Jerky is doggone irresistible to our boys, no matter what flavour. It’s also one of the few homemade goodies that our cranky old senior cat, Tiger, is interested in sampling. The dogs grudgingly share. Homemade jerky dog treats are simple to make and are a healthy treat option. Here’s how to make marinated blackstrap beef jerky dog treats, with an easy (optional) marinade recipe and DIY dehydration instructions.
Making Marinated Jerky Dog Treats
Plain can be perfect. There is absolutely no need to marinate at all. In fact, straight up beef jerky is our go-to meaty dog treat. But, variety is the spice of life! As we shared in our previous post about making marinated rosemary ginger jerky dog treats, by reader request we’ve created some quick and easy lightly flavoured dog-friendly marinade recipe ideas to help get your kitchen creativity flowing. Last week we shared our rosemary and ginger marinade, and now here are the delicious details on our barbecue inspired blackstrap molasses marinade.
In our experience, light marinades or wet rubs with dog-friendly ingredients don’t make a notable difference to the jerky (with the exception of acid marinades for fish jerky). And the dogs seem more than happy with or without! Marinades can tenderise, but the primary function of short term marinating is to add scent and/or flavour.
Anytime you see a marinade here on the blog, it’s optional. For the basics on plain simple and doggone delicious jerky, see our post on how to make easy DIY beef jerky treats for dogs.
Protein and Dog Diets
Dogs (excluding special medical conditions) benefit from a healthy high-protein diet. Quality meats are a good way of adding extra protein. As dogs age, like our very special senior Oli, they slow down and burn less energy on exercise and play, but this doesn’t mean their bodies don’t need less protein. Many veterinary professionals actually recommend a quality protein-rich diet for seniors to help maintain muscle mass and support organ/immune function. And as the old saying goes, you are what you eat. Which means you are what your food eats if you’re a carnivore, so whether it’s for you or your pets always shop consciously. Here is New Zealand, we’re fortunate to have very good protein sources by default, with most farming still done with free-range pasture time. So bring on the jerky and other meaty goodness!
DIY Dehydrated Blackstrap Beef Jerky Dog Treats
Beef Jerky Dog Treats with Optional Blackstrap Molasses Marinade
You can adjust the volumes and/or amount of any ingredient to better suit your dog or personal preferences. If you don’t have a food dehydrator (affiliate link), 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. Note that it is recommended to pre-heat meats to ~75C then dehydrate at ~60C. Refer to the safety information and links below.
- Lean quality beef (or other suitable meat of your preference)
- 2 tbsp blackstrap molasses
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
The marinade is used as a wet rub here, but can be scaled up/down depending on the volume of your beef and/or diluted with water or other suitable liquid for a more liquid marinade. I don’t actively give my dogs garlic, as it’s a disputed food for dogs; however, if you are into garlic, this marinade would be a good flavour match for a little garlic.
Making the Treats:
Preparing the meat:
- Slice meat into thin strips or small pieces, trimming off any excess fat if required. 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.
- To marinate, combine the marinade ingredients in a non-metallic/non-corrosive dish.
- Mix with the prepared beef to ensure thoroughly coated.
- Cover the container and place in the refrigerator to marinate (4 hour recommended minimum and no longer than 24 hours). Mix periodically to ensure all the pieces get a nice bath in the marinade.
Preheating for added food safety (optional):
If pre-heating (see note below), do this after marinating and before dehydrating.
Dehydrating the prepared beef:
- Optional: Drain and pat lightly before placing on dehydrator trays to reduce liquid and make tray clean up a little easier.
- Once ready to dehydrate, arrange the prepared pieces onto the dehydrator tray. 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 mine usually takes around 6 hours, prep method and size depending. 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 Food Safety
If your dehydrator has a suitable meat/fish setting, the jerky should be ready to serve once the dehydration is complete. However, to be extra safety conscious, you can use pre-heating and/or post-heating as added precautions. See the tips and links below for more info.
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. 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.
- Jerky is often kept at room temperature, but we like to freeze our jerky treats. Since homemade dog jerky doesn’t use preservatives and isn’t heavily salted, it’s more vulnerable to spoilage. See our storage tips for dehydrated dog treats for more information.
- Blackstrap molasses is the highly-concentrated, final by-product of the refined sugar manufacturing process. It’s very dark, thick, strong, and actually kind of bitter. It has the highest content of beneficial nutrients of all the molasses.
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 our internal search tools 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.