Embarking on the journey of making homemade jerky can be both exciting and a bit daunting, especially if you’re new to it. But fear not, as drying jerky in a convection oven is simpler than you might think. This guide will show you how to dry jerky in a convection oven step-by-step, ensuring that you can create delicious, homemade jerky with ease.
Table of Contents
Things You’ll Need: How to Dry Jerky in a Convection Oven
- Lean meat (beef, turkey, or chicken)
- Sharp knife or meat slicer
- Marinade ingredients (soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, spices, etc.)
- Non-stick baking sheets or wire racks
- Paper towels
- Aluminum foil (optional)
- Meat thermometer
- Storage bags or containers
How to Dry Jerky in a Convection Oven Step by Step
Follow the steps below to dry jerky in a convection oven…
Step 1: Prepare the Meat
Begin by selecting a lean cut of meat. Ideal choices include beef top round, flank steak, or sirloin tip. Lean cuts from turkey or chicken can also be used. The key is to choose cuts with minimal fat content because fat does not dry out and can cause your jerky to spoil faster.
Trimming Fat: Carefully inspect your meat and trim off any visible fat with a sharp knife. Fat can be easily identified as the white or cream-colored parts on the meat. This step is crucial for extending the shelf life of your jerky.
Freezing for Easier Slicing: Place your trimmed meat in the freezer for approximately 1-2 hours. This is not to freeze the meat solid, but to firm it up, making slicing more manageable and more precise. The meat should be firm but not frozen solid.
Slicing the Meat: After the meat has chilled, remove it from the freezer. Using a sharp knife or a meat slicer for consistency, slice the meat against the grain. Cutting against the grain (the direction of the muscle fibers) ensures that the jerky is easier to chew.
Aim for slices that are about ¼ inch thick. If the slices are too thick, they won’t dry properly, and if too thin, they will dry out too quickly and become too brittle.
Step 2: Marinate
In a mixing bowl, combine your chosen marinade ingredients. Marinades typically include elements like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, spices, and sometimes a sweetening agent. The marinade not only adds flavor but also helps in preserving the meat. You can experiment with different recipes to find the flavor profile you prefer.
Marinating the Meat: Lay the meat strips in the marinade, ensuring each piece is fully submerged and coated. This can be done in a bowl or a resealable plastic bag. If using a bag, it makes it easier to turn the meat during the marinating process.
Refrigeration Time: Once the meat is fully coated with the marinade, cover the bowl or seal the bag. Place it in the refrigerator. This is an essential food safety step to prevent bacterial growth.
Marinate the meat for at least 4 hours, though leaving it overnight is preferable. The longer the meat marinates, the more flavorful it will be. If using a bag, turn it a few times during the marinating process to ensure even flavor distribution.
Step 3: Preparing the Oven
The first task is to preheat your convection oven. The ideal temperature for drying jerky is around 160°F (70°C). This low temperature ensures that the meat dries slowly and evenly without cooking. If your convection oven doesn’t have a setting this low, set it to the lowest temperature available. The goal is to create an environment that dehydrates the meat rather than cooks it.
Understanding Oven Variations: Be aware that oven temperatures can vary, and some might not be accurate. If possible, use an oven thermometer to verify the temperature. This step is especially important if you are making jerky for the first time or using a new oven.
Preparing the Oven Interior: To keep your oven clean and make the cleanup process easier, place aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven. The foil will catch any drips or crumbs that fall off the meat during the drying process. This is a simple yet effective way to maintain your oven.
Step 4: Arranging the Meat
After marinating, it’s crucial to remove the meat from the marinade and dry it. Take each strip of meat and gently pat it dry with paper towels. This step is essential to remove excess marinade, which can lead to uneven drying or overly moist spots in the jerky. Be thorough but gentle to avoid tearing the meat.
Choosing the Right Surface: You have a couple of options for placing the meat in the oven. Non-stick baking sheets are a good choice; however, for optimal air circulation, wire racks are preferable. If using baking sheets, you may want to lightly spray them with non-stick cooking spray or use a silicone baking mat to prevent sticking.
Arranging the Meat: Lay the meat strips out on your chosen surface. It’s important to ensure that the strips do not touch or overlap. Each piece needs enough space around it for air to circulate freely. This ensures even drying and prevents any moist spots which can lead to spoilage. If using wire racks, position them so that there is space between each rack for air flow.
Maximizing Oven Space: Depending on the size of your oven, you may be able to fit multiple trays or racks. Arrange them in such a way that there is space between each tray for air circulation. It’s better to dry the meat in batches than to overcrowd the oven, as this can lead to uneven drying.
Read more on oven drying here – How to Oven Dry Stuff: Your Ultimate Guide to Drying Various Items in the Oven
Step 5: Drying the Jerky
Carefully place the prepared racks or baking sheets in the preheated convection oven. If you’re using multiple racks or sheets, ensure they are spaced out to allow for adequate air circulation.
Managing Moisture Escape: To facilitate the dehydration process, it’s crucial to let the moisture escape from the oven. You can achieve this by leaving the oven door slightly ajar.
Some ovens have a feature that allows the door to stay slightly open; if not, you can prop it open with a wooden spoon or a similar non-metal, heat-resistant object. This step is key to removing moisture efficiently and aids in creating the perfect jerky texture.
Understanding the Drying Time: The drying process can vary significantly, usually taking about 3 to 8 hours. This duration depends on several factors, including the thickness of the meat slices, the exact temperature of your oven, and the humidity level in your kitchen. Thinner slices will dry faster, while thicker slices take longer.
Monitoring the Process: It’s important to check on the jerky periodically. This isn’t just to observe the drying process, but also to ensure that it is drying evenly. If you notice some pieces are drying faster than others, you may need to rotate the trays or racks.
Step 6: Checking for Doneness
After about 3 hours, start checking the jerky. This involves examining its texture and flexibility. The jerky is done when it’s leathery and bends without breaking. It should feel dry to the touch, not sticky or soft.
Testing the Texture: Properly dried jerky will bend and might crack a bit but shouldn’t snap. If it snaps easily, it’s over-dried. If it’s too soft or moist, it needs more time.
Ensuring Food Safety: It’s important to use a meat thermometer to check that the jerky has reached an internal temperature of 160°F (70°C). This step is crucial for safety, as it ensures that any harmful bacteria present in the meat are eliminated.
Final Check: When you believe the jerky is done, remove a piece and let it cool for a few minutes. Once it’s at room temperature, check its texture again. Cooling can change the texture slightly, and what felt perfect in the oven might be too dry or still too moist once cooled.
Step 7: Cooling and Storing
After you’ve determined that your jerky is properly dried, remove it from the oven. It’s crucial to let the jerky cool completely before proceeding to storage. Place the racks or baking sheets on a heat-resistant surface or use oven mitts to transfer the jerky to cooling racks. Cooling is important as it stops the drying process and sets the final texture of the jerky.
Inspecting Before Storage: Once the jerky has cooled, inspect each piece. This is a good time to remove any pieces that might have over-dried or are not up to your quality standards. Remember, each piece should be leathery and slightly pliable.
Choosing the Right Storage Container: For storing the jerky, select airtight containers or bags. Ziplock bags, vacuum-sealed bags, or airtight jars work well. Removing as much air as possible from the storage container will help preserve the jerky’s quality and extend its shelf life.
Storing at Room Temperature: Properly dried jerky can be stored at room temperature for about two weeks. Ensure it’s kept in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat sources. This is ideal for jerky that will be consumed quickly.
Refrigerating for Longer Shelf Life: If you plan to keep the jerky for a longer period, refrigeration is a good option. In the refrigerator, jerky can last for a few months. The cooler temperature slows down any potential spoilage processes.
Freezing for Longest Preservation: For long-term storage, freezing is the best option. In a well-sealed container or bag, jerky can be kept in the freezer for up to six months. When you want to eat it, just take out the required amount and let it thaw at room temperature.
Labeling: It’s a good practice to label your storage containers or bags with the date of production. This helps you keep track of the jerky’s age and ensures you use it within its optimal consumption period.
Conclusion: How to Dry Jerky in a Convection Oven
Drying jerky in a convection oven is a straightforward process that yields delicious results. By following these steps, you can create a tasty, homemade snack that’s perfect for on-the-go, camping trips, or simply as a savory treat. Enjoy the fruits of your labor and the satisfaction of making your own jerky!