- Recipe Level: Medium
- Time to Make: 1-2 hours, depending on amount of jerky being prepared
- Oven Temperature: Lowest setting available, about 200⁰C
- Time to Dehydrate: 2-5 hours, depending on meats chosen
Today we'd love to show you how to make delicious, meaty, satisfying jerky treats that your dog will be begging for before they are even out of the oven! Better yet these treats have no added fillers, preservatives, or artificial flavours, are low carb and low sugar, and they are completely compatible with raw and kibble-based diets.
Briefly, here are the steps you’ll need to follow to make your own treats:
- Choose a meat source – make sure it is lean.
- Gather the supplies you will need to make these treats - a list is provided below.
- Prepare your chosen meat – you’ll need to trim all the fat off and slice or cube it.
- Prepare tray – make sure the tray isn’t overcrowded and the treats don’t overlap.
- Dehydrate the treats in the oven – follow the directions below.
- Store your leftovers properly (if there are any!) so they don’t spoil.
Read on for a detailed description of each step so you avoid any pits falls.
Protein choices – focus on low fat
When making jerky style treats, there is no ‘best meat to use’. It’s perfectly fine to choose your protein based on your dog’s favourite meat, what’s in your freezer, or what’s on sale at the store.
One thing that is essential is getting the leanest meat you can. Even with lean meats, you must trim any visible fat from the meat prior to dehydrating - high fat jerkies will go bad in a matter of only a few days. To make your treats last longer use low-fat meats. Additionally, if you plan on using game meat that you hunted, please ensure you freeze it for a minimum of 1 month first to kill any parasites on the meat. It should be dehydrated a bit longer than domestic meat as well, as it is more likely to harbour bacteria and pathogens.
Suggestions for the undecided:
- Chicken breast (thighs are too fatty) or chicken hearts (remove visible fat first)
- Beef liver or beef heart, cleaned of fat
- White fish, such as sea bass, cod, or pilchard (use tweezers to remove pin bones first)
- Flank steak or other lean beef muscle meat with little to no fat marbling
- Game meat (venison, moose, rabbit, etc. are all very lean naturally)
Gather your ingredients and supplies
Once you have chosen you meat, you need to prepare it and get what you need to make
the jerky. You will need:
- Two - four large flat oven trays (the kind you would bake cookies on)
- Several metal racks (the kind you would cool cookies on)
- Parchment paper to control mess (very important if you want to do organ meats!)
- A very sharp meat knife - don’t use a serrated knife!
- Lots of time (most is hands off time where the treats bake in the oven)
- A large secure cutting board
Prepare your meats
Depending on what meat you chose, the size of your dog or dogs, and the type of treat you’re looking for, this process will be different. However, the joy of making your own treats is that everything is fully customizable. Therefore, instead of direct instructions, we will offer you some guidelines that will ensure your success.
Consistent sizing is key
It doesn’t matter much whether you want large or small pieces, chunks or strips, chicken or beef. However, it does matter a lot that everything on the tray is uniform.
This is key because if the proteins are different or the pieces are all different shapes and sizes, you will end up with unevenly dehydrated jerky – some overcooked, some undercooked, and some just right. To avoid this, use one type of meat at a time and cut it all the same. Keep in mind that the bigger and thicker your meat is, the longer it’ll take to dehydrate.
Organ meat preparation and tips
Organ meat is very slippery and can be very challenging to cut at all, let alone evenly. However, it is also very nutritious and usually very economical as well. To reap the benefits of feeding organs to your dog without frustration and potential knife slippage, utilize your freezer. By semi-freezing (but not completely freezing) liver, heart, kidney and more, you make them easy to handle by firming up the meat so you can safely cut it thinly.
If you do make liver jerky, make sure you don’t overdo it on treating your dog. Too much liver can cause an overdose of some vitamins – more immediately it is also a natural laxative! Remember that dehydrating liver (and fish) emits a strong smell. Some people like it, but most may want to consider adding a fan to the list of supplies above.
Remove bones from fish
Before dehydrating any fish, it is important to first check for and remove any pin bones. Pin bones are tiny bones that can be plucked out with tweezers and all fish have them. To find them, run your hand along the fillet and remove each one as you come across it. You’re done when the fish is smooth to the touch. Ensure you remove the bones before slicing the fish into cubes or strips as keeping them in is both dangerous and makes the fish challenging to cut up. Like liver, it is also a good idea to semi-freeze your fish prior to slicing as otherwise it can be slippery and difficult to cut evenly.
Prepare your treats to bake
After your meats have been cut and had any bones and/or fat removed, its time to put them on the trays.
- Measure your parchment paper in advance and line each baking tray you’re using with it. By doing this you’ll make clean up much easier and faster, although it is fine to dehydrate the meats right on the tray if you don’t have parchment paper.
- Place the racks on top of the parchment paper and, if you are making fish, spray the racks lightly with cooking oil so the fish does not stick. It is important to elevate the treats on racks so the bottoms can dry evenly along with the tops.
- Make sure that the treats do not overlap or touch each other on the trays so that they dehydrate thoroughly and evenly.
Dehydrate your treats
Set your oven to the lowest setting available. If that setting is about 165⁰C - 175⁰C, your jerky should take about 4 hours to dehydrate. If your oven’s lowest setting is hotter, say 200⁰C, then your jerky should take about 3 hours. If you cut your treats very small or your oven runs hot, the time may be even less, so check the treats every half-hour or so starting at 2 hours. After the first few batches, you’ll get to know how long they usually take.
Is it done yet?
Your jerky is done when it has shrunk significantly in size (by about half), darkened in colour, and is dry all the way through. You do want the jerky to have a bit of a bend, but it shouldn’t look or feel rubbery as that means it’s not cooked enough yet. Remember, this jerky does not have vegetable glycerine added (as many commercial products do), so it will be fairly dry and chewy when finished.
The exception to this rule of thumb is liver. Dehydrated liver is very hard and brittle when it’s done, and it will snap off rather than bend. Dehydrated heart, although not as brittle as liver, is also quite hard when it is fully dehydrated. Both these items will be very dark, almost black, when fully dehydrated.
Chicken hearts are a little lighter and softer, but still harder and darker than muscle meat will be. Chicken hearts will also take longer than other items (unless you cut them up) as they are thicker.
Store your leftovers (if there are any!) properly
Although treats with no preservatives are not going to last as long as store bought
treats, you can still expect your jerky to last for about a week at room temperature (if kept in a tightly sealed container) and for about 2 weeks if kept in the fridge. If you want it to last even longer, you can freeze it or use a vacuum sealer to vacuum seal the amount your dog can eat in a week. Stored this way, the jerky will keep for 1-2 months. Please keep in mind that these ranges are estimates based on the climate of BC, Canada. Those who live in warmer more humid places can expect that room temperature jerky will not last as long.
We hope you enjoy this recipe and that your dog gives the jerky you make two paws up – as we are more than sure that they will!
– Carly Piatocha, Only One Treats Contributor