Whether you’ve just hunted down a deer or just purchased some fresh deer meat at your local grocery store, turning it into jerky is one of the best ways to enjoy its flavor.
A lot can go wrong throughout the jerky making process however, especially if you’re just trying it out for the first time. I know that’s how it went for me. Luckily, with a little practice and a whole lot of patience, I was able to learn the ropes and discover all the details on preparing this delicious treat.
So if you’re interested in learning how to prepare for the jerky process or how long to dehydrate deer jerky, this comprehensive guide should teach you everything you need to know.
Preparing the Deer Meat
The first step of preparing your deer meat for drying is cutting it up. It’s ideal to keep the meat at less than a half-inch in thickness to make sure they effectively absorb your flavorings.
Once you’ve achieved the right cut sizes and thickness, it would be best to soak your deer meat in a salt bath. This step helps drain out any residual blood, and also helps clean the meat to make it safe for consumption.
The next step involves seasoning your meat to appeal to your taste. This part of the process will help guarantee great tasting jerky once you’re done.
Depending on your preferences, you can choose from a vast variety of different deer jerky recipes. These often involve rubbing the meat with different herbs and spices, and marinating it for extended periods of time to really infuse it with flavor.
Set Up Your Stove
When drying your meat, one of the most important factors to take into consideration is the temperature setting on your stove. Set it too high and you’ve burnt your meat, set it too low and you risk uncooked jerky.
The ideal temperature setting for deer meat is at 200 degrees Celsius. But before you can pop your dear meat into the oven, it’s important to first heat the strips at 160 degrees Celcius to eliminate the chances of salmonella.
Once your meat has been pre-heated to 160 degrees, take it out of the oven and pat it down with a paper towel. Removing the excess oil will ensure a longer shelf-life.
Pre-heat your oven to the standard 200 degrees, and then place your meat into the oven for dehydration. Make sure to place it on a tray with drainage holes and position a tray beneath to catch the drippings.
How Long to Dehydrate Deer Jerky?
This is the main question on the mind of many people who want to prepare deer jerky. When it comes to dehydrating, time is of the essence. That’s why it’s imperative to make sure that your deer meat has been dehydrated long enough to ensure a lengthy shelf life and proper taste.
The most ideal time to dry out deer meat is 5 hours at 200 degrees Celcius. This length of time guarantees that all moisture will be removed from the meat without overcooking it. But to make sure that each side is properly dehydrated, it would be ideal to flip the strips once at the 2 and a half hour mark.
If you’re not too keen on slaving over a hot oven, a food dehydrator might be a better option. Personally, I can’t get enough of the Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator which easily dries out jerky to the perfect texture.
Check you jerky after 5 hours and determine whether or not it’s been dehydrated well enough. Because stove temperatures may vary even when set at a specific heat, it’s possible that some jerky may not yet be ready for cooling.
The best indicator of properly dried deer jerky is the inability to poke through the meat with any sort of prod or fork. Once you’ve reached this texture, your deer meat is likely ready to be taken out of the stove. If not, leave it in the heat making sure to check for doneness every 10 minutes.
Now that your deer meat has been properly dehydrated, it’s time to take it out of the stove and cool it down for storage. Remember – don’t get too excited when packing up your deer jerky. If it’s too hot when you place it in those vacuum sealed plastic bags, they can eat through the material and compromise the quality of the jerky.
As a general rule, you will want to set your jerky to cool for around an hour. This will ensure that the meat would have cooled to room temperature all the way through the center.
Once the meat jerky has cooled, you can pat it dry with a paper towel to remove any residual oil. This usually accumulates on the surface of the jerky, and can decrease shelf-life. Removing as much of it as possible will help guarantee a long lasting deer jerky.
Storing your deer jerky is best done with vacuum sealed food-grade plastic bags. This prevents any airborne contaminants from making contact with the meat, thus allowing you to store it for much longer.
In the absence of vacuum sealed plastic bags, a standard food container should do. But keep in mind that these containers can reduce jerky shelf-life to just around 2 or 3 months, if placed inside a refrigerator.
If you feel like taking out and eating some of your dried jerky, simply take it out and cut it up to be added into stews, sandwiches, or of course, to be eaten as-is.
The Wrap Up
It can be confusing to turn deer meat into jerky, but once you’ve got all the dirty details down, it’ll be as easy as pie.
Again, if you don’t want to have to go through with all the tedious details, using a standard countertop dehydrator may be a much easier and faster method to get the job done.
How do you prepare your deer jerky? Do you have any other strategies when it comes to whipping up this tasty meaty treat? Are there any other things you’d want to know about my jerky preparation process? How Long to Dehydrate Deer Jerky? Let me know in the comments section and let’s start a conversation!