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The Hunter’s Guide To Turning Prized Game Into Delicious Jerky!

There is no better way to celebrate your hunting accomplishments than to learn how to make jerky. It has been a smart method of preserving meat since the beginning of time. At least, as far back as we can tell.

Plus, who doesn’t adore a sweet and savory piece of jerky?

anticipating for a delicious meal

If you’re interested in learning how to make jerky, there’s a good chance you hunt. Although, you might have a hunter for a husband and he doesn’t like to spend as much time in the kitchen as he does in the woods.

Sure, you can turn the meat into roasts, steaks and more. But if you want to go beyond dinner and make a tasty snack on the go, jerky is just the thing for you.

Not only can you make your own, but you can also choose a unique flavor profile to take it over the top.

My dad always likes trying out his own flavors, which can be phenomenal or incredibly salty. It depends on the batch.

sprinkling salt

Regardless, he has fun trying new things and has always been too cool for cookbooks. Nonetheless, you might want to keep in mind that it’s better to start with a recipe before choosing your own path to flavor-town.

Next time your hubby comes home with a prize hunt, he will probably tell you the whole glorious story.

While he’s telling you all about his wild adventures, you can turn his well-earned game into delicious jerky. It could be a snack on his next hunting trip!

bugs bunny and daffy duck

Jerky Is A Long-Lived Tradition

Jerky is more than a savory snack.

It has been a meat preservation method for centuries. Back in the day, Egyptians and Native Americans alike would put meat out to dry in the sun or over a fire. Turning game into jerky using the elements around them.

There weren’t many ways to preserve it for a longer duration of time. Turning it into jerky enabled them to store food in the summertime.

storing food

When they didn’t have a way to cool or freeze the meat, it would go wrong in a heartbeat. So they needed to take specific steps to ensure it wouldn’t go rancid.

After all, back in the day, it was more than wasting some money at the grocery store. Their survival, strength, and health depended on their ability to adapt to the season. They had to make the most of every ounce of food.

These days, hunting might not be for survival, but it is a way to save a bundle of money.

counting money

If you’re a family living on a budget, as most of us are, you can make the most of your hunting and make one animal go a long way.

Luckily, we have quite a few more tools at our disposal these days.

Sun-drying meat to make jerky isn’t exactly a system most people choose in the modern world. Instead, you can use a smoker, oven, or dehydrator to accomplish your goal.

You’ll have yummy chewy treats in no time, with minimal effort and maximum flavor.

thats exactly what i wanted

Different types of jerky: Wild vs. domestic

deer and cow

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There are plenty of jerky brands you can buy in the store. They use domesticated animals. Beef is the most common, but you can find venison jerky as well. You can actually turn any kind of meat into jerky. That includes fish, kangaroo, or even alligator.

awww thats cool reaction

The jerky options are endless, but most people stick to the basics.

Some people want to know the difference between buying jerky or learning how to make jerky at home. The real answer to that is the price. It is much cheaper to learn how to make jerky yourself.

When they didn’t have a way to cool or freeze the meat, it would go wrong in a heartbeat. So they needed to take specific steps to ensure it wouldn’t go rancid.

giving suggestion about being thrifty

When you turn a pound of meat into jerky, it comes out to about 4-ounces.

On average, jerky is priced anywhere from $0.90 to $2.00 per ounce. That means you’re paying anywhere from $4.00 to $8.00 per pound. It’s pretty unfair when the distributor is spending so much less. They’re buying meat in bulk, probably getting an incredible deal and flipping their product for a considerable profit.

You can’t blame them. It is a great business venture. People love jerky. A lot.

beef jerky is just a meat raisin

Though, it can limit some people. Many of us don’t buy jerky for the fact that it is an expensive treat.

But there’s no need to limit yourself because you can learn how to make jerky at home.

You can save a boatload of money and still get your favorite treat.

It’s a win-win situation.

The other colossal perk to learning how to make jerky is the fact that you know where the meat came from. You also know how it was prepared and that there are no additives or chemicals. Plus, you have total control over the flavor.

Everything You Need To Know To Make Your Own Jerky

jerky

Image via: Pixabay

You can learn to make jerky using a few different methods.

There are endless meat and flavor possibilities.

open to endless possibilities

Including crucial steps to learning how to make jerky as safe as possible.

However, everything you need to know is straightforward and easy to follow. So you’ll be on your way to learning how to make jerky in no time at all. But we’re here to tell you everything you need to know and make it as easy as possible.

How to make jerky in a dehydrator

dehydrator

Image via: Weston

Using a dehydrator is by far the most popular tool for making homemade jerky. It pretty much does everything for you.

You also can use it for so much more than just meat. Many people use it to dehydrate fruit, make fruit leather, or even dehydrate soup or other meals.

When trying to find the right dehydrator, you should opt for something that will go up the 165-degrees. It will allow you to dry your meat at a safe and consistent temperature.

Dehydrators also have everything you need. Such as constant airflow, even temperature, and hands-free operation.

All you have to do is slice the meat to the right thickness, marinade, and put it in a single, even layer in the trays.

You can usually buy extra trays for your dehydrator, so it’s possible to do large amounts of meat at one time. Considering that it normally takes around 6 to 8 hours, or so, that is a huge perk.

How to make jerky in a smoker

Jerky In A Smoker

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Learning how to make jerky in a smoker is a bit trickier than some other methods.

Not as tricky as this method, though:

hunter catch a bird

Making jerky is all about keeping an even temperature throughout the process. You don’t want to dry the meat too quickly. It will cause you to scorch the outside of the meat before removing enough moisture.

Even though it can be a bit more challenging, it is absolutely possible. You can add wood to a smoker for an added flavor which is much tastier than using liquid smoke.

The easiest way to go about this project is to use a smoker that can maintain its own temperature. They are generally more expensive than basic smokers but are perfect for the job.

When you normally smoke meat, you add liquid to a pan in the bottom of the smoker. It helps keep the meat from drying out. Since you’re going to doing the opposite, you will also want to skip this step.

Other than that it the battle will be the temperature. If you can find a self-sustaining smoker, good for you! If not, you might want to consider getting temperature alarms to help you keep track. Smoking is a long process, and you will need to guide it through.

So all hands on deck, but it will be well worth the effort.

How to make jerky in the oven

oven

image via: Pixabay

Making jerky in the oven is easier because it will maintain the heat for you. Although you might not be able to lower the temperature as much as it is recommended in many recipes. That won’t be a huge problem, but it will cook slightly faster, and you will have to keep an eye on it.

However, the process is the same across the board. Thin meat, marinated and cooked at low heat with any airflow you can manage.

It’s easy to do, but it’s also easy to dry too much out if you aren’t paying attention. You will also need to flip the meat at some point to ensure it cooks evenly on both sides. Otherwise, one side will be much drier than the other.

Methods For Different Types Of Meat

different meat

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When it comes to different types of jerky, the process is generally the same.

You can use whatever flavors and the same tools for every type of meat. It doesn’t matter if you buy it at the grocery store or hunt for your meat personally.

The main difference is going to be the temperature, but even that is going to be a minor difference.

Game like beef, venison, elk, or rabbit can be cooked at 160-degrees for around eight hours. As long as you slice it at about ⅛ to ¼-inch thick.

Poultry is a little different because you need to be careful about salmonella and E. coli. So you need to cook it at about 165-degrees. It’s only a few degrees hotter, but it makes a difference when avoiding bacteria normally found on poultry. This includes turkey, duck, goose, and especially chicken.

You might even want to consider using sodium nitrite or another curing salt. It will help kill draw moisture out of your meat and prevent the growth of bacteria. It’s an ingredient that people have been using since the Neolithic age.

While it has been through its own controversies, it’s a surefire way to make sure your jerky safer.

Tips for the Best Jerky

tops of jerky

image via: Pixabay

There are plenty of extra steps you can take to make your jerky the best in town.

They even apply if you are a complete newbie, only beginning to learn how to make jerky. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are if you’re open to all the right tips.

You will be able to take ordinary recipes and take them over the top because you already know the trade secrets.

Prepare to wow your friends into thinking your jerky is made by professionals, with just a few handy steps.

The best tips:

  • Use lean cuts of meat. The less fat, the better because it will not dry properly, like the rest of the meat. Although, if you only have meat with layers of fat, just trim it up and use it anyway. But It can feel like a waste when you’re doing it because you just paid for the weight of the fat too.
  • Use thin slices of only about ⅛ to ¼-inch thick. The thinner pieces will make it easier to dehydrate the meat evenly.

(Yes, we know this gif shows cooked meat, but we’re using it to show an appropriate width.)

slicing meat
  • Put your meat in the freezer for about an hour before slicing. That will make it easier to cut into thin strips. It makes the meat just stiff enough to slice, but it won’t be frozen solid. Room temperature meat can squash down and make it challenging to get even pieces.
  • If you plan to eat the jerky soon, or store it in the fridge, put the finished product in a sealable container while it is still warm. The condensation will make it a bit softer and easy to chew. But you should skip this step if you’re planning to vacuum seal your meat. You don’t want to trap any moisture in that case.
  • If your dehydrator doesn’t have a setting for 160-degrees, you can put the strips in the oven at 300-degrees for 10 minutes. It will get your meat to the appropriate temperature to kill bacteria. Then you can put it in the dehydrator on the highest setting, or 140-degrees to 150-degrees.

The Best Flavor Combinations For Different Types Of Meat

Flavor is the key to making the best jerky on the block.

There are many different flavor profiles you could choose from. As we mentioned before, the possibilities are endless. But marinades are a fantastic choice.

Many people use a combination of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, and spices. Beyond that people don’t get very creative.

In most stores, you can find original, teriyaki, peppered, or hickory.

eating jerky

There are so many other tasty prospects you can discover at home. You can mix them up yourself or try different store-bought marinades.

We’ve even thrown together a list of flavor ideas to help you on your quest to learn how to make jerky.

Sweet jerky

  • Applewood maple
  • Hickory maple
  • Simply sweet brown sugar
  • Dr. Pepper jerky
  • Sweet sriracha
  • Sweet cherry
  • Honey glazed jerky

Savory jerky

  • Peppered
  • Citrus Basil
  • Hickory
  • Applewood
  • Barbeque
  • Chipolte
  • Original
  • Mesquite Smoked
  • Teriyaki
  • Bloody Mary jerky

Spicy jerky

  • Jalapeno
  • Sweet spicy
  • Franks RedHot jerky
  • Franks Buffalo jerky
  • Sweet and Spicy Chili
  • Dr. Pepper Jalapeno
  • Spicy Ranch
  • Spicy garlic
  • Habanero
oh so many flavors

These are only a few choices out of many. You can try any combination you can think of. Making flavors could be a fun new hobby.

You might even find new combinations that will make a great recipe to share with others.

Just make sure to document your progress as you tweak new recipes! You don’t want to forget what you used if you make an incredible new recipe.

Learn How To Make Jerky With These Simple Recipes

The thing is, there’s isn’t a magic secret to learning how to make beef jerky. It comes down to cooking time, temperature and flavors. Beyond that, it comes down to the meat you choose. Different meats can offer their own special flavors. So the combination might depend on the meat, but there are no rules you need to stick to.

There are only the limits of your imagination and the opinion of your tastebuds.

Best Beef Jerky

Chipotle Venison Jerky

Most hunters learn how to hunt deer or small game first. It is more common in many places, unlike elk, bear, moose, or anything else that isn’t widely available.

For that reason, we knew we absolutely had to include a delicious venison jerky recipe.

I don’t know about you, but I love anything with chipotle flavoring. This particular recipe has just the right balance of spice and sweetness for most people.

Keep in mind that you can use any type of meat that tickles your fancy. Just make sure to set it for the right temperature.

Ingredients

  • 5 to 7 pounds venison roast
  • 1 cup of soy sauce
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 7-ounce can of chipotles in adobo
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of Instacure No. 1
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 7 ounces of water

Directions

Put all the ingredients, except the venison, into the blender and blend until smooth. The marinade should taste pretty salty, but it’s supposed to.

Cut the venison roast against the grain into roughly ¼-inch slices.

Mix the marinade into the meat and make sure each side of every slice gets well coated. It’s enough for a full 7-pounds of meat.

Pack the mixture into a container, a glass or metal casserole pan or bowl will work perfectly.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 24-hours, or up to 48-hours. It depends on your salt tolerance and how long you plan on storing your jerky.

When you’re ready, lay the meat on dehydrator trays in an even layer. Don’t let the slices of meat touch or overlap.

Set the dehydrator to 160°F for 2-hours, then drop the temperature down to 145°F until the jerky is ready. The jerky will still be pliable, but the meat should begin to fracture and crack a bit when you bend it.

The jerky should be ready in about 6-hours. If you are planning to store it at room temperature for a long time, you should dry it until the meat is brittle.

If you are using an oven, set the oven as low as it will go and use something to prop open the door, which lets air circulate inside the oven. Use a convection oven if you have it.

Store it in the fridge or freeze it.

You can store it at room temperature as well, but there are some parameters you should follow, which we are covering in another segment.

Duck Jerky

Duck isn’t as common as beef or venison, but it’s just as good when you have the right recipe. For all those duck hunters out there, this is the perfect recipe. It has a wealth of amazing ingredients that will put it over the top and pack it full of flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups of teriyaki sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of Tabasco
  • 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire
  • 2 tablespoons of onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons of pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of barbeque sauce
  • ½ bottle beer
  • 1 ½ cups of water

Directions

Slice the duck breasts into roughly 1/4 inch thick strips.

Mix remaining ingredients in a large bowl and put the meat into the marinade and massage it all around to coat evenly. Pour everything into a seal-able plastic bag or container and set in the fridge.

Marinate for at least 24 and up to 72 hours. Remember that the longer it is in the mix, the saltier the meat will get, but the more flavorful it will be.

Massage the meat around in the bag every now and when it’s marinating to keep everything even.

Remove the duck from the bag and pat dry with paper towels.

Lay the strips on the rack in an even layer, without overlapping.

Set your dehydrator on 165-degrees if you can, or 160-degrees if you don’t have a higher setting. Leave it on this temperature for 2 hours. Then drop the temperature to 140-degrees and cook for another 6 hours, or until you’re happy with the texture. You want the meat to be flexible, but firm. So it cracks, but isn’t overly dry and brittle. It will depend on your preference.

cat inside a plastic and black cat outside

How To Store Your Leftovers

Storing your leftover jerky is a lot easier than many other foods and can last longer. However, there are still limitations. Different storage options will allow for different storage times, but it seems to depend on who you ask.

Many jerky recipes will tell you that vacuum sealing or freezing jerky will allow you to keep it for as long as you want. But I think we all know that’s a bit of a stretch.

So how long should you keep your jerky?

Refrigeration

Some people say that putting jerky in the fridge will help it last for 2 to 3 weeks. Others say 3 to 6 months.

We’re here to make more sense of that.

It will last 3 to 4 months in a sealed and refrigerated package. Once you open it, you should consume it within a few weeks. It is flexible, but it’s safer to stick to the USDA recommendations.

Vacuum sealed

If you want to keep your food at room temperature, make sure to vacuum seal your jerky properly. It should be free of moisture and air, or it could cause mold. If it is properly dehydrated, there will be no condensation in the package.

Curing your meat before the dehydration process will be a big help if you have any safety concerns.

Make sure to store the meat in a cool, dark place. That should be good for about 2 to 3 months. However, you should eat the supply within the week once you open it. At least, if you intend to leave it at room temperature. It could last 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge.

Frozen

Although we don’t recommend freezing your jerky, it is a surefire way to keep mold from growing. It will keep the meat safe if you plan to keep it for a longer period.

However, the meat could also pick up a strange flavor in the freezer, especially if it’s in there for a longer duration.

That could put a damper on the delicious treat you’ve been waiting for.

Either way, the meat will last from 6 months to a year. Remember that the less time in the freezer the better. At least for the sake of taste.

It’s just something to keep in mind, and we thought it was worth mentioning since there seemed to be a lot of similar feelings from jerky veterans.

Still, if you’re new to the whole process, this might be your favorite method of storage in the beginning. If you haven’t bought a vacuum sealer, it may be the only option for long-term storage.

weird expression

Is Too Much Of A Good Thing A Bad Thing?

Many people look at beef jerky, pork rinds and other meaty treats as unhealthy and gross.

However, if you learn how to make jerky at home, you can sidestep any possible problems. Namely, artificial flavors, MSG, nitrites, and any ingredients that make give you an allergic reaction.

The real answer is no.

If you learn how to make jerky at home, there is nothing bad about it.

It’s low-carb, packed full of protein, and a great snack, even on a diet.

The only real problem might be eating too much and running out ahead of schedule.

Time To Make Your Prize Meat Into A Tasty Snack

Whether it’s your prize deer or some meat you picked up in the grocery store, you can save a lot of money learning how to make jerky.

You will know where the meat came from, what ingredients went into it, and will be entirely in charge of quality control. You can package it in any way you see fit, use a salt cure or not, and control the flavor.

It is entirely up to you.

Before you do anything, make sure you have the right tools and a plan in place. Once you get moving, you will be in for a 4 to 8-hour process. With a dehydrator, the process is totally hands-free once you drop the meat in the machine. It’s most peoples favorite tool for dehydration.

Although, if you don’t have one and still want to try your hand at jerky, feel free to try using a smoker or the oven. It’s just as effective but will need more supervision. Otherwise, you may dry out your meat too quickly.

That won’t exactly make your jerky easy to chew on…but it is easy to avoid with the right temperature and airflow.

Overall, learning how to make your own jerky is straightforward and easy to do. At least it is if you follow all the directions.

You’re going to have the best meaty snack around in no time at all!

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