Knowing how to dehydrate chicken in the oven is a very useful skill to know. Dehydrated food of any kind is perfect for taking camping and hiking. Believe it or not, meat of any kind is one of the easiest things to dehydrate.
It only takes about 6 to 8 hours to dehydrate chicken, including the prep work. The steps are few and simple to do. So, even if you don’t do a perfect job, you will have a hard time messing up.
Where to Start
When dehydrating chicken in the oven, the first place to start is by grabbing the few things you need. These items are:
- Chicken – Raw chicken, precooked chicken, or canned chicken works. Raw chicken is best but, as long as it is moist and not dried out, it can work.
- A Knife – Preferably any sharp knife that you are comfortable with.
- A Cutting Board – Any cutting board works, but big ones are better for large amounts of meat.
- An Oven – It doesn’t matter if it is electric or propane.
- Cookie Sheets – A baking sheet of any type works. This is to put the chicken in the oven.
- Soap and Sanitizer – It is vital that you stay clean, especially if you are working with raw meat.
If you want a certain amount of finished chicken jerky, there is a simple calculation that makes it easy. One pound of raw chicken, once dehydrated, makes about four ounces of chicken jerky. This is meat without bones, fat, or skin.
We highly recommend that you have a few other things as well, though these are optional. These things are:
- Pressure Cooker – The USDA recommends that you get raw poultry up to 160 degrees F to kill harmful bacteria. A pressure cooker is best for this, but any pot with a lid will work.
- Seasonings – Marinating the chicken is not necessary, but we love the flavors that you can have. You can stick with basic salt and pepper, get spicy with cayenne powder and chili powder, or savory with oregano, parsley, and marjoram.
Dehydrating Chicken in the Oven
Once you have everything you need set up, you start by cutting up the meat into pieces. Keep the pieces between ¼” and ½” thick. Once cut, put your chicken in a bowl or Ziplock bag with the seasonings to marinate it overnight.
The next morning, use the pressure cooker to get the chicken to 160 degrees F for a moment. Then let it cool enough to handle it before spreading it out on your cookie sheets. Do not crowd your pieces of meat; you need to leave about ½” between the pieces.
You also need to dry off any excess marinade, or the dehydrating will take a little longer. While you are doing this, you can set your oven to its lowest setting, which is around 250 degrees F. Set the chicken in the oven and watch the time.
Every 30 minutes to 1 hour, turn the chicken over so that it dries evenly on both sides. Sometimes we see moisture on the cookie sheet, especially the first time or two we go to flip it. So, have something on hand to dry up some of that moisture before you set it back in the oven.
By keeping the door of your oven open, you will get some air circulating in the oven and around the meat which will avoid keeping humidity inside. And if you want a better air exchange, it is also possible to place a fan near your oven aperture.
Finally, after about 4-5 hours, once your chicken has well dried in your oven, your jerky is ready!
The Last Steps Of Dehydrating Chicken
Now one of the only tricky parts of dehydrating chicken is telling when it is dry. Too dry, and the chicken jerky will be very brittle when you try to eat it. Too moist, and it will go bad and is actually dangerous to eat.
This is where the ‘bend test’ comes in. We recommend that you take a piece of your chicken jerky and try to bend it. If it breaks and refuses to bend at all, it is too dry already. If it bends easily, the meat is not done. What you want is for it to bend with some resistance and to also crackle a little.
Once it is done, we have a few ways that you can store it:
- Vacuum Sealer
Bags are a good option in most cases. Glass jars can actually keep jerky fresh for just as long or longer than bags. We store our dehydrated chicken for about 1 to 2 months in Ziploc bags. Jars almost double that time, with vacuum-sealed jerky lasting six months to 1 year if you do it properly.
True, putting it in a freezer may keep your jerky good for even longer. However, it will also risk getting a form of freezer burn if it is in there longer than a few months. Also, while putting jerky in a refrigerator might seem like a good idea, trust us when we say that it isn’t.
Refrigerators are moist, and moisture is one of the main two enemies of your jerky. The other one is oxygen, which is why sometimes it can be nice to have some oxygen absorbers. Once stored, you can store your chicken jerky to take it with you for any occasion.
Tips When Dehydrating Chicken
There are countless useful tips to keep in mind when dehydrating chicken. We find that the breast part of the chicken is the best part to dehydrate. This is not only because white meat is in one piece but also because dark meat has more fat.
Fat messes up the dehydrating, and it makes the jerky spoil faster. This is why we find it so important to have sharp knives. Dull knives simply won’t cut away the fat and skin nearly as easily.
Also, we feel you should know about cutting on the grain. Cutting following the lines gives chicken jerky that is chewier. Cutting against the grain gives jerky that breaks off in pieces easier. While we prefer not to have crumbles of chicken jerky left in our bags, the choice is up to you.
Once in the oven, if your oven does have a fan, you can get by without leaving your door open. This is safer if you have kids or pets, and you want to make sure that they don’t get burned. Still, this will take longer since the moisture will be staying inside your oven.
However, it also keeps the rest of your house cooler since the hot air is staying in the oven. It is better with the oven door open, though. This is why we recommend that you only use your oven for dehydrating when you want to heat your house.
Finally, should you leave it in too long or mess up in any other way, it is not hopeless. Our pets don’t care if the chicken jerky happens to be too brittle. In fact, they love jerky no matter what shape it is in.
Now that you know how to dehydrate chicken in the oven, you need to try it out. One thing we love about dehydrated chicken is using it in campfire soups. For this, we dry it in cubes, cutting the raw meat in 1” squares instead of strips.
This works perfectly with other dehydrated foods like carrots, celery, and onions. Simply put everything in water in a small pot over your campfire and let it cook on low.