Jerky cure length question?

Discussion in 'Making Jerky' started by fishawn, Aug 2, 2009.

  1. fishawn

    fishawn Smoking Fanatic

    I've got 2.5 lbs of flank steak cut & curing in the Hi Mountain cure. I have used it a lot & love it. I have always let it cure the 24 hours suggested on packaging. I want to smoke something tonight. If I smoke it before the 24 hour period is complete, say after 7 hours, I would guess the "cure" process would not be completed and long term storage would not be obatainable. The thing is "long term storage" of jerky at my house never happens. It is typically gone in 2-3 days. If I smoked it after 7 hours to temps & kept it refridgerated, am I going to be safe up to the 3 day period? It seems like it would be just like refridgerating a steak or a burger. Am I missing something![​IMG]
  2. fire it up

    fire it up Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    If you pull it before the 24 hours time then the cure not only won't get all the way into the meat but I would think it would have less of a flavor.
    I'm by no means a jerky expert but I would think that it would still be safe stored in the fridge, but at what temp are you smoking them?
    Don't want that bacteria to begin growing while it is in the smoker.
  3. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hopefully Rich will be along to confirm but the cure also helps protect you (and your sons and neighor kids) from having the meat in the danger zone (40° to 140°) for the extended period of time (over 4 hours) that it will take to smoke/dry it. So regardless if you plan on long term storage or not, there is still some risk involved in not curing it properly.

  4. No there isn't.

    One more time (lol)

    1) Jerky is sliced so thin that it isn't in the danger zone for more than an hour - even in a cool smoker running at 150 for jerky.
    2) there is more than sufficient nitrous oxide in the smoke to fully cure jerky over the period required to smoke/cook/dry it. Cure salt is an option not a neccessity. Uncured smoked jerky goes just as pink as cured - because IT IS CURED, there is no such thing as uncured smoked jerky - it'sa chemical impossibility.
    3) the heating to 150 for 6-8 hours will not only destroy most bacteria, but the dehydration and salt & spices will take care of the rest.
    4) even in dehydrator jerky cure salt is optional, the heating/drying/salt is all that is necessary.

    The whole point of jerky making going back thousands of years was to preserve meat by salting and dehydration nd sometimes smoking. It's only recently (last couple of hundred years or so) that cure salt has specifically been added to the mix.
    There are numerous meat preservation methods that do not use either smoke or cure salt - biltong being one of the best examples.
    In this case vinegar, salt and slow air drying are the preservation agents. I've had real dry biltong laying around for months without it going off. it just gets real hard to chew :)

    The native americans slice thin. salt and dry over a small smoky fire - if they don't have salt, they just dry and smoke and the smoke in an unconfined situation is mainly to add a little flavour and keep insects away while it's drying.

    If you take the time to understand exactly what is going on when you prepare or preserve food - none of these misunderstandings happen. And you won't worry so much about whether or not you've followed a commercial recipe to the letter or not.

    So: smoke ring = fully cured meat.
    Dehydration and salt concentration 3% or above is more than sufficient for preservation and bacterial inhibition.
    Cure salt can be added to extend preservation on unsmoked jerky or for flavour (I cure all my ground pork jerky, 'cos then it looks and tastes better)

    On the original questions. 1/4 inch sliced beef should have full marinade/rub penetration in 12 hours or less.
    If you want to speed it up. put the meat in a sealed container and vigorously shake it on and off for about 2 hours. Saves a whole lot of waiting ;-)
  5. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Well, this sort of answers a question that I asked somwhere else.[​IMG]

    But what about smoking/dehydrating at temps below 140°? Which some people do. What protects the meat during its time in the danger zone at those lower temps?

    Again, I'm not challenging you, I'm just trying to understand.[​IMG]

  6. justsmoke2

    justsmoke2 Smoking Fanatic

    Okay here I go again inserting blurb in mouth. I do my jerky at 165 degree range. I have a dehydrater that runs at 165 and takes about an hour a pound of meat. I never used cure until I switched to Hi Mountain kits. I had googled jerky recipes and came across some that required to be refrigerated. Then I worked my recipe from there. I tweaked it for about year before I settled on my contents. I used this recipe for 5 years with my drying times at the 165 degree range. Now anything lower then that I would be worried. Seeing Fishawn is talking a small amount I would say yes as long as you feel comfortable. My batches was usually around the 5lb range and I always froze what I couldn't consume in a few days. My son at the time I thought was giving the jerky to his basketball team not until I he graduated did I find out he was selling it for .25 a piece. To me its like to foil or no to foil there will be 2 sides to peoples thoughts.
    I should also add my dehydrater also has a fan on it. Generally 1 hour for smoke and then finish in my dehydrater as I can control the dryness better.
  7. ronp

    ronp Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    This from the USDA site.

    Food Safety of Jerky[​IMG] When raw meat or poultry is dehydrated at home — either in a warm oven or a food dehydrator — to make jerky which will be stored on the shelf, pathogenic bacteria are likely to survive the dry heat of a warm oven and especially the 130 to 140 °F of a food dehydrator. Included here is the scientific background behind drying food to make it safe and the safest procedure to follow when making homemade jerky.

    What is Jerky?
    This product is a nutrient-dense meat that has been made lightweight by drying. A pound of meat or poultry weighs about four ounces after being made into jerky. Because most of the moisture is removed, it is shelf stable — can be stored without refrigeration — making it a handy food for backpackers and others who don't have access to refrigerators.

    Jerky is a food known at least since ancient Egypt. Humans made jerky from animal meat that was too big to eat all at once, such as bear, buffalo, or whales. North American Indians mixed ground dried meat with dried fruit or suet to make "pemmican." "Biltong" is dried meat or game used in many African countries. Our word "jerky" came from the Spanish word "charque."

    How Can Drying Meat Make it Safe?
    Drying is the world's oldest and most common method of food preservation. Canning technology is less than 200 years old and freezing became practical only during this century when electricity became more and more available to people. Drying technology is both simple and readily available to most of the world's culture.

    The scientific principal of preserving food by drying is that by removing moisture, enzymes cannot efficiently contact or react with the food. Whether these enzymes are bacterial, fungal, or naturally occurring autolytic enzymes from the raw food, preventing this enzymatic action preserves the food from biological action.

    What are the Types of Food Drying?
    There are several types of food drying. Two types of natural drying - sun drying and "adibatic" (shade) drying - occur in open air. Adibatic drying occurs without heat. Solar drying sometimes takes place in a special container that catches and captures the sun's heat. These types of drying are used mainly for fruits such as apricots, tomatoes, and grapes (to make raisins).

    Drying from an artificial heat source is done by placing food in either a warm oven or a food dehydrator. The main components of an electric food dehydrator include:
    • a source of heat;
    • air flow to circulate the dry air;
    • trays to hold the food during the drying process; and
    • mesh or leather sheets to dry certain types of foods.
    Why is Temperature Important When Making Jerky? Illnesses due to Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 from homemade jerky raise questions about the safety of traditional drying methods for making beef and venison jerky. The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline's current recommendation for making jerky safely is to heat meat to 160 °F and poultry to 165 °F before the dehydrating process. This step assures that any bacteria present will be destroyed by wet heat. But most dehydrator instructions do not include this step, and a dehydrator may not reach temperatures high enough to heat meat to 160 °F.

    After heating, maintain a constant dehydrator temperature of 130 to 140 °F during the drying process is important because:
    • the process must be fast enough to dry food before it spoils; and
    • it must remove enough water that microorganisms are unable to grow.
    Why is it a Food Safety Concern to Dry Meat Without First Heating it to 160 °F?
    The danger in dehydrating meat and poultry without cooking it to a safe temperature first is that the appliance will not heat the meat to 160 °F and poultry to 165 °F — temperatures at which bacteria are destroyed — before it dries. After drying, bacteria become much more heat resistant.

    Within a dehydrator or low-temperature oven, evaporating moisture absorbs most of the heat. Thus, the meat itself does not begin to rise in temperature until most of the moisture has evaporated. Therefore, when the dried meat temperature finally begins to rise, the bacteria have become more heat resistant and are more likely to survive. If these surviving bacteria are pathogenic, they can cause foodborne illness to those consuming the jerky.

    What Research Findings Exist on the Safety of Jerky?
    There have been several scientific studies of meat dehydrating and lab tests on jerky samples by the following professionals: Judy Harrison, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Georgia; Mark Harrison, the Center for Food Safety and Quality Enhancement, Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Georgia; Richard A. Holley, Food Research Institute, Agriculture Canada, in Ontario; and William Keene of the Oregon Health Division. In studies, the meat dehydrated included slices of beef from the round, loin, or flank; corned beef slices; and ground beef formed in jerky presses. Keene examined homemade venison jerky which infected 11 people with E. coli O157:H7.

    In a related work, factors affecting the heat resistance of E. coli O157:H7 was the subject of an April 1998 piece by J. Kauer et al., Letters of Applied Bacteriology, Vol. 26, No. 4, page 325.

    In the jerky studies, some samples showed total bacterial destruction and other samples showed some bacterial survival — especially the jerky made with ground beef. Further experiments with lab-inoculated venison showed that pathogenic E. coli could survive drying times of up to 10 hours and temperatures of up to 145 °F.

    A recent study by the Harrisons and Ruth Ann Rose, also with the University of Georgia, was published in the January 1998 Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 61, No. 1. The authors analyzed ground beef jerky made with a commercial beef jerky spice mixture with and without a curing mix containing salt and sodium nitrite.

    Half of the ground beef was inoculated with E. coli O157:H7 before making it into jerky strips and dehydrating it. The authors found that in both the heated and unheated samples, the jerky made with the curing mix had greater destruction of bacteria than jerky made without it. The jerky made with the mix and heated before dehydrating had the highest destruction rate of bacteria.

    They concluded, "For ground beef jerky prepared at home, safety concerns related to E. coli O157:H7 are minimized if the meat is precooked to 160 °F prior to drying."

    What are the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline's Recommendations for Making Homemade Jerky?
    Research findings support what the Hotline has been recommending to callers. Additionally, safe handling and preparation methods must always be used, including:
    • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after working with meat products.
    • Use clean equipment and utensils.
    • Keep meat and poultry refrigerated at 40 °F or slightly below; use or freeze ground beef and poultry within 2 days; whole red meats, within 3 to 5 days.
    • Defrost frozen meat in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter.
    • Marinate meat in the refrigerator. Don't save marinade to re-use. Marinades are used to tenderize and flavor the jerky before dehydrating it.
    • Steam or roast meat to 160 °F and poultry to 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer before dehydrating it.
    • Dry meats in a food dehydrator that has an adjustable temperature dial and will maintain a temperature of at least 130 to 140 °F throughout the drying process.
    Are There Special Considerations for Wild Game Jerky?
    Yes, there are other special considerations when making homemade jerky from venison or other wild game. According to Keene and his co-authors, "Venison can be heavily contaminated with fecal bacteria — the degree varying with the hunter's skill, wound location, and other factors. While fresh beef is usually rapidly chilled, deer carcasses are typically held at ambient temperatures, potentially allowing bacteria multiplication."

    Is Commercially Made Jerky Safe?
    Yes, the process is monitored in federally inspected plants by inspectors of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. Products may be cured or uncured, dried, and may be smoked or unsmoked, air or oven dried. The following terms may be on processed jerky products:
    • "Beef Jerky" - produced from a single piece of beef.
    • "Beef Jerky Chunked and Formed" - produced from chunks of meat that are molded and formed, then cut into strips.
    • "Beef Jerky Ground and Formed or Chopped and Formed" - produced from ground or chopped meat, molded and cut into strips. Beef Jerky containing binders or extenders must show true product name (e.g., "Beef and Soy Protein Concentrate Jerky, Ground and Formed").
    • "Species (or Kind) Jerky Sausage" - the product has been chopped and may be dried at any stage of the process, and it is stuffed into casings.
    What is the Safe Storage Time for Jerky?
    Commercially packaged jerky can be kept 12 months; home-dried jerky can be stored 1 to 2 months.

    Last Modified: April 5, 2006

    Hope this answers some questions.
  8. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yes it is an ongoing debate, and I would agree to a certain extent and to a certain extent, I would say that both sides are correct. The difference is if you make the wrong decision on the foil question, your not going to get sick.

    It appears that there are safe ways to make jerky without cure as evidenced by the amount of people that seem to do it. But I think it depends a lot on taking other precautions while preparing/processing it, such as taking the meat to a safe (165°) temperature before/during the drying process and getting it through the danger zone in the generally accepted time range. Not everybody makes their jerky that way so the cure is an extra bit of insurance if you will that does not have any detrimental effect, unless you are on a low sodium diet then Tender Quick is probably not the best option but one of the Prague powders is probably a better choice of cure.

    For a person who knows all the ins and outs of where problems can arise, it is probably okay for them to make it without cure since they are taking precautions elsewhere to make sure that it is safe. For new members that are making it for the first time, I think they are better served if they are advised to use cure when they ask. Because most of the time we don't know what temp they are going to dry it at or take it to.

    For me there just seems to be more good reasons to use cure than not to use cure.

  9. roadrunr

    roadrunr Meat Mopper

    Couldnt have said it better myself Dave. [​IMG]
  10. beer-b-q

    beer-b-q Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Especially as cheap as Tender Quick, Insta Cure & DQ Cure are. It is cheap insurance against food poisoning.
  11. justsmoke2

    justsmoke2 Smoking Fanatic

    Well first of all what he was talking about smoking did have some cure time. Maybe not the 24 hours Hi Mountain recommends.
    Now most jerky recipes minus the cure are a marinades. As for no cure in a dry rub I would not recommend it. Most marinade recipes have either Soy Sauce, Teriyaki, or Worcestershire Sauce. All of which have salt in them. To help reduce salt intake people will use low sodium.
    In the end he didn't have the time to do it so it got the cure time recommended. All in all he got a lot a good info which will help him decide on what he feels will work for him.
  12. fishawn

    fishawn Smoking Fanatic

    UPDATE::::::: Great input from all. Having kids, the planned "early" jerky smoke never took place, instead I ran kids to football camp & flew a kite in the back yard. Early jerky smoke, huh..... not for me. [​IMG] The jerky ended up being in the Hi Mountain cure for about 30 hours & smoked in Hickory @ 165 for about 3 hours I think. It was Flank Steak, cut with the grain, so it kinda has a more chewy texture that I like. Turned out great, thanks for all the input.
  13. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    You're right. He was pretty specific and my response was more of a general nature to the question of "to cure or not to cure". But I guess he never did ask that.[​IMG]

    Now if I could just get CA to answer my question which was:

    I know Fishawn didn't ask it specifically but I am interested the answer.


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