Sometimes jerky can get a little too dry. Maybe you accidentally over-dried your homemade jerky, or forgot to seal that bag of your favorite store-bought jerky. Left with jerky that’s tough, stale, and crumbly, you might be wondering, can you rehydrate jerky, and the answer is yes.
There are two primary ways to soften beef jerky. The microwave method introduces steam in a sealed environment to soften jerky quickly. The liquid transfer method slowly introduces moisture into the jerky over the course of 12-24 hours. Both options have their perks and drawbacks, it just comes down to personal preference.
Here are step-by-step guides on how to make beef jerky softer.
1. Microwave Beef Jerky (Fast Method)
The microwave is a do-it-all kitchen appliance that can help soften jerky quickly. Because rehydration happens quickly, it’s best to enjoy the jerky immediately from the microwave, otherwise, it loses moisture and turns hard again pretty quickly.
The goal with the microwave method is to introduce water in a sealed environment to steam the jerky.
Place your jerky in a container that has a lid such as microwavable tupperware or a glass bowl.
Add a small bowl or cup of water inside the container with the jerky. As an alternative, you can add a moist towel to the container. Make sure the towel is completely moist as a dry towel can burn.
Place the lid on the container but do not create an air-tight seal as steam will need to escape the container.
Microwave the jerky at one minute intervals, checking the texture of the beef jerky at each stage.
Once the jerky reaches your desired texture, feel free to enjoy.
Do not microwave the jerky without any water as this will further dry the jerky and risk burning it.
2. Liquid Transfer Method (Slow Method)
A second method of rehydrating jerky is to introduce moisture in a sealed environment for an extended period of time. This method takes slightly longer than the microwave method, but it generally leads to a better end product. If you have the time, this method is a great place to start.There are a few different ways to do this.
Brush the Jerky with a Liquid
Lightly brush the jerky with a liquid and let it sit for a few hours and up to 24 hours in a sealed environment. You can use any liquid. Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vegetable, beef, or chicken broth, liquid smoke, and water all work wonders. We recommend matching whatever liquid was used in the original recipe.
Don’t leave the jerky too long as it can turn mushy. To prevent excessive moisture transfer and possible mold, we recommend keeping the jerky in the refrigerator for both options.
Seal the Jerky with White Bread, Moist Vegetable, or Wet Towel
If you have some patience, an alternative method to try is to seal the beef jerky in an air-tight container with a piece of bread, moist vegetable (carrot, celery, or potato), or a wet towel. Over the course of 24 hours, the jerky will slowly pick-up the moisture in the container. This method can be hit or miss depending on the dryness level of the jerky, but it’s a good option to test as a first step.
Pro Tip: Do Not Soak Beef Jerky
We do not recommend soaking beef jerky in water to soften it. It will lose all flavor, texture, and color.
3. Cook with The Beef Jerky
Sometimes dried beef jerky can reach the point of no return. Don’t worry, you can still enjoy the jerky, you just have to get creative. Dried beef jerky is a great addition to soups, braises, and stews.
The simplest method to cook with beef jerky is to sauté it with olive oil, onions, garlic, and other vegetables in a fry pan. This is a simple and delicious snack or meal.
You can also use a food processor to shred overly-dried beef jerky. This will turn it into jerky chew, a great snack.
Here are a few of our favorite recipes that feature beef jerky as the key ingredient. Even extra dry or stale beef jerky can be used in these recipes.
Jerky is one of the most popular snacks out there. It’s flavorful, nutritious, and portable. The secret lies in dehydration. By removing the moisture to create a dried product, beef jerky is shelf-stable and does not require any special handling.
Sometimes too much moisture is removed and you need to work a little magic — that’s where our three methods to rehydrate beef jerky will save the day. Each method works in different ways, but each option is a great way to answer how to soften beef jerky.
Interested in trying a new beef jerky?
We bring the old school to the new school. Our jerky is handcrafted in a family tradition that spans four generations and 90+ years in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. A tradition built on quality ingredients and a handmade process that delivers a better-quality, better-tasting, better-for-you jerky. This is not gas station junk food. This is not a trendy snack concocted for product benefits instead of flavor. This is real food, made by real people. Small batch, artisan-quality beef jerky delivered direct to your door.