Beef jerky is a popular snack, especially for outdoor enthusiasts and travelers. However, sometimes jerky can become too hard and dehydrated, making it difficult to enjoy. Fortunately, there are various methods to soften beef jerky while also adding moisture and experimenting with different flavors and textures. In this article, we will explore three effective ways to soften beef jerky and make it more enjoyable.
Why Does Beef Jerky Become So Hard?
If you make your own beef jerky, it’s important to consider the dehydration time. A properly dried jerky should be flexible and bendable, rather than brittle and hard. However, store-bought jerky can also become hard if not stored in an airtight container. When the jerky is exposed to air, it loses moisture, resulting in dry and tough texture within a few days.
While the chewy texture of beef jerky is part of its appeal, excessively hard jerky can be unappetizing. But don’t worry, you don’t need to discard it. With a few simple techniques, you can rehydrate and soften your beef jerky to make it enjoyable again.
Method 1: Microwave Your Jerky
If you’re looking for the fastest and easiest way to soften beef jerky, using a microwave is the way to go. This method only takes a couple of minutes and requires a microwave-safe container with a lid, a glass of hot water, or a wet towel.
- Step 1: Prepare a microwave-safe container – Choose a container that can be sealed with a lid. It should be microwave-safe and large enough to hold your jerky comfortably.
- Step 2: Add hot water or a wet towel – Place your dry beef jerky inside the container. For the hot water method, add a glass of hot water alongside the jerky. Alternatively, you can use a wet towel instead of water. Make sure the towel is completely wet, as a dry towel can easily burn in the microwave.
- Step 3: Microwave for one minute – Close the lid of the container and microwave it on high for one minute. Afterward, check the texture of the jerky. If it’s still too hard, microwave it for another minute. Repeat this process until the desired softness is achieved.
Pro tip: If you choose the towel method, ensure that it remains wet throughout the process. After microwaving, remove the container from the microwave and enjoy your softened beef jerky.
Method 2: Rehydration by Liquid Transfer
This method involves reintroducing moisture to the beef jerky to soften it. You can choose to rehydrate your jerky with various liquids, such as sauces or broths, which can also enhance its flavor.
Step 1: Rehydration with Sauce
- Rehydration with Sauce – If you used a sauce, like soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce, while making your jerky, you can reapply it to intensify the flavor. Brush generous amounts of the sauce onto the jerky.
- Seal and refrigerate – Place the sauced jerky in a plastic bag or a sealable container. Leave it in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes to allow the sauce to permeate the jerky.
- Remove excess moisture – After the desired rehydration time, take out the jerky and use a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Now your jerky is ready to be enjoyed.
Step 2: Rehydration with Water or Broth
- Rehydration with Water or Broth – Apart from using sauce, you can also rehydrate your beef jerky with liquids such as water or broth. You can choose vegetable, chicken, or beef broth according to your preference. The liquid can be either hot or cold, as both have a similar effect.
- Cover with liquid – Place the jerky in a container and cover it with enough water or broth to submerge it fully. Seal the container with a lid.
- Allow hydration time – Let the liquid work its magic on the jerky for 15 to 30 minutes. For best results, refrigerate the container while the jerky hydrates.
- Drain excess liquid – Once the desired softness is achieved, drain the liquid from the container and let the jerky sit for a few minutes. If there is excess liquid on the surface, gently blot it with a paper towel.
Pro tip: Experiment with different rehydration times to achieve varying levels of softness. By adding chopped fresh vegetables to the container, you can introduce interesting flavors to your jerky.
Method 3: Sauté Your Beef Jerky
Sautéing beef jerky is a creative and versatile method that not only softens the jerky but also infuses it with the flavors of other ingredients. This technique allows you to incorporate your softened jerky into a wide range of dishes, such as stews and soups.
- Step 1: Heat olive oil and vegetables in a pan – In a pan over medium-low heat, add two tablespoons of olive oil and chopped onions, garlic, and vegetables such as carrots, broccolini, or asparagus. The vegetables will gradually release their liquids.
- Step 2: Add the dry beef jerky and cook until softened – Once the vegetables have started to cook and release moisture, add the dry beef jerky to the pan. The jerky will absorb the moisture from the vegetables, resulting in a softer texture. Additionally, the jerky will contribute its unique flavor to the dish, eliminating the need for additional seasonings.
Pro tip: Sautéed beef jerky pairs well with legumes like chickpeas and lentils, creating a hearty and satisfying winter combination.
Pros and Cons of the Three Methods
Each method of softening beef jerky has its own advantages and considerations:
- Microwave method: The fastest and easiest way to soften beef jerky, but it may result in less flavorful jerky compared to other methods.
- Rehydration with sauce: Provides a flavorful jerky, but it requires more time for the sauce to penetrate the jerky fully.
- Rehydration with water or broth: Produces softer and less salty jerky, but some flavor may transfer to the liquid.
- Sauté method: Offers versatility and enhances the flavor of the jerky, but it requires additional ingredients and cooking time.
Choose the method that aligns with your preferences and time constraints.
Enjoying beef jerky doesn’t have to mean struggling with overly hard and dehydrated textures. By following the methods outlined in this article, you can soften your beef jerky and enhance its flavors. Whether you choose to use the microwave, rehydrate with sauces or liquids, or sauté the jerky, these techniques will bring back the enjoyable chewiness and moistness to your jerky. Remember to experiment with different methods to find your preferred texture and taste.
Q: Can I rehydrate dry beef jerky overnight? A: Yes! It’s a great idea. Brush your jerky with a small amount of liquid of your choice, ensuring it doesn’t become too soft. Then, store it in a sealed container, ideally in the refrigerator, overnight.
Q: Can I cook dry beef jerky with other dehydrated foods? A: Absolutely! If you’re going camping or hiking, you can add beef jerky to instant noodles or pre-seasoned dehydrated rice. This way, you can enjoy a filling meal with added protein and diverse textures.