How Long to Dehydrate Venison Jerky

Venison jerky is something we all love, and as such, I’ve made my fair share of jerky and tried a lot of different techniques and recipes.

Some well and others not so much, but what I learned is there is no one set rule.

On average, it takes about 4 hours to dehydrate venison jerky. Things like the thickness of the cut, the type of cut, humidity, and your equipment will all directly influence the time to dehydrate the jerky.

Dehydrating Venison

How Long to Dehydrate Venison Jerky

Often people will assume that venison is like beef and apply the same principles. This is a mistake and will likely leave you with overdried jerky.

There are two things to keep in mind when dehydrating meat for Jerky, 1. the moisture content, 2. the fat content.

Although people typically use lean cuts of meat for jerky, there is still some cuts of beef that can be used that contain fat marbling.

However, this is not the case for venison. Venison cuts are always very lean and don’t contain marbling like beef does.

This is why when we cook venison , sometimes we either mix it with fat or cook it for shorter than we would beef. 

The same is true for jerky.


Similarly, venison also contains less moisture than beef, according to this study

This will affect the dehydrating time, as well as the texture and shelf life.

Dehydrating venison jerky aims to reduce the moisture content to about 20% and the water activity level to 0.75; this prevents bacteria from forming.


The ideal temperature for dehydrating venison jerky is 145-150F. This prevents pathogens from surviving or bacteria from forming. 

Dehydrating venison at a temperature lower than 145F can cause two issues 1. the meat will look ready on the outside but will still contain too much moisture, 2. it will take too long for the moisture to be extracted thus allowing bacteria to form.

Times to Dehydrate Venison Jerky

How Long to Dehydrate Venison Jerky

The time it takes to dehydrate venison jerky depends on the equipment you are using to dehydrate. Smoking jerky with a traditional smoker is the longest method of dehydrating.

Dehydrating jerky in an air fryer is the fastest method, but I find this method crisps the outside while still leaving moisture on the inside. If you go this route you may want to opt for using curing salt.

A standard dehydrator takes about four hours and gives the best results.


How Long to Dehydrate Venison Jerky

The easiest way to dehydrate your venison jerky is with a dehydrator. The dehydrator will allow you to set the time and temperature and walk away.

Something like the Cosori, which I use and recommend, will monitor the temperature keeping it consistent; it will also automatically shut off when done.

For jerky beginners, I recommend starting out with a dehydrator as it is the more forgiving option of the four methods.

Lean Slice1/4 inch145-150F4 hours
Ground – Less than 10% fat 1/4 inch150-160F4 hours


An alternative option to making jerky with a dehydrator is to dehydrate it in an oven.

The principal is the same, using warm air to pass over the meat which cause evaporatoin of the moisture.

However, a dehydrator is designed specifically for this task whereas an oven isn’t which makes it a little more challenging, but not difficult.

Lean Slice1/4 inch145-150F4 hours
Ground – Less than 10% fat 1/4 inch150-160F4 hours


Smoking is another method for dehydrating jerky yet adding more flavor in the process.

This is one of the oldest methods for making jerky, especially venison jerky.

Native Americans have used this method to extend their meat’s lifespan.

However, smoking jerky has a few caveats. Generally, it is more difficult to remove moisture from venison with a smoker than with a dehydrator.

Because of this, smoking jerky can take considerably longer than dehydrating.

In a pellet smoker, venison jerky will take a similar amount of time as a dehydrator, but it will take almost twice as long in a traditional or electric smoker.

Lean Slice1/4 inch180-200F5-10 hours
Ground – Less than 10% fat 1/4 inch160-170F2-3 hours

Air Fryer

Air fryers are becoming more common in jerky making and there are plenty of recipes online for those that want to check it out.

There are also air fryers that come with a dehydrating mode. However, I prefer to use one of the methods above for venison jerky.

If you are determined to make venison jerky in an air fryer, it will take roughly the same time as a dehydrator, or maybe faster depending on your model of air fryer.

Air fryers without dehydrator mode will take about 2-3 hours at 180F, whereas models with dehydrator mode can take 5-7 hours at a more suitable temperature.

Lean Slice1/4 inch180-190F2-3 hours
Ground – Less than 10% fat 1/4 inch180-190Fapprox 2 hours

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