The handling and consumption of any raw meat carries with it certain risks, we at highly recommend that anyone who attempts to make jerky at home review the U.S.D.A guidelines below before you do so. You should familiarize yourself with some of the inherent risks of attempting to make homemade jerky.

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before beginning to work and after changing tasks or after doing anything that could contaminate your hands, such as sneezing or using the bathroom.
  • Start with clean equipment and clean it thoroughly after using. Be sure all surfaces that come into contact with meat are clean.
  • Sanitize surfaces with a solution of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Allow to air dry.
  • Keep meat and poultry refrigerated at 40 °F or slightly below. Use or freeze ground beef and poultry within 2 days; whole red meats, within 3 to 5 days.
  • Defrost frozen meat in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter. Keep raw meat separate from other foods.
  • Marinate meat in the refrigerator. Don’t save marinade to reuse (this could cause cross-contamination). Marinades are used to tenderize and flavor the jerky before dehydrating it.
  • Steam or roast meat to 160 °F and poultry to 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer before dehydrating it in order to destroy pathogenic micro-organisms.
  • Dry meats in a food dehydrator that has an adjustable temperature dial and will maintain a temperature of at least 130 to 140 °F throughout the drying process.
  • For ground beef jerky prepared at home, safety concerns related to E coli are minimized if the meat is precooked to 160 °F prior to drying. Meat cooking temperatures are very important so pay close attention to them if at all possible.
  • Homemade jerky can only be stored for one to two months, while commercially produced jerky can last a year.
  • Most salted jerky can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer for two to three months. Any longer and it deteriorates. Unsalted jerky should be refrigerated and used within two weeks.

Do you want more information about making your own jerky? Download our Beef Jerky Recipes ebook while it's FREE and you'll also get a ton of tips, tricks and how-to videos to help you along your way! But's only free for a limited time!

17 Responses »

  1. by Ervin

    how long should ground meat cook at 160 degrees before beginning dehydrating?

  2. by Ed Heiney

    If I am using the oven method, how do you recommend to steam or roast the meat? This is after I cut and marinate my strips correct?
    Thank you.

  3. by JerkyRecipes


    Oven – lay out the strips on a cookie sheet lined with foil, in rows and a single layer. The pieces in the middle will dry slower and you will also need to turn the pieces over at the end and dry a while longer to ensure the bottoms get dry. Cook at 140-170 degrees anywhere from 10-14 hours propping open the door to allow moisture to escape and to lower the oven temperature when necessary.

    This is just another technique that helps to dehydrate the meat, there shouldn’t be any roasting or cooking involved. Low heat for a long period of time is essentially what you’re trying to do.

  4. by jerkybot


    how do you visually check whether it’s dry enough?

    i didn’t know about this website when i made my batch today. i hanged the marinated strips in the oven with the door open for 8 plus hours. the first 2 hours the oven was on about 120 degree. then i turned it off and placed a fan in front of the oven. they seemed to be done.

    thank you.

  5. by Wale

    When it comes to making Jerky, do you cook the meat first or you marinate it and go straight to dehydrating it? this is my only issue before i start making jerky. Do i cook the meat first or just go ahead and dehydrate it raw? Im lost…

  6. by admin


    You always want to marinate thoroughly then dehydrate, this allows the marinade to penetrate the meat to ensure a more flavorful taste.


  7. by jeff

    i am using a propane smoker with wood chips. just wondering how long to smoke then dry for beef jerky only.
    and how hot cold or hot smoke.

  8. by Andrew

    Hi there, just wondering if I should marinate my meat before or after slicing it? In either case, how long can I marinate my meat safely? Also, will vacuum-sealing the meat and marinate together allow me to marinate for longer?

  9. by Ken

    “Homemade jerky can only be stored for one to two months, while commercially produced jerky can last a year.”

    What is it that makes commercial jerky store longer?

  10. by D$

    It’s really not that hard! Cut meat into thin strips or buy it pre-cut. I use thin cut top sirloin or stir fry strips of beef. Marinate meat strips overnight. Then place in dehydrator or oven for about 4-7 hours depending on the thickness of the meat. In the oven, be sure to place foil in the bottom of the over or you will have a mess. It only takes one time to figure that out! Keep heat around 150-180 degrees and prop the door open with a wooden spoon.

  11. by keith


    just to be clear I use marinades that have alot of salt, and don’t use sodium nitrate or Quickcure. I marinade for 10-12 hours and then paper towel dry and then straight to the dehydrator at 155-160 degrees. My questions is am I Supposed to be using Sodium Nitrate?? I know i’m using salt but whats the nitrate for? Just dont want to wipe out my whole family from bochalism…please respond bochalism.

    Thanks Keith

  12. by Ken

    Nitrates are optional. From my understanding, they can extend shelf life and curtail bacteria. They also preserve more of a red color with beef and add a distinctive flavour. They also have been implicated as carcinogenic. They are needed for true curing. I’ve never used them, but would like to try it at some point. Botulism is a bacteria that thrives in an oxygen free environment, that’s why it’s a concern with canning. It’s not an issue with jerky. It’s e. coli that’s more of an issue here. Dehydrating at 160 F will go a long way in stopping bacteria.

  13. by Ken

    There’s a great entry on wikipedia about sodium nitrite. Long story short, the carcinogenic activity is only a problem if the meat is cooked at high temps. It sounds quite safe if used properly. After reading this, I might want to add a bit of vitamin c when I start using a cure.

  14. by Dan

    If you precook the ground venison, wouldn’t that make it hard to squeeze through a jerky gun and keep its shape? Would it be okay to cook the ground jerky after it is dehydrated down. I know its harder to kill bacteria when its dry, but if it was cooked longer would it do the job?

  15. by Bryan

    You do not have to worry about bringing your jerky meat up to 160 degrees before dehydrating it to kill Ecoli, etc. Check out this government site that explains it all (skip to the charts midway down). You can cook beef at 140 for 12 minutes, 145 for 4 minutes, 158 for 1 second, etc. and accomplish the same result.

  16. by michael

    Hello, I just started making jerky and i used a gun and ground beef. my question is ive be checking it and my family like it soft how, so how do you know when its safe cause i like it after about 4 hours

  17. by Johnston

    You all should watch Good Eats with Alton Brown on youtube, you dont need heat at all. He uses a fan and furnace filters, and he talks about dehydrators too.

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