Beef Jerky Safety

Beef jerky, an animal muscle stripped of fat and cut into strips, is a convenient and nutritious snack that requires little to no refrigeration. But with any type of food preparation, making beef jerky comes with various safety concerns.

General Beef Jerky Safety Concerns

Usually, the imminent bacterial growth in raw meat is the major concern when making beef jerky. Most meat products still retain moisture even after it they have been cooked which provides breeding ground for microorganisms.

For mass-produced beef jerky, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established regulations for beef jerky manufacturers. The ingredients used for the beef jerky are inspected and screened for the safety of consumers.

There are also specific preparation methods that need to be followed. Basically, the safe handling of the meat and equipment is stressed. According to USDA, preparing meats with clean hands, having germ-free cooking areas, and using sanitized utensils are important initial steps to making safe beef jerky. When these prerequisites are met, the next step is how to store beef jerky the safest way.

Storing Beef Jerky

When the beef jerky is finished dehydrating, place it in a container of your choice. Airtight plastic bags, aluminum foils or jars with tight-fitting lids are great ways to safely store beef jerky.

Home dried beef jerky kept in a fridge should last one to two months. If storing it at room temperature, it should preserve for about a week. Commercially manufactured beef jerky can be stored for a year. Despite of the method used in storage, ensure that efficient drying is met to inhibit any disease-causing microbes lurking in the meat. To confirm that no mold is forming, it is recommended to check on them regularly.

Required Beef Jerky Cooking Temperatures

There are required cooking temperatures that have been recognized as effective in eliminating food-borne diseases that are normally found in uncooked meat, according to a study of beef jerky processes done by the University of Wisconsin. The minimal temperatures required for cooking a beef jerky is 125°F for 10 hours, 135°F for nine hours, 145°F for seven hours, and 155°F for about four and a half hours.

Heating the meat should be done before dehydrating it. For homemade beef jerky, a food dehydrator's temperature dial can be adjusted to maintain at least 130°F to 140°F minimal heat for stripping moisture out of the meat. Using heat does not mean cooking the jerky; instead heat helps in the dehydration process by allowing moisture to vaporize more quickly.

Safety in Dehydrating Fat

After slicing the meat in strips, trimming the fat off is a crucial step in making beef jerky. Fat does not dry out easily and does not perserve well. Raw fat tends to become rancid and emits unpleasant flavors and smells.

In safely dehydrating fat, cook the beef strips until it exhibits that brown well-done color. Heated meat is a cinch to dry off since cooking takes away water and excess fat so the flavors are more delectably intensified. Also, oven-heating makes the little fatty pieces left suitable for consumption. Just ensure that you preserve as little fat as possible.
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