How to Dry Beef at Home

Drying beef into jerky is a great way to preserve meat without refrigeration. Dried beef jerky can last for months if stored properly. With just a few simple steps, ingredients, and equipment, you can easily make beef jerky right in your own home.

Overview of Drying Beef

The basic process of making beef jerky involves cutting raw beef into thin strips, seasoning the meat, and drying it. Drying removes the moisture from the meat, which prevents bacteria growth and spoilage.

There are a few methods you can use to dry beef at home:

  • Oven drying – Drying jerky in the oven is one of the easiest methods. Simply place the seasoned meat strips directly on oven racks set at 150-170°F. Prop the oven door open slightly to allow moisture to escape.

  • Dehydrator – A food dehydrator is designed specifically for making jerky. The temperature and airflow is ideal for drying meat. Dehydrators are very convenient but not essential.

  • Smoker – Using a smoker adds incredible smoky flavor to the jerky. Keep the temperature low, around 150-170°F. The drying time may take longer than the oven.

  • Sun drying – In warm, dry climates, jerky can be made by drying strips in the hot sun. Make sure to protect the meat from insects.

No matter what drying method you use, the keys are keeping the temperature low (150-170°F) and allowing airflow around the meat for moisture evaporation.

Ingredients for Beef Jerky

Making your own jerky allows you to control exactly what ingredients go into it. Below are some common ingredients used for flavoring and preserving jerky:

  • Meat – Use lean cuts of beef like eye of round, bottom round, or flank steak. Trim off any visible fat before slicing.

  • Salt – Salt enhances flavor and acts as a preservative. Use 1-2 teaspoons per pound of meat.

  • Sugar – A small amount of sugar balances the flavors and helps tenderize the meat. Use 1 teaspoon per pound of meat.

  • Spices and seasonings – Experiment with different spice blends to get the flavor you want. Options include garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cracked pepper, chili powder, oregano, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, etc.

  • Curing salt (optional) – Curing salts like pink salt or Prague powder help preserve the red color of meat and prevent bacterial growth. Use as directed on the package.

Beef Jerky Equipment Needed

Drying beef into jerky doesn’t require any fancy equipment. Here are the basic supplies you’ll need:

  • Cutting board and sharp knife – For safely slicing the raw meat

  • Food dehydrator, oven, or smoker – For drying the jerky

  • Non-stick mesh sheets or oven racks – To place strips on for drying

  • Spice shaker – For evenly coating strips in dry seasoning

  • Gallon-sized resealable plastic bags – For storing the finished jerky

  • Food-grade gloves (optional) – For easy handling of the meat

  • Meat tenderizer (optional) – To help tenderize the meat

  • Meat slicer or mandoline (optional) – For uniform slicing

Step-by-Step Instructions

Follow these simple steps for easily making delicious homemade beef jerky:

1. Prepare the Meat

  • Start with 2-3 pounds of lean beef. Eye of round, bottom round, or flank steak are good choices.

  • Trim off any visible fat. Fat can cause the jerky to spoil faster.

  • Partially freeze the meat for 1-2 hours. This makes slicing easier.

  • Slice the meat against the grain into 1⁄4 inch thick strips. Cut the strips into about 4-6 inch lengths.

2. Make the Marinade

  • In a small bowl, combine 3/4 cup soy sauce, 1 tablespoon honey or brown sugar, 2 teaspoons each of crushed garlic and black pepper, and 1 teaspoon onion powder. Whisk well to combine.

  • Place the sliced meat strips into a resealable plastic bag or shallow dish.

  • Pour the marinade over the meat, coating all surfaces.

  • Seal the bag or cover the dish and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. This allows the meat to absorb the flavors.

3. Arrange Meat for Drying

  • Line dehydrator trays or oven racks with non-stick mesh sheets. Make sure the racks are oven-safe.

  • Remove meat strips from the marinade, shaking off any excess. Discard leftover marinade.

  • Arrange the strips flat in a single layer on the drying trays without overlapping.

4. Dry the Meat

  • For a dehydrator: Follow manufacturer instructions and dry strips at 150-160°F for 6-8 hours.

  • For the oven: Place racks on oven shelves. Prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Dry strips at 150°F for 8-10 hours.

  • Check strips occasionally as they dry. Blot away any beads of oil with a paper towel.

  • Jerky is fully dried when strips crack but do not break when bent. The internal temperature should reach 145°F.

5. Finish the Jerky

  • Remove dried jerky strips from the dehydrator or oven trays and let cool completely.

  • Blot any excess oil from the jerky with a paper towel if needed.

  • Optionally, you can further dry the jerky by placing strips on an untreated oven rack and baking at 225°F for 10 minutes. This helps ensure doneness.

  • Let cool completely. Package jerky in resealable plastic bags or airtight containers.

  • For maximum shelf life, store finished jerky in the refrigerator or freezer. Enjoy your homemade jerky!

Jerky Flavoring Ideas

One of the best parts of making your own jerky is experimenting with different flavors. Here are some ideas:

  • Teriyaki – soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger

  • Southwest – chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano

  • Spicy – crushed red pepper, cayenne, black pepper

  • Savory – onion powder, garlic powder, celery seed

  • Sweet & Tangy – brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup

  • Lemon-Herb – lemon juice, rosemary, parsley, sage

  • Smoky BBQ – liquid smoke, brown sugar, chili powder

Simply prepare a marinade using your desired flavors. Let the meat marinate overnight before drying for maximum flavor infusion.

Jerky Safety Tips

When making homemade jerky, follow these guidelines to ensure safety:

  • Use fresh, high-quality lean meat. Discard any meat with an off smell or slimy texture.

  • Trim all visible fat from the meat before marinating. Fat causes quicker spoilage.

  • Refrigerate marinating meat for no more than 24 hours for safety.

  • Dry meats quickly at around 160°F. Keep temperatures under 200°F.

  • Use spatulas and tongs rather than hands to handle meat.

  • Ensure jerky reaches an internal temperature of 160°F during drying.

  • Let jerky cool completely before packaging. Store in refrigerator or freezer for maximum shelf life.

  • Discard any jerky with mold, unpleasant odors, or signs of moisture.


How long does homemade beef jerky last?
Properly dried jerky can last 1-2 months at room temperature. For best quality, store in the refrigerator or freezer. Jerky lasts 6-12 months frozen.

What cut of beef is best for jerky?
Eye of round, bottom round, and flank steak are ideal cuts to use. They are lean and slice nicely. Avoid high-fat cuts which can spoil faster.

Can you use ground beef to make jerky?
Yes, ground beef jerky can be made by forming the seasoned meat mixture into a thin sheet before drying. Slice into strips after drying.

How thick should I slice the meat for jerky?
Cut strips around 1⁄4 inch thick for the best results. Thicker strips take longer to dry. Too thin and strips can overdry.

Can I use the oven or dehydrator to make jerky?
Yes! Both the oven and a dehydrator will effectively dry meat into jerky. The oven may take slightly longer but works well.

What temperature do I dry jerky at?
Keep temperatures between 150-170°F. Higher temperatures can cause case hardening before the jerky fully dries. Around 160°F is ideal.

How can I add smoke flavor to jerky?
For smoky jerky, add 1-2 teaspoons of liquid smoke to the marinade. You can also smoke jerky on a pellet grill or smoker before finishing in a dehydrator.

Making your own delicious beef jerky at home has never been easier! In just a few simple steps, you can create your own custom seasoned and flavored jerky. Drying meat into jerky is a safe and effective preservation method that allows enjoying meat without refrigeration.

How to Make Dried Beef


How do you air dry beef at home?

Cheesecloth: Wrapping your piece of beef in cheesecloth will allow air to reach the meat while preventing dehydration. The cheesecloth will also help to absorb excess moisture during the oxidation and aging process. Designated refrigerator: If possible, dedicate a separate small fridge to aging meats.

How do you dry age beef quickly?

Unless your refrigerator is odor-free, a mini fridge is the best possible option. A fan. To promote drying of the surface and even aging, you want to stick a fan inside your fridge to keep air circulating. This works in much the same way as a convection oven, promoting more even cooling and humidity all around.

How do you dry meat naturally?

We cut the meat (deer, squirrel, beef from the grocery store) into 1/8″ or thinner strips, douse it with some spices or hot sauce, place it on a drying rack in the sun for somewhere between eight to 16 hours, and voila-the best jerky you’ll ever taste.

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