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Jerky Drying Methods - How to dry jerky

What is the best method for drying jerky?

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Beef jerky
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Jerky Drying Methods

• Sun-dry: Although sun-drying is a time-honored technique, it is not recommended for jerky, except for very lean beef, young lamb, or venison. Unless it is heavily salted, sun-drying is also not recommended for fish. Avoid this method altogether when making jerky from any kind of poultry. In order to successfully sun-dry meats, you must live in an arid, hot, sunny area with good breezes. The potential for food poisoning is not worth the risk.

• Oven-dry: In general, the oven works fairly well for drying all types of jerky. However, it is important that the heat setting be as low as you can make it. Do not use the broiling element. The lowest bake setting should do the trick with most ovens. If your broiler element comes on even at the lowest bake setting, you can place a cookie sheet or heavy-duty foil on the top shelf to help deflect the heat. If your oven is not vented, leave the oven door ajar by placing a wooden spoon in the opening to hold it open. You may find it necessary to have a fan blowing toward the open door to encourage air circulation. Do not overload the oven. In general, optimum drying temperature is 140 degrees F.

• Dehydrator: These machines usually have multiple layers of stacking trays. In general, they operate at 140 degrees F., but keep in mind that the lower trays will get more heat than the top trays. As such, you'll need to keep an eye on your jerky and rotate the trays from top to bottom regularly, at least at one-hour intervals and perhaps even every half hour, depending on the food. As it approaches the final stage, you may need to reduce the heat by ten degrees to avoid scorching. Meat should be arranged a single layer deep per each tray with no edges overlapping.

• Microwave: Although you will find some recipes for jerky made in the microwave, it is generally not recommended due to uneven heating.

• Smoker: It may be difficult and painstaking to keep a smoker at the constant temperature of 140 degrees F. necessary to make jerky, but many love the flavor. Do not use any soft woods such as pine, fir or conifer.

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Jerky Photo © 2009 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

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