Jerky Curing and Smoking Basics
Jerky made from
lean fresh meat is low in cholesterol, low in fat and very high in protein,
making jerky a wholesome and nutritious snack. The packaged and bulk jerky products sold in stores
and at shows are related to real fresh jerky but, they tend to be over
processed, over salted and in most cases stale. Fresh jerky is much softer,
has more meat flavor, and provides more nutrition. Our recipes are
made without added preservatives and since fresh jerky is best, we recommend
that you make your jerky in one or two pound batches being sure to weigh meat
and measure seasoning and cure mix exactly as the recipe describes. After
cooking, store finished jerky in the refrigerator.
Jerky can be made from lean beef, chicken or turkey breast, and
wild game. Quality meat means quality jerky but you don't have to pay a high
price. Watch the sales at your local supermarket and take advantage of them.
Beef flank steak is
your best buy. There is no waste at all because flank steak is all lean, pure
red meat with consistent straight grain making it easy to prepare. Chicken
and turkey breast meat are also perfect for making even lower fat, healthier
jerky snacks. Wild game like deer
and rabbit are well suited to jerky making if the meat has been promptly and
properly processed. The curing process used to make jerky will greatly reduce
the gamy flavor of wild meats. Prepare deer and rabbit as described for beef.
Game birds should be treated like chicken.
Pork should never be used for jerky (The pork version of jerky
is bacon which requires a different blend of cure and spices as well as completely
- Wash hands after each time you handle meat!
- Fluff up seasoning before measuring!
- Weigh and measure ingredients with great care!
- Add your own touch once you know the process!
- Prepare more than one type of meat at a time!
- Use more season and cure than what a recipe calls for!
- Make more jerky than you will eat
in a week!
- Pack seasoning or cure mix when measuring!
Method of Jerky Making
Work Space - Collect all your utensils and wash everything including
your hands. Give yourself plenty of works space and have no other food
products in the area of the jerky making.
- Good quality, sharp, 6" to 8" knife
- Large clean cutting board
- Standard measuring tablespoon
- Standard measuring teaspoon
- A fork and stainless steel mixing bowl
- A heavy duty zip lock bag
- Unpainted large tooth picks
- Optional kitchen scale
Cutting the Meat
- Jerky meat needs to be cut with the grain. If you slice the meat across the
grain as you would when carving a roast, your jerky will crumble and fall
apart when cooked. Beef and deer jerky strips should be about 1/4 inch thick
and 1 inch wide. Jerky made from poultry needs to be 3/8 inch thick. Most
meat carving knives have a flat sided handle which is 1/4 inch thick on each
side of the blade. The handle can act as a guide for cutting the perfect
thickness. Lay the meat out flat on the cutting board with the grain running
up and down. Lay your knife flat on the cutting board at the bottom of the
meat with the edge facing away from you.
- Lightly hold the meat in place with one hand
and slice the meat while keeping the knife handle flat on the cutting board.
Take your time and cut slowly with even strokes. Never cut with your hand in
front of the knife. If holding the meat while you cut it seams a little
scary, use a coffee cup on top of the meat. Cut all the way through.
- Separate the two pieces of meat and repeat
the cutting process with the top section if necessary. If the top piece is
less than 1/8 inch to thick, do not cut again. If the meat is to thin, it
will not cure and cook evenly.
- Lay the meat out on the board again with the grain running top to bottom. Cut
each piece in half and then in half again until you have strips about 1 inch
wide. If the strips are very long you should cut them in half across the
grain of the meat. The strips need to be short enough so that they will leave
a space at least 4 to 5 inches from the bottom of your oven when they are
hung for cooking. Try to keep the pieces uniform in size so they cook evenly.
Seasoning the Meat
- Weigh the meat to determine how much seasoning and cure mix is needed. This
is critical. Using to much seasoning and cure mix will ruin your jerky. Use
no more than the amount recommend on the seasoning package. If you do not
have a kitchen scale, member to have the butcher write the weight of the meat
on the package when you buy it. If you have any doubt, using a little less is
- Lay your meat strips out on the cutting board. Use
a spoon to sprinkle about 1/3 of the mix evenly on to the meat. Turn the meat
over and repeat with 1/3 of mix. Scoop up the meat and any seasoning mix
which is left on the board by rubbing the meat on the board and against its
- Place the meat in a stainless steel of glass mixing
bowl. Work in the remaining seasoning by sprinkling on a little at a time and
mashing the meat together. Separate the meat strips after each addition. This
will assure that the meat is coated evenly.
- Place the seasoned meat in a large zip lock bag and
store in the refrigerator over night. The meat will begin to cure and turn
very dark red.
Cooking and Curing the Jerky
Your jerky must be cooked. You can do this in the oven, dehydrator, grill or
smoker. The cooking/curing process is done slowly at low heat. Over cooking
and over smoking will give an off taste and make your jerky tuff and hard to
Oven: Remove all cooking racks from the oven. Place
a large cookie sheet in the bottom of the oven and pre heat oven to 200
degrees. Use tooth picks to provide supports for hanging the jerky on an oven
rack. Place rack in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Sample the
jerky for extent of doneness after 1 hour.
Dehydrator: Follow instructions for preparing meat supplied with the
and Grill: Cook at 200 degrees for 1 hour with indirect heat. If your grill
can not be held at this low temperature, cook for smoke flavor for about 20
minutes and then finish in the oven.
Ground Meat Jerky -
Lean ground red meat or turkey can be used to make great jerky.
- Prepare meat
by mixing seasoning and cure mix in 1/2 cup of cold water and any other
spices you want.
- Place meat into a bowl and add mix.
- Work the seasoning into
the meat with your hands until the meat becomes sticky.
- Cover and place in
the refrigerator for four hours.
- Place a sheet of wax paper on the counter.
- Roll out
the seasoned ground beef into a sheet 3/8 inch thick.
- Cut into strips or use
cookie cutters to make shapes (You can also role ground meat into 1/2 inch
thick ropes and make snack sticks).
- Lightly spray a cookie sheet with Pam and lay out
the prepared jerky on the sheet.
- Bake in a 200 degree oven for 45 minutes.
- Remove from oven and carefully pour off any excess grease - Flip the jerky
pieces over.(You can reduce the fat content even more by placing the jerky on
a baking rack which fits inside the cookie sheet).
- Return to the oven and bake
for 35 minutes.
Storing Jerky after Cooking
Remove the jerky from the oven and immediately pat it dry with paper towels.
Place the hot jerky into zip lock bags or a glass jar and allow to cool. This will enhance the flavor. Store finished
Jerky for up to one week in the refrigerator. Freezing finished jerky will
make it dry and tough.