JERKY SUPPLIES: 10 QUICK TIPS
1. Dehydrating meats is a more complicated and delicate process than drying fruits or vegetables. Make sure you know what you're doing so you can safely enjoy your tasty jerky.
2. Choose lean cuts of meat like sirloin, top round, or eye round so you don't have to spend time cutting off fat. Jerky can't have any fat or else it will go rancid.
3. Slice the meat into uniform strips no more than a quarter-inch thick so the strips will dry quickly and evenly. Your butcher might do this for a small fee, otherwise try freezing the meat for a few hours to make it easier to slice. For old-fashioned chewy jerky, cut strips along the grain. For more tender jerky, slice against the grain.
4. You can marinate the meat for extra flavor and tenderness, but the added moisture means the dehydration process might take longer and the resulting jerky may be stickier. Use brown sugar for sweet jerky, cayenne for a spicy kick, or teriyaki sauce for an Asian taste.
5. Store your jerky in an airtight glass mason jar so it won't accumulate excess moisture (leading to bacterial growth) and won't dry out (leading to a visit to the dentist).
6. Beef is the most common meat used to make jerky, but you could also use duck or turkey, venison, lamb, or other game meat. You can even make fish, ostrich, or vegetarian tofu jerky!
7. Salt pulls moisture from the meat and acts as a preservative. You can coat the meat with a mixture of seasonings and salt or soak meat beforehand in a brine solution.
8. Salted jerky can be stored for two to three months in the refrigerator or freezer, while unsalted jerky should be refrigerated and consumed within two weeks.
9. Finished jerky should be pliable like rubber or a green stick. It shouldn't break cleanly like a dry stick. This doneness test should be performed after the jerky is cooled, so you'll just have to try again if your batch is overcooked!
10. Dehydrators operate at about 140 degrees F, which is not hot enough to kill microbes or parasites. To prevent food-borne illness, heat the meat to 160 degrees F before beginning the dehydrating process. Check the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website for more safety guidelines.