Learning how to preserve meat by drying it out and making jerky will enable you to enjoy a harvest of meat for several weeks without the need to refrigerate it. If you were to ever find yourself in a survival situation, or if the grid were to fail for a long period of time, the skill to preserve meat without the use of electricity could keep you sustained until the crisis is over.
The instructional video I’m gonna show you uses an electric oven to make beef jerky. The technique demonstrated can EASILY be converted to non-electric alternatives, such as using a solar oven or a wood cook stove instead. The method stays the same no matter what kind of oven you use, with slight adjustments according to what you’re using for heat. See notes below for further details.
Making beef jerky at home is a whole lot cheaper than buying the store bought stuff. It’s also much healthier as you can control what goes into the meat, avoiding preservatives and other additives.
Jerky can be made from any type of meat, even wild game and fish. Today we’ll stick to beef jerky. Here’s how it’s done…
1. Make a marinade.
You can find all kinds of different beef jerky marinade recipes online. Choose one that sounds good to you and whisk it all together in a container large enough to hold all of the meat you plan to work with. A pan or even a gallon size ziploc bag work great. If you decide to marinate your meat in a bag, squeeze all of the air out so that every inch of the meat is soaking in the juices of the marinade.
2. Prepare the meat.
When making jerky, it’s important that you select only the leanest cuts of meat, and remove as much fat as possible. Fat will go rancid quickly, causing your jerky to spoil. Top round, flank steak, and London broil are all excellent choices.
You can buy meat already sliced thinly from the butcher, or you can buy a roast and slice it yourself. Freeze fresh meat for a couple hours before slicing to make it easier to cut. You want the slices to be about 1/4″ thick.
3. Marinate overnight.
Place the sliced meat in the marinade, making sure to completely cover the meat with the liquid. Cover the pan with a lid or plastic wrap, and stick it in the fridge overnight, or at least 6-8 hours. The longer it soaks, the better the flavor will be.
4. Pat the meat dry.
The best way to do this is to layer the meat between sheets of paper towels, and press on it until you’ve absorbed as much as you can. This will help the meat dry out more quickly.
5. Place meat on drying rack.
The next step is to place the meat on a drying rack placed in a pan to catch the drips. Any kind of oven safe rack will work. The idea is that air needs to circulate all around the meat, drying from all sides. Make sure none of the meat overlaps, and try to keep the pieces from touching each other as much as possible.
6. Dry meat in a low oven.
Set your oven to the lowest setting possible. The “warm” setting might be the lowest you can go. This guy set his convection oven to 170*F. You don’t want to cook the meat, otherwise it will turn to leather. You just want to dry it out with very low heat. I’ve even seen a guy set his raw marinated meat out on racks in front of a table fan for several hours without using any additional heat at all, and it seemed to work nicely for him- although the USDA recommends heating beef to 160*F before drying to kill any remaining bacteria. Low heat and air circulation are key here.
The length of drying time will depend on how thick the cuts of meat are. You’ll just have to keep checking it to make sure it’s thoroughly dry. Plan on allowing the meat to dry for about 7 hours or so. The guy in this video was flipping his meat every couple hours, but if you have good air circulation you shouldn’t need to mess with it at all.
When dehydrating in a sun oven do not close the glass on the unit, instead rest the glass on top of the latch in order to allow air to circulate freely throughout the oven. This will help keep the temperature from getting too hot in the oven and it will allow the moist air to escape. You’ll want to keep the temperature in the sun oven somewhere around or just under 150*F. It takes about a day or two to completely dry meat in a solar oven. Do latch the glass overnight to prevent bugs from getting into the food until the sun comes out the following day to continue the dehydration process. Don’t follow the sun as you would when cooking, and keep an eye on the temperature to keep it low. Place jerky on parchment paper to make it easier to remove from the racks once dried.
And again, if you’re interested in using a Sun Oven as your own DIY Beef Jerky dehydrator, click here to attend our free Sun Oven Training this next wednesday.
When dehydrating in a wood cook stove, build a low fire and rotate the tray of meat in the oven every hour or two so that the meat dries evenly. The heat will be stronger on the firebox side of the oven, make sure the meat is evenly dried by turning regularly.
When finished drying, take the jerky out of the oven and allow it to cool for about an hour at room temp. You should be able to bend the jerky without it snapping.
7. Storing your jerky.
When the jerky is finished you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for 2-3 months, or at room temperature for a shorter amount of time. Be careful not to allow moisture to get to the jerky or it’ll begin to spoil.
Remember… in a Survival Situation if you need to preserve meat for longer then 2-3 months, canning your deer meat is always an option as well.