How Long to Dehydrate Deer Jerky?

Whether your deer is store-bought, or the result of a hunting expedition, this article will guide you on how long to dehydrate deer jerky and how to guarantee product safety.

Deer jerky, spicy deer jerky, and sweet deer jerky, although different, share one thing in common.

To make any of the said products, you will have to cure, smoke, or dry the meat. 

Let us explore how long to dehydrate deer jerky.

How Long to Dehydrate Deer Jerky?

To dehydrate deer jerky, you should first place deer jerky in an oven heated to 275 F for at least ten minutes, then transfer the meat to a dehydrator set at 135 F, and let the jerky dry for 8 hours.

Why so long? The answer is pathogenic bacteria.  If you do not dehydrate the meat for the recommended time, disease-causing pathogens may survive, putting your family in harm’s way. That also explains the need for added heating.

What if you set the temperature at 160F? At 160 F, the recommended drying time is five to six hours.

What is crucial to remember is.  If you dry the meat at a lower temperature, say 135F, then make sure that you expose the chunks to high temperatures first to kill any bacteria or viruses that maybe in the meat.  The pathogens and bacteria we are talking about include:

  • Giardiasis
  • Cryptosporidiosis
  • Salmonellosis.
  • Campylobacter
  • Q fever
  • Chlamydiosis.

“How long to dehydrate deer jerky” is an important question as this affects the taste, texture, and safety of the preserved meat.

For 200 years now, different cultures have been dehydrating meat as a means of preservation.  The guiding principle for this practice is.  Moisture removal prevents enzymatic action.  Meaning, after you extract the moisture from deer jerky, bacterial, fungal, or autolytic enzymes cannot contact or react with the meat resulting in contamination.

Before the invention of dehydrators, it was common practice to dry meat in the sun.

Can You Dehydrate Deer Jerky in The Sun?

how long do you dehydrate deer jerky

If it is hot enough, you may place jerky strips under the sun-covered in cheesecloth or a barrier of similar characteristics to keep disease-carrying insects such as houseflies from landing on the meat. 

How long to dehydrate deer jerky using this method? Depending on how hot the weather is, it may take about six to eight hours to dry the meat.

How to Tell if Deer Jerky is Dry

It is important to note that there is no set standard for jerky doneness.  That means how long you dry it depends on the results you want.  That said, here is how to check jerky doneness.

  • When you bend the strips, instead of breaking, well-dried deer jerky cracks/feathers or tears.
  • When handling the dried meat, it should not leave a sticky or greasy residue on your hands.
  • As an added measure against germs, viruses, and bacteria, you may heat the jerky in an oven after completing the drying process.

Can You Over-Dehydrate Deer Jerky?

Dried jerky should have a hint of softness on the insides, which means if the meat is dry all through or tastes like cardboard.  Then you over-dried your jerky.  But that does not mean that you can no longer use the meat.

If you happen to over-dry deer jerky, you may rehydrate the jerky in wine, broth, or soup.  Doing that improves the texture and taste. 

How to Cure Deer Jerky

Curing jerky, although not necessary, is an added measure aimed at ensuring that disease-causing bacteria and viruses do not survive.  The process involves using, or rubbing/ sprinkling salt, nitrite, or sugar to remove moisture from the meat.

There are two ways to do this, One.  You may inject brine solution directly into the meat.  Two.  Soak the meat in a brine solution.

Deer Meat Safety Guidelines

Now that you have learned how long to dehydrate deer jerky, let us explore deer meat safety guidelines. Bacteria in deer meat usually originate from fecal contamination.  For example, a wound may be contaminated with fecal matter or depending on how the animal was handled.

The intestines may break, causing contamination.  Therefore, when handling deer meat, it is important to:

  • Keep the meat separate from other foods.
  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap before and after handling the meat.
  • Sanitize work surfaces with water and chlorine bleach.
  • Roast or steam meat at 160F before dehydrating.
  • Jerky that has reached an internal temperature of 160F is safe to eat.

How to Make Deer Jerky Taste Better

man in checkered shirt slicing dehydrated deer jerky.

We recommend a chunk slab with very little or no fat.  The problem with fat in dehydrated meat is.  If you dehydrate meat that has a high-fat content, the fat will go rancid, and the taste will not be pleasant.

One problem you may encounter is slicing.  Cutting by hand is not only tedious, but it is also difficult to get uniform shapes.  For that reason, we recommend this product by Weston.

Weston Manual Single-Support Jerky Slicer, Charcoal Gray

Weston Manual Single Support Jerky SlicerCheck on Amazon

If you choose to slice the meat slabs by hand, we recommend that you first place the meat in the fridge for at least two hours. Doing that will stiffen the meat, making it easier for you to slice.  But remember, evenly sliced jerky strips dehydrate and dry at the same rate. That is why we recommend the slicer above.

What do you prefer? Thick or thinly sliced jerky? Tell us in the comments.

After slicing, you may place the strips in a plastic zip bag along with the wet ingredients to create a marinade.  Depending on taste preference, you may place the marinade in the fridge for six to 24 hours before starting the dehydration process.

Tips for better tasking jerky:

  • When marinating/ soaking the meat-flavored liquid, make sure that the meat is fully submerged.
  • Shake the marinade every three to four hours if you can.
  • The longer you marinate, the better the taste.

After marinading, use paper towels to remove as much moisture or liquid as you can before placing the slices in a dehydrator.

How to Make Smoked Deer Jerky

If you have a smoker, experts recommend that you smoke jerky at 160F- 180F.  At that temperature margin, meat dehydrates without cooking. 

The issue with setting the temperature too high is that you run the risk of completely drying out the strips resulting in an inferior product.  The meat may also burn and become unusable.


How long does it take to dehydrate deer jerky? Overall, how long to dehydrate jerky depends on the method you choose (smoking, oven, or dehydrator) and the results you want.  Some prefer dried-out jerky, and others prefer a softer product.  Whichever method you choose, make sure that you follow all the safety requirements listed above to guarantee a safe product.

Type of meatHow long to dehydrate jerky?How long to smoke jerky?
Deer meatAt 135F the recommended time is eight to ten hours.  At 180F the recommended time is three to four hours.  
BeefAt 135F to 140F. we recommend eight to ten hours  At 180F we recommend nine to fifteen hours.  
PoultryAt 145F, we recommend eight to nine hours.  At 160F. smoke for three to four hours.  
FishAt 145f. ten to twelve hours.  At 145F nine to twelve hours.  
table 1: recommended internal temperature for meat

Have any additional ideas? Tell us in the comments section.

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