Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cidered jerky (beef or venison) -- and tips on buying a dehydrator

Some great tips for buying a dehydrator, in which you can make this tangy cidered beef jerky or venison jerky.

DIY cidered beef jerky or venison jerky

A big hug and WELCOME to all you jerky fans!

Since my first chicken jerky post two years ago, I have been promising to post another jerky recipe. At long last, it's here.

Why so long, you ask? Honestly, it was the photographs. Let's face it: jerky does not photograph well.

I've made this particular cidered jerky recipe a bunch of times and the photo shoots were miserable failures. The did not pass the "would I eat this?" test.

But recently I realized that, as with so many things in life, striving for perfection was preventing me from being happy. Because this jerky is so freakin' good that it makes me really, really happy to both eat it and share the recipe with all of you.

Regular readers who know of my ongoing battle for backyard produce with the deer on our property will appreciate that the batch of cidered jerky featured in these photographs came from a big buck taken on our property last year by the intrepid young man who hunts our land.

In fact, I gave the hunter some of this jerky to try. The next day he texted me to let me know he ate it all in one sitting and proclaimed it "awesome", with FOUR exclamation points. So it's officially hunter-approved.

If you don't have access to venison or aren't into game, don't worry. This recipe is fabulous with lean beef and, even though I haven't tried it yet, I'm sure it would also be great with pork or even chicken.

DIY cidered beef jerky or venison jerky

Bear in mind that I make my jerky using a dehydrator, not the oven. If you are into jerky or other dried meats, veggies or fruits, I can't stress enough how invaluable a dehydrator is. It's definitely worth an investment. Since so many of you have emailed me, asking for guidance on buying a dehydrator, I thought I'd also share some tips for what features to look for in a dehydrator.

  • Size: The bigger, the better, as it means you'll be able to dry more food at one time. However, if you live alone or are the only one that eats jerky in your family, you probably don't need a huge dehydrator.
  • Shape: It doesn't matter, but I think square is more efficient than round because you can fit more food on each tray by lining it up.
  • Wattage: It's power and, in this case, more is better / more efficient.
  • Temperature: You'll definitely want to have an adjustable temperature control with a wide range. Some models will simply have one setting (ON), which means they only dry at one temperature. This will make drying a bit trickier, especially for things like herbs that require a very low drying temperature.

Basically, any dehydrator will eventually get the drying job done. For example, my Dad had a crappy little Ronco one that worked fine for banana chips, which was one of the only things he dried. But you will get what you pay for. I own an Excalibur and absolutely love it. If you're serious about food dehydration, check them out by clicking the banner below (and get free shipping!).

If you're not ready to make quite that significant an investment or are very new to dehydrating, check out the other dehydrators that I have listed in my online shop. There are some very affordable options that meet the criteria I listed above. Lastly, if you really want to get creative, the most affordable option is to Google "solar dehydrators" and learn how to make one yourself, using only the sun to dry your food.

And while you're here, be sure to check out all my dehydrating recipes.

What's your favorite way to use your dehydrator? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.

Happy jerky-ing!

Cidered Beef Jerky or Venison Jerky

(adapted from Preserve It Naturally)
Note: The drying time will vary, based on how thick/thin your strips are, but the batch in the photographs took about 9 hours.

1 1/2 - 2 pounds lean beef or venison, cut into strips
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (smoked salt will also add another level of flavor)
1 teaspoon dried garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried mushroom powder (make it yourself with your dehydrator!)

Place all the ingredients in a large ziplock bag to marinate. Refrigerate overnight (at least 8 hours). Place strips on dehydrator trays and dry at 145 degrees until hard.

* Disclosure: If you buy a dehydrator via the links provided in this post, I will get a very small commission from either Excalibur or Amazon, which I appreciate, given that I share all my advice and recipes with you for no income.
-- print recipe --


  1. This is not a commercial - I've used a Ronco (bought for $5 at a yard sale), an American Harvester (borrowed from my dad) and an Excalibur (which I own). There's just no comparison. I love my Excalibur. We don't run the dehydrator super-often, but when we do, there's usually a lot going in it, so I'm glad for all the space. It's also been much more energy efficient than the other two. I've got four trays of spiced apple slices in it right now.

    1. Thanks for seconding my endorsement -- they really are the best!

    2. I also own an Excalibur. Fortunately I believed everyone else and never bought anything else. So I guess I'll never know what it's like to have a dehydrate fall short in it's duties.

  2. Also not a commercial - I was hesitant to buy the Excalibur because it was considerably more than most dehydrators. I am so glad I did! It's awesomeness cannot be described - every time I use it I am reminded of how much I love it. There is no substitute.

  3. Excaliburs are also very easy to clean up afterward. I run ours on a table on the back patio at nite. To steal a line from Ronco "I just set it and forget it" at nite. When I get up (mine has a timer) it is all done and ready to eat. Can you say jerky for breakfast anybody?

  4. haven't tried an excalibur but have used a ronco and american harvestor. now i use my double convection wall oven and with that works like a charm...i can dry larger pieces of fruit and veggies, leaving some whole

  5. Diy dehydrator via food networks Alton brown. Box fan, furnace filters and bungee cords. Used many times with excellent results.

  6. Ninj, have you tried this cidered marinade with chicken and if so, how long did you marinate? Thanks!

  7. Can I use this recipe using ground venison and a jerky gun?

  8. What are the consequences for leaving out the mushroom powder (man...I loathe all things fungal...)? Does it serve a purpose, or just add flavor?

    1. I left out the mushroom powder. jerky tastes great to me without it.