The long shelf life of beef jerky is only one reason this snack is loved worldwide. The science behind its longevity lies primarily in its preparation process, which involves dehydration and the use of salt. These techniques have been around for centuries, but technology has allowed us to improve the process continually.
History of Dehydrating Meat
The practice of dehydrating meat for preservation is a technique that dates back to ancient times. Early civilizations discovered that removing moisture from meat inhibits the growth of bacteria, thus extending the meat’s shelf life. Primitive societies used natural elements like the sun, wind, and smoke to dehydrate food. Although technology has evolved, the principle behind meat dehydration remains the same, to create a long shelf life for our food.
Dehydrating Beef Jerky
Dehydration is an integral part of beef jerky production and the long shelf life of beef jerky. Dehydrating involves removing the majority of water present in the meat. This is significant as water promotes bacterial growth, which can cause food spoilage. By drying the beef, we significantly decrease the bacterial survival rate by removing key elements in the environment they need to thrive, thereby increasing the product’s shelf life.
Choosing the Right Cut
The dehydrating process for beef jerky begins with selecting a lean cut of beef, such as flank steak or sirloin tip. The meat should be trimmed off any visible fat, as fat does not dehydrate well and can cause beef jerky to spoil more quickly. The trimmed beef is then sliced into thin, uniform strips, marinated in a flavorful mixture to enhance the taste, and left to rest for several hours. This resting process allows the flavors to penetrate the meat, creating a bold flavor.
The marinated strips are then arranged on trays, ensuring they do not overlap for maximum dehydration. The dehydrator is set to a temperature of around 160°F (71°C), and the beef strips are left to dehydrate for approximately 4 to 6 hours. Once dehydrated, the beef jerky is cooled and stored in an airtight container for future enjoyment. The removal of water and proper storage is vital to creating the renowned shelf life of beef jerky.
Salt is another critical component in jerky production and advanced shelf life. Similarly to how ancient civilizations preserved food, salt is added to the jerky to draw moisture from the meat (and any potential bacteria inhabiting it) through osmosis, further enhancing the drying process.
The combination of dehydration and salting gives beef jerky an impressive shelf life and irresistible flavor, making it a convenient and durable choice for a protein-rich snack. If you want an incredible jerky snack without doing all the work yourself, visit Bronco Billy’s to shop our impressive collection of beef jerky!