How Long Do You Dehydrate Beef Jerky?

Dehydrating beef jerky is not a speedy procedure! It’s about patience and precision. So, how long do you dehydrate beef jerky? The time varies greatly, anywhere from 4 to 15 hours, depending on the thickness of the meat and your dehydrator. Let’s dive deeper into the matter, shall we?

Beef jerky can go one of two ways. It can be the tastiest, spiciest, most delicious thing you’ve ever tasted. Or it can taste like toughened shoe leather.

Beef jerky is utterly delicious when it’s made correctly. That’s one of the greatest benefits of making your own jerky. You can make it as tender as you want and spice it to taste.

We’re going to teach you the best way to make beef jerky, focusing on how long to leave your meat treats in the food dehydrator.

How Long for Jerky in Dehydrator: The Basics

To clarify, when discussing “how long in dehydrator for jerky,” we’re asking about the drying time needed to turn raw meat into a tasty, long-lasting snack. This duration can differ based on several factors, so let’s explore this topic further.

How Long Should You Dehydrate Beef Jerky?

To start, you should focus on getting the right cut of meat. While you can dehydrate any kind of meat (or anything, really!), you’re going to have the best results using low-fat, lean meats.

Flank steak, bottom round, top round, and sirloin tip are all popular cuts for a dehydrated beef jerky recipe. Then you’ll need to prepare your meat for the dehydrator.

Preparing Your Beef For The Food Dehydrator

Once you’ve selected your cut of meat, you’ll want to trim as much of the fat as possible. Then you’ll want to cut the meat as thin as possible. You can use a sharp chef’s knife, or even a meat slicer if you have access to one.

Slice with the grain of the meat for tougher jerky. Cut against the grain if you want tender, chewier beef jerky.

Once you’ve sliced your meat, you’ll want to freeze it for 1 – 2 hours. This creates more even, uniform slices that are easier to work with. Then you’ll want to marinate and season your jerky in whatever way you desire.

Now you’re ready for the food dehydrator

How Long To Dehydrate Beef Jerky?

When placing your beef cuts in the dehydrator, remember to leave as much room between the slices as possible. This lets the air circulate freely, allowing the meat to dry more uniformly.

Most types of food dehydrators can be used to make beef jerky, so any brand will do. Nesco dehydrators are particularly popular among beef jerky fanatics, however, so you might want to get your hands on one if you’re serious about your dry meat snacks.

Next, set your food dehydrator to 160 degrees. The amount of time it will take to dry completely varies but a good rule of thumb is around 4 hours; this is the ideal beef jerky dehydrator time.

Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. When the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees, it’s done!

And voila! It’s super simple to make the most delicious beef jerky you’ve ever tasted, even if you don’t have a lot of experience in the kitchen. Not only will you have healthy snacks for ages, you’ll save a load of money while you’re at it!

How Long for Beef Jerky in a Dehydrator: Factors to Consider

  1. Meat thickness: The thickness of your meat slices can significantly impact dehydration time. Thicker pieces will dry better. A general guideline is to aim for ¼-inch thick slices for optimal drying time and texture.
  2. Dehydrator temperature: Most dehydrators have a temperature range between 80°F and 160°F. Higher temperatures will speed up the drying process, but be cautious not to go too high, which can result in a tough, unpalatable final product.
  3. Humidity: The moisture content in the air can influence the drying time. If you live in a humid area, you may need to allow for a longer dehydration time.
  4. Meat type: While this guide focuses on beef jerky, you might also wonder how long for deer jerky in a dehydrator. The good news is that the process is similar; however, leaner meats like deer may dry slightly faster than beef.

How Long Does it Take to Dehydrate Meat in A Food Dehydrator?

Enjoy the deliciousness of home-cooked dehydrated meat! Beforehand, trim off all fat and cut it into bite-sized cubes(½ inch). Spread them on trays, then leave to slowly dehydrate at 145 F temperature- usually taking 6 to 12 hours before they are perfectly dried out and ready for you to enjoy.

Alternative Methods for Dehydrating Jerky

Did you know there’s more than one way to dehydrate beef jerky? While your food dehydrator is an excellent choice, you can also make jerky in an oven or even in the open air! Let’s explore these tasty alternatives. First up, making beef jerky in the oven. Thinly sliced beef, marinated to perfection with a combination of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, and a hit of cayenne pepper for those craving a spicy beef jerky recipe, is just perfect for oven dehydration. All you need to do is arrange the beef strips on a baking sheet and dry them at a low temperature. Remember to turn the slices occasionally to ensure evenly cooked, delicious homemade beef jerky. 

Now, if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, how about trying to air-dry your jerky? Locations with dry, hot climates traditionally use this method. Spread out the homemade jerky strips soaked in your marinade of brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and smoked paprika in a clean, dry, and protected outdoor area. Check on them regularly, and once they reach the stage where the jerky bends, not breaks, voila! Your flavorful beef jerky is ready. 

Prolonging the Shelf Life of Your Jerky

Wouldn’t it be great if the delicious homemade beef jerky you’ve painstakingly prepared could last forever? While that’s not realistic, there are definitely ways to extend its shelf life. Let’s first ensure we remove excess moisture after the marinating process. You have to pat dry all the meat with paper towels. You see, excess marinade and moisture are sneaky contributors to shorter shelf life. So why give them a chance to dampen our experience? And how about removing visible fat from the beef strips? Doing so before we dehydrate beef jerky not only promotes leaner snack cuisine but also helps extend the shelf life. Fats go rancid quicker than lean cuts, and who wants a flavorful beef jerky going bad on us? We made it with such love, after all!

Here’s an interesting trick: Try partially freezing your fresh beef before cutting it into thin slices. By doing so, you can easily remove excess fat, making beef jerky preparation a whole lot easier. After making homemade jerky, store it properly! Vacuum sealed bags, glass jars, or airtight containers are your best friends here. Storing your flavorful beef jerky well wards off moisture, which is a spoiler’s best mate. The finished jerky can be safely stored at room temperature for 1-2 months. For those of you who like safe plays, you can refrigerate or freeze the jerky, increasing its shelf life by up to a year! Now isn’t that something we all want? Never overlook the importance of the dehydrator trays’ cleanliness during the dehydration process. The cleaner the food dehydrator, the longer homemade jerky lasts.

Troubleshooting Common Jerky Dehydration Issues

When we dive into the world of making homemade beef jerky, we’ll need to address some common dehydration issues that may pop up along the way. Don’t worry! We’ll tackle each problem with zest and come out with a perfect batch of delicious homemade beef jerky. 

First up, let’s talk about jerky that comes out too dry or brittle. When dehydrating beef jerky, there’s a fine balance to be struck. Too much drying and you’ll end up with jerky that’s tough and unappetizing. But how can this happen? Simple! The jerky in a dehydrator might be left in for too long or the temperature might be a bit too high. The ideal internal temperature for making beef jerky should be around 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, monitor your food dehydrator and be patient – let’s not rush the drying process

Then, there’s the issue of jerky that’s too soft or doesn’t have a good texture. Remember, we’re not making ground meat here. We’re looking for that classic jerky texture – chewy but not too tough. The trick here is to ensure that all the meat, from your flank steak to your round roast, is thinly sliced. Use a sharp knife to create thin slices and learn the art of partially freezing the meat beforehand to make cutting easier. Also, remove visible fat to maintain the lean cut as fat can make the jerky go rancid faster. 

What about jerky that just doesn’t taste right? This could be down to your choice of marinade ingredients. For flavorful beef jerky, try a marinade with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, and a bit of brown sugar. A spicy beef jerky recipe might also include cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. Marinating the thinly sliced beef for at least 6-24 hours will help the flavors fully penetrate the meat slices. 

Finally, the question of ‘moisture’. Excess moisture can lead to bacterial growth and shorten the shelf life of your homemade jerky. The best way to remove excess moisture is by patting the marinated beef dry with paper towels before initiating the cooking process. Post-dehydration, cool the jerky strips on a paper towel again to absorb any leftover moisture. 

Taking Jerky on the Go: Packaging and Portability

Have you ever wondered how you can enjoy delicious homemade beef jerky on the go? Well, we’ve got the answers! Let’s dive into the best ways to package and transport your snack cuisine. 

The right packaging not only maintains the quality and extends the shelf life of your fresh beef jerky but is also essential for portability. The most effective way to store and transport beef jerky is in airtight containers. These can range from vacuum-sealed bags to glass jars, depending on your preference. For utmost portability, you might want to consider plastic wrap or zip-top bags! 

Firstly, ensure that all the meat is thoroughly cooled before packaging, because if the jerky is even slightly warm, it could condensate inside the bag and reintroduce the excess moisture we worked hard to eliminate during the drying process—talk about an enemy of dehydrating beef jerky! 

But don’t stop there, the jerky should also be pat dry with a paper towel to remove any excess marinade or oils sitting on it, and thus maximize its preservation. Now, isn’t that an amazing trick to ensure the best quality for your homemade jerky? 

It’s great to have a stash of your labor-intensive, scrumptious homemade jerky handy in your backpack or office drawer. However, be careful not to over-pack. Portion out your snacks into smaller bags or containers and only take tiny batches with you. This prevents the rest of your stock from being exposed every time you dive in for a piece of delectable jerky. 

Also, remember that homemade jerky, unlike most commercial beef jerky, doesn’t contain preservatives. Because of this, you might find that your jerky doesn’t last as long as store-bought jerky. But isn’t that a small price to pay for the satisfaction of biting into a piece of flavorful, preservative-free jerky? 

The Health Benefits of Homemade Beef Jerky

  1. Protein Powerhouse: Homemade beef jerky is an exceptional source of protein, which we all know is essential for building and repairing tissues in our body. Plus, it’s satiating, meaning it will keep you fuller longer.
  2. Low in Fat: As lean meat, the beef used for jerky strips has very little visible fat. This means you’re consuming fewer unhealthy fats compared to many other snacks. Even more, you can trim off additional fat before the dehydration process for extra health benefits.
  3. Iron and Zinc: Iron is a crucial element that helps our body produce red blood cells, while zinc is instrumental in boosting immunity. Fresh beef is a great source of these nutrients which are retained in the delicious homemade beef jerky.
  4. Easily Digestible: The dehydrating process used to make beef jerky helps to break down the meat fibers, making them easier to chew and digest compared to other forms of protein.
  5. Control of Additives: With store bought jerky, you lose some control over what additives may be included. However, with homemade jerky, you can decide exactly what goes in. Want a cayenne pepper kick or a touch of smoked paprika? No problem! You’re in control.
  6. Customizable: You have the power to make the beef jerky meet your dietary needs and preferences exactly. You can adjust the marinade ingredients for taste, and swap out the soy sauce for a gluten-free option if needed.


The answer to how long does it take to dehydrate beef jerky in a food dehydrator depends on several factors, such as the size and thickness of the cut, the heat setting used, and even the ambient humidity. On average, thin slices of beef jerky will take around four hours to fully dry and dehydrate. With that in mind, you should experiment with your food dehydrator and use the correct settings for your beef jerky recipes to get the perfect texture every time!

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