How to Tell When Jerky Is Done?

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We all know how delicious and nutritious a jerky is. It is a favorite snack of many people, across all ages. Moreover, preparing it is slightly convenient as well. After all, it doesn’t need refrigeration and other tedious processing.

But of course, food preparation is always a science. Cooks and professional gourmets know this fact. If you put too much in your ingredients or cooking, it might lose all the nutritional contents that it has. jerky is not an exemption. When making this delicacy, time is an essential factor. Aside from losing its nutritional value, it would be difficult to eat as well.

So, how to tell if the jerky is done? Fortunately, you don’t have to go anywhere just to get the answer to this question. We got all of you covered! The best thing you can do right is to relax and continue reading!

How to Tell When Jerky Is Done?

How to Tell When Beef Jerky Is Done

Before we get into the specifics, let us give a short course to the proper preparation of a jerky. If you are quite familiar with food and kitchen cuisines, you know that drying is among the best means of preserving any variety of meat food.

This method effectively sips out any water that is stored inside the meat. Of course, it essential, considering that water is the favorite breeding grounds of harmful microorganisms

Drying is also the appropriate way of “cooking” a jerky. The first thing you have to do is to slice up any parts of the meat that you want. Particularly, you need to trim any fat that is on the meat. The strips should be as thin as possible as well. If you can accomplish all of these procedures, then you are ready for the actual drying.

There are various means to dry meat. If you prefer the old-school method, then you could take advantage the heat that is coming from the sun for the meat dehydration. But if you want a more convenient (and safer) method, then you should use your oven or food dehydrators. Moreover, these cooking machinery allows you to dehydrate the meat without worrying about overcooking

How To Dry Jerky

Emulate the following steps so that you tell if your jerky is done or not!

Drying time of jerky in electric grill

Step 1:

We already mentioned that cooking is a piece of science. Of course, your kitchen won’t be able to embody such claim if you don’t have a food thermometer. Many of the dehydrators and oven today have this instrument integrated on their systems. In this way, they can keep track of their internal temperature while drying.

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Step 2:

Before you place your jerky on your food dehydrator, make sure that the latter has been preheated for around 145 degrees Fahrenheit. In this way, you can guarantee that you killed any existing bacteria inside the machine. Also, the heating process should take for at least 20 to 30 minutes.

Arrange the meat strips on the baking tray

Step 3:

Arrange the meat strips on the baking tray. Use a gripping tool to do this process cleanly. Furthermore, the strips should not come in touch with one another. After this, you can take the tray inside the dehydrator.


  • The actual drying time of jerky is around 4 to 12 hours. It is not exact since the speed the dehydration depends on the thickness of the meat. The thicker and fluffier the meat, the longer it dries.
  • Of course, you can take out the meat before the expected drying time if you deem that it is dry enough already. You can take out the meat from the dehydrator to assess its dryness. If there are still moist or liquid left, then you should put it back to the machine.

Testing the Dryness of a Jerky

Fortunately, you don’t need years of experience before you can discern the actual dryness of the meat. Instead, you just need some simple tools in your kitchen to get this trick done.

Testing the dryness of a Jerky

In testing the meat’s dryness, you need a pair of tongs so that you can dangle the strips on a wire shelf. Let the strips cool down for a bit. Afterward, you should bend the latter. A fully dry jerky cracks when you bend it. That is the proof that all the flexible and liquid components have been evaporated already. If the meat splits in half, then it is not entirely dry yet.


  • Specifically, a dry jerky is both flexible and firm. It should not crumble as well easily. Otherwise, you have overcooked the meat. The ideal texture of jerky is leathery. You should be able to chew it happily, just you like favorite gums. When you chew it, the crunch should be smooth and satisfying. Moreover, it should not be too hard or too soft as well. Even if it is dry, the jerky should still feel soft on its inside parts.

However, the most useful indicator of the dryness is the absence of grease and other liquid residues. If the surfaces feel arid and parched already, then your jerky is ready to eat.

Basics of Preparing a Jerky

Drying a jerky is a straightforward process. But at the same time, you should not do it hastily as well. Otherwise, you will lose all the nutritional value that the meat should have. Just like what we said before. Cooking is a science.

Proper Application of Heat

One of the most important aspects of drying meat is securing that its insides will dehydrate properly. Therefore, the heating should not be abrupt or sudden. If you do this, the outer surface of the will turn crusty. This can result in the retention of liquid and moisture, which is bad, by the way.

Food Thermometer

Testing the temperature of beef jerky

You have to use a food thermometer to know the exact temperature and time to heat the jerky. You can play between 40 degrees Fahrenheit up to 145 degrees Fahrenheit so that you can effectively take away the moisture. In this way, you can assure yourself that microbes that can cause food spoilage won’t permeate.

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Removing the Jerky

If you deem that the jerky is done already, take it out from your oven or dehydrator. Remove them from the pan and put them on another clean tray or surface. Use a paper towel to take off any remaining oil on the surface. Afterward, cool the strips until they are already safe for your mouth’s consumption.

Preservation Process

store beef jerky in paper bag

We told earlier that jerkies don’t need refrigeration. That’s a fact. You can eat these delicacies once you finished heating and cooling them. However, if you want to preserve it for your next food trip or party, then you should refrigerate it.

First, you have to put the dried meat on plastic bags (must be airtight). Alternatively, you can use glass jars with tight lids as well. Next, you have to put your container on your refrigerator. By doing this, you can prevent the growth of bacteria and other detrimental microorganisms.

Other Drying Equipment For Preparing Jerky

Aside from the oven and dehydrators, there are still other tools that you can use to dry your favorite jerky. Here are some of them:

Beautiful woman with beef Jerky baking rack and container


A smoker is a machine that produces smoke, as its name suggest. Most of the time, you can use this tool on your local smokehouses. Fortunately, there are home versions of this equipment that you can buy for your usage.

Using a smoker to dry your jerky is quite beneficial. Specifically, it can give the meat the natural flavor and texture that it deserve. Of course, the grill-type preparation that a smoker can offer provides a more delectable ambiance to the meat!

Using a smoker to dry jerky

A smoker operates by either the use of an electrical mechanism or charcoal. Regardless of the means, this device still uses heat to generate smoke out from sawdust and chips of wood.

The duration of the drying still stays the same. You have to smoke the meat for straight three hours. Take them out and test their dryness. Then, you should put them again in the smoker for another three hours. But depending on the thickness of the meat, the process could take for a maximum of ten hours!

Extruding Devices

The name of these machines is too technical. That’s why we have to simplify them. An extruding device, or jerky gun for short, is an efficient drying tool. Specifically, the latter has a physical semblance to your caulking gun (please do not confuse the two).

Using this tool is quite helpful in the preparation of the jerky. Specifically, it can press the meat so that it can fine and flat. This process is essential to hasten the usually long drying time of jerkies.

Also, a jerky gun may possess different types of nozzles. With the availability of various nozzle sizes, you can flatten any meat, regardless of their density.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can jerky be undercooked?

Yes, it can be undercooked when it is not dehydrated enough. You can check your jerky while dehydrating it. When bent, an adequately dry jerky does not break in half but displays some cracks. The dry strip should exhibit a firm, flexible form that can easily bend completely back on itself without snapping in half. Basically, the jerky displays some cracks when bent but it shouldn’t snap at all. Dried jerky should not be crumbly but instead displays a leathery and chewy texture.

Can you over-smoke jerky?

Yes, you can over-smoke your jerky since your meat is thinly sliced. Meaning, the heat in your smoker or oven can easily cook it in a small time period. To test if you over-smoke the jerky, test its dryness. Remember, 3 hours is the maximum time for smoking but the smoking time of the jerky depends on the meat’s thickness.

 Can you overcook beef jerky?

Yes, you can overcook your beef jerky. Since the meat is thinly sliced, it can easily be overcooked. One way to determine if your jerky reaches a good texture is when it is bent. When bent, it does not break in half. It should be firm, flexible, and easily bend back when snapped but when your jerky crumbles away in your mouth, then it is definitely overcooked. 

How long does jerky take in a dehydrator/How long does it take to dehydrate beef in a dehydrator?

A: Jerky takes about 4 to 12 hours to dry completely. It’s not totally an exact measurement but rather an approximation since the speed at which the meat dehydrates is determined by its thickness. When the meat is cut thicker it dries slower.


How to tell if the jerky is done? Unfortunately, there is no exact answer to this question. You can only indicate if the jerky is ready for consumption if it is thoroughly dry already. That’s the reason why it requires several tests during and after the dehydration process. In short, you need to pay attention to the preparation stage so that you can get a sumptuous and satisfactory result!

Did you learn from this article? What are your favorite jerky recipes? Tell us your delicious answers in the comment section below! Also, do not forget to hit like and share this article! Good luck with cooking!

Last update on 2022-09-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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