Tasty Treat Tuesday: Jerky!

No doubt about it - dogs love to chew on meat. But too often, the "chewy-meat" treats you can buy at the stores are from questionable sources or can be pretty pricey. So I experimented with making some jerky-type treats of my own and they were a big hit!  Jackson even turned down a Frosty Paw one evening because he was angling for a piece of jerky!

Similar to the Sweet Potato Chews, the ingredient list is quite simple: in this case, meat. And you cook them for 4-6 hours on your oven's lowest temp setting, which for me was 200 degrees.

For the meat, the leaner the better since fatty cuts take longer to dry out while cooking and the shrinkage will be higher. I experimented with chicken breast tenders (pretty lean) and pork shoulder steaks (more fatty). The dogs loved both, with maybe a slight preference for the pork. However, given the same cooking time, the chicken turned out to be much chewier and substantial than the pork, which shrunk up considerably and retained quite a bit of moisture.

So how do you slice up the meat?  I put the meat in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm it up and make cutting into strips easier. The before pics below probably show it best:

  • The first photo is the pork. The pork shoulder was bone-in, which made for some awkwardly sized slices which were probably a little thicker than ideal.
  • The second photo is the chicken tenders.   I was able to slice the chicken tenders to about 1/8" - 1/4" thick and the absence of bones to work around provided some nicely sized slices. 
  • There was also a "combo" cooking sheet that had about half pork and half chicken, but I failed to get a "before" picture of that batch.

And now the "after" pic, which shows the results from cooking about 4 hours in my convection oven at 200 degrees and turning the strips at least once during cooking.  On the left is the pork-only tray  - you can see how  much the pieces shrunk up during the slow-cooking process. The tray on the right is the combo tray, so it's not as clear of a comparison to the chicken-only "before" pic above. (photographer error!)  However, you can see that the chicken strips, which are the lighter colored pieces to the left and across the bottom,  did not shrink up much as the pork slices, in general.


And the "presentation" pic of the yummy results! 


So there you have it!  Easy, packed with protein, no preservatives and dogs LOVE them! If you like to have some special treats on hand for an after-dinner snack or to reward especially good behavior, it's hard to go wrong with homemade jerky!

Storage: Both versions should be stored in a closed container or bag in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. They also freeze great for up to 3 months. 

Cost: The above pic represents almost $9.00 worth of pork (about 2 lbs, including the bone, at $3.99/lb) and $2.50 worth of chicken (boneless, about 1 lb at $2.19/lb.) 

Calories: Each strip is going to be different, but in general, pork shoulder has about 75 calories/oz and chicken tenders clock in at about 50 calories/oz.



Posted on March 4, 2014 and filed under Health and Nutrition, Treat Recipes.