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 freezers 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!
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 wallop 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 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, but the fat is also 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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 they can, but I figure you would have to be making only a single 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 deciding 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 turns 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.
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 which 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 in 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?
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.