Venison is more popular than any other meat when it comes to making jerky. Jerky is, simply put, spiced-up, dried meat. Dehydration is a significant step in the processing of deer jerky. It can, however, be a little tricky. You MUST know how long to dehydrate deer jerky.
Dehydrate for too long, and the jerky will be as hard as wood. Dehydrate for too short a time, and you lower the shelf life. Under-dehydration also runs the risk of not killing pathogens in the venison.
N.B.: Since you do not cook jerky before eating it, jerky must be processed in a way that kills all pathogens.
Read on for the full insight on How long does it take to dehydrate deer jerky?’
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How Long To Dehydrate Venison Jerky
Many factors determine how long to dehydrate jerky. The two most important factors are:
1. The Thickness Of The Meat Slices
Thicker venison slices take longer to dehydrate. On thickness, I recommend a quarter of an inch; NEVER more than half an inch. If your slices are too thick, they will not dehydrate evenly. Pathogens (disease-causing germs) are more likely to survive in thicker slices.
2. Dehydrating Temperature
The dehydrating temperature also determines how long to dehydrate jerky. Higher temperatures require less time. The range of temperature for dehydration must, however, be checked. I always recommend a range of 150 F – 200 F (66 – 93 Degrees Celsius). I do know of people who use temperatures as low as 125 Degrees Centigrade.
I too used to dehydrate my venison for 10 hours at 130 Degrees Centigrade. A friend who works at the USDA advised me against it. Apparently, Salmonella and some E.coli strains survive through these low temperatures.
At the time I never even pre-heated/ pre-cooked my venison before dehydrating. To kill the pathogens, I was advised to dehydrate at 160 F (70 Degrees Celsius) for about 4-5 hours.
Even when I started pre-cooking my venison before dehydration, however, I maintained the dehydration temperature.
Note: you can find more from my other article about how long to hang a deer for better venison.
I find venison jerky dehydrated at 160 F (70 Degrees Celsius) for 4 hours to be just right. Not to mention the health benefits. You are guaranteed of pathogen-free jerky. Even at 160 F (70 Degrees Celsius), however, time to dehydrate will vary across dehydrating equipment.
It should, however, never be less than three-and-a-half hours or more than five hours.
N.B.: The USDA recommends pre-cooking or steaming the venison at 160 F (71 Degrees Celsius) before dehydration. The dehydration process triggers the defense mechanisms of various bacteria. They form cysts and become more resistant to heat. Heating before dehydration is, therefore, the most efficient way of killing pathogens.
3. Bend Test
Use this simple trick to determine how long to dehydrate deer jerky in your equipment. Set the equipment at 160 F. Dehydrate until the venison strips turn brown/ black. Take a strip, cool it and bend it. If it bends and cracks, it is ready. Mark the time the venison has spent in the dehydrator/ oven.
If it snaps, you have overdone it. Over dehydrated jerky is too chewy. It is a waste of good venison. If only there were a way to undo it. Or is there? Well, there is a trick I use.
Just add two or more slices of fresh bread into the dehydrator. The dry jerky will recover its flexibility and texture.
How Long Does It Take To Make Deer Jerky?
You need at least two days to make good venison jerky. The first day will be for preparing the venison. On the second dehydrate and package the jerky.
Dehydration speed will vary with equipment used. Some people swear that ovens are faster than dehydrators. There may be some truth in that but, speed at what expense? Ovens consume more power and are harder to regulate.
Heat regulation is crucial during the dehydration process. I strongly discourage the use of pre-set systems. Only use dehydrators/ ovens with adjustable temperatures. A 2008 research at the University of Wisconsin – Madison showed that pre-set dehydration systems do not produce safe products.
How To Make Deer Jerky In A Dehydrator, Smoker, and Oven
On the first day of making deer jerky, slice choice venison at a quarter to half-an-inch thickness. The strips should be cut from low-fat portions of the deer. Fat reduces the shelf life of jerky. All visible fat must be sliced from venison parts before slicing it for jerky slices.
This next step is one many people skip despite advice from the USDA. Heat the slices at 160 F until they ooze fat all over. Before dehydration, dry the slices of the fat they ooze. This step is not only useful in killing pathogens; it also rids jerky of excess fat.
The next step is marinating. Marinate the slices in a marinade of choice. Bag the slices in the marinade and refrigerate overnight for the best results. On the next day, pat them down off excess marinade before dehydration. You will save on dehydration time.
A. How To Make Venison Jerky In The Oven
Pre-heat oven to about 160 F or 280 F. Arrange the strips in such a way that they do not touch. They should be on a tray with drainage holes that will drain away any fat that oozes. Dehydrate for 5 hours for 280 Degrees heat or 8 hours for 160 Degrees heat.
The target is to achieve an internal temperature of 160 F in each strip. 280 Degrees is faster but chewier. That is how to make venison jerky in the oven.
B. How To Make Deer Jerky In A Dehydrator
For a dehydrator, turn it to 160 F. Arrange slices in the trays in a mosaic pattern (no strip should be directly above another). Allow the slices to dry for about 4 hours and use the bend test mentioned above. You may have to turn the slices halfway through for a more even dehydration. Always note the time it takes to dehydrate jerky in your specific equipment.
The information will come handy in future. Now Let us look at
C. How To Make Venison Jerky In A Smoker
Meat should only be introduced to the smoker when it has reached 165 F. You can lay the slices flat on the rack. I, however, prefer to hang the slices. I have found hanged slices to have a more evenly distributed smoky’s taste. Smoke the slices for 6-7 hours. Keep on checking when the jerky will be ready and always note the time it takes for your smoker to smoke different meat jerky.
Ground deer meat is also very popular in making deer jerky. Let us look at how to make deer jerky from ground meat.
D. How To Make Deer Jerky From Ground Meat
Ground venison is fine. Marinating it, therefore, takes very little time. Mixing it in a marinade for ten minutes is enough to marinate it thoroughly.
Pack the seasoned venison into any jerky gun of choice.
N.B.: Be careful to eliminate any air pockets in the jerky gun.
Using the jerky gun, press the meat onto racks. The meat separation should be about a quarter of an inch. Depending on dehydration equipment of choice (smoker, dehydrator, or oven) follow the steps a, b, or c above.
How long to dehydrate ground deer jerky will vary with the type of grind i.e finely ground or coarsely ground. The latter dehydrates slower in my experience though I have heard otherwise.
To be sure, just apply the bend test when the meat turns brown to come up with a time frame.
E. How To Make Venison Jerky Sticks
The jerky can also come in handy when making jerky sticks. The stick making procedure is similar to making jerky from ground meat. After marinating, however, the gun presses the meat into casings of desired sizes. The sticks can be dehydrated or roasted. I love the roasted version. That would be how to make venison jerky sticks using jerky guns.
Next time you catch a deer, try out all the mini-recipes here. Tell us what you thought of each and also comment on the accuracy of our Predictions on how long to dehydrate deer jerky.