Ground Meat Jerky — Not So Tough

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Ground Meat Jerky | As promised, here's the jerky recipe I'm (loosely) following. I looked around for ground meat jerky recipes after I read that commercial jerky is often made with ground meat. We knew that jerky was pretty soft, and we thought it would work better for the people in my family that have teeth issues... sensitive teeth or braces. (I'm sorry, Dr. Price, but we learned about you too late.) |

As promised, here’s the jerky recipe I’m (loosely) following. I looked around for ground meat jerky recipes after I read that commercial jerky is often made with ground meat. We knew that jerky was pretty soft, and we thought it would work better for the people in my family that have teeth issues… sensitive teeth or braces. (I’m sorry, Dr. Price, but we learned about you too late.)

The great thing is I have used this jerky on pizza as pepperoni. It is already pretty soft, but during the pizza baking, it absorbed liquid from the tomato sauce and turned out soft and chewy. I think I should have done a thinner batch of jerky for it to be really pepperoni-like, though.

Ground Meat Jerky

But anyway, I looked around for recipes. I ended up following one that I found on a message board. So, thanks to “Christine” for the inspiration. This is doubled from her recipe because if I’m going to make jerky, I’m going to make jerky. :)

  • 3 pounds grass-fed ground beef (or venison, or lamb, or buffalo… )
  • 1/4 pound of ground liver (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt (use 2 Tablespoons for longer-term keeping)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder or granulated garlic (feel like making your own?)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin (or more!)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • jerky gun (optional)

Blend all the ingredients together in a big bowl. You may as well use clean hands.

Taking a portion at a time, press the meat mixture into about 1/8″ thickness on a piece of natural parchment paper that is the same size as your dehydrator tray. Or use the ParaFlexx sheets that go with an Excalibur dehydrator — see Resources for sources. You could also use a rolling pin to spread it out, but I find I can never get the thickness consistent, so I prefer to take extra time and press the balls out into a sheet myself, like so:

When a sheet is full, square up the edges to your liking, using your fingers. Then use a butter knife to score the meat into jerky-size pieces. Don’t use a sharp knife or you’ll cut through parchment paper or Paraflexx sheets!

Transfer the whole shebang to a dehydrator tray and put the tray in/on your dehydrator. Repeat until you’ve spread out all your meat mixture. This recipe fills 4 to 5 trays of my 9-tray Excalibur dehydrator, depending on the thickness I achieve.

Or use a jerky gun to make sticks, as pictured above!

Set the dehydrator’s temperature to 145 or 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on thickness, expect total drying time to be 12 to 18 hours. Flip over mid-way, which is usually when the jerky is curling up from the bottom and not sticking to the tray’s liner any more.

You have to play with how much it “cooks” — and keep in mind that coming out of the dehydrator it is going to be much softer than it will be when it cools. I look for there to be no more pink and try to get it out of the dehydrator while it is still really soft. It always surprises me how much it hardens up once it is out.

Tear apart the pieces and put them in a bowl or tray to cool fully. Then store in a cool, dark place in an airtight container. Or in the refrigerator if not using up within two weeks.

Wow, I wish I could get a good picture of the jerky! It tastes wonderful, and is a great snack or a great lunch on the go. We’ll be having it for lunch today when we are out on our “day in town.”

So, there you go. What you add to this jerky recipe, for spices? If you make it, be sure to come back and let me know what you did!

I’m sharing this post in Pennywise Platter Thursday.

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  1. Kimber says

    Wow, Wardee, this sounds like something I could do! My boys sampled some beef jerky at our local farmers’ market and really liked it. Thanks so much for this simple, useful idea! I had never considered using ground meat for jerky. *smacks forehead*

  2. says

    I have tried jerkey a couple of times and it always flops. I have never considered using ground meat, either. When you use meat that isn’t ground you have to slice it uniformly or it doesn’t dry well. I didn’t do so hot in that area.

    My birthday is next week and I’ve been waiting for my mom to ask what I want so I can tell her to get the Excalibur food dehydrator. I think she’s just going to give me money, though, which will have to go into the checking account to pay for school. Ugh. (Isn’t that selfish of me?? Ha.)

  3. says

    We make jerky with ground venison, and use a jerky gun to have it all the same thickness in the dehydrator. I have an Excalibur, too, and just place the raw jerky on the trays without anything underneath. Venison is lean enough that we don’t worry about any grease dripping.

    Someone just gave me the link to your blog, and I really am enjoying it!

  4. Kelli says

    Thank you for the recipe, Wardee! I will definately be trying this one. I like worcestershire sauce, and found a pretty clean brand from Azure, so I’d probrably add some. I think I’ll try to ask for an Excalibur for my birthday and see what happens!

  5. says

    Kimber – I did the same head smacking! ;)

    Amy – You’re so selfish. ;) I hope someday you’ll get that dehydrator, even if you have to wait until school is over. BTW, what are you going to study?

    Lynn – Yumm! What do you use for spices? I have not heard of a jerky gun, but am going to google it now. This jerky – with the beef – is very drippy. But I’m glad you pointed out that if you’re using lean meat, that the liner isn’t necessary. Thanks!

    Kelli – When is your birthday? How much time have we got? ;) What Worcestershire brand did you buy? I haven’t been ordering from Azure regularly, nor do I hit any of the health food sections in Roseburg very often, so I haven’t been able to look for a good one yet.

  6. says

    Last year I made some jerky using a recipe where you soak the meat in seasoned kefir before dehydrating. It was fantastic! It was from a WAPF chapter in Texas with pdf recipes on their website.. sorry, i can’t remember any more than that.

    I might try this with the ground meat. I can imagine it being really tasty! And so much less expensive than good commercial beef jerky.

  7. says

    Thanks for posting this recipe Wardee. I have been wanting to try making jerky, but it always seemed like too much work. This is something that I think I could manage and it sounds delicious.

    • says

      Alyss – If you ever do find that recipe, you know where to find me!

      Shannon – It is really easy, you’ll like it.

      Sonya – I can help you find more reasons if you’d like.

      Tiffany – Enjoy!

  8. Betsy says

    Oh! I KNEW there was a reason I got the ParaFlexx sheets as my freebie gift with my Excalibur! :)

    I’m going right out to the freezer to take out some ground beef. Jerky will be made this weekend!

  9. says

    Wardee, am very glad you posted a good recipe for jerky, because I was having trouble finding one. So many of them require Tender Quick, and I don’t want to use that. We used a recipe 2 years ago that was way too salty for us, and even our dog wouldn’t eat it! Your post prompted us to take out our venison to get started tomorrow. Thanks! Hope you found something to tell you about jerky guns, they really save time. Mine came from American Harvest/Nesco, and are available at places such as Wal-Mart.

  10. michelle says

    I use a cookie press instead if a jerkey gun! Works great with the right shape–kind of looks like a horizontal line with wiggly top and bottom. Simple!

  11. Sara says

    So I tried this and totally killed the jerky. Left it in the dehydrator overnight and it turned out more like crackers- so thin and crispy. Do you think I could re-hydrate it with a mist of water or should I just leave well enough alone?

      • Tina says

        I’m pretty new to jerky, but could you maybe throw it into a pot of broth with a bunch of veggies and turn it into burger stew or something?

    • Dawn says

      When this happens to me, and it does because I am forgetful…. We just break off small pieces and ‘rehydrate’ them in our mouth! Very tasty and slows down the munching. It is easy to scarf down a whole lot of meat in a short time with jerky and we find portion control easier this way. It is also a nice way to eat jerky while hiking, kind of like chewing gum, only not.

  12. Tammy says

    I am so glad you posted this! I hope it’s yet another nutritious thing my 5 yr old daugther will eat! If it truely isn’t too tough, I will bet she would like it.

    Do you think it would be possible to mix some ground liver in with the burger? And get away with it? :) I’ve learned I need to get lots of liver into her diet after listening to Rami Nagel (Cure Tooth Decay) on cheeseslaves podcast and talking with him through email. I have some grass fed beef liver in the freezer now that I was just trying to figure out how to get into our diet. And unfortunately I am out of grass fed burger but my husband hit a deer on the way to work this morning, so guess what is hanging in our garage? :)


  13. Kelly says

    We looove beef jerky at hour house, never thought of making it ourselves, let alone from ground beef! I don’t yet have a dehydrator- so I have mine in the oven on the lowest temp it will go. Can you help me justify a dehydrator? What would I use it for?

  14. Kimber says

    Well, Wardee, I have jerky in my dehydrator! I tried using a pastry bag with the biggest round tip I had, but after 5-6 lines of meat, I poked a hole in the bag with my finger, and the meat squirted out the side! Oops…

    Anyway, I can’t seem to convince myself to follow any recipe exactly, so I tinkered just a little. I used fresh garlic (7-8 cloves that I grated on a Microplane zester), and added about 3-4 T. of soy sauce, and pressed the meat onto parchment paper. To square off the edges I used my pastry scraper (it worked great!), and then someone in my brain suggested that the pastry scraper would work great for scoring the meat, too. Worked like a charm!

    I’ve tasted some from the lines that I piped out, as it dried faster with more surface area. It was really good. My two oldest boys each tried a piece while they were eating breakfast. They raved about it, and are already giving me tips of just how it would be the best on some pizza. :-)

  15. SueEllen says

    I am doing this today….I have this in the dehydrator right now! I cannot wait to try it. It is looking pretty good. I am almost to the half-way/turn it over point. It smells wonderful!

  16. Luna says

    I’m curious, what percentage of fat is the meat you used?
    I’m excited to try this, but it seems like it wouldn’t keep more than a few days if the meat is more than, say 5% fat, seeing as fatty (with the grain) jerky spoils quickly and is a bit pointless.
    Nonetheless, I’m sure this will work wonderfully as long as I use lean meat, thanks!
    P.S. I’ve read accounts of people dipping jerky in melted fat when eating it, seems sensible enough, and would probably taste better than gnawing on plain jerky and getting just protein without all that lovely fat.. like deconstructed pemmican!

    • says

      Luna – I’m sorry I’m just answering this now. I sat down to answer comments last night, intending to start with yours (as it was the oldest at the time) but somehow I missed it inspite of my intentions.

      I do not know what percentage of fat my meat is. However, it is probably on the lean side, as the grass-fed cows we buy are not heavily fatted and the butcher doesn’t add additional trimmings into the ground beef. But it isn’t too lean because fat drips out on the trays of the dehydrator when I make this jerky – and when I brown the beef on the stovetop (at other times) there’s plenty of fat to keep the meat moist and tasty.

      In one jerky recipe I read that you should store the jerky in the refrigerator. I have not done this yet. My jerky batches last for not longer than two weeks and I haven’t had any spoiling in a dark kitchen cupboard. Granted, it is winter and the house is never warmer than 70 degrees.

      I want to try pemmican! This is great jerky – very satisfying and delicious and not hard on the jaw.

  17. says

    Just tried with 50/50 ground beef and ground liver. Should have looked closer in the freezer to realize I DID have more ground beef and I could have lessened the liver proportion! I added tomato paste, salt and pepper, cumin and some curry to try to cut the liver taste. Ugh, tastes a good bit like dog food, but I’m hoping my toddler will eat most of it for us :-D

    I like the texture though and will definitely make this again with less liver. Maybe 25% would be ok for us.

  18. Kim T says

    I do not have a dehydrator but would love to try this jerky recipe! Can I use my oven to dry this? And can you give me an idea on temp and time for the oven? Just found you and I am so excited to read more!

    • says

      Kim, I would use the lowest temp on your oven, and just watch it. When it looks pretty dry on the top side and is loosening up from the bottom of the trays, flip over the strips. I’m sorry I can’t say how long this will be.

  19. Stephanie M says

    I tried this today in my oven set on warm (just under 200). It was done in a similar time to your dehydrator, but it smells the slightest bit like rotten meat and I’m afraid to taste it. Any ideas why yours doesn’t get rotten?

  20. Mike says

    Keep in mind that most ovens work by turning themselves on and off periodically. Hence, you get temperature fluctuations. This is bad because you want the meat to be at 140degrees or more to inhibit bacteria growth.

    The oven might be going up and down from 100 to 200 which overcooks the meat and has periods where bacteria can grow, or both.


    My biggest problem so far is figuring out how long to cook it. I want to make sure it is very well done so I am not eating raw meat. But my last few batches have been too hard.

    I am gonna try less cooking and maybe toss in some pineapple juice which should work as a tenderizer.

  21. Becky Otoupalik says

    Hi there,

    I was hoping some of you ladies could help set my mind at ease. I have a batch of this jerky going in my dehydrator right now; It’s been going overnight and looks like it’s just about done. I used good pastured beef from the local dairy that we also get our raw milk from so I trust the quality of the meat, but I can’t seem to get past this mental hurdle that the jerky is RAW. Dried, yes, but still…raw. But obviously you ladies love it this way, and you haven’t died of horrible food poisoning. :)
    Oh, I’m probably being silly and just need to just try it but like I said, it’s a mental hurdle. :/

    • says

      Becky — You know what, I consider this jerky cooked actually. The temp is high enough to achieve a low-temp cooking. Kind of like slow-cooking but not quite so hot. Still cooked, though. So you needn’t worry!

      • Becky Oto says

        Thanks Wardee! I’m still a bit of a dehydrator newbie so I appreciate your input very much. It does help to think of it as slow-cooked. Isn’t it funny how we sometimes have mental hangups like that? Hehe, now I just feel silly. Well, I’m learning!

        Hubby and I tried it this morning and we do like it although It’s a bit crispy so I bet I spread it too thin. I don’t think it would work on pizza this crispy, but it will be a great snack. I used 1/2 tsp of black pepper because I’m not a big fan but Hubby said “more pepper next time” :)

        Thanks again Wardee! :)

  22. Coreen says

    I never see recipes for pork jerky. Is there some reason for that? Not safe? Other?
    I don’t tolerate beef well right now and my son is not big on chicken. So we end up having mostly pork. Speaking of chicken, would chicken jerky work??

  23. FatHead says

    Im having problem with cooking time in my Open country Dehydrator. It say 4-15 hours. Im not using ground venison, I cut up some wonderful backstraps. It has been on for almost 14 hours and still is a little red inside when i break it open. Is venison going to have that redness no matter what. Is getting pretty tough. But i like mine crunchy. But also want to make sure its done.

    • says

      In my experience, they are a little red inside even when done. Just to check, take one out, let it cool fully and see if the texture is pleasing. Break it open — usually it is not red anymore after cooled down.

  24. Rachel says

    I do similar spices, but add a bit of Coconut Aminos, and a touch of honey occasionally. I also use the beef heart, let it thaw just enough to cut, trim the outside fat etc off, then grate it. Voila: a ground beef that is very lean (it is the fat that goes rancid in jerky as I understand it). Then when it is all mixed up, I line 2 narrow bread pans with parchment, pat it nice and even and freeze, then thaw just enough to slice again and slice it 4mm thick (I use the food processor). Then dehydrate (same way as your version). We all love it, but the kids sneak it out of the fridge so they get more than I do :)

  25. says

    I’ve always used wheat-free tamari, garlic powder, sea salt, and brown sugar to give it a teriyaki style taste, but I’ve never done it with ground meat before; maybe when buffalo is on sale (though we usually just have our buffalo burgers).

  26. says

    just spotted this post and i’m so happy! i always used to make jerky with those seasoning packets from the store, but as i’ve been cleaning up my families diet i cut them out (they are full of nasty things!). so excited to try and make it from scratch. :)

    • says

      Dana — What I know of poultry is that it is best to blend ground poultry meat with beef or pork for foods like this. I can’t remember why though… :)

  27. Natasha says

    Thanks for this, wanting to try and make this in an oven as we have not yet acquired and dehydrator.
    Anyone ever do this in the oven?
    Anyone ever add some ground beef liver to this, cooking at low temp would be good for the benefits. Taste wise?!?!?!

    If you have input, thanks!

  28. Tom says

    I am looking for a turkey jerkey recipe. Anyone have a good turkey recipe. I like the ground meat idea. I would think it would be easier to eat. I am on a diet that allows me to eat turkey jerky but not beef. Thanks for any help you can give me.

  29. says

    I used Venison. I split it to 3/4 lb each for 2 different batchs.
    the first i ground and used just under 1/2 cup of Tamari, with 2 tsps sea salt, ground black pepper, 2 tsps ground garlic, 2 tsps brown sugar, and some cheyanne pepper. Came out great.

    The second, I used just under a 1/2 cup homemade gluten free BBQ sauce, 2 tbsp fresh squeezed Orange Juice, 1 tsps brandy, 1 tsps maple syrup, 2 tsps sea salt, 1 tsp brown sugar, pinch of Cajun seasoning, pinch of black pepper.

    The first was good. The second, AMAZING. Enjoy.

  30. Amber says

    I am doing a 30/70 split of ground beef and turkey with a honey based glaze in my dehydrator; half on no stick trays half on fruit leather trays. Cannot wait to tray it!

  31. Gail says

    I’ve had great success with making jerky with both beef and venison using this recipe or adaptations of it:

    • 1 pound boneless venison roast
    • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke flavoring
    • 1 tablespoon ketchup
    • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon onion salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

    I don’t have liquid smoke, so that was omitted and I use tamari sauce instead of soy; or bragg’s liquid aminos.
    I have not tried the ground beef yet, though.

  32. jaynep says

    About the ground liver: can you taste it in the finished product? Where do you get? my butcher wont grind organ meat or the fat. Do you grind your own? Thanks in advance!

  33. Belinda says

    SO hoping to get a response but I know this is an old post so if not I understand. Making turkey ground jerky with your recipe. Put it in at 10pm and around 7am flipped it over. The underside wasn’t cooked. It is all cooked now but wondering if it’s safe to eat or if I should pop it in the oven at 275 for 10 minutes or so if that even helps. Again HOPING to hear from you as I consider you a great source! Thanks!

    • says

      Belinda — You can definitely cook it more if you think it needs it. I think I would if I knew it still wasn’t cooked after the overnight drying. Do you think it was too thick or what?


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