Food Safety and the Jerky

Food Safety Focus: Properly Preparing Beef Jerky

When prepared properly, beef jerky and jerky made from other meat are delicious, nutrient-packed foods noted for their safety and long-term edibility. However, when one chooses to make beef jerky or wild game jerky at home, it can be helpful to be aware of food dehydration principles and jerky cooking safety guidelines to ensure that the resulting delicacy is free from unwanted microorganisms capable of causing illness.

Homemade beef jerky is generally made through a drying process. As a method of food preservation, drying is one of the world's oldest techniques, easily outdating other common methods like canning and freezing, both of which have only become practical since the Industrial Revolution and the widespread availability of electricity. By creating dehydrated food, drying, in effect, prevents particular enzymes from acting on the food by removing moisture from the environment.

The primary agents of illness in improperly prepared homemade beef jerky and other game jerky are Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7. The latter is naturally found in the digestive tracts of cattle and deer, both of whom are known carriers of the organism. This can be particularly problematic in the case of game jerky such as venison because deer carcasses are often kept at normal temperatures for long periods before they are processed, opening the door for rapid bacterial multiplication. While these microbial agents are capable of causing illness, the good news is that they can be easily destroyed by following a few simple guidelines when you choose to make beef jerky of your own.

Food Dehydration Guidelines for Beef Jerky Cooking

The best way to ensure the safety of any dehydrated food made from meat products such as jerky is to heat the given meat to a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit before the drying process. In the case of wild game jerky, the meat should be heated to a temperature of 165 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit before undergoing the food dehydration process.

This initial step is very important because such temperatures are required to kill pathogenic organisms. Because these microbes become much more heat resistant after they have been dried, it is important to ensure that they are gone before the drying portion of the jerky cooking process is begun. Adequate temperatures during the drying process are also necessary when you are focusing on food safety. In order to ensure that the drying progresses rapidly enough to remove moisture before spoilage can occur, drying temperatures should be no lower than 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

Additional Food Safety Tips

� Keep meat and poultry refrigerated if you do not intend to prepare them immediately. For your homemade beef jerky needs, it is recommended that the meat be frozen if you do not prepare it within two days.

� When you defrost frozen meats, do so in the refrigerator, not on room-temperature surfaces like cutting boards or kitchen counter tops.

� Marinades should never be used more than once when you make beef jerky. In other words, never reuse a marinade.

� Consume homemade beef jerky within two months. Assume one month of longevity for wild game jerky.

� ALWAYS wash your hands when handling meat, both beforehand and afterward.

Source: Gary Rangland

Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, Original Flavor, 16 Ounce
Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, Original Flavor, 16 Ounce
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Jack Link’s Premium 110 Calorie Beef Jerky Variety Pack, 11.25 Ounce
Jack Link’s Premium 110 Calorie Beef Jerky Variety Pack, 11.25 Ounce
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Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, Teriyaki, 16 Ounce
Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, Teriyaki, 16 Ounce
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Jack Link’s Beef Jerky Snack Packs, Original, 3.125 Ounce
Jack Link’s Beef Jerky Snack Packs, Original, 3.125 Ounce
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One Response to “Food Safety and the Jerky”

  1. Jenny Gatechair 2 February 2010 at 1:31 pm Permalink

    You stated that the meat is be heated to 160 prior to dehydrating however you don’t state for how long… Also, how can you heat the meat to 160 without cooking it before placing in the dehyrator?


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