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How to safely make homemade jerky

Homemade venison 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.

Preserving jerky 5-minutes presentation

Thermometer in a food dehydrator.
Thermometer in the dehydrator

Safe drying temperature and time

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

After drying, heat the jerky in a preheating 275 oven for 10 minutes to ensure a safe product.

Check temperature with food thermometer

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.

Checking jerky for doneness.
Checking jerky for doneness

Use high-quality meat

For quality jerky, use only lean meats in excellent condition and trim visible fat.

Freeze meat first

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.

Deb Botzek-Linn, former Extension educator and Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2018

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