One of the greatest things about hunting deer is the deer jerky. Knowing how long to dehydrate deer jerky is important though. Too little and you have bad bacteria trying to make you sick. Too long and you get tough, inedible strips of meat. Let’s go over how long to dehydrate deer jerky and a few other important things. This post also works for beef jerky or any other kind of wild game jerky.
HOW LONG TO DEHYDRATE DEER JERKY
I’m going to get straight to what you came here for. If you want to know about what meat cut to use and a great recipe for deer jerky, then keep reading. If not, here you go!
Jerky will be done when it is firm throughout the strip without any “spongy” feeling. They don’t break when you bend them. The color will be brown.
Begin checking your deer jerky around 3 hours. Most likely, your meat won’t be done. However, you might have a few smaller pieces that are dried. Depending on what temperature the deer jerky is cooking at, it could take 4 hours or it could take 10 hours. I find between 6-8 hours to be the sweet spot. We usually take half the meat out at 6 hours and the other half out around 7 or 8 hours.
- 160 degrees Fahrenheit – 4 hours
- 150 degrees Fahrenheit – 7 hours
- 140 degrees Fahrenheit – 8 hours
- 130 degrees Fahrenheit – 10 hours
Jerky will be ready when it is stiff to the point that the meat bends in the middle. If it doesn’t bend, keep drying. If it breaks, then you know you overdid it.
WHAT IS THE BEST CUT OF MEAT FOR JERKY?
Almost every part of the deer can be made into jerky, but that doesn’t mean it should be made into jerky. For instance, if you are using the backstrap for jerky, you are making a HUGE mistake. That is some good venison and needs to be eaten the right way.
The best cuts of meat for jerky are the roasts that you get from the hind legs. The rump roast for instance.
You don’t want fatty cuts of meat for jerky, you want lean meat with not much fat.
HOW LONG TO MARINATE JERKY
The length at which you marinate deer jerky all depends on how strong you want the flavor to be. To achieve full flavor, marinate 24 hours. Do not go any less than 4 hours though, I think you would be wasting your time and your meat. However, also don’t go over 48 hours because your deer meat will get mushy.
CAN I MAKE DEER JERKY IN THE OVEN?
Sure you can! Personally, I have never done it because I own a dehydrator. To make deer jerky in the oven, just preheat your oven between 130⁰F to 160⁰F.
Line jerky slices on the rack and make sure to place a baking sheet underneath to catch the dripping liquids. I would even add aluminum foil for easy clean up. For best results, leave the oven door open slightly, which will allow some air flow inside to help dry the jerky.
Drying time will be the same as above, 4-10 hours depending on your temperature and thickness of meat.
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HOW TO MAKE VENISON JERKY
The first step is to make your long strips of meat. Either with ground meat run through a jerky gun or just cut the meat into jerky strips yourself. If you are looking for an AWESOME meat grinder, check out Weston Pro Series Electric Meat Grinder. We have had ours for about 5 years now and it has been amazing. Before getting the Weston grinder, we had another brand and didn’t think it was horrible. However, once getting the Weston, I can tell you now that it makes a HUGE difference in our processing.
When making deer jerky, we find that just cutting the strips ourselves is less work. Making thicker slices will take longer to dehydrate but that is probably the only drawback. If you have less time or prefer less meat, make thin strips.
Make a jerky marinade by using whatever ingredients you choose based on your personal preference. There are a billion different recipes you can find but I will link mine just below this. A jerky recipe could have soy sauce, liquid smoke, worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, or black pepper in it. The possibilities for homemade jerky really are endless though.
Dump all your ingredients into ziploc bag or airtight containers. We use a casserole sized glass container with lid to marinate. Marinate for a long time. 24 hours is a good time frame.
The next day, place meat strips in a single layer onto your jerky dehydrator. There are plenty of options out there if you are looking for a good dehydrator. Ours is a round dehydrators, which we have had for over a decade. The plan when this dehydrator goes south though is to look into Weston dehydrators. Not because ours hasn’t been great, but because I like the idea of having the pull out trays to look at each individual tray without having to take all the round trays apart.
Now it’s time to dry deer jerky! The dehydration process is about to begin. Set a low temperature on your food dehydrator and walk away.
About 3 hours into the dehydration time, I like to flip the jerky. Honestly, this could be a completely unnecessary step, but it is what I do. After this, I start checking the jerky every hour or so. The exact time all depends on so many different variables. This is what I find to be the best way to make sure you aren’t having overcooked jerky.
HOMEMADE JERKY RECIPE
- 2 lbs meat (deer, goose, beef, etc.) (sliced thin)
- 1/4 cup liquid aminos (soy sauce works too but is not as healthy)
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 5 cloves garlic (minced)
- 3 tbsp worcesterhire sauce
- 4 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Mix all the marinade ingredients together in large bowl.
- Put the sliced meat into marinade and refrigerate for 8-48 hours. If you choose to keep marinating longer, I suggest stirring halfway through. However, this isn't completely necessary.
- Dehydrate for 4-8 hours at 155 degrees. Turn meat over halfway through cook time. Again, not completely necessary but helpful.
This recipe is very forgiving. If you don't have garlic, add more garlic powder or garlic salt. If you don't like chili powder, leave it out. Measurements don't need to be exact. Play around and see what you like!
HOW LONG DOES DEER JERKY LAST?
Deer jerky lasts a while, I think. In our home, it has never lasted more than 3 days, and that is with hiding it. From what I have read though, the shelf life of jerky can last one to three months if properly stored. If you place in the freezer, it can last 6 months.
You can keep jerky in ziplock bags, an airtight container, or brown lunch sacks.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN DEER JERKY IS DONE DEHYDRATING?
You want it to look brown. Well, reddish brown. No squishiness. Honestly, I just taste it once it’s not squishy. Half of the family likes their jerky where it is just barely done and the other half likes it a bit harder. So we will pull off half when it just finishes drying and the other half a little bit later. Do a bend test and if it bends, you have yourself a finished product.
CAN YOU DEHYDRATE JERKY TOO LONG?
Absolutely! If your meat breaks when you bend it, then you have yourself some very dry meat. The next time you use the drying process, take it out sooner.
WHAT TEMPERATURE SHOULD I DEHYDRATE DEER JERKY?
You should dehydrate deer jerky between 130⁰F to 160⁰F. The higher temperatures will dry faster and the lower temperature will dry slower. Personally, I dehydrate at 155⁰F.
CAN JERKY BE PINK IN THE MIDDLE?
Once you have dried out the jerky, it should appear darker. Nothing pink. You can tell the difference between raw meat and dry jerky based off of color. Preventing e. coli or any other bacterial growth is important so don’t eat jerky that is pink in the middle.