As one of the most nutrient-dense foods, jerky is rich in protein, which aids with the regeneration and repair of tissues. Did you know that a pound of meat can yield 4 ounces of dried jerky? In order to achieve the best jerky, you have to use the right process and equipment.
Thanks to technology, you don’t have to rely on old methods like sun drying. Today, you can prepare jerky at the comfort of your home using a dehydrator.
What is a dehydrator?
A dehydrator is an electronic unit fitted with drying trays, which nest together to offer compact storage that helps with the dehydration of meat, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices.
The unit uses electric power to remove moisture from these foods, allowing them to last much longer. Since the expiry date has been prolonged, you can store the food at room temperature without fear that it will go bad.
Today, a dehydrator is a must-have investment for your home, just like a blender, food processor, dishwasher, laundry appliances, and smoke detectors, among others. They are sophisticated electronic devices which can add to your nutritional health, thanks to the removal of moisture from food.
So, how do you use a food dehydrator to make jerky?
- Lean beef preferably flank meat, bottom round, top round, eye of round or sirloin tip
- Sauce of your choice
- Honey, which is optional
- Black pepper—2 teaspoons
- Red pepper flakes—1 teaspoon
- Sealable food bags
The preparation process
Trim excess fat
The first step you need to do, once you have bought the lean beef, is to trim off the excess fat. You need to make slices that are no thicker than 1/4 inch. In order to make it easier to slice the fat off, start by partially freezing the meat.
Place the meat in a zip bag, remove all the air and place it in the freezer. After it has slightly frozen, remove it from the freezer and the bag, and take a sharp knife and slice along the grain, especially if you want to prepare jerky that is chewy; this will result in long strips.
For children, you can begin cutting a few of the strips in half to make it easy to consume. If you are using game meat, you need to have it tested before you begin the process; this helps to eliminate the chances of E-coli and salmonella being present.
Flavor the slices
Once you have the desired number of meat strips, it’s time to marinate them. You can use a special marinade bought from the store, or you can use the herbs and spices available in the ingredients mentioned above. Take the meat strips and place them in a re-sealable food bag.
Once you have done this, you need to shake it thoroughly in order to coat the meat strips well. Refrigerate the meat strips in the re-sealable bag for a period of 8 to 12 hours. Make sure the bag is turned often to evenly coat the strips.
Remove meat strips from refrigerator and pat the meat
After the set period of 8 to 12 hours in the refrigerator, you can remove the meat strips from the re-sealable bag. Shake/pat to remove any excess marinade. This should be done before dehydrating as it helps to speed up the process of dehydration.
You can also use a colander to drain the meat. Arrange the strips in a single layer on a tray or plate that is lined with paper towels; proceed to dry the meat strips with the paper towels.
The process of setting up your dehydrator is available in the instruction manual that comes with the unit. To dehydrate the strips, arrange them on the dehydrator trays. Make sure they are close together but not overlapping. Do not place over the central hole or allow the strips to drape over the sides.
Set the temperature between 145°F and 155°F. This will help to eliminate pathogens and prepare the best jerky; 4 to 8 hours should be enough drying time and afterward, serve on a clean plate covered with paper towels.