My girlfriend made some of these for my dog and she loved them. They are all meat. No salt, sugar, preservatives…nothing but meat.
She bought some inexpensive organ meat (Beef heart, kidney, liver, etc) and sliced it very thin. Too thick is difficult for the dog to chew. (1/4-1/2″ for medium dog. Adjust for your size dog) and put it in her food dehydrator. It is advised to trim off all the fat possible as it doesn’t dry and will spoil. I keep mine in the fridge but I will be making a large batch of my own and will freeze some too.
The treats come out very crunchy and I have offered them to a few dogs I know and no refusals. I like this treat and I am so glad my friend gave me this tip.
Further instructions from Jo: Sounds yummy! If you don’t have a food dehydrator, a regular large size oven can also be used to dry meat – I’ve made jerky for us humans that way – the dogs only got a little because the humans liked it so much that there wasn’t enough to go around. It’s definitely cheaper than buying it and, as mentioned above, you have control over the ingredients.
Cut the meat with the grain if possible so it doesn’t fall apart when it dries out. Marinate the slivers in teriyaki or soy sauce and add spices (except don’t use onion powder and be sparing with the garlic powder since these things can cause problems in dogs). Use a low oven temperature of 200-225 degrees Fahrenheit (110 degrees Celsius). Lay the pieces across whatever racks you have, without the pieces touching each other, and bake them for at least 4 hours. The thicker the pieces, the longer it will take. Once fully dried out, store them in an airtight container in the fridge until you plan to use them.
SPECIAL (and healthy!) Chicken&Apple treats
(Santa Barbara, CA)
The finished product: Banjo-tested & approved!
Ever seen those expensive high-end dog treats at the pet store: the pure chicken breast wrapped around apple (or sweet potato) and then dehydrated? Dogs LOVE them, but they cost an arm and a leg for a tiny little bag! Well, I just figured out how to make them at home for MUCH less. You can make these special treats for your own sweet dog, AND they make wonderful gifts for your dog-lover friends! Although the instructions and the cooking times are lengthy, the treats themselves are surprisingly simple to make. Here’s how I did it.
Note 1: I used a food dehydrator to make them, but you can also use your oven. I’ll give instructions for both, but you should know that I have NOT tried the oven method myself, so the cooking times are just an estimate. If you use an oven, be sure to check the treats early, just in case your oven cooks faster.
Note 2: Be sure to plan the timing of your project appropriately, so the treats are finished cooking at a time when you will be awake! Because the cooking time is long, if you start these treats late in the afternoon or evening, you may have to be awake in the middle of the night to take them out.
How to Make Chicken & Apple Dog Treats:
- Start with frozen chicken. (Boneless, skinless chicken breast or “tenders” are easiest, but if you’re willing to cut the chicken off the bone, any kind of chicken will be fine. I used some boneless chicken breast I found in the back of my freezer, so that’s what I’m giving directions for.) Partially defrost the chicken, so the meat is flexible but still firm – it’s easiest to make thin slices that way.
- Using a sharp knife, slice the chicken lengthwise into long, thin strips. Try to make the strips as uniform in thickness as possible. However, if some are thicker than others, you can fix that in the next step. They don’t have to be perfect.
- Lay the strips onto cookie sheets so they aren’t touching, and place the cookie sheets in the refrigerator, to finish defrosting. (keeping them refrigerated while defrosting will cut down on any risk of salmonella, etc) If you’re in a hurry, you can always defrost in the microwave (it won’t take long if they are sliced thin).
- Once fully defrosted, check out your slices: try to roll one up like a fruit roll-up or burrito. If it can easily roll up, and stay that way when set down, it’s thin enough. If it’s awkward to roll up, it is a little too thick. You can fix this by placing the thick slices between two sheets of waxed paper, and carefully rolling them out with a rolling pin, or gently pounding them with something heavy like a coffee mug or a water glass. Be careful not to pound TOO hard, though, because it’s easy to tear them.
- Once the chicken strips are ready, prepare your apples. I used approximately 3 apples for 4 chicken breasts, but it really depends on how thin your slices are. (If you have a little apple left over, OR a little chicken left over, don’t worry, you can dehydrate the leftovers along with the treats, and your dog will love them too. Banjo loved her apple “chips”!) Wash the apples, and then slice them into long wedges. I used one of those apple slicer/corer things that you press into the apple. That way, with one motion, the apple is sliced into 8 wedges and has no core. No need to remove the peel. Then, I took each wedge, and sliced it again lengthwise, so they were a bit thinner but still just as long (not absolutely necessary but they fit better into my dehydrator that way).
- Now, just take one apple wedge, and wrap one of the strips of chicken around it. If you’ve ever seen a “Pig In a Blanket,” it’s like that.
* Lay it directly on the rack from your dehydrator or, if you’re using your oven, lay it back on the UNGREASED cookie sheet, making sure that each treat does not overlap another. They dry fastest if there is room for air to circulate around the treats.
- Once you have all the strips of chicken wrapped around wedges of apple, you’re ready to cook. (Lay out any leftover bits of chicken or wedges of apple alongside the treats, grouping the leftovers together so they will be easy to pull from the oven. The apple takes less time than the chicken, so it’s easiest to pull them from the oven early if you don’t have to search for them among the other treats.)
- Stack the racks of the dehydrator, placing any larger/thicker treats closest to the heat source. I set the dehydrator to the meat/jerky setting on mine, that was the highest setting: 155F/68C.
- For oven, preheat the oven to the LOWEST temperature setting – usually that’s something like 200 to 210F. Center two oven racks in your oven, and place the cookie sheets side-by-side on the oven racks, so you can fit 4 cookie sheets in at a time. You may want to leave the oven door open a crack when you cook, to allow more air circulation around the treats. Now, sit back and wait!
- Cooking time will vary, depending on thickness and temperature. For apples only (without chicken), the dehydrator should take about 5-6 hours. For chicken, it can take anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. In my dehydrator, the chicken & apple treats took about 9-10 hours total. You know it’s done when you can take a piece (whether apple, chicken, OR chicken & apple treats), tear it in half, and it is dry in the middle, and the chicken is uniform in color all the way through. It can be leathery like jerky, or you can continue to cook it until it is a bit crispy.
- A good test to see if it’s dry is to place partly-cooled treats into a zip-lock bag and seal it; let it sit at room temperature for a half-hour or so, and check it. If there is moisture collecting at the top of the bag, it isn’t quite done, and you should return it to the dehydrator/oven. Remember, apple will dry faster than chicken, so if you have any apple bits in there, they can be pulled out early. (However, Banjo seems to prefer her apple bits on the crispy side, so it’s not the end of the world if you cook them a bit longer than planned.) But it’s a good idea to keep the chicken in there until it’s fully done, to reduce any risk of salmonella.
- Once done, store the treats in ziplock bags. If they are totally dried, you can store the bags in a cool dry place, like a cabinet or pantry. If you have any concern that there might be a bit of moisture remaining, I recommend storing these bags of healthy homemade dog treats in the refrigerator (or freezer) until you use them.
- Give these treats to your dog in small amounts! When you take the moisture out of a food, it shrinks down in size, but the nutrients (and calories!) are more concentrated, so a little goes a long way! These make wonderful gifts.
Coming soon…Dehydrated ground-turkey-&-pumpkin patties! (In other words, I also found an old package of ground turkey in the back of the freezer, and a can of pure pumpkin in the pantry leftover from the holidays, and I’m going to experiment with that, next. I’ll let you know how it turns out!)