When you dehydrate meat or poultry at home in a warm oven or a food dehydrator making jerky which you will later store on the shelf, the jerky is prone to picking pathogenic bacteria. The bacteria are likely to survive the dry heat of the oven and more so the 130 to 140 °F of a food dehydrator. Drying is the world oldest and typical way of preservation of meat. Canning is less than 200 years old while freeing come into place with the invention of electricity. However, drying technology has gained popularity as its simple and more readily available to most of the people.
What are the types of food drying?
There several types of drying meat used widely used in the world, two of which are natural sun drying and (adibatic-shade drying) in open air. Solar drying is sometimes done using individual containers that catch and captures the sun heat to dry the meat. The adibatic drying is done in the absence of heat using the wind.
Sun heat is not recommended for jerky making due to the inconsistency of the steady heat source and the potential for contamination from animals, dust, and bacteria. Jerky meat needs an artificial heat source says warm oven or a food dehydrator.
Choose a food dehydrator that offers:
- A heat source
- Free dry air circulation
- Trays to hold the food during process
Why is temperature important when making jerky?
Cases of Salmonella and E. coli O157: H7 mostly from natural meat drying raises the question the safety of the meat. Jerky meat needs to be heated to 160 °F while poultry requires 165°F prior dehydrating process. These eliminate all the bacteria’s present as wet heat destroys them. Although most dehydrators do not reach the above temperatures they are effective is killing all bacteria’s. The dehydrators maintain a constant temperature of 130 to 140°F during the drying process hence its success.
For the process to be effective, the process must be fast to dry the meat before it spoils and must remove water in the right quantity where the microorganism is unable to grow.
The effect of drying meat without first heating to 160 °F
There are safety concerns if you do not cook it to the safe temperature prior drying. If the process does not meet the 160°F for meat and 165°F for poultry meant to kill all bacteria’s prior dehydrating the bacteria’s become heat resistance hence won’t are not destroyed.
With a dehydrator of a low-temperature oven, the evaporating moisture absorbs most of the heat hence the meat does no begin to rise in temperature until most of the moisture has evaporated. When the meat temperature starts to rise the bacteria’s are already heat resistant hence will service the process most of which are pathogens that cause food-borne illness resulting from consuming the jerky. Follow the instruction offered with any device used in the dehydration process.
When making game jerky, there is a special consideration as the game meat can be heavily contaminated with fecal Bactria although this depends on the hunters skills, wound location among other factors. The game meat needs the ambient temperature to allow potentially bacteria to multiply which need to be discouraged.