How Do You Know When Beef Jerky Is Done Dehydrating?

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You’re making beef jerky and can’t get it right at all. How do you know when beef jerky is done dehydrating? Aren’t you curious?

Beef jerky is as good as any snack can get. No one would argue with that. The issue arises when you have to figure out if your beef jerky is done dehydrating or not.

Unlike simple food like fried eggs that you can eyeball, beef jerky is a bit complicated to determine when it comes to doneness. However, there are ways you can do it like a professional. I intend to share some of my tricks with you today.  

How Do You Know When Beef Jerky Is Done Dehydrating

There’s good news and bad. The bad news is that there’s no specific doneness when it comes to dehydrating beef jerky. The good news is the doneness is a measurement in range, not in a specific point. 

Let’s see how to tell when jerky is done dehydrating.

Using Meat Thermometer

The most straightforward way to figure out whether your beef jerky is done or not is to use a good quality meat thermometer.

First, you’ll have to preheat your dehydrator at 145o F. Use the meat thermometer and make sure your beef jerky has an internal temperature of 165o F before placing it inside the dehydrator. 

How long you’ll need to get the beef jerky done depends on the meat size. If you’ve used small and thin slices, it’ll get done sooner. In comparison, if the pieces are large and thick, they may need more time. 

Flexibility Test

After letting the meat dehydrate for a certain amount of time, open the dehydrator’s lid and remove a piece of beef jerky from it. Place it on a plate for about five to ten minutes before it becomes warm. 

Letting the beef jerky come to the point when it’s warm will make it more pliable. Now, take the slice and bend it. Go till it hits a ninety degrees angle. What do you see? 

If you notice that there’s still moisture leaking from the meat, put it back in the dehydrator. You still have to wait for some time before you can taste your beef jerky. 

If, however, the slice is cracking and breaking apart, you’ve left it in the dehydrator for too long. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat it. It just could have been better.

The perfect piece of beef jerky is when it slightly cracks only at the joint, and the rest features a leather-like texture. 

Then you know, you’ve done justice to the meat, and you can take it off of your dehydrator.

Also Read: How To Tell If Turkey Burger Is Done (5 Ways To Follow)

The Time Test

As I said, there’s no specific point where you can determine that your jerky is done. So even though all dehydrators will come with specific instructions about timing, it’s not how professionals do their thing.

But, if you must know, the time ranges between 4 hours to 12 hours. So, you can average the time, which comes down to 10 hours. Then, after 10 hours, you can taste your beef jerky and see if it’s done dehydrating or not. 

Look At The Surface – Surface Test

Checking the surface can give you an idea about the beef jerky. If the slice feels juicy and greasy, it needs more time to be done. When the jerky is done, it’ll feel dry in your hands. However, the texture will be similar to leather. 

It’s not a perfect way to determine whether the jerky is done or not. However, when you combine multiple testing, it can help you get the result you’re expecting.

Also Read: How To Know When Brats Are Done – 8 Ways To Know

The Bite Taste

The final test is to taste the jerky by taking a bite. Go through the bending test first. If you’re satisfied with the bending test, put the meat in your mouth. 

There are three possible outcomes of how a beef jerky will taste inside your mouth. For starters, it can get melted within the first few seconds. That means the meat is not chewy and not satisfying to eat. It needs more time. 

In the second scenario, the beef jerky will crumble inside your mouth. That’s not what you want. It’s an indicator that you’ve dried the beef jerky for too long. 

If, however, the meat feels like gum and chewy inside your mouth, you know you’ve got it right.

A Few Exclusive Tips For Making Perfect Jerky

There’s no shortcut to perfection. You’ve got to be patient if you want your beef jerky to come out the perfect way. So let’s see how you can assure the perfect beef jerky. 

  • Choose The Right Meat

If you think that the meat type doesn’t matter when making beef jerky, you’ve got another thing coming. You have to choose the right meat for jerky. To be more specific, choose lean meat cuts to get the best results. 

Besides, you can go for round roasts. They are low in connective tissues and fat and feature fine grain. Eye of round is another smart choice for making beef jerky. 

In addition, these cuts come pretty cheaply too. So, you won’t have to worry about expanding a fortune. Next, you have to worry about slicing the meat for jerky. The suitable thickness for making beef jerky is between ¼ inches and 1/8 inches. 

Lower than 1/8 will be over-dried sooner than you anticipate, and more than ¼ will be harder to dry than you thought. So, try to slice the jerky in that range. 

Store-bought beef jerky is made of ground meat. If you want, you can also use ground meat, but the process will be different. There’s no need to marinade ground meat. 

Instead, add the spices you want when grinding the meat. Then, use a jerky gun to shape your beef jerky. 

It’s crucial to preheat both the dehydrator and the meat when you’re using ground meat. I’ve included the temperature further in a section for your better understanding. 

  • Prepare For The Best

Always use clean tools to prevent them from getting attacked by harmful bacteria. Preheat your dehydrator, especially if you’re using it for the first time. Wash the knife and cutting board before using. 

Create a map and keep everything you need during the process ready. It isn’t delightful to find out that something you need isn’t available near at hand. So, be prepared for the whole process.  

  • Marinating

Marinating the beef depends on the recipe you’re following. Some may require you to use a liquid marinade, and some of them may need a spice rub. 

Remember that the type of marinating you’re using on your beef jerky will determine how long it’ll take to dehydrate.

As obvious as it sounds, when you’re using a liquid marinate, your beef jerky will take longer to dry and vice versa.   

Remember that you’ll have to marinate your beef jerky at a low temperature to make it safe and delicious at the same time. The optimal temperature range for marinating meat for beef jerky is 36o F to 40o F.  

Also Read: How To Marinate Frozen Chicken Easily (4 Steps)
  • Storage Options

You can preserve beef jerky even without using your fridge. It can stay well for about a few weeks at standard room temperature. 

However, you can store it in your refrigerator or the freezer, for that matter, depending on how long you intend to store them. 

Store-bought beef jerky comes in airtight containers that you can store for months in the fridge and years in the freezer. Of course, that’s only applicable if you haven’t opened the container. 

If you have, you’ll have to consume it before the container label suggests. Most of them will tell you to eat it before three days. Because as you may already know, meat does not do well when exposed to oxygen.  

Also Read: How To Store Smoked Cheese (2 Effective Methods)

Things You Should Not Do When Making Jerky

  • Avoid over-drying or under drying your jerky. There’s a perfect level that makes perfect jerky with fantastic texture and taste. Use all the tests to determine when your beef jerky is done dehydrating.  
  • Avoid guessing when making beef jerky. Instead, monitor the time process, meat cuts, temperature, seasoning, and everything else to perfect the jerky. 
  • Avoid using unhygienic utensils for making your beef jerky. Clean everything before getting started to keep the bacterial attack to a minimum. 
  • Avoid using a pre-made marinade. Instead, always make your fresh marinade mix to get the best results. 
  • Avoid marinating if you’re using ground meat for making beef jerky. Keep the thickness optimal to make sure you don’t over-dry or under-dry it.
  • Avoid marinating your beef jerky at room temperature. The optimal temperature is between 36o F to 40o F. 
  • Avoid rush. You can not increase the temperature to cook the beef jerky sooner. Instead, you’ll have to be patient with the process to create the texture and consistency you’re expecting from the beef jerky. 
  • Don’t forget to remove extra spices after marinating the meat. Making the meat too juicy can make the process longer than you anticipated. 
  • Avoid tasting the beef jerky before 4 hours in the dehydrator, or you’ll expose yourself to harmful bacteria. The optimal time to taste your beef jerky is 10 hours after it’s been inside the dehydrator. 

How Long Does Beef Jerky Take In A Dehydrator

As I have already mentioned, beef jerky can take four to twelve hours to dehydrate in the dehydrator. There’s no specific time of when your beef jerky will be done. It depends on the beef jerky recipe and the meat’s thickness. 

However, the time will never be less than 4 hours. So never eat beef jerky before it’s been in the dehydrator for at least four hours. 

The average time after which you can taste and determine whether the beef jerky is done or not is ten hours.

Unless the jerky slices are too thin, they’ll be inside the dehydrator without getting over-dried. So if you’re wondering whether it’s possible to over-dehydrate beef jerky or not, it is. 

When you let the slices be inside the dehydrator for too long, they’ll crack and break rather than staying chewy. 

Remember that you don’t want your beef jerky to be moist, but you don’t want it to be crispy either. There’s a middle ground to these two options that makes beef jerky the way it should be. 

How Do You Store Jerky For A Long Time After Dehydrating

Using an airtight bag or container can preserve the beef jerky for up to two weeks at room temperature. However, if your plan is to store them for longer, you’ll have to use your fridge or freezer. 

If you’re successful in storing the beef jerky in the fridge, you can expect it to last about a few months. Near about three months, to be precise. However, this duration depends on the beef jerky and how you store it. 

The drier the beef jerky, the longer it’ll last. As for storing, oxygen is the enemy. Allowing oxygen to touch the beef jerky means you’re encouraging the bacteria to ruin the meat. 

If there’s no air inside the container you’ve stored your beef jerky, you can expect it to last several months inside the fridge. 

In addition, if you’re using a freezer, the duration will elevate from months to years. Store-bought beef jerky will last longer than your homemade beef jerky. 

That is, of course, if you haven’t opened the airtight container yet. If you’ve opened the container, it’ll hardly last a few days. 


If I ask you now, how do you know when beef jerky is done dehydrating? Will you be able to answer? If you’re nodding your head, my work here is done. 

Remember not to answer precisely to anyone who asks that question. The meat slices may vary from one another. The same goes for the spices and marinade mixture.

The texture and consistency play a significant role in determining how long it will take.  Don’t forget to perform multiple tests on your beef jerky to determine whether it’s done dehydrating or not. 

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