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Questions about jerky and food safety

Discussion in 'Food Forum' started by Glock30SF, Mar 19, 2009.

  1. Glock30SF

    Glock30SF Glock30SF

    Mar 6, 2008
    I just got a dehydrator to start making my own jerky. My main question is about food safety. From the USDA I found this:

    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.

    The two things in bold is what concerns me a little. I am chopping at the bit to make some as I have everything to do so. But am a little worried if I should heat it to 160 deg before I make it? I have ground beef and a jerky gun and am worried if I heat it first it may start to cook it? Then make it very hard to shoot through the jerky gun?? Also it didn't say how to (or how long)heat the meat? Do I put all the seasoning in and then put it in a pan like a meat loaf? Any help is appreciated.
  2. rcamp


    Jan 9, 2005
    while Im unable to help with your question, I am fascinated with the post. I have read a lot on this matter, especially recently. I have been making jerky for years,both venison and beef. People come to me requesting my jerky, while I dont sell it, there are several people who I make it for. I have become hesitant of late however, because of the number of e-coli cases in the US. I have been getting mixed and confusing information on this for years. The info the various agencies post, seems to change fairly often. I do try to freeze the meat before the making process, as I have read that would kill any bacteria present. I have never had a incident of illness with my jerky, but will research this matter further, in the hopes of nailing down some practical methods. I cant imagine cooking the meat before drying, but we'll see.
    Will post again in the next few days.
    However, I have never used ground meat, have you considered a grinder?
    In the past, I bought beef cuts cheaper than ground, and ground it myself.
    I no longer do this because I rarely eat red meat and lost my grinder in a divorce. But I can tell you that my ground meat was superior to anything bought retail.
    And for jerky... Venison is awesome!! (frozen for 1 month, before drying)
    Will post again after some more research, hope you will do the same.

  3. Glock30SF

    Glock30SF Glock30SF

    Mar 6, 2008
    Well the ground beef I used I just said to hell with it and made it. I called Nesco the maker of my dehydrator and they said the unit goes to 160deg for like the first hour but don't know for sure. I also made some out of eye round and most recent out of ground venison. The venison I cooked in the oven at 325deg for tem mins then dehydrated it. So far having fun with it. I also say the ground meat makes a much better jerky.:cool:
  4. apfire26


    Sep 25, 2007
    We make it all the time at work. We never heat the meat up prior to dehydration. I haven't got sick yet and I eat tons of that stuff.
    We never use ground beef though.
  5. major

    major Rejected member

    Aug 19, 2001
    Cochrane, Alberta
    I've been making jerky for over 25 years in the same "Ronco" food dehydrator I bought way back when for about $19.95.

    I've never had a problem.......only do beef though (steaks, cut up into thin strips). Never done ground beef, or chicken, or fish, or turkey, or pork.

    Anyway, just my two cents.....I've always just cut the meat into strips, marinated it in whatever I was doing, then slapped on the dehydrator....that's it.
  6. StockGlock23

    StockGlock23 Hilarious!

    Aug 10, 2004
    Bremen, IN
    I thought that some of the marinade was to kill some of the bacteria. The acid that is sometimes added as well as copious amounts of salt.
  7. Wulfenite

    Wulfenite The King

    I never cook it. Just marinade. For sure a high level of salt and acid will kill a lot of bacteria. Osmosis is a buggar. I' also do it using a non-heat method.

    You get a couple 3 or 4 synthetic, 2x2, pleated heater filters. you lay the jerky in the pleats, cover with a filter, strap all that to a box fan and just let the air dry it out. No heat at all. Works great. That's a recipe and method I saw on Good Eats on the Food Network.
  8. FlaChef

    FlaChef Steyroid

    Jul 4, 2004
    Freezing does not kill any bacteria, it just causes them to go dormant until more favorable conditions.
    Bacteria need a few conditions to thrive..

    F.A.T. T.O.M.
    Food- protein basically
    Acidity- too high of acidity and they can be destroyed, or at least not reproduce
    Time - with the other conditions being good bacteria can double population every 20 minutes. The rule of thumb is you never want a potential hazardous food product to be out of refrigeration or cooking for more than 4 hrs
    Temperature -above 41 and below 135 is considered the Temperature Danger Zone. it looks like a bell curve and obviously the middle part is the most dangerous
    Oxygen -is neede for some to grow or the lack of it for other strains
    Moisture - if there is not enough water activity the bacteria will go dormant in the same manner as when freezing, u thtey are still there

    The reason marinades work in general to make food safer and the reason ground meat is more dangerous is that the bacteria are on the surface of meats and proteins. When you add acidity to the surface you greatly retard them (enough acidity to completely destroy them will be a lot, like ceviche). When you grind any meat you then make the outsides the insides and distribute the bacteria through the whole thing.

    Also, even if you destroy all the bacteria if it had already risen to a high enough level you could get ill from the toxins they leave behind (bacteria poop and corpses basicly). Not an active infection like if your inestines were breeding a colony of the buggers but it can still be bad, though not generally as long lasting.

    Also, most food bourne illnesses will take 12-36 hours to develop. The infection has to make it past your stomach and have time to build up to a level where your system is impacted. I guarantee if you call your local health dept and say you just had lunch and got sick ant restaurant X they will ask everywhere you've eaten the last couple days.
  9. stooxie

    stooxie NRA Life Member

    Apr 10, 2005
    Northern Virginia
    One thing that many people don't understand is that bacteria don't spontaneously appear in meat, they have to be introduced. The exception being things like trichinae which ARE in the meat, but that's not a bacteria and only applies to certain species (mostly bear any more these days, and truly wild hog).

    The point is that if you shoot a deer and harvest your own meat the chances of having e.coli or many of these other modern manifestations are very slim. WAY slimmer than commercial meats. These bacterial outbreaks come from processing plants that slaughter 1000s of animals each day, where the opportunity for defect is statistically just a matter of time. Is it any wonder when it's Costco that has the 4 million pound beef recall and not your local butcher or farm producer?

    Bottom line is use meat you can trust (and that's a determination you have to make) and most of the USDA regulations can go right out the window.


    ETA: What FlaChef says, btw, is totally correct. I dry cure meats and all of that stuff is forefront in my mind. The exception, of course, being that nothing gets heated, but salt, acidity, oxygen and water activity are all part o the curing process. Nitrates only prevent botulism, the rest has to be done with the other methods.

    Last edited: May 26, 2009
  10. p89ruger


    Jun 20, 2009
    I've been making beef jerky for a long time. I've never pre-heated it first. So far, never got sick. I just really enjoyed. Thanks for the info though.