HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


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.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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
            ( http://www.cabelas.com/p-0019202.shtml ) that can handle over 20 pounds of beef. Very happy with the capacity and drying quality....plus 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.

              2. I saw bottles of jerky cure in walmart once near the guns 'n ammo and thought it was something for so you didn't shoot your gun off suddenly, in the wrong direction. or by mistake! Seriously, I'll be Penderys.com has something good for that!

                1. I know i'm responding to a very old post, but it's still important that anyone reading now needs to know that 'curing' meat is an absolute must. It doesn't have to be store-bought cures. You can make it at home. Salt is the cure. I'm not convinced that soy sauce alone is salty enough to cure. Read up on botulism and you'll see the vital need to cure meat for jerky.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: extremefoodie

                    I'll have to disagree to a certain extent.
                    If dried properly, many types of meat will be preserved and safe to eat without salt. Does curing before drying add a safety margin? Probably (I'm not positive). Is it an absolute must? I don't think so.
                    If I read up on botulism, I'm thinking I'd see 3 items: moisture, temperature, and lack of O2. If you remove the moisture (dry) in an oxygen environment, I think you're retarding the botulism to an effective degree.
                    However, I will concede that if you do the drying wrong (as with EVRYTHING in life) things can go wrong.

                    1. re: extremefoodie

                      I'm in-between your good self and my BFF Porker.

                      I make jerky in the oven (lowest heat setting with the door cracked for 8+ hours) and I make a point of salt-curing the beef strips beforehand. If the drying process were to take place outside an oven or dehydrator (i.e.: cowboy style, out in the open air for days), I'd want to make sure the beef was cured for safety purposes. For my purposes where there's some "rapid" cooking/drying action taking place, I don't think it's necessary for safety purposes- I just prefer the way it tastes with the cure.

                    2. This (very old) thread just reminded me that I have a dehydrator that's been sitting in my basement since my father-in-law gave it to us about a year ago.
                      It's obviously easy to use (turn on and wait), but while my FIL used a ton of salt and nitrates (which is why hever used it, the health aspect), I don't plan on using them as I expect to eat it all fairly quickly.

                      ANYWAY, my question to you, my beef-jerky-making-and-eating-Chowhound-friends, what marinade would you suggest (and a ROUGH idea of the measurements), keeping in mind I don't want them spicy?

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Midknight

                        Not-spicy marinade (ROUGH idear): Enough soy to cover sliced meat.

                        It doesn't have to be swimming in it, just enought that all meat comes into contact with soy. Stir once in awhile.
                        The rest is fancy.
                        Me, I really like plenty of ground black pepper. I don't know if this is spicy to you or not.
                        I also like worcestershire - maybe 1/4C per 1C of soy.
                        The rest of what I use is for heat - tobasco to taste and about a handful of chili flakes per 1c of soy (lots of chili, but it imparts little heat unless eaten directly and much of it flakes off during drying).

                        1. re: Midknight

                          My own concoction after experimenting:

                          1 cup soy sauce
                          2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
                          2 tablespoons honey
                          1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar
                          1 teaspoon quality black pepper
                          2 teaspoons granulated onion
                          2 teaspoons granulated garlic
                          1 teaspoon sweet paprika
                          1 tablespoon Bragg's "Liquid Aminos All Purpose Seasoning"
                          2 tablespoons Liquid Smoke (I like to make my own but if you do make your own, use just a few drops as what is sold in stores is very diluted. Also, if you make your own, add white vinegar to make up the needed 2 tablespoons ..you need it for acidity)
                          1 tablespoon crushed red peper flakes

                          Images here: http://raven.kites.org/2012/09/jerky....

                          1. re: blueridgedog

                            BTW: I do use a cure...sodium nitrite at a rate of 1 tsp per 5 pounds of meat.

                            1. re: blueridgedog

                              Ahhh, thats a LOT of sodium nitrite.
                              Perhaps you mean 1 tsp of *pink salt* (AKA Instacure #1, AKA Prague powder #1)?
                              ...which is 93.75% sodium chloride (salt) and 6.25% sodium nitrite.

                              1. re: porker

                                Yes!! I use the powder...sorry for the confusion. It would be insane to use that much..I am not certain you can even buy the uncut stuff at this point. I buy the generic pink salt, AKA prague powder or instacure 1.

                        2. hey,

                          myself, harking back to the days of real jerky when was just dried on racks over a smoky fire, back in the day, I have tried for a jerky that isn't overpowered w/sauces and spices. This one I use the most w/wild meats
                          3 Tbsp – Sea Salt (non iodized)
                          1 Tbsp – Tender Quick (pink salt)
                          ½ Tbsp – White Pepper (slightly more if black)
                          1 tsp – Dried Ginger
                          1 tsp - Sugar
                          ½ tsp. Cayenne

                          Sprinkle meat lightly both sides and let sit in plastic bag for a hour or so then add buttermilk or milk kefir and refrigerate overnight.

                          Lightly rinse w/water and dehydrate @ 160°F till dry to taste. I usually turn the temp down for the last 1/3 of drying.

                          The soured milk is acidic and combined w/the calcium tenderizes deeply w/o getting ‘mushy’

                          Also very nice is do the same w/the little bambi tenderloins and just dry until the thin jerky is done and remove at same time. Slice across grain as thin as poss. to serve

                          From SK just scant miles from the home of the hanson buck

                          attached is venison jerky

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ooptec

                            Just a note. Tender Quick and pink salt are not the same and should be measured differently

                          2. Hi all I am new here and really appreciate that you are all willing to share your knowledge and wisdom. Can anyone tell me how much curing salt to use per pound of meat?


                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Thor62

                              This should put you in the right direction


                              I should add that you don't need curing salts for jerky since it's dried but it does add a margin of safety

                              1. re: Thor62

                                If'n you're using Instacure#1 as a curing salt (which is 6.25% sodium nitrite and approx 93.75% sodium), the suggested amount is 1 level teaspoon per 5lbs of meat.
                                One pound of meat - 1/5 level teaspoon Instacure#1.
                                (I'd recommend this route if you're curing...)

                                Some people think its better to use straight sodium nitrite as it provides a "bigger punch".
                                But bigger ain't necessarily better. Actually more sodiium nitrite goes against recommendations.
                                Anyway, if you use straight sodium nitrite as a cure, you'd want about 0.4 grams per 5lbs of meat. Or 0.08 grams per pound of meat.
                                0.08 grams - thats less than 0.003 oz; lotsa fun measuring and distributing it evenly in the meat, but I digress...

                                Now, some people think its better to use salt petre (potassium nitrite) to cure...
                                well I don't have much to say about that.