Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How do I know when my jerky is done?

Bryce Schunter from Dallas, TX asked:


I’m a first time jerky maker. I’m using one of these Weston Dehydrators – how long do I leave it in for? How do I know when it’s done?

Well Bryce, the answer to your question is not an easy one! It sounds like it should be! However, knowing when to remove jerky from the smoker or dehydrator is an art form! Well, maybe we won't go that far, but it does take a little talent to get it just right.

First thing you need to do is track how much jerky you put in the cabinet each time. The more meat, the more drying time required; the thicker the strips, the more drying time needed. Write down the temperatures and the amount of time you run at each temperature so you can get an accurate time/temperature history developed of how long to dry and at what temperature.

When removing jerky from any drying machine, you want the jerky to remain a little flexible. If you dry the jerky completely to perfection, and the jerky strips are snapping in half as you try to bend them, that's not good. When you remove them from the heat, your jerky will continue to air dry because of the ambient heat remaining in the product. When this happens, your jerky is going to over dry! If you remove it too quickly, it may not be completely cooked.

WOW, right? It seems like a lot to figure out. The trick here is to squeeze the jerky to see if you feel moisture and a spongy feeling to the product. If you feel this when you squeeze the strip of jerky, it usually means it's not completely dried or not cooked.

The key is to catch the jerky when it's firm to the squeeze, yet when you bend it to a 90 degree angle, it doesn't snap in half!

I know this seems like a strange answer, this is much better defined in my DVD Advanced Jerky Processing which covers in great detail the processing of every jerky you can imagine. The true keys are tracking the time and temperatures you cook at, making sure to make even sized batches and uniform thickness each time. When the jerky looks dried, squeeze it for moisture, bend it to be sure, let it finish drying at room temperature, then sample it.

Let me know how it turns out! Thanks for the great question!

"The Meat Man"
Brad Lockwood

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