Introduction: What Dogs Want....Chicken Jerky

My 3 very spoiled Chihuahuas LOVE 'treats', and their favorite is jerky. Chicken jerky is what I most often make for them...the cost is reasonable, it is easy to remove all the fat, and they love it.

When I first started making jerky, I used one of those round plastic dehydrators....the fan & heating element is located in the base, and the circular drying racks stack on top, with a lid topping it off. Those were great to start out with, but I ended up doing a lot of drying, and needed something bigger. You can find wonderful directions for making your own, but I opted to buy a stainless steel dehydrator with metal racks, and the heat control ranges from 155F to 95F, I can load it up with probably about 25-30 pounds of meat strips at one time. If you shop around its possible to find a decent one without going broke....mine cost under $200, and within the first year I saved more than that with just the jerky (for doggy & human consumption) that I made, I've had it for about 3 years. It was a great investment.

The only other utensils you'll need is a good sharp knife and a cutting board.

On to the process.....

Step 1: Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast...with Bits of Fat Removed

That's all the ingredients.....just chicken (cost $12.80)!

I bought 10 pounds of chicken breasts (with the skin & bones) for $1.28 per was on sale. After skinning, de-boning, and trimming the just cut the breasts into strips.

All the bones, skin & fat went into a pot with water, I simmered it all afternoon......the start of a wonderful soup for me! When I'm all done with this 10 pounds of chicken, the only 'waste' will be a couple of handfuls of bones! The cooked skin & cartilage will be fed to a rescued dog with a large litter of pups that I'm caring for.

Step 2: Cutting the Chicken Into Strips

You want the strips to be fairly uniform in thickness, about 1/2 inch thick.

First, I remove the chicken "tender", it's located on the 'inside' of the breast filet, it will ALMOST pull off...there's only a small section that needs to be cut. Depending on the size of the 'tender' I'll slice it into 2 or 3 strips.

Then, slice away at the breast...making lengthwise cuts about 1/2 inch thick.

Step 3: Laying Out the Strips on the Rack

It is important to lay the strips of meat on the rack so that they don't touch.

First of all, air-flow is important.......secondly, if the strips are touching, they'll tend to stick to each other.

It only took 3 1/2 of my racks for this batch.....I could have fitted them a little closer together, but didn't need to. My dehydrator holds 10 racks, so there was no need to take the time to arrange them closer without touching.

Step 4: Drying Temps & Time {vary Greatly Between Models of Dehydrators}

I always start chicken jerky at 155F, for about 90 minutes....and I set the timer (for a 10 pound batch) for 8 hours (total drying time).

After 90 minutes (when the strips have become 'opaque'...basically 'cooked') , I drop the temperature to 125F, for another 60 minutes.

Then (at this point the edges will look dried, but the centers won't be dried out) I drop the temperature to 95F, for the remainder of the time.

{It is important to note......not all dehydrators perform the same, drying times can vary greatly between models. The important thing is (with chicken) to start out on a high temperature, once the meat looks "cooked" drop the heat, and once the edges are dried, drop the heat again.}

Step 5: Done!!!!

The strips of chicken will look like....well, jerky! I always break a thick spot in a piece, and check that it is uniformly dried out.

Ten pound batches work well for me, I keep the jerky in a plastic storage the refrigerator. I use nothing for a preservative, and just feel safer keeping it cold.

Occasionally, after the bag of jerky has been in refrigerator for a few hours, condensation will form on the inside of the bag. I just put 3 or 4 sheets of paper towel in the bag with the jerky, and leave them there until the condensation is gone from the bag, then remove them. I've never had to replace the paper towels with dry ones.

I've kept chicken jerky in the refrigerator for about 2 1/2 weeks.....but it is usually GONE before then!

When feeding your dogs jerky, don't over-do it.....and make sure they have plenty of water.

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