Questions about jerky and food safety

Questions about jerky and food safety

This is a discussion on Questions about jerky and food safety within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; I just got a dehydrator to start making my own jerky. My main question is about food safety. From the USDA I found this: Why ...

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Thread: Questions about jerky and food safety

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    Member Array Glock30SF's Avatar
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    Questions about jerky and food safety

    I just got a dehydrator to start making my own jerky. My main question is about food safety. From the USDA I found this:

    Why is Temperature Important When Making Jerky? Illnesses due to Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 from homemade jerky raise questions about the safety of traditional drying methods for making beef and venison jerky. The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline's current recommendation for making jerky safely is to heat meat to 160 F and poultry to 165 F before the dehydrating process. This step assures that any bacteria present will be destroyed by wet heat. But most dehydrator instructions do not include this step, and a dehydrator may not reach temperatures high enough to heat meat to 160 F.

    After heating, maintain a constant dehydrator temperature of 130 to 140 F during the drying process is important because:
    the process must be fast enough to dry food before it spoils; and
    it must remove enough water that microorganisms are unable to grow.

    Why is it a Food Safety Concern to Dry Meat Without First Heating it to 160 F?
    The danger in dehydrating meat and poultry without cooking it to a safe temperature first is that the appliance will not heat the meat to 160 F and poultry to 165 F — temperatures at which bacteria are destroyed — before it dries. After drying, bacteria become much more heat resistant.

    Within a dehydrator or low-temperature oven, evaporating moisture absorbs most of the heat. Thus, the meat itself does not begin to rise in temperature until most of the moisture has evaporated. Therefore, when the dried meat temperature finally begins to rise, the bacteria have become more heat resistant and are more likely to survive. If these surviving bacteria are pathogenic, they can cause foodborne illness to those consuming the jerky.





    The two things in bold is what concerns me a little. I am chopping at the bit to make some as I have everything to do so. But am a little worried if I should heat it to 160 deg before I make it? I have ground beef and a jerky gun and am worried if I heat it first it may start to cook it? Then make it very hard to shoot through the jerky gun?? Also it didn't say how to (or how long)heat the meat? Do I put all the seasoning in and then put it in a pan like a meat loaf? Any help is appreciated.
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    I'm going to stick my neck out here. Is it possible to start with whole meat and grind it yourself? That greatly reduces the chances of contamination by E. coli or salmonella; especially if you are using fresh cuts and meticulously cleaning your meat grinder first. With store bought ground beef you have no idea what might have happened at the store.

    Second, is there a nitrite source in your flavoring? This reduces risk too.

    I'm unfamiliar with the equipment for mixing, extruding and drying the jerky. Clearly the more quickly you get the moisture out-higher temp-- the less chance there is in terms of time for contaminating organisms to reproduce; they double in number every 20 minutes or so.

    I would not use chicken in there for anything. Too much risk unless it is first thoroughly cooked.

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    VIP Member Array cvhoss's Avatar
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    Can't tell you anything about jerky making but I can tell you a bit about the temp requirements as I'm in the restaurant business.

    If you're using ground beef, make absolutely sure it reaches 165 completely throughout the product. With a steak, any e. coli will be on the outside surfaces and will be killed relatively quickly when the meat is placed on a hot surface. This is why you can go to your favorite restaurant and order a rare steak. However, once the meat is ground, any bacteria will now be mixed throughout the ground beef and the only way to kill it is to raise the temperature throughout the product to 165 or higher. You should not be able to order a rare hamburger at a restaurant as they are most likely breaking the law if they serve you one. If ground beef reaches 165 internally, it will no longer be pink. We are required by the state health department to take internal product temperatures multiple times per day and keep a running log.

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    Senior Member Array rolyat63's Avatar
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    I make jerky all of the time with my dehydrator. I don't use ground beef so there is less risk. I have tried several spices and variations. I like to use "Dales" to marinate the meat in a ziploc for an hour or so. Half the fun is getting to "try" it out as pieces get done.

    I have ever blanched the meat first then added the marinate but I just generally clean the meat well and dehydrate it and have no problems.

    For spicy jerky you can add spices. Another quicky way I cheat is to pour some of favorite hot salsa into the marinate and it give it a good flavor with a little twang.

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    OK, just talked to my wife who had a couple of suggestions:
    She didn't like the idea of heating to 160 first, preferring that the heat step occur in the dehydration phase. She also wondered if your extruder also heats the meat as that is how commercial extruders keep the extruded product from falling apart. The heat applied during extrusion denatures the protein and makes everything stick.

    There is a meat laboratory at Texas A&M U., and you could try putting a phone call in to the meat lab folks for better answers.

    I'm sending you some names and contact info via pm.

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    Senior Member Array Shadowsbane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cvhoss View Post
    Can't tell you anything about jerky making but I can tell you a bit about the temp requirements as I'm in the restaurant business.

    If you're using ground beef, make absolutely sure it reaches 165 completely throughout the product. With a steak, any e. coli will be on the outside surfaces and will be killed relatively quickly when the meat is placed on a hot surface. This is why you can go to your favorite restaurant and order a rare steak. However, once the meat is ground, any bacteria will now be mixed throughout the ground beef and the only way to kill it is to raise the temperature throughout the product to 165 or higher. You should not be able to order a rare hamburger at a restaurant as they are most likely breaking the law if they serve you one. If ground beef reaches 165 internally, it will no longer be pink. We are required by the state health department to take internal product temperatures multiple times per day and keep a running log.

    Hoss
    +100 on this.

    I have made/my family has made lots of delicious jerky throught the years, particularly with venison. Never once was the meat heated up to a proper temperature before hand.

    However, my family always marinated the meat in booze. Generally whiskey, and other high acid liquids. The high acid will help in the killing of bacteria before you dehydrate. At least to a degree.
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    Member Array Glock30SF's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies so far. The dehydrator only goes to 155 deg. I also ordered some gound venison online and didn't want any problems. The jerky gun is just a glorified caulking gun. You pack the meat into it and it shoots it out into flat thin strips or little round strips. I just am thinking if I heat it to 160 deg it may start to cook and be impossible to shoot through the gun?
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    hehe... I just got done watching Good Eats on Food Network...and it was about Jerky. Alton said the heat changes the texture of the meat. Using a box fan and furnace filters is the best way.
    I haven't made jerky from ground meats. I have made jerky from beef, turkey and buffalo using both the dehydrators and the fan method... the fan method produces a better taste IMO.
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    VIP Member Array packinnova's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glock30SF View Post
    Thanks for the replies so far. The dehydrator only goes to 155 deg. I also ordered some gound venison online and didn't want any problems. The jerky gun is just a glorified caulking gun. You pack the meat into it and it shoots it out into flat thin strips or little round strips. I just am thinking if I heat it to 160 deg it may start to cook and be impossible to shoot through the gun?
    Just when I thought I had seen it all...ground venison ordered online...
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    As a Public Health Microbiologist, i have to tell you that most food contamination comes from factory farms.

    If you make wild game jerky or use other meat that does not come from your supermarket (buy a cow striaght from the farmer before it goes top the feedlot) you reduce your chances of food poisoning buy about 80%.

    Other than that clean everything very well that start with and when you finish.

    The drying process will kill the bacteria but not the toxin (Shiga toxin) they produce. The toxin is what makes you sick, if you elimate most of the bacteria they will not have enough time to make enough toxin to effect you before they die of dehydration.
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    Member Array Glock30SF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by packinnova View Post
    Just when I thought I had seen it all...ground venison ordered online...
    I know it is funny. First time so we will see.

    Ground Venison from Broken Arrow Ranch
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    VIP Member Array Supertac45's Avatar
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    I've been making hamburger jerky for about 10 years and I use 140 degrees to dry. So far, so good. The store I get my beef from grinds their own.
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    VIP Member Array AllAmerican's Avatar
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    Great thread...

    Im planning on buying a dehydrator before deer season next year. Im gonna buy one of those meat grinders too. Probably a sausage maker is a good idea too.
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    Member Array Glock30SF's Avatar
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    Ok on my first batch. So far so good! After the comments here and some more research I am not too worried. My dehydrator is a Nesco and I called them and they said the unit goes up to 160deg for like the first hour. I have it set at the highest setting 155deg. I think it should be about done soon. I am supposed to get the venison on tue so I will see how that comes out. Overall pretty interesting. Here are a couple of pics.
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    All true but one more point

    Quote Originally Posted by pgrass101 View Post
    As a Public Health Microbiologist, i have to tell you that most food contamination comes from factory farms.

    If you make wild game jerky or use other meat that does not come from your supermarket (buy a cow striaght from the farmer before it goes top the feedlot) you reduce your chances of food poisoning buy about 80%.

    Other than that clean everything very well that start with and when you finish.

    The drying process will kill the bacteria but not the toxin (Shiga toxin) they produce. The toxin is what makes you sick, if you elimate most of the bacteria they will not have enough time to make enough toxin to effect you before they die of dehydration.
    This is all true but I'd add one more point. He is buying a ground specialty meat from a commercial source. If he started with fresh clean meat, and ground it himself, contamination wouldn't be much of an issue. But with commercial ground meat, especially from a smaller specialty source business as would be the case for venison, there is more of a risk that the meat comes already "well seasoned." I'd really wonder if any commercial producer of ground venison has a real good HACCP program or food safety program. FSIS inspections are spotty enough with large commercial producers. Lord only knows what happens with small specialty processors.

    In any case, the wee beasties are killed off rather quickly with modest heat--but the pre-formed toxins are not, as you point out necessarily killed off.

    And as far as 0157, while I don't know with certainty, I think you are correct that this is a feedlot issue not likely to be a problem with venison.

    Finally, I offer up the personal opinion that we are all quite a bit more sturdy and resilient to these things than we would believe. As long as it doesn't get fed to children or the elderly or the infirm, the odds are pretty good all will be fine after normal heating and dehydration.

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