Dehydrating meat is a great way to preserve it; for those who want to know how to tell when jerky is done, there are a few ways in which you can do this. You can either use the old way (the sun) or a dehydrator when making jerky to preserve meat. These are a few things to consider when using a dehydrator to preserve meat.
Related post: How to make Jerky in a Smoker
A food thermometer is essential to ensure even air flow, and even temperature balance throughout. You should preheat the dehydrator at 145 F, for at least 30 minutes, in order to kill off bacteria.
Simply place the meat on a cooking rack and place it in the oven (on the middle rack) for up to six hours time. Depending on the cut of meat, the thickness, and distance on the rack, this might be a little over or a little under this estimation of time.
Up to 10 hours is a good rule of thumb when drying out the meat. In order to ensure it is properly and evenly cooked throughout, simply remove the strips from the tray to test them for dryness.
How do you know when it is dry? Some things to consider include:
- You will let the strips cool to room temperature and you will bend them.
- When bending the jerky, if it is adequately dry it is not going to break.
- Even if minor breaking or cracking occurs, this is a sign it is not properly prepared and may require a little additional time in the oven for even dehydration.
The dry jerky should be firm, it should be flexible (have a little bend or give) but it should not chip, crack, or otherwise break when you bend it. Another important texture feature is that it should not feel greasy or soft; it should have a thick, leathery grain or texture to it when it is completely and properly dehydrated.
The texture when you chew on the jerky should be one which has a nice crunch or sufficient hardened quality to it. Again, it should not be so hard you feel your teeth are going to fall off, but it should have some snap or a bite to it when you do bite into the jerky which is properly dehydrated.
Another way to test it is that even if the exterior does feel hardened, the interior of the jerky has a nice texture and one which you can chew evenly without having to work hard or gnaw at, in order to consume.
No grease test
Another great way to tell if your jerky is prepared and fully dehydrated is that it has no grease or residue when you remove it from the racks. You won’t feel a greasy or wet texture when you hold it in your hand, and they are going to feel substantial.
Even if they are thin in nature, when you hold the jerky in your hand, you are going to notice it is thicker and has some feeling behind it.
When it comes to making jerky, you want the meat to maintain its moisture, so that even if you are eating it a few weeks after you prepare it, it will taste fresh. So you want to ensure the internal temperature is going to reach a heat level of 145 F.
Not only does this ensure the meat is fully cooked and is going to be safe for you to consume it, but also that it will not get hardened over time, if you do not plan on consuming the jerky right away.
There are factors such as the thickness of the meat and the type of the cut you are going to use, in preparing your jerky. So you do have to account for this when determining how long (within the 6 to 10-hour time window mentioned above) you are going to need to prepare the jerky.
Whether it is simply for preservation or you like the taste of jerky, there is no secret to preparing it. But, for those who are new to the entire dehydration process, it is a lengthy one you will get used to quickly. These are a few of the basics to help guide you to know how to tell when jerky is done, and how to ensure the best taste, even bite, and proper texture for any cut of meat you are going to dehydrate.