Homemade dehydrated meat dog treats are simple healthy favourite at our house. 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.
📅 In the many years since first writing and sharing this post, we’ve experimented with a lot of different dog treats and recipes, but plain and simple jerky remain a solid go-to favourite. There is always a batch or two in the freezer for ready-use healthy high value treats. There now are a variety of jerky recipes on the blog, but a great starting point 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 most of our dogs’ treats, 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.
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-tos in our household. Jerky is a solid favourite. There is always a container of 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 it, it’s healthy, it takes minimal effort to make, and it stores well. 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. 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 is plain high-quality meat.
Choosing Meat for Homemade Jerky Dog Treats
Good food starts with good ingredients, and that’s particularly true for dehydrated treats, both for quality and 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, shop for sales (freeze for later 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 in some cases!
It’s important to keep it lean when shopping for jerky. Fatty meat is harder to dehydrate, less healthful, and has a higher risk of going rancid. Yuck all around. When selecting beef for jerky, look for lean cuts to save yourself the waste and effort of trimming. You especially don’t want fatty marbled meat.
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. We have other DIY dog jerky treat instructions and recipes on the blog, including fish and chicken.
DIY Dehydrated Beef Jerky Treats for Dogs
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. 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 jerky meat, slicing from frozen may help.
- Optional: Marinate or season.
- Optional: If your meat is particularly wet, you can pat it lightly before placing on the dehydrator trays to remove excess moisture. This can help make tray clean-up a little easier.
- Arrange 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 4-6 hours. 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 to cool thoroughly before storage.
Dehydrated Beef Jerky 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.
- Although jerky is often kept at room temperature, we freeze and keep small quantities in the fridge to be on the safer side. 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 is 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. 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 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 for future jerky making.
DIY Homemade Jerky Treats for Dogs: Nibble Nuggets
This style of dehydrated treat works well for meats that are harder to source, trim, slice into long lean strips. I find it works particularly well for lamb. 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
Cat be bother with all that 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 different DIY dog treats here on the blog. Woofs! Remember, treats (bought or homemade) are for spoiling your pup in moderation. We share ideas here from treats that we make ourselves for our pets, but different animals will have different preferences (likes or dislikes) and dietary needs. Some pets may have special dietary requirements and/or food allergies or intolerances. If you are ever in doubt or have questions about what’s suitable for your pet, have a chat with your trusted vet.