Freshly made deer jerky. Yum.
It’s that time of year again! Every morning throughout hunting season, I awake to distant gun 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. Maybe we just aren’t processing it right. Who knows. 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 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.
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.
- 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). 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, you’ll make easier work for your dehydrator. The pieces will cook more evenly, and the batch will finish in a shorter amount of time.
- Once your meat is sliced, you can prepare 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 (keep in mind that if you use a plastic bag, these chemicals do have the potential to leach into the meat.
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. On the jerky setting (155*F) it takes 4-5 hours for the jerky to be done. Make sure you do not overlap the meat when filling the trays or racks.
When cooking in the oven (which I have not tried yet), preheat to 150*. Place 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.
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.
You can tell the jerky is ready when you can bend the meat and, with some pressure, it snaps. 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 storage. In most cases and under ideal circumstances, jerky will last for several months
What’s your favorite go-to deer jerky recipe?
updated by Rebekah white 06/19/2018