How to Make Easy DIY Beef Jerky Treats for Dogs

How to make easy DIY beef jerky dog treats

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. Shopping for quality is a great place to start if you prefer ready-made treats. And even though I enjoy dabbling in the 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 sharing cute treats here on the blog and with our dogs, the simplest things are still go-to treats. 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. And as a bonus, Dog Dad sometimes preps the meat for jerky, so it’s not always me on kitchen duty. 

Jerky is easy to make using a food dehydrator (affiliate link). We currently have a simple inexpensive model, and it works great for our needs. No dehydrator and not ready to take the plunge on a new kitchen appliance? You can also use your oven to make jerky. No special tools required! Why not make a batch? You’ll wonder why it took you so long to try making your own jerky treats, and chances are good jerky might become a go-to homemade dog treat at your house, too. So simple, so doggone delicious!

Marinated rosemary ginger beef jerky dog treat recipe

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 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.

Lean meats are best for jerky. When selecting beef or other types of meat for making jerky treats, look for lean cuts to save the cost, waste, and effort of trimming. Avoid fatty marbled meats that can’t be trimmed. Fatty meat is harder to dehydrate, less healthful, and (depending on how your jerky is stored) has a higher risk of going rancid. Yuck all around. 

Different Types of Meat for Jerky

This post is focused on basic beef jerky dog treats, but lean cuts of other meats, like lamb, can be used with similar temperatures and handling. There are lots of other dog-friendly jerky options, too, but it’s worth noting that some meats or fish 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!

Homemade dehydrated beef jerky dog treats

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. 

Treat Ingredients:

  • 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 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 meat. Dehydration time will depend on your machine as well as how thick your 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. 
Dalmatian dog eating homemade beef jerky dog treat

Jerky Dog Treat 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 homemade jerky to be on the safer side. I can defrost in small quanities for sharing or just take it straight from the freezer into a pocket treat bag for walks. Since our homemade dog jerky treats don’t use any added preservatives or salt, they’re more vulnerable to spoilage than human jerky snacks. See our storage tips for dehydrated dog treats for more information.
  • You can make jerky straight-up with plain meat, marinate, and/or give it a gentle rub of dog-friendly herbs or other seasonings. 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 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 for us to buy quality beef by cost/weight is a roast. This requires lots of cutting, but that isn’t too difficult. Especially after 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 (optional) and dehydrate as above.  If your dogs are like mine, you’ll be heavily supervised throughout.

Making easy beef (or lamb) jerky dog treats using sliced roast

Taking a Shortcut with Schnitzel

Prefer a shortcut for slicing? 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 to freeze for future jerky making. In our experience, schnitzel cuts of beef are usually lean with no extra trimming or waste. However, based on our local prices, it’s still usually more cost efficient for us to cut a roast as noted above. Ignoring the extra effort, of course.

Making easy beef jerky dog treats using schnitzel strips

DIY Homemade Jerky Treats for Dogs: Nibble Nuggets

A nugget style of dehydrated treat works well as an alternative cut for meats that are harder to source, trim, and slice into long lean jerky 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 (optional) and dehydrate as above. 

Making easy beef (or lamb) jerky dog treats with nuggets

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 super thin sizzle steak style. You just marinate (optional) and dehydrate! This is quick, convenient, and the dogs absolutely love them. The 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.

Making easy beef jerky dog treats using sizzle steaks

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.

How to make easy DIY beef (or lamb) jerky dog treats

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