How to Make Healthy, Low Sodium Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is packed with protein, however most commercial jerky is also loaded with salt. The salt is not required for preservation, just for the taste. Make your own beef jerky as a healthy alternative. It's not a difficult process, although it does take some time and attention to food safety practices.

Homemade beef jerky is much healthier than packages of the salt-lade store-bought kind. (Image: HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images)

Dehydrator Method

Step 1

Place round steak or another cut of lean beef in the freezer, until it is semi-frozen but not rock hard, about 30 minutes or so. Cut very thin slices using a sharp knife no more than 1 inch wide.

Step 2

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add two handfuls of salt and one handful of white or brown sugar. Toss in seasonings of your choice. Bring the brine back to the boil. Put a good handful of the beef strips in the water. Stir so all beef strips are exposed to the water and not sticking together. Bring the water back to a boil, and let the beef cook for 2 minutes. Repeat with all the beef. This kills any surface bacteria. Place the strips on a clean plate. Refrigerate the beef strips if it takes more than 30 to 45 minutes to get all the strips boiled.

Step 3

Pat the beef strips dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with your choice of seasonings and spices. Add cayenne powder mixed with cinnamon and brown sugar for a sweet spicy jerky or cumin, cilantro and thyme for a Tex-Mex flavor. Use a spoon to press the seasonings into the beef.

Step 4

Place the seasoned beef on the shelves of a dehydrator. The strips should not be touching to allow for good air circulation. Rotate the shelves or trays every few hours. The temperature of the dehydrator should be a minimum of 130 to 140 F during the drying process. Dry until the beef is completely dry and almost crisp. It could take 4 to 5 hours or longer if the weather is humid.

Oven Method

Step 1

Marinate the thinly cut beef slices in your choice of apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, spices and seasonings for 24 hours. Avoid soy sauce, steak sauce and Worcestershire sauce which are all high in sodium. Remove from the refrigerator and pat dry.

Step 2

Place the slices on cookie racks and put the racks on baking sheets. Slide the baking sheets into a preheated 350-F oven. Bake for 5 minutes. Test the meat strips by placing the thermometer probe between two slices of meat. It should read 160 F. Lower the oven heat to 150 F.

Step 3

Dry until the beef is leathery. Exactly how long depends on how thick the slices are, and how moist they were from the marinade. It may take as long as 4 or 5 hours.

Things You'll Need

  • Knife

  • Cutting board

  • Seasonings


Be careful using lower sodium versions of soy sauce or other sauces. The salt content can still be high.

Even though the USDA says to cook the meat first whether using a dehydrator or oven, many chefs skip the step. The choice is up to you. If you don't want to boil the meat first, use a marinade for the beef dried in a dehydrator.


Test your dehydrator with an oven dial-stem thermometer on the second or third shelf. It should maintain a temperature of 145 to 155 F.

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