How to Make Delicious Beef Jerky from Ground Beef

Beef jerky is a tasty and portable snack that is perfect for taking on hikes, road trips, or just to have around the house. While most traditional beef jerky recipes call for using whole muscle cuts of beef, you can also make delicious jerky from ground beef. Ground beef jerky has a different texture than sliced jerky, but can have just as much flavor. This article will provide tips and step-by-step instructions for making great ground beef jerky at home.

Benefits of Ground Beef Jerky

There are several advantages to making beef jerky from ground beef rather than sliced whole muscles:

  • Cost effective – Ground beef is cheaper per pound than steak cuts used for traditional jerky. This makes ground beef jerky more budget friendly.

  • Versatile flavors – With ground beef you can easily mix in spices, herbs, sauces, etc to customize flavors.

  • Soft, chewy texture – The texture of ground beef jerky is naturally a bit softer and easier to chew than traditional jerky. This makes it a good option for those who prefer a more tender jerky.

  • Lean options – You can choose 90% or higher lean ground beef to make a healthier jerky.

  • Quick prep – No slicing and marinating required. Just mix up the ground beef and flavors and form into strips.

Tips for Making Ground Beef Jerky

Follow these tips for success when making ground beef jerky:

  • Use very lean ground beef – Choose 90% or higher lean ground beef so the jerky doesn’t crumble. Fattier beef will fall apart during cooking. Ground turkey, bison, venison, etc also work well.

  • Evenly mix flavors – Use your hands to evenly distribute spices, seasonings, and binders throughout the raw ground beef before forming strips. This ensures consistent flavor.

  • Form even strips – Use a jerky gun or press strips between wax paper to form uniform strips for even drying. Consistent thickness = consistent doneness.

  • Dry thoroughly – Ground beef jerky needs to be dried until it bends and cracks but doesn’t break when bent. If under dried, it won’t store well.

  • Use curing salt – Curing salts like Prague Powder #1 help ground jerky retain a better texture and allow it to be stored at room temperature. Follow precise measurements.

  • Store properly – Without curing salt, keep refrigerated and consume within 1 week. Cured jerky can be stored for 1-2 months.

Equipment Needed

You don’t need any fancy equipment to make ground beef jerky, but these tools can be helpful:

  • Jerky gun – Makes uniform strips for even drying. Can form jerky into sticks or flats.

  • Food dehydrator – Dehydrators with temperature controls work best for making ground beef jerky.

  • Box fan – Use to make jerky in the oven by placing near oven door to improve air flow.

  • Grill or smoker – These can be used to make jerky by maintaining consistent low temperatures.

  • Meat thermometer – Allows monitoring internal temp, which should reach 160°F for ground beef.

  • Non-stick drying racks – Keeps jerky strips from sticking and allows air flow on all sides.

Choosing Ground Beef and Prep Work

  • Ground Beef – Use 90% or higher lean ground beef so the fat doesn’t cause the jerky to fall apart. Ground turkey, bison, venison, etc also work well.

  • Fat content – The lower the fat content, the better the jerky will hold together. Shoot for 90% lean or higher. 80% lean may work but be more prone to crumbling.

  • Ground texture – Try to use coarse ground beef rather than finely ground for better bind and texture.

  • Weight – Plan for about 1.5 pounds of raw ground beef per 1 pound of finished jerky due to moisture loss.

  • Defrost – If using frozen ground beef, thaw completely before mixing with other ingredients.

  • Sanitize – Wash hands, prep area, tools, etc thoroughly before and during prep.

Seasoning and Flavoring Ground Beef Jerky

  • Salt – Use 2 teaspoons kosher salt per 1 pound ground beef. Salt enhances flavor.

  • Sugar – 1-2 teaspoons of brown sugar per pound rounds out flavor.

  • Spices – Black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, red pepper, etc.

  • Liquid smoke – 1 teaspoon per pound adds smoky flavor if not smoking jerky.

  • Soy or Worcestershire sauce – 2 tablespoons per pound adds flavor.

  • Marinades – Stir in BBQ sauce, teriyaki sauce, etc for flavor.

  • Whole spices – Try cracked black pepper, crushed red pepper, cayenne, jalapeños, etc.

  • Mix thoroughly – Use hands to evenly distribute all ingredients throughout the raw ground beef before forming strips.

Forming Ground Beef Jerky Strips

  • Jerky gun – The easiest way to form consistent strips. Load seasoned beef and extrude.

  • Wax paper – Sandwich seasoned beef between sheets, roll thin, remove top layer, cut strips.

  • Parchment paper – Same concept as wax paper. Place on rack and flip over.

  • Aluminum foil – Shape into loaf on foil, fold overhang to compact, slice off strips.

  • Hand roll – Roll seasoned beef into balls, press into ovals and elongate. More irregular.

  • Consistency – Try to maintain uniform thickness and shape for even drying. 1/4 inch thick is ideal.

  • Spacing – Leave small gaps between strips on racks so air can circulate.

Dehydrating and Cooking Ground Beef Jerky

  • Low temperature – Keep temperature 120-170°F throughout drying.

  • Long cook time – Takes 5-7 hours for most ground beef jerky recipes.

  • Food dehydrator – Best method. Follow manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Oven – Prop door open slightly. Use box fan in door to improve air flow.

  • Smoker or grill – Keep temperatures very low, less than 200°F.

  • Internal temperature – Cook to 160°F internal temperature.

  • Dryness check – Jerky should bend without cracking or breaking. Should not have any moist spots.

  • Color – Finished jerky will turn deep red or brown. Spotty color means uneven drying.

Storing and Serving Ground Beef Jerky

  • Cool completely – Allow jerky to cool to room temperature before packaging.

  • Storage containers – Use zip top bags or airtight containers. Minimize air exposure.

  • Shelf life – 1 week in the refrigerator or 1-2 months if cured.

  • Freeze for longer storage – Freezer bags or vacuum seal work well for freezing. Thaw before eating.

  • On-the-go – Carry jerky in reusable containers for healthy on-the-go snack.

  • Road trips – Make travel snacks with a variety variety of jerky flavors and spices.

  • Hiking or camping – Toss jerky in your pack for a protein-packed hiking or camping snack.

Troubleshooting Ground Beef Jerky

Dry, crumbly texture – Use fattier ground beef, less salt, less cooking time.

Oily texture – Pat off excess fat after forming strips. Use very lean ground beef.

Mushy texture – Cook at lower temp and longer to fully dehydrate.

Blotchy color – Apply seasonings more evenly and dry thoroughly.

Off flavors – Ensure even seasoning distribution. Check for rancid oils.

Not drying – Need longer time, lower temp, better air circulation, thinner strips.

Moldy – Indicates under drying. Discard moldy jerky.

Ground Beef Jerky Recipe

This straightforward recipe for ground beef jerky makes about 1 pound:


  • 1.5 pounds 90% lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce


  1. Mix all ingredients into ground beef thoroughly until well combined.
  2. Form into 1/4 inch thick strips using a jerky gun or by hand.
  3. Arrange on dehydrator trays without touching.
  4. Dehydrate at 155°F for 5-7 hours until dried.
  5. Cool completely and store in airtight container up to 1 week.

Make Your Own Delicious Ground Beef Jerky

With some simple tips on ingredients, prep, and drying, you can easily make amazing beef jerky from ground beef at home. Experiment with flavors and spices to make it your own. Ground beef jerky has a great texture and flavor that makes a perfect portable snack.

Ground Beef Jerky!


How much jerky does 1lb of ground beef make?

You can understand why, since processing jerky takes time, and a pound of meat only produces about 1/4-pound of finished jerky. However, it really is a manageable process that you can do at home.

How long does ground beef jerky take to dehydrate?

Place in a dehydrator and dry at 160°F for 3 hours or until ground jerky is dry when touched. It should be pliable when bent. It is over dried if it cracks in half when bent.

Do you have to cure ground meat jerky?

Curing salt is not required to make jerky, but it is an important tool. The key ingredients in curing salt inhibit the growth of unwanted bacteria, specifically Clostridium botulinum, that can cause potentially lethal foodborne illnesses. Think of curing salt as an insurance plan.

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