Time-tested methods in drying jerky include sun and air drying, and smoking it over a smoldering fire. As jerky became a popular menu item, modern kitchen devices have been designed to produce the ultimate beef jerky.
Ovens are staple kitchen appliances in most households. In oven-heating, position the meat strips on a clean baking tray or cookie sheet in a single layer. Strips should not be in contact with each other. Turn the oven's temperature to 140°F to 160°F and leave it there for 10 to 14 hours. Turn individual strips over every few hours to assure dryness.
A smoker is any device that generates smoke and are often used by commercial smokehouses for drying jerky. There are also many kinds of smokers readily available on the market for home use.
Smokers are ideal in providing jerky with that natural, meaty off-the-grill type flavor and texture. Using charcoal or an electric device, the heat is produced to start wood chips or sawdust smoking. Add the meat strips in a single layer in the smoker on a wire rack or sheet pan.
Smoke the pieces of beef jerky heavily for at least three hours. Then, continue drying them for another two to three hours. After at least six hours, begin sampling the strips for dryness. Smoking the meat strips takes 6 to 10 hours or more.
Dehydrators come with heavy-duty fans, air vents, and built-in electric heaters for effective and fast dehydration. They also have many trays for arranging food. Dehydrators are also used to lengthen the shelf life of different types of food like fruits and vegetables.
Most dehydrators have an adjustable and automatic thermostat to control temperature heating levels. Using the dehydrator for drying jerky, cook the meat strips at 140°F to 160°F from six to 18 hours. Every few hours, rotate the cooking trays for uniform drying.
Electric dehydrators do not really directly apply heat to the strips but instead use its patented air flow and heating systems for swift and even cooking. This device also enables the preservation of healthy enzymes in the meat, usually stripping off meat moisture from 15 to 20 percent.
Common dehydrator accessories include non-stick and disposable drying sheets, trays, and drying screens. Although some dehydrators do not come with most of these accessories, you can find them in various kitchen appliance stores, manufacturers, and distributors.
A non-stick drying sheet is ideal for sticky foods, especially fruit leathers and other more liquid preparations.
When making beef jerky a plastic mesh screen is often used for optimal exposure to the air. However, a non-stick sheet can also be used and allows moisture to easily trickle out without clinging on the meat strips. Disposable drying sheets are also convenient as they can be discarded every time jerky is cooked.
Trays come in a range of models and sizes for positioning meat strips. Drying screens often come in plastic and are often machine washable for easy cleanup. These screens can be used either with stainless steel or chrome shelves.
In drying jerky, extruding devices are also used. They come as jerky guns, jerky blasters, or jerky shooters, whatever you prefer to call them. They are similar in appearance to caulk guns.
Having a jerky gun makes it easy to make uniform beef jerky from ground meat. A jerky gun is designed to hold ground meat and it forces it out into fine, flat meat strips or cyclinder appropriate for drying jerky.
They also often have different nozzle sizes to squeeze meat in varying density. To start with the drying process, fill it up with ground meat and press the trigger to shoot out the meat onto the trays. Using a dehydrator heat the meat between 140°F to 160°F.
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