Beef 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.

Selecting Meats

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 different processing)!

Simple Dos

Simple Don'ts

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.

Basic Tools

Cutting the Meat 

Seasoning the Meat

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 chew.

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 dehydrator.

Smoker 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.

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.


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