Simple and Delicious Deer Jerky in the Dehydrator

Freshly made deer jerky. Yum.

It’s that time of year again! Every morning throughout hunting season, I awake to distant shots echoing through the woods as hunters all around seek to fill their freezer for the year with fresh meat.

I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of deer meat… but I sure do love a good jerky!

venison jerky
venison jerky

Deer jerky is a great way to use up extra deer meat, or to preserve meat that just won’t fit in an already-full freezer.

Jerky is a great, nutritious snack (especially made with venison, which is lower in fat and cholesterol than other red meats) that is portable, storable, and also makes a great holiday gift.

Venison jerky comes in at less than 200 calories per serving, and packs a whollop of protein, healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals.

While it’s a great way to use up all of your game harvest, it can be expensive to have a butcher make jerky out of your leftover meat. Instead, do it at home yourself. All you need is a dehydrator, or an oven with the ability to reach lower heat.

Jerky can be made within as little as five hours, but many people wait up to twelve hours to finish a batch of jerky. The key to making a good jerky is finding a good marinade recipe that allows you to savor the flavor of this healthy, delicious meat without adding tons of sugar or preservatives.

While deer jerky can be customized based on your personal preferences and equipment, a good deer jerky recipe can get you a long way when you are first getting started in the process.

Best Meat Cuts For Jerky Making

Whenever possible, try to use meat that is not fatty or filled with tendons when making jerky.

The fatty portions of meat not only can create a rubbery texture to the jerky, the fat is more difficult to cure and will spoil more quickly than a leaner cut of meat.

Fatty meat is also more likely to break apart during the drying process and can cause frustrating jams when attempting to push it through the jerky gun.

Basically every part of a deer can be used to make jerky, as long as you slice it thin.The best parts of a deer to use when making jerky are the hind legs, eye round, and rump roast.

If you can slice the meat into thin strips you can even skip the grinding process altogether.

Deer Jerky Recipe

Here’s my favorite go-to recipe for venison jerky, which can be modified to work in the dehydrator or in the oven. If you have other meat that you would prefer to use (including beef, bison, or other wild game), this recipe will work as well.
Author NewLifeonAHomestead.com

Ingredients

  • 1 lb venison fat and skin removed
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon A-1 Steak Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce

Instructions

  • Slice the venison into strips that are about 1/4″ thick (slightly frozen meat will cut more easily than meat that is completely thawed or warm).
  • Start preparing your marinade. In a large mixing bowl, stir all of the ingredients together.
  • Then, add meat and let marinate several hours, or overnight. You can marinate in a plastic bag or in a glass container.
  • Place the meat strips on the dehydrator trays.
  • Set your dehydrator on the jerky setting (155*F, 68*C). Make sure you do not overlap the meat when filling the trays or racks.
  • Leave the meat in the dehydrator for 4-5 hours. You can tell the jerky is ready when you can bend the meat and, with some pressure, it snaps.

Notes

  • When slicing the strips, try to remove the membranes from the meat if possible, as this can give the jerky a bit more chewiness. Most people don’t notice it, so if you do miss a few pieces of membrane, it’s not a huge deal. You can always cut it out later if you make any mistakes.
  • The pieces of venison do not have to be cut into uniform shapes, but if you can, keep the thickness roughly the same. The pieces will cook more evenly, and the batch will finish in a shorter amount of time.
  • If using more than four trays of jerky strips or if using an older or lower quality dehydrator, it can take up to 10 hours for the jerky to cure properly.

Making Deer Jerky in the Oven

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You can cook this in a dehydrator, or in the oven. If using a dehydrator, the method might be a little different, depending on your model. I have an inexpensive Nesco American Harvest Dehydrator that works just fine.

When cooking in the oven , preheat to 150*F (65*C). Place the meat on a cookie sheet (again, not overlapping).

You might consider placing a pan or an aluminum foil liner at the bottom of your oven to catch grease spills. Once your trays are prepared, you can cook for 8-10 hours, or until done.

Some folks claim their oven can make jerky in as little as two hours, and maybe than can, but I figure you would have to be making only a singly tray of substantially thin jerky for it to cure that quickly.

It’s not a bad idea to prop the oven door slightly while cooking, just as you would if you were using its broiler function, to allow any excess moisture to escape.

This is another smart move to make if your oven won’t reach temperatures all the way down to 150, as it will help some excess heat escape.

Rest assured that it is difficult to overcook jerky. An extra couple of hours doesn’t make a huge difference in the dehydrator or in such a low temperature in the oven.

Experiment with your processing times. Some people prefer crunchy, dry jerky, while others like it a little bit chewier. Jerky stores longer the more it is dehydrated, so keep that in mind when decided how long to process your meat.

Making Deer Jerky on an Open Flame

You can even make deer jerky over an open flame if you are blessed with both patience and a lot of time on your hands. It is a tricky endeavor because you must keep the rack of jerky strips close enough to the flame that they cure, but do not broil or burn.

In the photo below you will see my son-in-law attempting to make jerky over an open flame.

He and some buddies took turn holding the drying rack, and then propped it over the flame using a tripod that I used for grilling over an open flame.

The meat turned out tasty, but I am not quite sure it was cured enough after only three hours to call it true jerky.

man making jerky on an open flame
man making jerky on an open flame

Making Deer Jerky in a Smoker

Regardless of what type of smoker you are using, charcoal, propane gas, or electric, keep the temperature between 165 to 200 degrees F (73 to 93 degrees C) when making jerky. Typically, it takes about four the six hours to cure jerky in a smoker. Yes, that is a wide temperature range.

Smokers vary so much in both dimension and fuel type, the average temperature for making jerky will vary, as well. We use the propane smoker shown in the photos above and keep the temperature between 180 to 200 degrees.

The jerky shown in the photos took about four hours to cure – with the exception of the sausage rolls that took a full six hours to cure.

Let’s Make Some Jerky!

One thing is for sure, no matter what type of meat that you use or which heat source you opt to try, a tray of jerky does not last for very long – the wafting smell of the deliciously seasoned meat will coax everyone on your homestead right to it as it comes off the rack!

Store the meat in a Ziploc bag or within a jar in the cabinet. It can also keep in the fridge or freezer for even longer. In most cases and under ideal circumstances, jerky will last for several months.

What’s your favorite go-to deer jerky recipe?

10 thoughts on “Simple and Delicious Deer Jerky in the Dehydrator”

  1. So you don’t like venison, “No, you don’t like the way it was processed or prepared”. Hopefully, I haven’t insulted some husband’s macho ego, but its true. Most people say, “I didn’t know that was deer meat. Key: Lots of water washings, no trauma meat, no fat, separate each muscle as there are several hidden scent glands. Lean ground or chunks can not be beaten for stew or chili, “no grease”. Beyond that any encountered problem is the recipe or the cook, however “Jerky” is a no brain er.

    Reply
  2. Kendra,
    You said that you are “not a huge fan of deer meat. Maybe (you) are processing it wrong.”. Well, my wife wasn’t a big fan either until I started aging it for two weeks in a 34 degree refrigerator before I butcher it. Since I’ve been doing this I have not made a single roast because all cuts that are big enough for steak or butterflying are made into steaks. I have never had more tender or juicy venison and my wife and two daughters absolutely devour venison now.
    I have a refrigerator in my shop that I removed the shelves and rigged a rod to hang the deer that I have only skinned then cut in half. After the two weeks I butcher it. It loses about 20 percent of it’s weight from evaporation and some areas of the exposed meet turn dark, but not because it is spoiled. I only need to trim off the discoloration. There are many articles out there that address the topic.
    Happy hunting and eating!!!
    Troy

    Reply
  3. Alton Brown has an interesting way of making jerky with out using the heat of a dehydrator.
    Use a cheap box fan and two cheap furnace filters and turn the fan on and go for about 12-14 hrs.
    You should NOT reuse the filters. That was the general consensus but I have no idea why.
    Also Use Teriyakii sauce instead of soy sauce. A bit more flavor.
    We made the mistake of not cutting our venison thin enough! But the dog loves them!!

    Reply

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