Jerky Dehydrator Hack

I have been experimenting with jerky in the oven after a co-worker introduced me to the idea of making jerky from ground beef.  I had no idea such a thing was even possible.  It is easier and can be cheaper than whole muscle jerky.  Plus it isn’t nearly as jaw bruisingly chewy.  I started in my oven, but the long lingering cooking smell is disagreeable with my wonderful wife and the oven doesn’t seem to vent enough to properly dry the meat.  Enter my new Nesco Snackmaster!


Good ole black Friday deals got me a discount on a damaged box item.  I cleaned and assembled everything and used the dehydrator to dry all the piece parts.  I stuck my grill probe in various places checking for consistency.  It is a surprisingly consistent unit, but there was an issue.  The temp was too low.  You are supposed to dry jerky at 160F, and it stalled at 145.  An hour later, it was still at 145.  I didn’t really feel like sending it back, or finding out the bad way that my jerky wasn’t cooked enough.

The dial has a hard stop (brass piece in lower right picture).  I wondered if it needed adjustment.  I tried tweaking the metal shim that hits the hard stop, and broke it off completely (Sad bent metal in lower left picture).  No sending it back now!  I gave it a slight turn past the previous hard stop and reassembled everything.  Hey presto, 160F without issue.  It super voids the warranty, but now I know I can get one of these things to higher temps if I ever need to.


Fast forward to actually mixing up some meat and making a test run.  I had a jerky seasoning sampler pack, and wanted to stick with known spices while I worked on the mechanics of jerky making.  Once I get the basics down I will venture off into recipe development land.  I mixed it all up, put it in my jerky gun and shot 1/2″ round extrusions into the snackmaster.


Not highly appetizing at this point, but give it some time.  I was dubious of the temperature control still, so I put my probe back in and monitored.  It still didn’t come out to the right temp, so I had to do more adjusting.  No clue if I am being overly controlling, or if something is wong with the built in temperature control.  6 hours later it was looking a bit more like jerky, and I was looking for bed time.


My previous batches got stopped before this point.  They weren’t chewy enough, but lasted about a week before mold set in.  I figured they would be ok overnight, and restarted them in the morning.  Not ideal, but it should be safe. After 4 more hours of drying I had other events that were becoming press, so it was time to call it quits.


10 Hours total yielded a pretty good looking jerky.  Drier than my previous attempts with a good amount of chewiness.  I will hold a small sample of this in a bag and check it for mold routinely to get an idea of shelf life. The only round nozzle I have is 1/2″ in diameter. I need to get a thinner diameter to help speed this process up. Then again, 10 hours would be easy to do overnight.

More jerky updates to come over the next few weeks. I hope to have a full suite available for Christmas gifts.