Homemade jerky dog treats are simple healthy favourite at our house. From the dogs perspective, meat treats of any type are doggone delish and dehydrating meat dog treats make them easy to store, share, and perhaps most importantly for our use, portable for walkies. Here’s how to make DIY beef jerky treats for dogs along with a few easy shortcut options. We’ve also included some simple swaps for making lamb jerky dog treats, if you’re lucky dogs like us and have access to affordable high-quality lamb. Doggone delicious!
In the many years since first writing and sharing this post, we’ve experimented with a lot of different dog treats and recipes. Still, plain and simple beef jerky remains a solid favourite. There is always a batch of jerky in the freezer for ready-use healthy high-value dog treats. We’ve added many homemade jerky dog treat recipes since, but this is a great starting point. If you’re new to making jerky and dehydrated treats, another great reference for help is our comprehensive post on dog treat dehydration and storage for homemade jerky treats (and more). It will take you through the basics of dehydrating treats, different types of dehydrated treats, food safety, and treat storage tips.
Making Homemade Dog Treats
When people discover that I make treats for our dogs, they often assume (1) I’m crazy (2) I have way too much time on my hands (3) our dogs are spoiled. In honesty, they’re probably right on all counts. But it’s actually incredibly affordable, healthy, and quick to make your own dog treats. But, it’s not for everyone. Reading labels and shopping for quality is a great place to start if you prefer ready-made treats. And even though I enjoy dabbling in the dog-treat kitchen, we still buy lots of different types of ready-made foods and treats for our boys.
Getting Hooked on Homemade Jerky
As much as I love baking and sharing cute treats here on the blog and with our dogs, the simplest things are still go-to treats in our household. Jerky is a favourite. There is always a container of homemade jerky ready and waiting in our freezer. In fact, there happens to be a batch in the dehydrator right this very minute! Our dogs love jerky, plus it’s healthy, takes minimal effort to make, stores well, and travels well as pocket treats for walks. Bonus, my husband sometimes preps the meat for jerky, so it’s not always me on kitchen duty.
Jerky is very convenient to make using a food dehydrator (we have a simple inexpensive model and it works great for our needs) but you can also use your oven. No special tools required. Why not make a batch? You’ll wonder why it took you so long to try making your own, and chances are good it will become a go-to homemade dog treat at your house, too. So simple, so doggone delicious!
Ingredients for Making Dog-Friendly Jerky
Ingredients and Options
Our simple dog-friendly jerky has no added salt, preservatives, or mystery ingredients. Just straight up dehydrated meaty goodness. We experiment with lots of yummy variations, including rubs and marinades (see our other jerky dog treats for ideas), but they’re not necessary for a doggone delicious treat. All you need to make jerky dog treats is a suitable high-quality meat.
Choosing Meat for Homemade Jerky Dog Treats
Good food starts with good ingredients. That’s particularly true for dehydrated treats, both for quality and for food safety. You are what you eat! We’re lucky in New Zealand as many of our meats are pasture raised and grass fed. To keep things easier on your wallet, you can shop for sales (freeze for future use, if needed) or get friendly with your neighbourhood butcher. You want safe quality lean meat, but tougher cuts are fine for jerky treats. Arguably even better for chew factor in some cases. Zero complains from the blog dogs at our place.
It’s important to keep it lean when shopping for jerky. When selecting beef for jerky, look for lean cuts to save yourself the waste and effort of trimming. Fatty meat is harder to dehydrate, less healthful, and has a higher risk of going rancid. Yuck all around. You especially don’t want fatty marbled meat that can’t be trimmed to lean when you’re dehydrating jerky dog treats. Or jerky for humans if you’re keen.
Different Types of Meat for Jerky
This post is focused on beef jerky treats, but extra lean cuts of lamb can be used for jerky with similar temperatures and handling. Other meats may need additional handling for food safety before, during, or after dehydrating. Want to experiment with different types of jerky dog treats? We have other DIY dog jerky treat instructions and recipes on the blog, including fish and chicken. Marinades and rubs, too!
DIY Dehydrated Beef Jerky Treats for Dogs
How to Make Homemade Beef Jerky Dog Treats
Choose a volume of meat that suits your personal preferences and dehydration capacity. Note that it is recommended to pre-heat meats to ~75C then dehydrate at ~60C. Refer to the safety information and links below. Making jerky is easy and energy efficient with a food dehydrator (affiliate link), but a dehydrator isn’t essential. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can place your meat on a wire rack over a lined baking tray and use the oven to replicate the function of a dehydrator.
- Lean quality beef
Making the Treats:
- Cut your beef in preparation for dehydration. For chewier jerky, slice the meat with the grain. For more tender jerky, slice against. Thicker strips will be chewier, but will take longer to dehydrate thoroughly. If you find it difficult to slice your meat into small thin strips, slicing from frozen may help. There are extra tips including shortcuts using different cuts of meat later in this post.
- Optional: Marinate or season.
- Optional: Pre-heat for added food safety (see tips below) prior to dehydrating.
- Optional: If your meat is particularly wet (whether from blood, marinade, or both), you can pat it lightly before placing on the dehydrator trays to remove excess moisture. This isn’t necessary, but can help make tray clean-up a little easier if that’s an issue.
- Arrange the meat on dehydrator racks or prepared trays. Maximise your layout for volume and efficiency, but make sure to allow some space for good air circulation through the racks for efficient and consistent dehydration.
- Dehydrate according to your specific dehydrator’s settings/instructions for dehydrating meat. The dehydration time will depend on your machine as well as how thick your particularly jerky pieces are, but I generally find mine take around 6 hours. Longer if large. Make sure that your meat is cured thoroughly. It will turn colour, firm up, become dry to the touch, but still have some chewy flex.
- Allow the jerky to cool thoroughly before storage.
Dehydrated Beef Jerky Dog Treat Making Tips and Tricks
- For safety, start with a quality lean meat, practice safe food handling, and dehydrate with care using meat appropriate dehydrator settings or oven temperatures. You can read more about jerky safety via the FSIS. When making jerky for humans, they recommend pre-heating as an added safety step to make sure that you get a suitable temperature early in the process, while the meat or fish is still wet. You can use this as an added safety measure when making jerky for dogs, if you wish. Healthy dogs are far more resilient to most bacteria than us humans, especially if they’re accustomed to a raw or mixed diet. However, extra care can be helpful for safety, storage, and for the humans handling finished treats.
- Although jerky is often kept at room temperature, we freeze our jerky to be on the safer side. I’ll either take a little out to defrost, or just pop it straight from the freezer into a pocket treat bag for walks. Since homemade dog jerky doesn’t use preservatives and isn’t heavily salted like human jerky, it’s more vulnerable to spoilage. See our storage tips for dehydrated dog treats for more information.
- You can make jerky straight-up with plain meat, or marinate it a little in a splash of citrus juice or apple cider vinegar and/or a gentle rub of dog-friendly herbs. Combos our dogs enjoy include turmeric and pepper, rosemary, lemon and parsley, and pretty much anything else they can get their mouths on, including deliciously plain meaty goodness. No need to be fancy to please these boys!
Easy Homemade Beef (or Lamb) Jerky Cuts and Shortcuts
DIY Homemade Jerky Treats for Dogs: Snacking Strips
Cutting a Roast (or Similar) into Jerky Strips
This has become my usual way of making jerky. Often, the most affordable way to buy quality lean beef by cost/weight is with a roast. This requires lots of cutting, but isn’t too difficult. Especially once you get a little practice. The upside is that you’ll have total control over shape, size, and thickness of the jerky. Trim your muscle meat to remove any visible fat. Slice into small evenly sized strips. Marinate using dog-friendly ingredients (optional) and dehydrate as above. If your dogs are like mine, you’ll be heavily supervised throughout.
Taking a Shortcut with Schnitzel
Prefer a shortcut? Schnitzel cuts of beef are super thin and very lean. They’re an absolute breeze to cut into strips, no freezing required. Unless, of course, you find a great sale and are stocking up on meat for future jerky making. They are usually lean, so there’s no trimming or waste; however, based on our local prices it’s still usually more cost efficient for us to cut a roast. Ignoring the extra effort, of course.
DIY Homemade Jerky Treats for Dogs: Nibble Nuggets
This style of dehydrated treat works well for meats that are harder to source, trim, and slice into long lean strips. I find this works particularly well for lamb jerky dog treats. It’s actually lamb in the photo below instead of beef. Trim your muscle meat to remove any visible fat. Chop into small evenly sized nuggets. Marinate using dog-friendly ingredients (optional) and dehydrate as above.
DIY Homemade Jerky Treats for Dogs: Jerky Sizzlers
Can’t be bothered with cutting? You can skip the cutting all together and buy lean meat in pre-cut sizzle steak style. Marinate using dog-friendly ingredients (optional) and dehydrate. This style of treat is quick, convenient, and the dogs absolutely love them! These large flat treats are space-hogs on the dehydrating rack, but they dehydrate quite quickly. Stir fry-strips and diced beef can also be no-cut alternatives, but these are rarely available in our local shops and very pricey compared to cutting your own strips or nuggets, as above.
Hungry for more tasty treats? There are all sorts of homemade dog treat ideas in our blog archives. You can use the category and tag labels to find other recipes that might be of interest or use the internal search to find something specific. Remember, treats (bought or homemade) are for spoiling your pup in moderation. We share ideas from treats that we’ve made ourselves for our pets, but different animals have different preferences (likes/dislikes), just like people. Some pets may have special dietary requirements and/or food allergies/intolerances. If you are ever in doubt or have questions about what’s suitable for your pet, have a chat with your trusted vet.