A cooking technique that has been around for hundreds of years is now an art form perfected by amateur and professional chefs everywhere. This section will explain to you exactly what dehydration is and how it pertains to preparing the best possible beef jerky, as well as all the modern day dehydration techniques and there functions.

Food Dehydration: is the process of removing water from food (usually through evaporation), which in turns prevents the growth of microorganisms and bacteria.

**If using dehydrator or oven, pre-heat to 145 degrees for 15-30 minutes prior.
**Be sure to check your jerky often. Do not rely on the times given.

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.

Grill – Lay the meat slices on a grill or grate that allows air to reach both sides and to flow around each piece. You can also place a couple pieces of meat on a took pick and hang the meat from the grate allowing the smoke to flow up the strips. However, any way you do it, the meat will drip so place a stray or aluminum foil under the meat. Space it as far underneath the meat as possible to avoid restricting the airflow. Cook at 200 degrees for 1 hour with indirect heat. If your grill cannot be held at this low temperature, cook for smoke flavor for about 20 minutes and then finish in the oven.

Dehydrator – Use a dehydrator with a built-in electric heater and fat. This allows fast, even drying with little risk of food spoilage. Look for a unit with a fan and a thermostat for best results. Cook at 140 degrees anywhere from 6-18 hours rotating trays every hour.

Smoker – Smokers provides a more natural flavored jerky. The heat to cook the meat is provided by the use of either an electric heating element or charcoal. Because of the difficulties associated with keeping charcoal at a consistent burning rate for the 10 hours required, electricity as a fuel source would be the best option. About 30 minutes before you start the smoke, light your briquettes in your chimney lighter, about 8 pieces aught to be about right, depending on the weather. Then, when the coals are almost ready, put them in the fire pan and start hanging your jerky. Save one or two hot briquettes in the chimney to light new ones as we go. You’ll need to add 2-3 hot briquettes about ever 45 minutes. Now, cover it up and add your soaked wood or foil packets. Use any hardwood for smoking (hickory or mesquite are the most common and one with a pecan base makes the best combo of smoky tasting without ashy tasting), alder chips or apple wood are excellent choices for wild game and never use pine, fir or conifers. Go ahead and smoke heavily for about 3 hours, then stop the smoke and continue drying for another 2 hours. Maintain 150 degrees for the entire cook. At about 4 hours you can start sampling. Somewhere between 4 and 6 hours, depending on taste, pull them off. Cook at 150 degrees for approximately 10 hours.

Microwave – While microwaving jerky is not a common method, it is still doable. However, be aware that it may cook the meat more than it may dry it out. Place the meat strips in a microwave roasting rack. Set the microwave on high for 4 to 6 minutes. After 4 minutes add time in 30-second increments until desired consistency. Traditionally, the idea is to have a dried jerky. This means a color change from brown to dark brown, and a consistency in the meat that has changed from supple to leathery in its texture.

Sun Drying – While sun drying has been around for a long time, it is not a good method for jerky today. However, if you are an experienced jerky maker, a PROFESSIONAL, and truly understand what is required, lean beef, young lamb or venison are able to be sun-dried. Fish should not be unless it is heavily salted, although without proper experience, this can still be very risky and poultry should NEVER be sun-dried. To successfully sun dry meats, you should live in an arid, hot, sunny and windy area, optimal conditions that are hard to find. Please remember, when sun-drying, you put yourself at risk for food poisoning.

**Whatever method you chose, do not place your racks so that one layer can drip on another. The time it takes to dry the meat will depend on the thickness, as well as, the temperature at which the meat is being dried. When you think your jerky is done, it should bend but not break and be a much darker color.


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32 Responses »

  1. by nancy

    i have a majic chef dehydrator and lost the instructions i would like to know if you ccould tell me about making goose jerky but dont know how long it takes and do you leave the vent open? any help would be appreciated

  2. by Summer

    My suggestion would be to look at some of the duck recipes, I think there’s even a goose recipe and see what it says. Dehydrating isn’t set to a certain number of hours, it just depends if you like your jerky chewy or more crispy. So, you just need to check it periodically and yes, I would think you would need to leave the vent open for ventilation just like you would the oven. Hope this helps!

  3. by Rick

    I have a smoker I have mastered for turkey, fish, and now I have tried beef jerky. I am having a problem with the end result and wonder what I can do to make my product non greasy. All fat is trim and I am using a very good cut of beef. I like the taste but seems even after 10 hours the beef is pliable but is greasy to the taste and touch. Thanks for any comments. Rick

  4. by JerkyRecipes


    Thanks for the question, hopefully we could help you fix this problem. Here are a few tips that may be beneficial. First is to let the meat marinate over a 24 hour period to ensure the marinade soaks and sets into the meat. Second is dehydrate the meat after the excess marinade has dripped off of the pieces. Third is to control the moisture levels of the “cooking” process as best as possible by making sure that the moisture has some place to go (e.g: cracking the oven door if preparing it in the oven). As for the actual recipe, there may be some ingredients that you are using that cause this greasy effect. Things such as soy sauce and over usage of liquid smoke can contribute to that greasiness.

    Hope this information helped.

    Thanks for visiting

  5. by Kenny

    Let me chime in on this, too.

    Rick, you might want to try occassionally ‘blotting’ the jerky with paper towels periodically through the dehydration process. This will greatly reduce the greasiness of the end result.

    Thanks and good luck! Let me know how it turns out.

  6. by shelia

    I would like some suggestions for beef herkey using an oven with a dehydrator setting. I would appreiciate any help

  7. by JerkyRecipes

    Thanks for the question Shelia. Anytime you’re dealing with dehydrators and/or oven with a setting such as the one you have, we highly suggest referring to the manufacturers instruction manual first. There typically isn’t one standard way for that type of setting, however, I can say that no matter what oven you use you should keep a very close eye on the moisture levels. We recommend leaving the oven door cracked slightly (maybe an inch or two) and checking on it every hour of the dehydration process. 🙂

    I hope this help answer your question somewhat.

    Thanks for visiting

  8. by Kjetil

    Hi! i recently purchased a stockli dehydrator with stainless steel trays and a timer. I’m basically going to be working on chicken, but this is goin to be the first time im drying something… how should i prepare the meat in advance? i know, marinade it overnight and all that but is there more?

    also what is curing? i dont think we have a word in my country for curing… i tried googleing it and it involved oversalting the meat.. that just seemed wrong! for heavens sake im not trying to mummify the thing!

  9. by JerkyRecipes


    Thanks for the question. I would recommend to first take a look at our meat preparation page to get a head start on any concerns you have regarding how to prepare the meat or select it for that matter. There is also some good information on the preparation page that might address your curing question. Curing is another form of preserving food by use of salt if that’s all you wanted to know.

    PS: Chicken can be prepared in the same fashion as Beef would.

    Hope your recipe turns out and that you visit us again soon. 🙂

  10. by HeatherEd

    i jsut got a 2nd hand food dehydtator..NO FAN…. it has settings 1 through 4 can anyone tell me which is high or low thanks so much…AWESOME SITE!

  11. by Barb Zinn

    We are not into beef so much. We see the recipes for turkey,chicken,lamb but is there any for a pork roast?

  12. by Ken

    On this page it says, when using a dehydrator to “Cook at 140 degrees anywhere from 6-18 hours rotating trays every hour.” Most of the recipes on this site say to use the lowest setting, which with most adjustable models, is more like 95 degrees.

  13. by Jada

    My husband and I have been using a dehydrator.We marinate our meat about 48hrs. At first out jerky came out nice good flavor and great texture.Then we made a second batch at a later date…I cut the meat to thin so it was really crispy!We tried again( cut thicker 1/4 1/8) this time the meat is a little grainy we have been using bottom round and cutting it against the grain.Not sure what the deal is…Our first batch has been better than the other two.Any help would be great.We ordered a meat slicer and a larger dehydrator.

  14. by Sasquatch Jerky Man

    I would suggest slicing with the grain and watching the meat closer to make sure you take it off before it gets crispy. To test jerky….let a piece cool and then bend it. Properly cooked jerky should crack but not break into. I do about 75 pounds per week and mine cooks 6-7 hours on a good Excalibur dehydrator on high. My 2 cents worth….

  15. by Annie

    I bought a secondhand Stockli dehydrator but have no instruction manual and am struggling to mix the right Jerky marinade as well – can anyone help?

  16. by Sweet&Spicy

    Hello great website, this is like my bible lol…

    Well I am using one of those cheap dehydrators from Ebay with 5 trays and the heater in the bottom. I bought it when I was like 17 and I am now 20 and it has served me well. Now its time to upgrade since I can actually afford to spend 50-150.

    I need help choosing a good dehydrator, I don’t know if I should get a nesco 1000 watt with thermostat, blower, and heater in the top, with timer. $130

    Or if i should get a excailbur, to me the nesco seems perfect but wanted to know if excaliburs are worth it.

    I am just an amateur beef jerky maker, with no plans to make 100’s pounds a week. Just maybe 10-20 pounds a month.

  17. by JerkyRecipes

    Thanks for the shout out!

    I’m sure dehydrators are like everything else…one guy will tell you to get one brand and another will tell you to get a different brand. At the end of the day, it probably comes down to personal preference. My guess is you’ll be fine with either one. For small batches, I personally use the Excalibur 3900 It has good capacity, its easy to clean…i have no complaints. You will be fine with either brand. But make sure you let us know which one you go with!

  18. by Lexie

    Hello! I recently purchased the Harbor Freight Tools 5 Tier Food Dehydrator, and I was wondering how I should cook meat beforehand since it warns in severals areas of the manual that it doesn’t get hot enough to kill off bacteria and other pathogens. Thanks for the help!

  19. by Lindsey

    I have the same dehydrator as Lexie and have the same question. Any one out there have our answer? Should I just turn the oven to 160 and heat it in there? If so for how long? Do I do that before or after I cut and marinate?

  20. by Lindsey

    For future reference, I made great jerky using the Harbor Freight dehydrator. Thinly slice the slightly frozen meat and marinate. Then cook in oven at 200 with door slightly open for about 10 minutes. Then place in dehydrator. Rotate trays every 2-3 hours. Dehydrate to preferred texture. With vents full open it’ll take less than a day.

  21. by Bella

    Is it possible to rehydrate homemade beef jerky to remove saltiness then hydrate again? My step-mom likes to overdo things and the beef jerky they have in the dehydrator right now is way too salty. They left it for me to watch as they left town for the night. I thought I’d rehydrate it changing the water a few times and then dehydrate again. Is this possible? Thanks!

  22. by Ian

    I’ve read that I’m supposed to place meat on trays so that it doesn’t drip down onto the meat on the lower trays. However by doing this, I greatly decrease the amount that I can dehydrate at a time. Can I overlook this and load up the trays? Also, what amount of space should I leave between the slices themselves? (Or can they be touching?) Thank you!!!

  23. by Sam

    I like my jerky soft, not dry and tough. With my dehydrator it seems after 3 hrs it is the right pliability. Technically how long does it have to cook at 165 to be safe? Any additional guidance on how to tell if it’s safe would be appreciated. Thanks.

  24. by Sue

    Hi…..first batch that was with marinade ended up mouldy and yuk even though stored in air tight glass…second bach perfect but used corned silverside beef….salty so didnt mould up…can you tell me where i went wrong with marinated lot…it was dry and awful texture.

  25. by Btlr44

    I am thinking, once, dehydrated, that, is it…I have been told….sorry

  26. by Rob

    I continue to read about the need to pre-heat meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees before dehydrating. If I am using sirloin or round (not ground beef), and if I “cook” the beef in a microwave oven for 20-30 seconds before dehydrating (which will be at normal dehydrating temps for 4-6 hours), do I really need to worry about food-borne pathogens on my beef jerky?

  27. by steve meyer

    bella what was the answer can you rehydrate beef jerky

  28. by jimbo

    Anyone have suggestions to make jerky tough? It seems these days the fad is tender jerky but I want something I can gnaw on for a while. Something comparable to old shoe leather would be ideal.

    No matter what I try though my jerky comes out tender 🙁

  29. by mike

    I recently bought a used AMERICAN HARVEST SNACKMASTER DEHYDRATER and i dont know anything about how to use it, it has a fan and a beef setting on the dial but im not sure how long to keep the meat in it can you help.

  30. by Helen K

    Would I be right to presume that temperatures quoted in the recipes are in degrees Fahrenheit?

  31. by Susan Smith

    Do you leave the vents open or closed when you are making beef Jerky?

  32. by Michelle Nash

    I bought a used Oster dehydrator. It has no temperature setting, just an on button. I put a thermometer in there while dehydrating some coconut strips. It stayed at 158*F the entire time. Is this going to be ok for making beef jerky or will it cause it to come out too tough or dry? Most recipes said cook on “low setting” whatever that is, or they said cook at 140*F. So is mine going to be ok?

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