Beef Jerky-Make It At Home (Dehydrator or Oven)

When I was growing up, my father would spend literally hours making the world’s best beef jerky.

really thin slices of beef jerky dehydrated
really thin slices of beef jerky dehydrated

He would choose the finest beef roast, marinate it in his special blend of seasonings, slice it paper thin, and stick it in a warm oven for 24-36 hours. The beef jerky smell would waft all through the house, and we could barely wait to try it.

As soon as the smell of the drying beef jerky began to drift from the oven, we would all sneak in there to sample and “check on it” for him. As a matter of fact, I don’t really remember there being any beef jerky to put away for later, as we would sample it all until it was gone.

Finally, after I got married, he shared the secret of making beef jerky. Out of all the beef jerky recipes I have tried, this one is my family’s favorite. Truly, the world’s best jerky recipe. One that beats store-bought hands down.

Now that I have a family of my own, I wanted to continue the tradition of simple, homemade, beef jerky.

So, I finally convinced my father to share his tried and true recipe. True to form, my family samples it until there is barely enough to try and save. As a matter of fact, the last time I made it, there wasn’t any by the time I went to put it away. Yep, I can feel my dad’s frustration here. And, yet his love…

If you’re ready to make your own beef jerky at home, here’s a guide to follow.

Should Beef Jerky Be Hard or Soft?

There are plenty of people who think that hard beef jerky is the only way to go. After all, this is the traditional way that beef jerky has been made for centuries.

When done right, hard beef jerky is packed with flavor and has a satisfyingly chewy texture. Plus, many people argue that hard beef jerky simply tastes better than its soft counterpart.

On the other hand, there are also plenty of people who prefer soft beef jerky. Proponents of this type of beef jerky say that it’s easier to eat and doesn’t require as much chewing.

Soft beef jerky also tends to be more tender, which some people prefer. And because it’s less chewy, soft beef jerky can be a good option for people who have trouble with dental health issues like TMJ or gingivitis.

So, what’s the verdict? Should you go for hard or soft beef jerky? Ultimately, the answer comes down to personal preference. Both types of beef jerky have their own unique set of pros and cons.

But if you’re interested in softer jerky, I do have some steps below to help you rehydrate jerky that’s gotten too hard.

How Do You Make Beef Jerky More Tender?

For anyone who has ever had beef jerky that was too tough, you know how important it is to have the perfect level of tenderness. The good news is, there are a few things you can do to make your beef jerky more tender.

Soak the Meat First

One of the best things you can do to make your beef jerky more tender is to soak it in a marinade before dehydrating it. This ensures that the meat is infused with flavor and that it stays moist during the dehydrating process.

We recommend soaking your beef in a marinade for at least four hours, but overnight is even better. Just be sure to drain the marinade off before putting the meat in the dehydrator.

Use Leaner Cuts of Meat

If you’re having trouble with tough beef jerky, try using leaner cuts of meat. The fat content in fattier meats can make them tougher when they are dried. So, if you want tender beef jerky, go for leaner cuts like flank steak or London broil.

Choose Your Dehydrating Method Carefully

If you’re dehydrating your beef jerky in an oven, be sure to set it to the lowest temperature possible. Dehydrating meat at too high of a temperature will make it tougher. If you’re using a dehydrator, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for temperature and time.

Does Sugar Make Jerky More Tender?

You may have heard that sugar is sometimes used as an ingredient in jerky recipes, but does it really make a difference?

Sugar is often used as an ingredient in savory dishes because it helps to balance out the other flavors. This is especially important in jerky since there are usually only a few ingredients.

Without sugar, the other flavors in jerky can taste too harsh or one-dimensional. Sugar rounds out the flavors and makes them more complex and well-rounded.

In addition to balancing flavors, sugar also acts as a natural tenderizer. This is because sugar breaks down proteins, which makes the meat more tender. So if you’re looking for a way to make your jerky even more tender, sugar is the answer!

Just be sure not to add too much, or your jerky will be too sweet. A good rule of thumb is to start with 1 teaspoon of sugar per pound of meat.

Ingredients for Making Beef Jerky

Here’s what you will need for great-tasting homemade beef jerky:

  1. Mix the beef jerky marinade together, and add the roast, turning to coat.
  2. Marinate for 24 hours in the fridge
  3. Remove roast, cut the meat very thinly, and remove as much fat as possible.
  4. Return to the marinade for an additional 24 hours.

Dehydrating Beef Jerky in a Dehydrator

  1. Place the meat on dehydrator racks, and dehydrate at 155 F (68 C) for 12-24 hours.
  2. Set traps to keep family out of the jerky.
  3. Check on it several times, as you will notice there will be some missing after the kids go into the kitchen to “get a drink”. They will be testing “just a little bit” for you to check for doneness.

When you visit a link in this article that takes you to a different website where you can purchase something, I may earn a commission. Read my full disclosure for more details.

This is my favorite dehydrator, available at my affiliate partner. I love how easy it is to use, and I use it for almost everything!

Dehydrating Beef Jerky in an Oven

You can also dehydrate this in an oven by following this procedure:

  • Slice the meat into thin strips, as above
  • Lay in a single layer on a baking sheet
  • Place in a 200-degree oven for 6-8 hours, flipping over after 3 hours.

How Long Should Jerky Sit After Dehydrating?

Dehydrating meat is a process that removes the water content from the meat, which in turn preserves it. The water content in meat is what causes bacterial growth, so by removing the water content, you are also removing the possibility of bacterial growth.

Dehydrating meat is a great way to preserve it for a long period of time but you also need to make sure the meat sits for a period of time to ensure that the process is completed as successfully as possible.

The process of dehydrating meat itself is simple. The general rule of thumb is that the temperature should be between 160 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower end of that range will result in a tougher jerky, while the higher end will result in a softer jerky.

The length of time that you dehydrate the meat will depend on how thick the strips are. Thin strips will take less time than thick strips.

Once the jerky is done dehydrating, it is important to let it sit out so that any residual moisture can evaporate. This can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight. Once the jerky is completely dry, it can be stored in an airtight container for up to six months.

Can You Overcook Jerky in a Dehydrator?

The answer is yes, you can overcook Jerky in a dehydrator. Here is why.

The reason why you can overcook jerky in a dehydrator is because the meat will continue to cook even after you have turned off the dehydrator. This is due to the fact that the meat will retain heat. Therefore, it is important to monitor the temperature of the meat carefully so that you do not overcook it.

Another reason why you can overcook jerky in a dehydrator is that the jerky will become tough and chewy if it is overcooked. This is not something that you want to happen because it will make the jerky very difficult to eat.

What to Do With Jerky After Dehydrating?

Dehydrated jerky is a delicious and healthy snack that can be enjoyed in many different ways. There are endless possibilities when it comes to what to do with dehydrated jerky, and if you’re planning on rehydrating the jerky in any way, it’s important that you first have a clear idea of what you will ultimately do with it.

Depending on how you plan to use the jerky, it may or may not be a good candidate for rehydrating.

Here are some quick ideas to help get the creative kitchen juices flowing:

  • Enjoy it as-is: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Dehydrated jerky is delicious on its own and makes for a quick and easy snack.
  • Add it to salads: Looking for a way to add some extra protein to your salad? Dehydrated jerky is the perfect solution. Just add a few pieces to your favorite salad recipe and enjoy.
  • Make a wrap: Dehydrated jerky also makes a great addition to wraps and sandwiches. Simply add a few pieces of jerky to your favorite wrap or sandwich recipe for an extra kick of flavor. I love it in a wrap with a bit of mushroom and ranch! This is perhaps my favorite out of all the jerky recipes out there.
  • Use it as toppings: Don’t limit yourself to just wraps and sandwiches – dehydrated jerky also makes a great topping for pizzas, pasta, and more. Get creative and see what new flavor combinations you can come up with.
  • Add it to soups: Another great way to add some extra protein (and flavor) to your favorite soup recipes is to add some dehydrated jerky. Just throw in a few pieces and let them cook until tender.
  • Make trail mix: Dehydrated jerky is a great addition to trail mix or any other type of custom-made snack mix. Just mix it in with your favorite nuts, seeds, fruits, grain, and more for a nutritious and delicious snack.
  • Use it as bait: If you’re an avid fisherman, you know that bait can be expensive – but not if you use dehydrated jerky! Simply cut up your favorite jerky into small baits and you’re good to go.
  • Make dog treats: Dehydrated Jerky is not just for humans – dogs love it too! Just cut up some pieces into small treating-sized bites and let your furry friend enjoy it.
  • Sautéed vegetables: Sautéed vegetables are a delicious and healthy side dish – but they can be even better with the addition of some dehydrated jerky bits. Give it a try the next time you make sautéed veggies at home. It’s especially delicious tossed in some olive oil, garlic powder, salt, onion powder, and black pepper with vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and beans.

Beef Jerky Storage

Store beef jerky in an airtight container, if you actually have any left. I *THINK* that this will store for at least 3 months, but I have yet to have any last long enough to test that theory.

Mason jars are perfect for storing your beef jerky—just make sure to screw the lid on tightly! You can also use a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, or even a zip-top bag.

If you’re planning on eating your beef jerky within a week or two, you can store it at room temperature; just make sure to keep it in a cool, dark place (like a pantry or cupboard).

If you want to keep your beef jerky for longer than that, though, you’ll need to store it in the fridge or freezer.

When stored in the refrigerator, beef jerky will last for up to two months. Just put it in an airtight container—again, a mason jar or zip-top bag will work perfectly—and pop it in the fridge. When stored in the freezer, beef jerky will last for up to six months.

Again, use an airtight container, but this time wrap the meat in foil before putting it in the freezer; this will help prevent freezer burn.

How Can You Tell if Beef Jerky Has Gone Bad?

Jerky is a dried and cured meat that should be stored in a cool, dry place. If it’s not stored properly, it can start to grow mold or bacteria.

Here are a few signs to look for that will help you determine if your beef jerky has gone bad (and believe it or not, toughness or hardness is not one of them):

  • The color has changed from a deep red to a brownish color.
  • There is white mold on the surface of the jerky.
  • The texture of the meat is more mushy than chewy.
  • There is an off odor coming from the bag.
  • The meat is slimy to the touch.

If you see any of these signs, it’s best to throw the beef jerky away. When in doubt, throw it out! It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to food safety.

Beef Jerky Storage

Store beef jerky in an airtight container, if you actually have any left. I *THINK* that this will store for at least 3 months, but I have yet to have any last long enough to test that theory.

Homemade beef jerky is great for snacking, camping, or hiking. It’s a great source of protein that will store on the pantry shelf. Of course, that assumes that you have any left over.

And that’s all there is to it! By following these simple tips, you can enjoy fresh, delicious beef jerky anytime you want.

Have you made homemade beef jerky? Will you try this recipe? be sure to pin it for later on your Pinterest board!

10 thoughts on “Beef Jerky-Make It At Home (Dehydrator or Oven)”

  1. My guarded recipe is available for a slight fee. If you use less salt, it is a low sodium snack. Lower heat if possible is also an idea.

    Love the jerky.
    love dad

  2. I have an old family recipe that my grandma used on beef brisket, and the family loves the flavor so much that I make my jerky with it…hands down the best we have ever had no matter where you buy it! I may just have to patten it…lol

  3. Kylee @

    Hey, Heather – just poking around your site. I want a dehydrator, but cannot find anyone I know that owns one to recommend one to me.
    Teach me your ways! Can you let me know? [email protected]

  4. We bought our dream home a few years back and guess what??? The oven has a lot of unusual settings on it and one says “dehydrator” Awesome!
    I can’t wait to try it!

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