How to safely make homemade jerky
Venison jerky is an easy to make flavorful snack. Remember when processing any meat, food safety must be at the forefront. In recent years, illnesses due to Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 from homemade jerky have raised questions about the safety of traditional drying methods.
It is important that the meat strips reach a sufficient temperature in the drying process to kill harmful pathogens that may cause foodborne illness. A food dehydrator, or your oven, should maintain a temperature of at least 145° to 155°F for 4 to 6 hours when drying meat. But, to ensure the meat strips reach a temperature where pathogens are destroyed, the University of Wisconsin recommends heating the jerky (after drying) in a preheated 275°F oven for 10 minutes. This method, as a final step in the drying process, achieves an extra margin of safety and produces a quality jerky product
Take time to check the temperature of your dehydrator before drying. Place the metal stem of a dial thermometer between two trays so you can read the dial outside the dehydrator. Turn on the dehydrator and allow the temperature to stabilize. Adjust the thermostat to reach current research temperature recommendations of 145°F or above.
For quality jerky, use only lean meats in excellent condition and trim visible fat. Freezing the venison prior to marinating makes it easier to slice and helps kill any parasites that might be present. Always marinate meat strips in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Dehydrate until a test piece cracks but does not break when it is bent.
Jerky can be stored for 1 to 2 months at room temperature and in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Check out these tested jerky recipes.
- Homemade Jerky 101 Mini-Module (online webinar)
- Cooking Big Game Venison Meat Safely
- Jerky Making: then and now — North Dakota State University
Revised by Suzanne Driessen 2017