Jerky coming out too wet (pre-dehydration)

Discussion in 'Making Jerky' started by gotmeat, May 28, 2014.

  1. gotmeat

    gotmeat Newbie

    Okay so I just started making jerky a couple-few weeks ago. So far I've come across a few issues.

    Before I begin, I've learned very frustratingly that most of the information out there on jerky making is FAR  from scientific. I've never seen so much "ehh, about as much as feels right" or other undefined things in my life. I am a Molecular and Cellular Biologist so all this wishy-washy stuff has had me pulling at my hair (figuratively of course)!


    The topic of this thread:

    *I use Ground Turkey  (93% Lean/7% Fat) for all of my jerky. I will continue to use this until a consistently cheaper alternative comes along, which is unlikely to happen (besides Chicken).

    I've been trying out various recipes found throughout a scouring of the internet that seem to have been "peer-reviewed" as the best recipes. What I have noticed however, is that after marinating, some recipes leave my ground turkey way  too wet. When I go to load up the jerky into my Jerky Gun, it's obviously a mess (which I don't mind), but it's a pain in the behind considering that the entire premise of a jerky gun is to compress  the meat out of the aperture/opening at the end of it. Liquid cannot be compressed (physical law). So I basically end up with jerky sticks that I end up forming by hand anyways (so why even have a jerky gun?), and as such the strips aren't so uniform. The wetness on this last batch (Recipe #3 below) actually resulted in the final jerky strip product basically existing on the edge of falling apart since the meat was never able to get compressed together enough to form tight enough cohesive bonds.

    My question:

    If I'm using Ground Meat instead of steaks, am I supposed to be adjusting the volumes by some scale factor? Is there maybe some max amount of volume of marinade to use, say, "per lb of meat?" There have been HUGE variation in the total amount of volume called for by various recipes, even though they're supposedly for the same  amount of meat (by weight).

    * For example: The first recipe I tried ( called for a total of 4 fluid ounces of marinade:

    2 Oz Soy Sauce + 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce + 2 Tbsp Liquid Smoke = 4 fl oz total

    *The second recipe I tried ( called for a total of 11.33 fluid ounces of marinade:

    5.33 Oz (i.e. 2/3 cup) Worcestershire Sauce + 5.33 Oz Soy Sauce + 0.5 Oz (i.e. 1 Tbsp) Honey + .167 Oz (i.e. 1 teaspoon) Liquid Smoke = 11.33 fl oz total

    *The third recipe I tried just yesterday ( called for a total of 20.00 fluid ounces of marinade:

    5.33 Oz Soy Sauce + 5.33 Oz Worcestershire Sauce + 5.33 Oz Soy Vay Teriyaki Sauce (aka "Soyaki") + 2.67 Oz Liquid Smoke + 1.33 Oz Dark Corn Syrup = 20.00 fl oz total

    Okay so, now note the ridiculous numbers on those marinades (if you haven't noticed already).

    Recipe #2 calls for literally 283% MORE marinade than the first recipe, and Recipe #3 calls for literally, exactly 500% MORE (5x more!!) marinade than the first recipe.. for the same amount of meat!  (I am trying recipes out with 1.5 - 2.0 lbs of ground meat)

    Recipe #1 came out fine in terms of wetness. That is, forming the strips with the jerky gun was really easy and felt like that's how it should be (fortunately this happened to be my first recipe I tried out). What I'm wondering is, am I missing something or why the hell are there so many recipes out there that have vastly  overly proportioned amounts of marinade? What is the point at which going beyond 'that' amount of marinade yields diminishing returns on added flavor? Why are these people calling for so much? I've read countless.. and I mean countless amounts of posts, topics, etc. and never once did I see anybody mention that "oh yeah by the way if you're using ground meat, use <this percentage less> of each of these ingredients"

    So then, it begs the question:

    What amount, in your experience, is perfect for getting maximum flavor in the meat while not being just downright gluttonously excessive on the volume? I feel like I'm being incredibly wasteful seeing how much volume disparity there is - there must be some actual "optimum" determined values from people's experiences..? If the entire premise of making your own jerky is to save on costs, it should be obvious how illogical it seems to be so gluttonous (wasteful?) on the marinade volume.

    So, what gives?

    Thanks for any input, I appreciate ALL of it!
  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  3. ......
    Last edited: May 29, 2014
  4. gotmeat

    gotmeat Newbie

    Mostly dry ingredients? Huh?? Why? I don't mean this as an offense but that just sounds like a cop out, it doesn't even address the root cause  of the issue - why some recipes are fine whilst others are not. Besides, switching to ground turkey would completely  eliminate such savory, delicious flavors as Worcestershire Sauce, Liquid Smoke, Honey, Soy Sauce, etc.. I feel like saying to only use dry ingredients is like telling somebody to enjoy cereal without using any milk. Not only that, but I know for a fact it's not the solution because in my researching I've seen tons  of people using ground meat.. and they were almost all posting liquid marinades. So, obviously there's some information out there that I must be missing on this matter.

    Also, DaveOmak, thanks for the suggestion but I am very fine using honey, I think you have fallen victim to sensationalized hype. I'm assuming you are aware that the cause of botulism is a bacteria (e.g. Clostridium botulinum).. as in, degrade the bacterial cell and the threat is gone, period, end of story. Cure #1 however (like almost any Cure) contains Sodium Nitrite.. which is a known carcinogen  (cancer causing agent). I can explain the Chemistry if you would like but basically when the Nitrite comes in contact with a strong acid (our stomachs produce Hydrochloric Acid.. one of the 7 strong acids), a Nitrosyl cation is formed. When this Nitrosyl ion comes in contact with a secondary amine it reacts and forms a molecule named Nitrosamine, which is a known cancer-causing molecule. If you think coming in contact with a secondary amine is rare, you are mistaken, these are all over our body and in fact will be present in the very meat that you are adding the Sodium Nitrite to. Why? Well, for example, the amino acid Proline has a secondary amine in its very backbone. Proteins are made up by amino acids, and when we eat food, enzymes known as proteases (aka peptidases) break down protein into their fundamental, amino acid forms. So your Sodium Nitrite will  in all likelihood come in contact with Proline (keep in mind there are more things than Proline that have secondary amines). But meat nearly by definition is a source with a complete  amino acid profile (i.e. it will contain Proline). In fact, here is a simple page describing Sodium Nitrite's reaction (remember that Sodium Nitrite is the principle ingredient in Cures, including Cure #1):

    .. and here's a simple illustration of the reactions, if you have questions feel free to ask:

    What you see above is the actual science. No bull. There's nothing to hide, because THOSE are the actual  facts. Sorry if I'm ranting but I've been seeing people, even on here, going on about using these cures and I'll admit that at first I really wanted to be able to use dry powders and cures because with a schedule as busy as mine they would simply be very convenient (no having to marinade, etc.) - but when I actually started making jerky one of the first things I did was investigate the principle Biochemistry of Sodium Nitrite to see if the few concerns I had seen over it actually had merit. I'll be honest, nearly 99% of the time the concerns I hear from people have no actual scientific merit, people say and believe a lot of things simply because they don't understand the science underneath it, but I still always investigate anyways. This time, it happened to be that 1% of the time where the concerns I had seen mentioned occasionally in my researching, actually turned out to be validated. And so, please forgive this rambling but my hope is that somebody will read it and be forewarned on the above. I just want to help people.

    But anyways, regarding how I prepare my jerky. As mentioned, I am a Molecular and Cellular Biologist so it should perhaps come as no surprise that I am a proponent of pre-cooking your meat before dehydrating it. There's a reason the USDA would not authorize a jerky maker (ex: Jack Link's) if they didn't cook theirs either.

    My preparation process  (not rocket science):

    - I thaw my ground turkey, in the sealed package.

    - I prepare my marinade in a large plastic bag. This eliminates unnecessary loss of mass from the marinade being left behind in a preparation bowl due to liquid adhesion.

    - I then add my ground turkey  to the bag, and mix it in very well.

    - I then squeeze out any excess air and seal the ziploc bag, and lay the meat + marinade mixture inside, flat.

    - I then simply "pound" the meat such that it forms a uniform layer, covering maximal surface area on the countertop. This ensures that maximal surface area on the meat inside the bag itself is also exposed and ready for "diffusion" by the marinade.

    - I then marinade the meat for a period of time (I am currently testing out, collecting and recording data on what is the most efficient marination time)

    >> this is not the cause of the "wetness" problem because I've tested marinating less time when using more marinade volume and the results were no different (i.e. what recipes yielded wet meat before, still yielded excessively wet meat).

    - I then take the marinade out of the refrigerator and load handfuls of meat into a jerky gun.

    - I then shoot strips (or what are supposed to be strips, if the meat wasn't so wet) onto a cooking pan. If it doesn't come out as strips I simply squeeze out meat from the gun and then finish hand-forming them.

    * I then load the meat into an oven that was preheated to 325º F until the internal temperature  of the meat is at least 160º F. This generally takes 20-23 minutes.

    >> It is important to note that I perform this step, and that I do it before dehydrating. At 160º F almost all living cells will be destroyed. I will explain this further below, for anyone interested. Between a high-salt marinade and pre-cooking, there is basically, almost a 0% chance of any bacteria surviving. Dehydrating the cells later puts the nail in the coffin.

    - I then take my meat strips out, and place them onto my dehydrator (Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator; a.k.a. model FD-75A).

    - I dehydrate my meat strips until they are done. I created a separate thread on this issue (how to tell when it's done, when using Ground meat).

    - That's it!

    Anybody have any ideas what's wrong?

    *As promised, I will explain the Science, aka the "magic" that actually allows all of us to even be able to make Jerky! If anybody has any questions, feel free to ask, or create another thread asking about it and let me know.

    The high sodium content in the marinade acts to dehydrate the cells in the meat (including any resident bacterial cells, ex: Botulism-causing bacteria). Without water, chemical reactions ~cannot take place. There's a reason we look for water on other planets as a sign of possible life. The high salt (Sodium) content of our marinade creates what is known as a hypertonic solution, which, basically, causes water that is present inside of cells to escape out in order to dilute out the very high salt levels and re-establish a balance. This results in a situation where the water that was once inside  the cell is now outside  the cell - inaccessible and essentially useless now for the cell. For most cells, this will result in crenation (cell collapse) as there is then insufficient volume inside the cell to keep it from collapsing in. While this process will dehydrate cells, it will obviously not remove ALL of the water from ALL cells. Some cells may survive, and they can replicate quickly (cell growth is exponential). That is where pre-cooking comes in. Cooking meat to an internal temperature of at least 160º F ensures that all cells in/on the meat have been exposed to at least this temperature. At temperatures this high, the thermal energy simply completely destroys bacterial cells and their proteins/enzymes, etc. that they need  to live. Their proteins become denatured, etc. One enzyme that will be denatured is DNA Polymerase. Without this enzyme, bacterial cells will not be able to replicate  (i.e. divide; make more of themselves). It should be noted that this is literally what Sodium Nitrite does (inhibits bacterial growth.. or in other words, inhibits the ability of the cell to divide into and create more cells), except this way is completely normal, scientific, and natural. Sodium Nitrite tries doing it chemically, and with dangerous, known carcinogenic outcomes. Obviously not all chemicals are bad, but carcinogens are not a laughing matter. A carcinogen means that it is known to cause cancer  (not believed to, no, it is known  to result in it). It obviously may not manifest today, but it's the long-term effect of it. And with every dose of Sodium Nitrite you're taking in, you're just speeding it along. Eventually you're going to transform the wrong cell in the wrong way and.. you will have cancer on your hands.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 29, 2014
  5. deansomers

    deansomers Smoke Blower

    Oh my! So r u saying that all the untold thousands of ppl curing meat are wrong? What about all the families that cured their own stuff for generations? What about all the commercial cured stuff for sale everywhere? Is everyone else wrong in your opinion? Should we all stop eating vegetables 2? Im not trying 2 argue but u seem to be saying the sky is falling!
  6. @GotMeat,

    Best of luck to you!!!!!!

    ~Martin :rolleyes:
    Last edited: May 29, 2014
  7. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    " bacterial cells will not be able to replicate  (i.e. divide; make more of themselves). Thanks for explaining the definition of Replicate...

    Riddle me this... With all your education, would you assume you can take a Formula, aka, a more precise form of a Recipe, requiring greater accuracy in measuring, preferably by Weight over Volume, for Sour Dough Bread containing High Gluten Wheat Flour and substitute Barley Flour? After all both Wheat Flour and Barley Flour contain Starch and some form of Prolamin, a form of Storage Proteins or biological reserves of metal ions and amino acids, and Glutelin that will form Gluten, the protein that gives "structure and a chewy texture" to Bread...

    You are making a similar assumption when you take Alton Browns Recipe for Beef Jerky made with Flank Steak strips and substitute Ground Turkey...Both meats will absorb the liquids taking on flavors but the meat Proteins or specifically the muscle cells in beef strips are already bound together and hold the strips in uniform linear shapes. The Ground Turkey has had the muscle cell structure mechanically broken. What makes you think that compressing the mix into uniform strips followed by heating to 160°F, and dehydration will give the same structured result? You have two choices. 1) Take the ground turkey and vigorously mix the meat, by hand or a mixer with a Paddle attachment, to accomplish Mechanical Protein Denaturation, and rebind the meat proteins, albeit weaker and less structured than intact meat strips...Or... 2) You can bind the meat together with Transglutaminase, an enzyme that catalyzes the formation of an isopeptide bond  between a free amine  group (e.g., protein- or peptide-bound lysine) and the acyl  group at the end of the side chain of protein- or peptide-bound glutamine. In other words," Meat Glue " that will hold your ground turkey together. This will hold your Ground Jerky together pretty much regardless of the moisture content. High moisture will require longer dehydration so choose recipes wisely and look for dry or powdered forms of your ingredients. Kikkoman Teryaki Mix, Smoke Powder, Worcestershire Powder and Honey Powder, available from Spice companies.

    We Welcome you and ALL to the SMF Family as we are here to help make all the foods we enjoy so much. You might try being a little more Humble when trying to get an answer to something your Extensive Education has taught you ZERO about...Just a thought...[​IMG]...JJ 
    Last edited: May 30, 2014
  8. jp61

    jp61 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    ... and here, I just purchased some beef for making jerky.    [​IMG]  
  9. gotmeat

    gotmeat Newbie

    I don't understand, nowhere did I say that Curing didn't work. Obviously  it works. I very openly admitted this. I simply said that it's not for me. I actually have a whole thing of Cure that I ended up with that I purchased beforehand. Before actually beginning though, to clear the air, I strictly researched scientific literature to see if there was in fact  a reason for me to not concern myself with the Nitrite content before actually making my first batch. While there may obviously be a low chance of yielding carcinogenesis on an individual basis (i.e. individual consumption of the meat), the fact of the matter is that there is a real and existing potential for it, and if there is a very  simple alternative available (just pre-cook the meat) that has ZERO chance of carcinogenicity, why would I do anything else? It's literally not paining me, or inconveniencing me in any way, lol. So yes, even if there was only, say, a 2% chance of it causing an adverse reaction, why the hell even allow it to happen if I can do something else that has a 0% chance? It's like saying, "eh, I know our water is contaminated with mercury but the amounts are kinda' low so, f' it, why worry about it" - it's the result of repeated  exposure to it that you'd rather avoid if you can. It's just a numbers game. More exposures = eventually it'll catch up. This is actually how cancer forms in the first place (while error rates are low in vivo, eventually, an adverse error does  occur and cancer results).

    Also, JimmyJ, the term "Replicate" in the field of molecular biology has many different definitions, so yes actually, as I am meticulous I did need to specify which definition I was referring to (it was obviously the commonly understood definition, relating to cellular replication).

    I was also surprised by you trying to mention salads with dark green leafy vegetables in your analogy though. I'm assuming you are aware that these are relatively loaded with antioxidants. You are aware of what antioxidants do, Chemistry-wise, right? You did see the reaction pathway I gave previously, right? The one that very clearly shows that the cause of the problem is an oxidation  of a Nitrosyl? And what you mentioned is rich in what? Antioxidants? Oh yes. What do those do again? Prevent  such oxidation events? [​IMG]  If you were trying to sarcastically attack me for whatever reason, as I just pointed out, what was stated was obviously almost completely invalid.

    And oh dear.. I don't even know where to begin on your sources, they could be ripped apart in so many ways. For example, the second guy ("chriskesser") seems to not understand that we don't contain strong acids in our saliva... which is what is needed to kickstart the reaction pathway  (look again at the actual reactions... I'm assuming that as a Food Science lecturer you knew that H+ means a Strong Acid in basic organic chemistry [​IMG]). And I actually laughed when he said Nitrites, in the absence "of a carcinogenic nitrosamine precursor, [yields] no evidence for carcinogenesis." No.. really! I don't even know where to begin on that. He literally just basically said "perform magic and somehow just stop Chemistry from taking place, and oh yeah magically teleport Nitrosyl cations as they form right out of the body"

    But I'm assuming you were aware of all of this before you decided to seemingly try to attack me for whatever reason, since you said you are a (retired) 'Food Science professor'

    The point about possibly using Transglutaminase, JimmyJ (I'm assuming you meant this instead of "Tran"glutaminase, considering you copy and pasted literally word for word what the Wikipedia said for it) was perhaps an interesting approach and I enjoyed considering that part, but it would seem to be a rather inefficient way of going about it considering it is only hoping to remedy  the problem and not actually attack/resolve the actual root cause  of the problem (the marinade yielding too wet meat). In other words, I'd basically just be buying this now instead of just fixing the original issue that precipitated this purchase, [​IMG]
    I prefer to attack the causes  of issues so that they disappear altogether, rather than just patch it up with a band-aid (ex: Transglutaminase).

    So while those 2 cents were certainly appreciated, I think you just happened to misunderstand my question or inquisitive proposition.

    I appreciate the suggestion though JimmyJ, it was so far the seemingly best attempt at trying to actually help (though why you went on to seemingly try to attack me is beyond me; that didn't seem to work out too well though). I also appreciate the suggestions on possibly considering dried  versions of various ingredients (such as Worcestershire sauce, Soy sauce, etc.) - being new to jerky making I was actually not even aware these existed (or rather, that companies had actually bothered with making them), so thanks for your insight!

    The original question though (still unanswered):

    If I'm using Ground Meat instead of steaks, am I supposed to be adjusting the volumes by some scale factor? Is there maybe some max amount of volume of marinade to use, say, "per lb of meat?" There have been HUGE variations in the total amount of volume called for by various recipes, even though they're supposedly for the same  amount of meat (by weight).

    What amount, in your guys'/gals' experience, is perfect for getting maximum flavor in the meat while not being just downright gluttonously excessive on the volume? I feel like I'm being incredibly wasteful seeing how much volume disparity there is - there must be some actual "optimum" determined values from people's experiences..? If the entire premise of making your own jerky is to save on costs, it should be obvious how illogical it seems to be so gluttonous (wasteful?) on the marinade volume.

    So, what gives?
  10. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    I was not trying to insult or take a shot at you. The Salad deal was meant Tongue in Cheek with a silly article often thrown around when the subject of Nitrate/Nitraites causing cancer comes up. I thought you might appreciate the humor. Oh well, Sorry. I missed the "S" in transglutaminase. My typing falls short sometimes.  Cut and Paste from Google? Yep, when it is faster than typing out an explanation that gives a person with your background more info than leaving it at Meat Glue. 

    With jerky recipes, what works for whole muscle will not work for ground meat jerky. There is no Conversion Chart. Start by finding one or more of the thousands of Recipes out there for Ground Turkey Jerky and see what works there. Then change thinks up to your taste. I suggested extensive mixing to bind your meat. This is a critical step you seem to leave out...JJ
    Last edited: May 30, 2014
  11. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I tried reading your post to help out but think you're over thinking this and it appears your not making any friends in the process, if your looking for an exact answer to your question, you're going to be disappointed.

    The original question though (still unanswered):

    If I'm using Ground Meat instead of steaks, am I supposed to be adjusting the volumes by some scale factor? NO... there is no scale that I am aware of.

    Is there maybe some max amount of volume of marinade to use, say, "per lb of meat?" There have been HUGE variations in the total amount of volume called for by various recipes, even though they're supposedly for the same  amount of meat (by weight). NO... most folks just wing it or use tried and true recipes.

    Martin gave you some good advice and I see that his post was removed, a lot of folks use dry ingredients for ground meat jerky.

    Just dive in and experiment.

    Good luck and keep us posted.

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