Why Is My Beef Jerky So Tough? (And What to Do About It?)

When someone says jerky, what is the first thing that pops up in your mind? The awesome, strong beefy flavor of the lean meat? 

The delicious taste of the seasoning from your favorite pack of this snack? Or is it maybe the weirdly satisfying and pleasant chewing inherently connected to snacking on the dried beef?

Strangely enough, at least for us, that is undoubtedly the single most amusing thing about jerky. When your jerky is too tough, though, this then enjoyable activity suddenly becomes literally painful.

And that may leave you wondering; why is your jerky so tough? Your jerky is so tough because the jerky has been dehydrated for too long.

But as said, this is really just to put it simply. Also, it is important to keep in mind that not even extremely tough jerky is necessarily ruined. 

So how can you save it? And more importantly, what should you be focusing on so that it won’t happen again? That is exactly what we’re going to discover in this article!

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Why is my beef jerky so hard to chew?

When the jerky you were trying to make is tough and hard to chew, it is because it underwent the dehydration process for far too long. That drained too much of moisture and water from it and that made it so tough as it is now.

In order to prevent that from happening again, you need to put it in the dehydrator for a less amount of time. If you’re not entirely sure for how long that is, check the jerky throughout the dehydration and stop the process when you’re satisfied with its condition.

How to make beef jerky soft again?

Okay, but since you come upon this article, you have probably already made the jerky too dry and now you’re wondering whether you can save it somehow. And yes, you can!

It isn’t anything hard, either, you just need to brush the jerky with some liquid (Winchester sauce or beef broth may be the best options, but the choice is yours) and then let it sink in for a good 20 hours or maybe even more. And there is an even faster option; you can use the microwave, but we’re about to get there.

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How to soften beef jerky in the microwave?

Making your beef jerky softer using microwave is a pretty quick and easy option, but the end product won’t be as good as with the classic method mentioned above. It will definitely make your jerky more tender, though, so it is an option.

So how does it work? Well, simply put your jerky in a container with a lid and add a glass of water (or wet towel) there, too. Then place the lid on the container (but don’t actually close it!) and start the microwave.

Microwave the jerky with one minute (or maybe even a bit shorter) intervals and check the texture of it each time; when it is finally not tough, you’re done!


When beef jerky is dehydrated for too long, it will get tough and hard to chew on. If you will be alerted, though, it is easy to prevent that from happening – you just have to keep an eye on your jerky and stop the dehydration just right when the jerky is done.

If you’re not sure what exactly that means, just use this little trick; pick a piece of your jerky and bend it over. The jerky is done when there isn’t nearly any moisture squeezing out of it and it isn’t yet cracking either.

But that is just a tip for the next time; it obviously can’t save your now already tough jerky. Fortunately, there are ways to do that, too. Firstly, you can use your microwave, which will make your jerky eatable again pretty quickly.

Secondly, it is possible to simply redehydrate the jerky by brushing it with some sauce or broth; this method will take a bit longer than the microwave one, but the results are better as well.

And even when none of these options work, you don’t have to throw the jerky out – just use it instead of the unprocessed meat in your favorite recipe!



Image credits – Canva

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