How to safely prepare beef jerky for hiking?

Making beef jerky is a great way to preserve meat when you go hiking, but there are a few things you need to know before getting started.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss some of the precautions you need to take when preparing beef jerky, as well as how long it lasts and when it goes bad. We’ll also provide some tips for ensuring that your jerky is safe to eat and won’t give you stomach problems.

When preparing beef jerky, it’s important to use lean cuts of meat. Fatty meats can spoil more quickly, get rancid, and may be unsafe to eat. You’ll also want to trim off any excess fat or gristle before slicing the meat into thin strips.

Be sure to avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards and knives for preparing the beef jerky and other foods. Also, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly every time you have touched the raw meat or thing that have been in contact with meat!

One of the safest ways is to use meat that is already cooked, as most microorganisms will be killed by the cooking process.

Once you’ve sliced the meat, it’s important to marinate it in salt and use a sufficiently high temperature when drying the jerky.

How to safely prepare beef jerky

Here are the steps I go through when making beef jerky in my dehydrator:

-Slice the beef against the grain into very thin strips, no thicker than ¼ inch. The beef can be raw or cooked meat is also fine for jerky.

-Mix together ½ teaspoon of salt with enough water to make a slurry.

-Marinate the beef strips in a 10% salt solution for at least 30 minutes, but preferably overnight. Add spices if you prefer – see suggestions below!

-Drain the beef strips and discard the marinade.

-Lay out the beef strips on your dehydrator trays, making sure that they don’t overlap.

-Dehydrate at a temperature above 160 degrees Fahrenheit for about six hours, or until the jerky is dry but still pliable.

-Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months!

Making beef jerky is a fun, easy way to preserve meat, but as with any food, it can go bad. This is not as common for dried foods because the microorganisms that decompose food, such as bacteria and molds (fungi) all need water to grow.

It is therefore very important that the meat is properly dried before storage!

How to tell when beef jerky is done?

The jerky is done when it is dry to the touch but still pliable. It should not be brittle or overly tough. After cooling down, it should have a slight brittle feeling while still not cracking after bending it.

If you feel any water when pressing it between two fingers, let it dehydrate for a while longer!

The wrinkly surface and the leathery feel of beef jerky signal that it is done!

Although drying beef jerky too much hurts the taste and mouthfeel, it only improves its shelf life…

What are the best dehydrators for making safe jerky?

The best dehydrators for making jerky are the ones with temperature control to ensure that the meat does not get cooked. The Excalibur series is a great example of a reliable brand, although slightly pricier than others.

If you’re planning to make a lot of beef jerky at home, the best dehydrator for this purpose is one that can handle the job without breaking your budget.

I recommend you can look for a model with an adjustable thermostat and a timer, however, if you’re on a very tight budget, the NESCO FD-37 is a good minimal option.

The best-rated and most sturdy dehydrator with full functionality you can find on Amazon is the COSORI Premium Food Dehydrator. It comes with a nice metal finish and thick metal shelves that allow for the high temperatures needed for making every kind of jerky. It also has a built-in light and a glass window so that you can follow your drying process at all times.

Another good and cheap dehydrator is the Hamilton Beach 32100C Digital Food Dehydrator. It comes with five trays and very good reviews on Amazon. It is one of the better bargain products out there that will do the job without a hassle. Along with jerky, the many trays can allow you to make lots of jerky at once or even use it to dehydrate fruit once in a while.

If you’re very passionate about jerky, then there are many upscale models ranging from the $200-$400 range which is just as worth it. The more expensive you go, the more capacity, so it really depends on how much you will be using your dehydrator for things other than meat to make jerky. 

One of the top picks for the more ambitious chef is the highly popular Excalibur 9-tray version. It offers a huge capacity with room for almost two pounds of sliced jerky. A 360-degree air circulation system keeps the meat evenly dry. It has a drip pan and a fruit roll tray. Its digital control panel makes it easy to use and it is also quiet in use.

These are all good choices for safe jerky preparation!

When making beef jerky in a dehydrator, is it necessary to preheat it?

It is not necessary to preheat your dehydrator when making beef jerky, as the meat will cook slowly over the course of several hours. However, if you are using an oven to make your jerky, it is recommended that you preheat it to 275 degrees Fahrenheit before placing the beef strips in it.

Do you have to use curing salt for beef jerky?

No, any salt is fine, however, curing salt does have nitrates in it which helps to preserve the meat.

You can either soak the strips of meat in a marinade overnight or just put it directly in a dehydrator or oven just after applying the salt solution. If you’re using a dehydrator, make sure that the temperature is set below 160 degrees Fahrenheit so that the meat doesn’t cook and become tough.

There are many options for spices when making beef jerkies, such as cloves, pepper, bay leaves, and eastern fermented sauces such as soy sauce!

If you want something a little more exciting than just salt, marinate your beef slices in a mixture of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and/or teriyaki sauce. This will help to preserve the meat and give it a delicious flavor!

Can you freeze homemade beef jerky?

Yes, you can freeze beef jerky and it will make it last much longer.

However, it is best to vacuum-seal it in an airtight container or freezer bag to prevent oxidation, freezer burn and tastes from other foods in the freezer.

How long will beef jerky last?

Beef jerky can last anywhere from a few weeks to years, depending on how it is stored.

If kept in an airtight container and at room temperature, beef jerky should last for about six months. If frozen, it will keep for up to two years.

However, if the jerky is stored in a humid and warm environment, it will only last for about a few weeks.

Can you eat expired beef jerky?

Generally not, eating expired beef jerky can cause stomach problems. However, if it does not smell, has been kept dry and cool, and looks normal, try and taste a little bit to see if it has any bad or old taste. If not, it’s probably safe to eat!

Can beef jerky get moldy?

Mold is a type of fungus that can grow on food, such as beef jerky.

Mold needs moisture to grow, and since beef jerky is a dried food, it is less likely to get moldy. However, if the jerky is stored in a humid environment, it is more likely to get moldy.

If you see any signs of mold on your beef jerky, discard it immediately! Mold can cause nausea and vomiting.

What does mold on beef jerky look like?

Mold on beef jerky can look like different colors, such as white, green, blue, or black.

It is usually furry or slimy and has a bad smell. If you see any signs of mold on your beef jerky, discard it immediately!

I hate to show you this, but this is actually how moldy beef jerky looks like. You might recognize our hairy friends from sausages and spoiled fruit.

Some meat products like salami sausages are actually made using white molds (not the green ones – these are always bad!) to enhance the shelf life and taste! However, you cannot know what mold will grow on your jerky, so it is always best to throw it in the bin.

Does beef jerky make you poop (can it cause diarrhea)?

The last thing you want from your food on a long hike is stomach problems…

Although beef jerky is a dried food, it can still go bad if not stored properly. It is not as common for dried foods to cause stomach problems, but it is possible. If you eat expired beef jerky, it can cause diarrhea.

Some people, especially long-term vegetarians, are simply not used to the concentrated meat and often strong spices of beef jerky, which can speed up your digestive system and make you defecate more often.

If you experience any stomach problems after eating beef jerky, stop eating it and consult a doctor.

Can beef jerky cause constipation?

All dried foods have a tendency to absorb water in the stomach, making your stool more compact and dense. This may cause constipation, especially if you do not drink enough water with your jerky!

However, it is not normal for beef jerky does not cause constipation, but If you do experience any stomach problems after eating beef jerky, stop eating it and consult a doctor.

Conclusion

Beef jerky is a great, healthy snack to have on hand. However, it is important to take precautions when preparing it at home to avoid food poisoning.

Beef jerky can last anywhere from a few weeks to years, depending on how it is stored. If kept in an airtight container and at room temperature, it should last for about six months. If frozen, it will keep for up to two years.

However, if the jerky is stored in a humid and warm environment, it will only last for about a few weeks.

Eating expired beef jerky can cause stomach problems. However, if it does not have an odor, has been kept dry and cool, and appears normal, taste a little to determine whether it is good or not.

If you follow the guidelines in this blog post and have a decent dehydrator at hand, it should not be a challenge for you to make safe, well-tasting, beef jerky at home!