 4 to 8 hours. The exact time depends on various factors like the thickness of the meat slices and the moisture content. The jerky is ready when it turns dark, becomes firm but still pliable, and cracks when bent without breaking.

Once the jerky reaches the desired texture, remove it from the dehydrator and allow it to cool completely. While cooling, it's normal for some additional moisture to escape from the meat. Pat dry with paper towels if necessary.

To store your homemade jerky, place it in airtight containers or resealable bags. If stored properly, jerky can last for several weeks or even months without refrigeration. However, it's highly likely that you'll consume it all before it has a chance to go bad!


Using a food dehydrator to make jerky is a satisfying and rewarding experience. With a little practice and experimentation, you can create a variety of delicious jerky flavors using different marinades and seasonings. Remember to choose the right meat cuts, marinate sufficiently, and properly dry the jerky. So, fire up your food dehydrator and enjoy the mouthwatering results of your homemade jerky!


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