If you have a smoker, you can make homemade meat jerky. It’s also possible to use a food dehydrator, although you’ll be missing out on that bold smoke flavor. In this guide, we’ll talk about pork loin and whether it’s a good fit for these methods.
Pork Loin Jerky
When making jerky out of pork loin, be sure to trim away as much fat as you can. The cut is naturally lean, so that works in your favor. Pork should also be frozen for at least 30 days before being transformed into jerky in order to kill off any parasites.
Can You Dehydrate Pork Loin?
Absolutely! You can make homemade jerky out of many types of meat, including chicken or fish. The flavor will be far superior to what you can find in the store, and you can adjust the seasonings to suit your taste.
Is It Safe?
It’s perfectly safe to dehydrate pork loin as long as you follow all the instructions for proper food handling. There’s a risk of contamination with all raw meat, because certain microorganisms are drawn to foods that are high in protein. The moist surface of raw pork also makes it easier for the bacteria to multiply.
When you’re using pork loin to make jerky, you also need to treat the meat in order to kill off any traces of the Trichinella parasite. This is the parasite that’s responsible for trichinosis, an illness that can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and severe fatigue.
To treat the pork loin, freeze it at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (or colder) for at least 30 days. As you can imagine, this means that you’ll need to plan ahead if you want to make pork jerky. The same treatment is required if you’re planning to make jerky out of game meats like venison.
In addition to the freezer treatment, you should always follow these guidelines when handling raw meat:
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot water for a minimum of 20 seconds both before and after you touch raw meat products.
- Clean utensils well before and after use.
- Keep the meat refrigerated at 40 degrees or below.
- Dehydrate the pork within 5 days once it’s been thawed in the fridge. If you aren’t ready to make the jerky yet, you can safely refreeze the pork without cooking it.
- For best results, thaw the pork in the refrigerator. Never thaw meat on the counter, or it’s likely to go bad before you can make jerky out of it.
- Keep the pork refrigerated throughout the marinating process.
- Discard used marinade immediately.
Is Pork Loin a Good Cut For Jerky?
Without a doubt. Because pork loin is a lean cut of meat, it’s especially well-suited to jerky making. The leaner the meat, the better the jerky will be. It will also keep longer, since high concentrations of fat will cause the jerky to spoil quickly.
How Do You Cut a Pork Loin For Jerky?
If you’ve ever had jerky before, you know that it’s important to slice the meat as thinly as possible. Otherwise, the texture will be off. In fact, if the meat is too thick, it could cause food safety issues as well, since it may not reach the optimum temperature throughout.
Unless you have a meat slicer, it can be difficult to carve the pork into uniformly thin slices. To make the job easier, we recommend slicing it when it’s still partially frozen. Alternatively, you can pop it back in the freezer for a while until it’s firm enough to slice through easily.
The slices should be no thicker than 1/4 inch. You should also trim and discard any visible fat. If you prefer chewy jerky, slice the meat with the grain. If you’re hoping for a more brittle texture, slice it across the grain.
Do You Need Curing Salt For Pork Jerky?
Curing salt is not required for jerky making. The dehydrating process should cook the meat thoroughly, killing off any potentially harmful bacteria.
That said, if you enjoy the flavor of cured meats, feel free to use a curing salt when preparing the pork for the smoker or dehydrator. This will also extend the jerky’s shelf life.
How To Make Pork Loin Jerky
For best results, marinate the pork loin slices before putting them in the dehydrator (or oven or smoker). This allows you to experiment with various flavors. It also tenderizes the meat, especially if you use an acidic ingredient like citrus juice or vinegar.
The recipe below includes a basic marinade that delivers just the right amount of spice, sweetness, and heat. If you have pork tenderloin on hand and want to use that instead, go ahead and substitute it for the pork loin.
- 1 pound pork loin
- 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons chili paste
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- Juice of 1 lime
1. When the pork is firm enough to slice, cut it in half lengthwise, then split the halves again so you have 4 long strips.
If you would prefer smaller jerky pieces, you can split the quarters lengthwise into 8 pieces total. Remember, though, that the pieces will shrink as they dehydrate.
2. Slice the pork into strips no more than 1/4 inch thick.
3. Combine the Worcestershire, tamari, brown sugar, chili paste, garlic, peppercorns, and lime juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, about 5-10 minutes.
4. Remove the marinade from the heat and let it cool completely.
5. When the marinade is cool, add this mixture, along with the pork slices, to a large zip-top bag. Seal the bag and place it in the fridge.
6. Let the pork marinate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
7. Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels.
8. Place the pork strips on dehydrator trays or on the cooking grate of your smoker. You can also use the bottom rack of your oven, provided the temperature can be set to 180 degrees or lower. Set the strips on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spaced so they don’t touch, and cook at 180 degrees for 2 to 3 hours.
9. Dehydrate the pork for 4 hours, or until it reaches the desired consistency. It should have a dry, almost leathery texture, with no sticky residue. Be aware that pork jerky needs to cook to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit in order to be safe to eat.
10. Store the prepared jerky in a sealed container, making sure to keep it in a cool, dry spot. Under these conditions, it should keep for about 2 weeks. To prolong the jerky’s shelf life, store it in the refrigerator.
Tips on Making Pork Jerky in the Dehydrator
Spread the strips out evenly without overlapping them. Otherwise, they won’t get the proper amount of airflow.
Set the temperature to 160 degrees. At this temperature, the pork should turn into jerky in about 4 hours.
Rotate the trays every hour to ensure even cooking.
Start checking the jerky at around the 3-hour mark. If the strips are sliced extra thin, it could be done before the 4 hours are up.
Add a teaspoon or two of liquid smoke to your marinade recipe in order to approximate the wood flavor that you’d get from the smoker.
Tips on Making Smoked Pork Jerky
Use a strong-flavored wood like hickory to get superb bacon-like flavor. If you want a milder taste, try mixing some oak chips or pellets in with the hickory—or substituting oak altogether.
Set the smoker to 160 degrees and smoke the jerky for 4 hours, just as you would with a dehydrator. Keep an eye on the temperature to make sure it doesn’t swing too high.
If you notice any fat collecting on the jerky strips during cooking, carefully blot it away using paper towels. Try not to peek more than every hour or so, though, or you’ll lower the temperature of the smoker. Fortunately, this shouldn’t be an issue as long as you’ve trimmed away most of the fat.
Can You Make Jerky Using Ground Pork?
It’s possible to make jerky from ground meat products. The finished product is usually more tender to the bite than traditional jerky, but that can be a nice change.
If you choose to make jerky out of ground pork, you’ll need to start with a very lean product. As we pointed out, fat doesn’t dehydrate well, and it will shorten the shelf life of your jerky.
It’s always important to make sure that the meat is fully cooked when making jerky, but if the pork is ground, it’s crucial. There’s always a higher risk of bacterial contamination when you’re dealing with ground meat. As a result, some recipes for ground pork jerky will call for a higher smoking or dehydrating temperature.
You might also try mixing ground pork with ground beef to make dried meat sticks. The pork will offset the richer flavor of the beef, while the beef will provide some backbone to the mild pork.
The Bottom Line
Although it’s fine to use a dehydrator or even the oven for pork loin jerky, we prefer to stick with the smoker whenever possible. The meat will have a rich, savory quality that’s impossible to replicate with other methods.