Jerky: 202 Smoked Vs. Dehydrated Jerky

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User


    Jerky: 202 Smoked Vs. Dehydrated Jerky

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    Jerky in Oven
    Dehydrated Jerky
    Finished Jerky

    Which is Best?

    There are plenty of different opinions on the best way to cook and dry jerky. Some people prefer using just an oven, some just a dehydrator and some just a smoker. Each way has its benefits but we think some are better than others depending on the equipment you have available to you. If you have a smokehouse that is able to control the relative humidity then starting and finishing in the smoker is going to give you the most consistent and the most tender piece of jerky. The problem is that most people just don’t have that available to them, so we are also going to show a way to use an oven and a dehydrator to make tender jerky.

    Slicing & Mixing

    The first thing is first we have to slice this into useable pieces. We have trimmed and partially frozen our meat so make slicing them easier. We are cutting 1/4 inch pieces against the grain because this will make the bite and chew of the jerky better than cutting along the grain.

    Now we are going to mix our seasoning with our cure and lay it out on a plate. Then, we are going to drag the pieces through this mixture making sure we coat both sides. After we have done everything we are going to place it in a bag and add JUST enough water to cover all of the meat. Then we are going to let it sit overnight to allow the seasoning and cure to fully penetrate and work in the cure. Vacuum packing will help the meat pick up a little more of the seasoning and if you can vac pack it and then massage the meat every few hours it will work even better. This is going to relax the muscle fibers and allow the solution to penetrate further and faster.

    If you have a vacuum tumbler you can simply dissolve all of your seasoning, cure and any other additives in the water you will use, add it to the tumbler and tumble until the meat has picked up all of the solutions.


    I am also adding 18% of the weight of the product in brown sugar and 20% of the weight in water. I am adding this sugar as it will bind with the water in the meat and make it unavailable for microbial growth, so I can have a perfectly safe jerky that is still nice and tender. To verify this you need a water activity meter though and as most people don’t have one of these you need to treat this jerky like it is not shelf-stable and refrigerate it. If you want to do this you need to make sure your brown sugar was 100% dissolved in the water, if not you are going to end up with some seriously sticky jerky. Also, a tumbler is almost essential here, I have tested vacuum packing it with the added sugar and water in the past and while it works it just won’t accept as much of the solution as it will with a tumbler.


    The Weston 6 Tray Digital Dehydrator is an inexpensive ($80) dehydrator that will get up to 160° and can run for over 24 hours at a time. This should give you all the functionality you need to make quality jerky.

    Now that the meat has picked up as much of the cure as it will we are going to do the thermal processing. I split this into two batches to see what the difference is in product loss and tenderness when done in a smoker verse an oven and a dehydrator.

    I took 4 lb and laid it out on the jerky screens and cooked it at 325° until the internal temperature is 160°. This jerky has been cut 1/4" thick so it only took 12 minutes. Once that was done I transferred it to a dehydrator and ran it at its top temperature, which in this case was 160°. After 1 hour the water activity was .98 which would not be shelf-stable, after 2 hours is was .89 so still not shelf-stable, after 3 hours is was low .8s to high .7s, after 4 hours in the dehydrator the water activity was .71 which is what we would want from our jerky.

    The other batched I cooked in our commercial smoker with careful attention to the relative humidity. My first stage is at 110° for 20 minutes with no humidity and my dampers wide open and my fan on and no smoke, next I went for 30 minutes at 135° again with no smoke or humidity, then 140° for 10 minutes with no smoke and no humidity. Now I cooked it at 150° for 30 minutes and I closed the dampers and set the relative humidity to 50%. Then I upped the temp to 155 for 30 more minutes with 50% relative humidity. For the final stage, I cooked it 175° with a 60% RH until the internal temp was 160

    $500 Budget for Equipment

    In my opinion, I would spend the majority of my budget on a slicer, the Weston 10" Slicer has a hefty price tag of $400 but it will cut evenly and can also be used for so much more than just jerky, the Walton’s 8.7" is a little more affordable at $300 and in our mind is at least as good. Then I would spend the remaining amount on the 6 Tray Digital Dehydrator. Now, another, and equally valid way to go would be to spend the bulk of your money on a Weston 80L Pro Series Dehydrator ($350) and then buying a Weston 9" Slicer, don’t let the 1 " difference between these slicers confuse you though, the Weston 10" and Walton’s 8.7" are extremely well built and could be used in a semi-commercial environment whereas the 9" is only for home use.

    Other Equipment Or Supplies

    • A Smokehouse will give you a lot more versatility and can obviously be used for so much more than jerky.

    Shop for Vertical Smokers

    Shop for American BBQ Systems Smokers

  • What happened to the 4 stages, different temps starting low then finishing off the jerky till it reaches 160 degrees, and this wasn’t in a commercial smoker.

  • Can the jerky be put in the oven until it reaches 160 degrees, then use the smoker instead of the dehydrator?

  • Team Blue

    loadpin Yes! I’ve finished in both dehydrator and smoker and it works great.

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User

    loadpin Yeah absolutely can do it that way and if you have good air flow in your smoker I’d recommend it. Dehydrators have their place, I just don’t think they are always the best choice for jerky. OOOHHHH Tex_77 try the Ultimate Pork Chop & Roast Rub on dehydrated bacon. Really good, very salty but that might have just been that i put too much on it! Also, that pic makes it look yellow, Excalibur must have made a change because it is more grey now, just FYI

  • Team Blue Power User Traeger Primo Grills PK Grills Canning Sous Vide Community Moderator

    Jonathon will do, wasn’t overly impressed with the salt and Vinegar, but I think I went way to light to start with.

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User

    Our process engineer thinks Austin and I are insane for how much we like that…speaking of that,m we have a livestream on Monday, which means I need to make up a batch!

  • Team Blue Power User Traeger Primo Grills PK Grills Canning Sous Vide Community Moderator

    Jonathon How much of it are you putting on?

  • Team Orange Walton's Employee Admin

    I would appreciate a batch! Lol! Jonathon

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User

    Tex_77 I am coating both sides fairly liberally but not to the point where it is heaping. shows some close ups of us sprinkling

  • Team Blue Power User Traeger Primo Grills PK Grills Canning Sous Vide Community Moderator

    Jonathon That’s way heavier then what I had put down, next time I’ll know. It’s still bacon, so it’s still good either way.

  • I cured some bacon and cold smoked it as I was slicing up thought I would try to dehydrate some. I did a couple of trays just the apple cured then made couple trays with a sprinkle of slap your mama. It seams very greasy. I guess I thought some of the fat would render out. Really liked the slap your mama.

  • Team Blue Power User Traeger Primo Grills PK Grills Canning Sous Vide Community Moderator

    mosales What temp did you have your dehydrator set on? My guess is maybe its not getting hot enough? I know when I do it in the oven between 150-175, I have always had a little bit of fat render out.

  • Jonathon ,

    Which smokehouse are you guys using to do all of your jerky, snack sticks, and smoked sausages on?


  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User

    armyguy The jerky we mostly use the Pro Smoker 500T because it is easiest to monitor and control humidity. Then it really depends on quantity and how quick we need it done. It’s always either that or the pk100 when it is something like snack sticks or summer sausage, when we are just grilling we use our gas or pellet combo.

  • I have heard that meats will not take smoke as well when drier versus moist. I make my jerky in Rectec pellet grill, place meat in moist and smoke on low 180 and it comes out [email protected]

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User

    Arnie There is some truth to that, the temperature of the meat comes into play as well. 140° is commonly accepted as the temp where smoke flavor stops increasing. I think that probably has something to do with that being past the temp that the meat really starts sweating.

  • Team Orange PK100 Sous Vide Power User

    Jonathon said in Jerky: 202 Smoked Vs. Dehydrated Jerky:

    140° is commonly accepted as the temp where smoke flavor stops increasing.

    I often hear that, too, but it’s not true. What’s happened here is that folks confuse smoke flavor with smoke ring formation. The smoke ring stops forming around 140 F because the myoglobin denatures and no longer changes color in the presence of nitric oxide. That may have something to do with a “cured” flavor, but it has nothing to do with “smoke” flavor.

    The longer you keep meat in the smoke, the more smoke flavor you’ll get, at least by adsorption if not by absorption. Granted that sweating, misting, basting, etc. might slow down or even prevent adsorption to some degree, but neither time nor temperature just shuts down adding smoke flavor.

  • Team Orange Power User Masterbuilt

    Often wondered about that. Had some venison snack sticks from a co-worker that were so heavily smoked they didn’t even taste good. And I like smoky meat.

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User

    TexLaw So, smoke adhearance and smoke ring are connected? We’ve done numerous things debunking a “smoke ring” and that it is really a cure ring but for some reason I NEVER put together that with the fact that smoke stops adhering. I’m sure you’re right because it makes sense but I am going to ask our application specialist for the some “science” on this!

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