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Aug 19, 2008 10:23 AM

Is a cure needed for making beef jerky ?

My food dehydrator just arrived and in reviewing the recipe book I noticed that a cure of salt and sodium nitrite is listed as an ingredient (or their NESCO jerky cure mix made up of same). Then I look at other jerky recipes and see no cure mentioned.

Any advice on the risk of dehydrating beef without the cure and just marinating as usual ? There's also mention of heating the meat to 160 BEFORE dehydrating...Doesn't seem to make sense. The dehydrator has the ability to heat up to 155 but I hear heat doesn't produce the best jerky.

I thought this was going to be easy...Put thin marinated beef in dehydrator...come back in 8 hours and eat jerky.

Advice welcome from the jerky veterans.

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  1. Hi pondrat,
    It's been a few years, but what you describe - put thin marinated beef strips in dehydrator - was exactly what I did. No heat. No 'cure'. Just a marinade (usually some sort of soy, worcestershire, hot sauce, pepper, garlic, combo) on thinly sliced beef, laid out on the racks, then left for 8 hours or so.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MrsCris

      Thanks MrsCris....thats what I was hoping to hear.

    2. I've never used a cure with jerky (although I regularly use cures for other stuff).

      I also used a marinade very close to MrsChris. Next day, hang them in my oven at its lowest setting and block the door open (I don't have a dehydrator). Always came out great. I think the salt in the soy does a fair share of curing anyway...

      A few times, the oven got away on me and 'dried' at 160 degrees or so (rather than 120). It wasn't bad, per say, but it was basically baked dry and crispy rather than chewy.

      Don't store in a sealed container, though, as it may spoil. Will last months (well, it always gets eaten within a week...) in a paper bag.

      If you get a chance, deer or moose jerky is fantastic

      1. Hi Pondrat,
        Don't get discouraged, from what I have found from making jerky fromt the time I was a kid on the ranch till now, there are many ways to make jerky and to do it well. You don't have to use a cure to make good jerky. The reason it is suggested is to keep the jerky for a long period of time. They say it will last around 2 years if kept in an air type container, and it will keep it from turning rancid if there happens to be any fat left on the meat. The problem that I have is that the jerky never stays around long enough to find out. Good Luck and have a loy of fun.

        1. Every recipe I found on the web did not use sodium nitrite. For safety reasons sodium nitrite should be used if you don't plan on refrigerating your jerky or plan to hold it for several weeks. My first recent attempt at jerky didn't not include it because I couldn't find it anywhere. So when I made it after cutting the meat I soaked the meat in cider vinegar while I made my marinade. I figured the vinegar would kill off most of surface bacteria. I made a marinade that included regular soy sauce, cider vinegar, Chinese black vinegar, salt, pepper, ground coriander, onion powder, garlic powder, some hot sauce, a good dose of brown sugar and a little water. 4 cups in all. I let the meat soak in this over night then put the meat slices on a rack in the fridge to dry. The next day I put the meat in my smoker at 170 degrees and smoked it till it was cooked through then lowered the temp to 150. It smoked for around 7+ hours. It came out dry but still bendable and a little tender in the middle. I kept it in the fridge and ate it within two weeks. I did it in two batches; one as is and the other I brushed with sweet Thai chili paste before it hit the smoker. It was my favorite of the two.

          5 Replies
          1. re: scubadoo97

            Just got a giant 160 litre Cabela's commercial dehydrator
            ( ) that can handle over 20 pounds of beef. Very happy with the capacity and drying it's all digital.

            Since my first post I've backed off of the sodium nitrate for the exact reason mentioned by other CHOW's. Rarely do I have a batch that lasts more than 2 days. I warn people that it is best consumed within a week and after that it's at their own risk. When I start getting serious about selling commercially, I'll need to have some formal shelf life testing done.

            I'm strictly using flank steak cut WITH the grain at about 3/4" - 1" thick ansd 2# long. I'm marinating 24 hours in some very hot spices and pepper along with some red wine and Flagg's amino soy. I like the Flagg's because the salt content is very low compared to Kikkoman or other Chinese soy.. If these nuclear spices don't kill bacteria when drying, they'll torch them as they move through the digestive track !!!

            1. re: pondrat

              SWEET DEHYDRATOR - you should be able to stuff the whole cow in that thing.

              I agree, for the little bit of jerky I make {couple of pounds a month) lots of real good jerky can be made for yourself, family and a couple of friends without the "cures".

              Going commerical is a whole diffeent ball game. Not only will you be required to use [sodium type] cures, the processing area, ingrident statement, and all processing procedures, packaging, labeling, etc, etc [and more] are governed by your state government and inspectors.

              If you transport/sell your product across state lines everything regarding suppliers of ingredients/meats all the way through everything previously mentioned will need to meet USDA/MPI [United States Department of Agriculture / Meat and Poultry Inspection]. In the past you also needed to provide them with full office facilities, etc, etc, etc. If you have a really good product and a ready market [or one you can develop easily] it's a very nice way to make a living or additional income.

              Didn't mean to trash your ideas and dreams or put a wet blanket on them, just mentioning these things before you get started. You might want to check *first* to see what you need to do. I've been "out-of the business" for twenty years [worked and supported business and government] so things may have changed a bunch by now. But somehow I don't think so, or if it did it probably went from 2000 pages of regulations to .... well, you know what I mean.

              Let us all know how you are doing. In these times, if you can get a business going, more power to you. And a jerky business, heck everybody has to eat. Jerky is a "Food Group", right?

              Best of Luck - let us know when we can start chewing on your version of "dead-cow"!!

              1. re: pondrat

                Hey pondrat - just saw that you were on line - LOVE THE DOG!!!!!

                1. re: Gainer

                  Thanks Gainer ! Yup, I'm going in eyes wide open. I have a friend who has an established food business (specializes in products for kids with food allergies) who is guiding me through the maze.I'm hoping to hitch hike on her production facility, food inspectors and testers so that I can avoid any legal entanglements. Still a LONG way to go, but I'll keep you posted if you;re interested in the process. Thanks again !

                2. re: pondrat


                  Im in CT and just posted something about "Excalibur vs Cabela". Can you help me figure out what to get? Details in my post.

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