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Making Safe Jerky At Home

Food preservation by drying has been practiced for centuries. Homemade jerky can be a flavorful, easy-to-make snack. However, as with any meat product, keep food safety in mind so that your final product is both tasty and healthy.

Important Food Safety Guidelines:

  1. Wash hands often and thoroughly when handling meat, especially after handling raw meat. Hands should be in contact with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Do not cross-contaminate properly heated and dried meat with raw meat or unclean utensils. Keep raw meat, cutting surfaces, and equipment that have touched raw meat separate from dried meat, other ready-to eat foods, and other work surfaces and equipment.
  3. Sanitize cutting surfaces and equipment such as tongs, knives, and drying racks with a solution of 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach in one gallon of water. Sanitize before and after use.
  4. Use an approved or tested recipe! The “Hot Pickle Cure Jerky” and “Vinegar-Marinade Preparation Method” are the only recipes for jerky currently recommended by the University of Wyoming Extension.

Use a Thermometer

Use a calibrated thermometer to monitor the circulating air temperature of the dehydrator or oven. Preheat the dehydrator or oven to 145°F for 15 to 30 minutes. Using clean tongs, arrange meat strips in single layers on the drying trays without touching each other. Place the filled trays in the preheated dehydrator leaving enough open space on the racks for air to circulate around the strips. Let the strips dry for 10 to 14 hours or until the pieces are adequately dry.

Test for Dryness

Test for dryness. Properly dried jerky is chewy and leathery. It will bend like a green stick but won’t snap like a dry stick. To test for dryness, remove a strip of jerky from the oven or dehydrator. Let cool slightly then bend the jerky; it should crack but not break when bent. When jerky is sufficiently dry, remove the strips from the drying racks to a clean surface. Pat off any beads of oil with absorbent paper towel, and let cool.


Place cooled jerky strips in an airtight plastic food bag or jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pack jerky with the least possible amount of air trapped in the container. Too much air causes off-flavors and rancidity. Label and date packages.

Store jerky in a cool, dry, dark place or the refrigerator or freezer. Properly dried jerky will keep for approximately two weeks in a sealed container at room temperature. It will keep for 3 to 6 months in the refrigerator and up to one year in the freezer. Check occasionally to be sure no mold is forming.


Vinegar- Marinade Preparation Method

Course: Snack
Author: Leathers and Jerkies. CSU Bulletin 9.311; P. Kendall and J. Sofos, Colorado State University, March 2003 and updated July 2006.


  • 2 pounds lean meat

Pre-treatment Dip

  • 2 cups vinegar

Marinade Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp hickory smoked salt


  • Place 2 cups vinegar in 9” x 11” cake pan or plastic storage container. Add meat strips to container making sure vinegar covers all strips. Let soak 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure distribution of vinegar on strips.
  • Combine all marinade ingredients and place in a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag. Add lean meat slices to bag; seal bag and massage pieces to thoroughly distribute marinade over all meat strips. Refrigerate bag 1 to 24 hours.
  • Remove meat slices from bag, and place flat without touching each other on clean dehydrator trays, oven racks, or other drying trays. Place trays in preheated dehydrator, and dry at 145°F for 10 to 14 hours or until slices are adequately dry.

Hot Pickle Cure Jerky

Course: Appetizer, Snack
Servings: 2 pounds
Author: You and Your Wild Game, 1984 by R.A. Field and C.A. Raab, University of Wyoming Agricultural Extension Service, B-613R, p. 58.


  • 5 pounds meat 1/4" strips


  • Slice 5 pounds of meat (1/4-inch strips) with the grain, not crosswise. Spread out meat and sprinkle on 3 Tbsp. salt, 2 tsp. ground black pepper, and 2 Tbsp. sugar. Put the meat in a pan or dish and let stand for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
  • Pound the meat on both sides to work in the spice. Optional: Dip strips of meat in a liquid smoke solution (5 parts water to 1 part liquid smoke) for one to two seconds for added flavor.
  • Make a brine by dissolving 3/4 cup salt, 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 Tbsp. ground black pepper in a gallon of water. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  • Bring the brine to a low to medium boil. Immerse the fresh meat strips (a few at a time) into the boiling brine until they turn gray (approximately one to two minutes). Remove meat from brine, using clean tongs or other utensils that have not contacted raw meat.
  • Spread out meat on a clean dehydrator rack or on a clean rack in the top half of a kitchen oven. If you use a kitchen oven, open the oven door to the first or second stop. Heat at 120 to 150°F (lowest oven temperature) for nine to 24 hours or until the desired dryness is reached. Remove jerky from oven before it gets too hard or brittle. Properly dried jerky should crack when bent in half but should not break into two pieces.
  • Store in clean jars or plastic bags, or wrap in freezer paper and freeze. If kept dry, properly prepared jerky will last almost indefinitely at any temperature, but its quality deteriorates in a few months.
Jerky on plate

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Extension Educator:
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming Extension

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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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