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Jerky Temp question

Discussion in 'Making Jerky' started by nomadd917, Feb 10, 2019.

  1. nomadd917

    nomadd917 Fire Starter

    Need some advice on a jerky cooking temp.

    I currently have some eye of round roast sliced up and sitting in an equilibrium curing brine. 156 ppm nitrites, 2 % salt, and 1% sugar plus a couple other seasonings for flavor and spice. My plan was to cold smoke for about 2-3 hours then put in dehydrated at 135-145F until done ~8-10 hours. I have a Nesco Snackmaster Pro that is pretty accurate with temp control.

    Question: does the pasteurization process apply and work with a food dehydrator?

    Another thought was to first cold smoke, then Sous Vide the jerky at 135F for 6-8 hours, then dehydrate at 135-145 until done.
  2. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Epic Pitmaster Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  3. nomadd917

    nomadd917 Fire Starter

    The site doesn’t talk about pasteurizing the meat prior to drying. I can understand the drying process and cooling effect and why it may be an issue to just dry the jerky at 145.

    In theory wouldn’t sous vide kill any bacteria present (except Botulism)? By immediately transfering the meat from sous vide into pre heated dryer prevent new bacterial growth?
  4. Holly2015

    Holly2015 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You are not cooking the jerky but rather drying/dehydrating it. Cold smoking and sous vide'ing are not only extending but over complicating the process. Cold smoking is done mainly for textural reasons in the final product. Cold smoking also takes about 3 times as long as hot smoke to get the same flavor. 3 hours of hot smokes = 9 hours of cold smoke.

    Personally what has worked best for me safety and texturally is put the meats in the dehydrator and set the temp for 160 degrees and hold it there for 1 hour to make sure all the meats get to 160 degrees and do an effective kill of bacterial. Then drop the temp to 125 degrees until the meats are dehydrated to my liking. There is no exact timed duration for this. Use you eyes and hand to look and feel when the meats are sufficiently dried. Typically 6 to 8 hours. To successfully make great jerky you need a little heat up front then lots of warm dry airflow to whisk away the moisture.

    If you want smoke flavor and since most smokers don't flow a lot of air I'd suggest dehydrate until the meats are tacky then move to the smoker to smoke at 125 degrees for an hour or two then back to the dehydrator to finish. When the meats are soaking wet right out of the marinade they won't take smoke very well.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
  5. daveomak

    daveomak Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Here is what I gleaned from the article, JJ posted....

    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 or 165 °F.

    After heating to 160 °F or 165 °F, maintaining 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 the dehydrating process. 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.
  6. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Master of the Pit

    I do jerky in the smoker at 140-160 (temperature regulation is not the greatest) for 2-4 hours (until a row of the AMNPS burns out), followed by finishing in a 140 degree convection oven for as long as it takes to get the dryness I want.

    The meat is so thin that even with evaporative cooling, it is going to quickly get to the temperature of the surrounding air. Since 140 is plenty hot enough to kill pretty much everything over a ten hour smoke/dehydrate cycle, I've never once worried about pathogens.

    Also I don't use a cure, given this long heating cycle at temperatures that the USDA says will kill everything. I have nothing against cures, but it seems like an unneeded step in this case.
  7. nomadd917

    nomadd917 Fire Starter

    Quoted from the link above:

    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.”

    Even though this link doesn’t explain if the venison was ground or strips of cut meat it makes the point about E. coli surviving the temps of 145 for 10 hours in a dehydrated. My guess is the risk is much higher with ground meat than with strips of cut meat. Regardless there seems to be an elevated risk without taking IT temp to 160.

    My new plan of attack:

    1. Dry jerky at 125 for about an hour to get tacky or form something like pellicle.

    2. Put the jerky in my smoker and smoke at ~125 for 2 hours. I’ll be using my WSM with ANNPS tray and a couple lit lumps of charcoal.

    3. Place jerky back into dehydrator at 160 until IT reaches 160.

    4. Drop temp down to 145 on dehydrator and leave jerky until it is done.

    Any issues?
  8. Holly2015

    Holly2015 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    1. Place jerky into dehydrator at 160 until IT reaches 160.

    2. Dry jerky in dehydrator at 125 for and hour or two to get tacky or form something like pellicle.

    3. Smoke jerky and at ~125 for 2 hours.

    4. Put jerky back in dehydrator at 125 degrees until dried to my liking.

    Note: Step three is optional.
  9. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Master of the Pit

    Interesting idea to do the smoking as the last, rather than the first step. Perhaps I should try that.
  10. Holly2015

    Holly2015 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Smoking is more the intermediate step when the meat is semi-dry/tacky and not dripping wet like when 1st out of the marinade.
  11. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Epic Pitmaster Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yep...This would be the safest and recommended procedure. Bottom line, get to 160 FIRST, then do as you wish.


    In jerky production, Cure #1 is an insurance policy. Yes, jerky and drying/smoking Salt Only treated meat is thousands of years older than using Cure and continues today.
    Is Cure absolutely necessary, No, but Clostridium Botulinum Spores are not destroyed until the meat is heated to 250°F and held there for 3 minutes. Not a temp our Jerky ever sees. So jerky made without cure does present a risk IF the jerky is not sufficiently dried eliminating the water CB Spores need to reactivate. Dried, as not just to the touch, but having the Internal Water Activity, reduced to a sufficiently low level to inhibit growth. Water Activity can't be determined by touch or tasting, by the average jerky maker, it has to be measured with a sensing meter.
    Is Johnmeyer capable of making Safe Jerky?
    No Doubt in my mind as you are Here educating yourself and participating in the conversation based of your Cure Free success. But we at SMF preach the use of Cure and pass along USDA Guidlines because for every Johnmeyer, there are a dozen or more Lurkers that have never made Jerky, have no idea what Botulism is, the conditions in which CB grows in and how Dry jerky must be, to be safely stored at room temp. Thanks for your participation. You have posted some great works of art...JJ
  12. nomadd917

    nomadd917 Fire Starter

    Wouldn’t there be a greater risk of imparting a bitter flavor by smoking after the IT gets to 160? How much smoke would the jerky really absorb once the IT reaches 160?

    I may just leave out the smoking step on this batch and look to add a small amount of liquid smoke on future batches.

    Past batches of jerky I have done on just the WSM and kept the temp between 160-200 to smoke the jerky for a couple hours, then put into my convection oven in the lowest setting and the door propped open a couple inches until done. This has typically resulted in the jerky being harder and/or drier than I want but it was still good and edible. My guess was I cooked to too high IT, it dried at too high a temp in the oven, dried for too long or some combination of these issues.

    I just bought the dehydrator and am wanting to find a good process with using it.
  13. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Epic Pitmaster Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Not usually. Flavorful Thin Blue Smoke, will taste good no matter when it is applied. Typically Wet Raw meat picks up the most smoke components, Good and Bad. Heating the meat to 160 removes quite a bit of moisture so, if anything there will be less smoke flavor than smoking from the start at 160°F. Either way, generate Nasty, Creosote laden, White Billowy Smoke and you get bitter jerky. When making Jerky, the Quality of the Smoke is more important than When it applied...JJ
  14. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Master of the Pit

    I Googled "botulism jerky cdc" and found many excellent papers, including this one:

    Botulism in the United States 1899-1996

    The only thing I could find in that paper, or elsewhere, about botulism and jerky is that game meat made into jerky (venison, in particular) has caused a problem at least one time (in 100 years) because of fecal contamination that provided a more conducive environment for botulism spores to fester.

    So compared to the other problems being discussed, I see the risk from botulism as being extremely remote, to the point of being non-existent for all practical purposes. Yes, botulism is more deadly than other some other food pathogens, but its mortality rate has declined from 60% in 1950 to 10% today. Don't get me wrong, I have no desire to subject myself to this risk, but I also think that it needs to be put in perspective with the other pathogens and the damage they do.

    Food safety is just like most other things in life because it involves tradeoffs. If you use a curing agents, some of them have been suspected of causing cancer, a definite tradeoff. If you heat your food to the temperatures that some recommend (not necessarily the temperatures being discussed here for jerky, but the temperatures often recommended for making foods totally sterile), you not only make the food taste worse, but you destroy more nutrients.

    Another tradeoff.

    Finally, different people's immune systems handle not only pathogens, but the food itself, quite differently. Some people die if they eat even a minuscule amount of peanut butter. Others have problems with shellfish. These are allergies, but the same thing applies to some (not all) pathogens, something everyone who travels to foreign countries knows because the turista gets sick from drinking the same water that the locals consume every day.

    Just to be clear, because I've had people in these forums get really upset when I question anything having to do with food safety, I am not claiming that anyone is wrong, but simply that some perspective needs to be provided.
  15. daveomak

    daveomak Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Here is the perspective, in case you missed it....

    johnmeyer, morning..
    The point you have neglected.... Since about 1950 ish, nitrite has been a staple addition to many products... Check the labels on meat products in the grocery, nitrite is usually listed last....
    Now, it's NOT that botulism bacteria are any less prevalent.... It's because the attempt to eradicate the most deadly pathogen known to man is diligent and the cases of botulism poisoning has decreased...
  16. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Epic Pitmaster Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I understand your point. There are thousands of threads on making jerky. In virtually everyone, the OP has a question about making jerky safely. 10 guys respond with using Cure and or Heating to 160 before drying. We do this because for the benefit of ALL, the OP, the experienced, the inexperienced and the countless others that lurk but dont interact with us. We post the Safest procedure for making jerky or any other food. We never know how far a person will get into a thread. If the first responses are not the Safest known methods the reader is exposed to potential danger.
    I and others here are highly educated in Food Safety, USDA and FDA regulation and recommended Guidelines. We also know that Food Safety is not Black or White, Do it this way or Die! A couple of ounces of a Nitrite Cured Ham, improperly handled, is far more dangerous than pounds of a properly produced, Salt and Sugar Only Air Dried Country Ham. But by the SMF owners mandate we are obligated to provide the most current and safest methods of Smoking and Curing meat based on USDA and FDA studies. Sure, handled properly and under the right conditions, you can rub strips of meat with Salt, hang them on a Tree Branch in the Sun and get jerky that won't kill you. But it is not as simple as that.
    Alternative smoking and curing methods are frequently discussed. I have even argued that a meat is still safe to consume even though the member Broke several of the USDA guidelines. We just have to be careful about what we post, be a detailed and accurate as possible and not get offended or argue with dissenting opinion.
    Posting known Safe Practices will Always be our top priority...JJ
  17. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Master of the Pit

    Thanks jimmyj. I understand, as a moderator, the position you are in, and I'd post exactly the same things, in the same way if I had that responsibility. Food safety is not something to fool around with, and should not be taken lightly by anyone.

    Dave, you are correct that botulism has become less prevalent because of education, but that wasn't what I was referring to. Instead, that reduction in mortality from 50% to 10% came from several articles I read that talked about treating botulism once someone is exposed. Like so many other diseases and poisons, the tools for treatment have improved dramatically, and people who would have died half a century ago can now be treated and will survive.

    Of course, given what this horrible stuff does to your body, those survivors may have lasting, chronic health issues, so it is not something to be toyed with and all of us need to do whatever we can to avoid it.
  18. Holly2015

    Holly2015 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    After making jerky on my BGE and MES then breaking down and buying a dehydrator the dehydrator hands down make the best product.

    Tough jerky comes from too high of heat and over drying.