How to Make Jerky: A Comprehensive Guide


Jerky is a timeless snack that has been enjoyed for centuries. Whether you’re hiking, camping, or just looking for a high-protein snack, jerky is the perfect choice. It’s lightweight, doesn’t require refrigeration, and can be packed with flavor. However, if you’ve ever tried to make jerky at home, you know it’s not always as easy as it seems. Getting the right texture, flavor, and consistency can be a challenge, especially if you’re new to making jerky. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know to make delicious jerky at home. From choosing the right meat to drying it properly, we’ll cover all the basics so you can enjoy this tasty snack whenever you want. So let’s get started!



Jerky is a type of dried meat that has been consumed by humans for centuries. Originally, it was used as a way to preserve meat for long periods of time without refrigeration. Today, jerky has become a popular snack food enjoyed all over the world.

One of the great things about jerky is that it can be made from almost any type of meat, including beef, turkey, venison, and even salmon. There are also many different flavors and styles of jerky available, from sweet and spicy to smoky and savory.

In addition to being a tasty snack, jerky also offers some health benefits. It’s high in protein and low in fat, making it a great option for people who are trying to build muscle or lose weight. Jerky is also a good source of iron, which is important for maintaining healthy blood cells.

Whether you’re a seasoned jerky maker or just starting out, this guide will provide you with all the information you need to make delicious jerky at home. From choosing the right meat to preparing it properly and drying it to perfection, we’ll walk you through every step of the process.

So grab your apron and let’s get started!

What is Jerky?

History of Jerky

Jerky is a beloved snack enjoyed by people all over the world, but where did it come from? The history of jerky dates back thousands of years, and Native Americans were among the first to develop this method of preserving meat.

The origins of jerky can be traced back to South America, where the Quechua tribe of the Andes Mountains would cut strips of meat from game animals and dry them in the sun. This process allowed the meat to last for long periods and provided an excellent source of protein when fresh food was scarce.

In North America, Native American tribes also relied on jerky as a way to preserve meat for the winter months. They would slice buffalo, elk, and other game animals into thin strips and hang them to dry. The dried meat was lightweight, easy to transport, and could last for months without spoiling.

Early European explorers and settlers quickly recognized the value of jerky and began to adopt the preservation technique for their own use. Jerky became a popular food choice among frontiersmen and cowboys, who needed a durable source of protein while on long cattle drives or hunting expeditions.

Today, jerky is a multi-billion dollar industry that spans the globe. It comes in an endless variety of flavors and styles, from traditional beef jerky to exotic options like salmon or kangaroo. Despite its modern popularity, the history of jerky is deeply rooted in Native American culture and remains an important part of their culinary heritage to this day.

Types of Jerky

Jerky is a versatile snack that can be made from various types of meat. The most common types of jerky include beef, turkey, venison, and salmon. Each type has its distinct flavor profile, texture, and nutritional value.

Beef Jerky

Beef is the most popular meat used to make jerky. It is widely available, easy to prepare, and has a rich, savory flavor. Beef jerky is usually made from lean cuts like round or flank steak. The meat is thinly sliced against the grain to ensure tenderness, then marinated in a blend of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, and garlic powder before drying.

Turkey Jerky

Turkey jerky is a leaner option compared to beef jerky, making it an ideal snack for health-conscious individuals. It is typically made from turkey breast or thighs, which are sliced thinly, marinated, and then dehydrated. Turkey jerky has a milder flavor than beef jerky, but it still packs a protein punch.

Venison Jerky

Venison jerky is an excellent choice for those who prefer gamey flavors. Venison is a lean and tender meat that makes for delicious jerky. It is commonly sourced from deer, elk, or moose. Like beef and turkey jerky, venison jerky is also thinly sliced, seasoned, and dried. It has a unique taste that is more earthy and robust than other types of jerky.

Salmon Jerky

Salmon jerky is an unconventional but tasty way to enjoy this omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish. It is typically made by curing salmon with salt, sugar, and spices, then slowly drying it until it becomes chewy and flavorful. Salmon jerky has a distinctive sweet and salty taste that pairs well with different seasonings like teriyaki or honey.

In conclusion, choosing the right type of meat for making jerky depends on personal preference, nutritional needs, and availability. Beef, turkey, venison, and salmon are popular options that offer unique taste profiles and health benefits. Whether you prefer a savory or sweet snack, there is a type of jerky out there for everyone.

Choosing the Right Meat

Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is a popular snack that has been enjoyed for centuries. When it comes to making beef jerky, the type of beef you use can make all the difference in the final product. Two popular cuts of beef for jerky are round and flank.

Round is a lean cut of beef that comes from the rear leg of the cow. It is a popular choice for jerky because it is low in fat and has a uniform texture that makes it easy to slice thinly. However, because it is so lean, it can be tough if not prepared properly. To ensure that your round beef jerky is tender, you may want to marinate it for several hours before drying it.

Flank is another popular choice for beef jerky. It is a long, thin cut of beef that comes from the abdominal muscles of the cow. Flank steak is known for its rich flavor and distinctive grain, which can add texture to your jerky. However, it is also a fattier cut of beef than round, which means that it may spoil more quickly if not stored properly.

When choosing the right beef for your jerky, it’s important to consider both the texture and the flavor profile you want to achieve. Round beef jerky will be leaner and more uniform, while flank beef jerky will have a richer flavor and more texture. Ultimately, the choice between these two cuts of beef will depend on your personal preferences and the recipe you are using.

Turkey Jerky

Turkey Jerky is a delicious and healthy snack that you can easily make at home with just a few simple ingredients. While beef jerky is the most popular variety, turkey jerky is a great alternative for those who want a lighter, leaner option.

When making turkey jerky, it’s important to choose the right cut of meat. The most common choices are turkey breast or thighs. Turkey breast is the leanest option, while turkey thighs have a slightly higher fat content and can be more flavorful.

To prepare the turkey for jerky, start by trimming off any excess fat and slicing the meat into thin strips. It’s important to slice against the grain, which will result in a tender and chewy texture.

For the marinade, there are endless options to choose from. A classic soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce combination works well, or you can experiment with different spices and flavors like honey, ginger, or chili powder. Let the turkey marinate in the mixture overnight, or for at least 6-8 hours, to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat.

When it comes to drying the turkey jerky, there are several methods you can use. An oven set to a low temperature is one option, but a dehydrator will give you the best results. If you don’t have either of these tools, you can also air dry the turkey jerky by hanging it in a well-ventilated area.

Once your turkey jerky is fully dried, it’s important to store it properly to maintain its freshness. Airtight containers or resealable bags work well, and you can keep the jerky in the fridge or freezer to extend its shelf life.

In conclusion, turkey jerky is a tasty and nutritious snack that you can enjoy anytime, anywhere. With some proper preparation and the right ingredients, you can easily make your own mouthwatering turkey jerky at home.

Venison Jerky

When it comes to jerky, beef often takes center stage. However, venison can make for a tasty and unique twist on this classic snack. Venison is the meat of a deer and can be quite gamey in flavor. This can be both a positive or negative attribute, depending on personal preference.

One benefit of using venison for jerky is that it is typically leaner than beef, making it a healthier option. When selecting venison for jerky, it is important to use cuts that are relatively free of connective tissue and fat. The hindquarters and backstraps are good options.

Before marinating the meat, many people prefer to remove the silverskin from the meat. Silverskin is the thin layer of connective tissue that can make the meat tough and difficult to chew. Removing the silverskin can result in a more tender jerky.

As mentioned earlier, venison has a distinct gamey flavor that some may find too strong. To combat this, many recipes call for using a sweeter marinade. For example, a mixture of soy sauce, honey, and brown sugar can help balance out the savory and gamey flavors.

When it comes to drying venison jerky, it is important to do so at a low temperature to prevent the meat from becoming too tough. A dehydrator set to 145°F is a good option, or an oven set to its lowest temperature with the door slightly cracked open.

Overall, while venison may not be as commonly used as beef when it comes to jerky, its unique flavor and health benefits make it a delicious and worthwhile option for any jerky enthusiast.

Preparing the Meat

Marinades and Seasonings

Marinades and Seasonings

Marinades and seasonings are crucial components in making delicious jerky. They not only add flavor to the meat but also help tenderize it, making it easier to eat. There are many different marinades and seasonings that you can use when making jerky, but some of the most popular ones include soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, and garlic powder.

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is a salty, savory liquid made from fermented soybeans. It is a common ingredient in Asian cuisine and is often used as a marinade for meat. Soy sauce helps to tenderize the meat by breaking down its proteins. It also adds an umami flavor to the jerky, which is a savory taste that is often described as “meaty” or “brothy.”

Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce is a tangy, flavorful sauce that is commonly used in Western cuisine. It is made from vinegar, molasses, anchovies, and various spices. Worcestershire sauce adds a unique flavor to the jerky and helps to tenderize the meat. It also contains natural preservatives, which can help to extend the shelf life of the jerky.

Black Pepper

Black pepper is a versatile spice that can be used in many different dishes. It adds heat and depth of flavor to the jerky and complements the other ingredients in the marinade or seasoning. Black pepper also has antimicrobial properties, which can help to prevent the growth of bacteria and other harmful microorganisms in the jerky.

Garlic Powder

Garlic powder is a dried form of garlic that is commonly used in cooking. It adds a pungent, slightly sweet flavor to the jerky and is often used in combination with other seasoning ingredients. Garlic powder also has antimicrobial properties and can help to preserve the jerky.

When using marinades and seasonings, it is important to experiment with different combinations to find the flavors that work best for you. Start with a basic recipe and adjust the amounts of each ingredient to your liking. You can also add other ingredients such as honey, brown sugar, or red pepper flakes to create unique flavor profiles.

Overall, marinades and seasonings are essential components in making delicious jerky. They not only add flavor but also help to tenderize and preserve the meat. Experiment with different ingredients and have fun creating your own unique recipes.

Slicing the Meat

When it comes to making jerky, slicing the meat is a crucial step in achieving the right texture and flavor. There are two important factors to consider: thickness and the direction of the cut, with or against the grain.

Thickness plays a significant role in determining the texture of your jerky. If you slice the meat too thin, it can become brittle and crumbly when dried. On the other hand, if it’s too thick, it will take longer to dry and may result in an uneven texture. The ideal thickness for jerky is around 1/8 to 1/4 inch.

The direction of the cut also affects the texture of the finished product. Cutting with the grain means slicing parallel to the muscle fibers. This results in a softer, chewier jerky but can be more difficult to slice. Cutting against the grain means slicing perpendicular to the muscle fibers, which results in a more tender and easy-to-chew jerky.

So which direction should you cut? It depends on the type of meat you’re using. For tougher cuts like beef, cutting against the grain can help break up the tough muscle fibers and make the jerky more tender. For leaner cuts like turkey or chicken, cutting with the grain can help add some chewiness and texture to the finished product.

To sum up, when slicing your meat, aim for a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 inch and consider the direction of the cut based on the type of meat you’re using. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to making delicious homemade jerky.

Drying the Jerky

Oven Method

Oven Method

One of the easiest ways to make jerky at home is by using your oven. It’s a simple and effective method that yields great results if done right. In this section, we’ll go over the steps involved in making jerky in the oven.


The first thing you need to consider when making jerky in the oven is the temperature. The optimal temperature for making jerky in the oven is between 140°F and 160°F (60°C and 70°C). This temperature range is low enough to dry out the meat without cooking it, which is important if you want to preserve the flavor and texture of the meat.

You can use an oven thermometer to ensure that the temperature inside your oven stays consistent throughout the drying process. It’s important to note that every oven is different, so you may need to adjust the temperature slightly depending on your oven’s performance.


The next thing to consider is the drying time. The drying time can vary depending on the thickness of the meat and the temperature of the oven. Generally, it takes around 4-6 hours to dry jerky in the oven. However, you should check the jerky regularly to make sure it doesn’t overcook.

To check if the jerky is done, take a piece and bend it. If it bends easily without breaking, it’s not done yet. If it cracks or breaks, it’s too dry and overcooked. The ideal texture should be firm and chewy, but not hard.

Tips for Making Jerky in the Oven

  1. Use lean cuts of meat – Fat can spoil quickly and affect the quality of the jerky.
  2. Slice the meat evenly – This helps ensure that the jerky dries uniformly.
  3. Marinate the meat – A good marinade can help enhance the flavor of the jerky.
  4. Use a wire rack – Placing the meat on a wire rack helps air circulate around the meat, allowing it to dry more evenly.
  5. Rotate the trays – If you’re using multiple trays in your oven, rotate them every hour or so to ensure that they dry evenly.

By following these tips and techniques, you can make delicious jerky in your oven with ease. Once you’ve made your first batch, you’ll find it hard to go back to store-bought jerky!

Dehydrator Method

Dehydrator Method

Using a dehydrator is one of the most popular ways to make jerky at home. It’s a simple and effective method that gives you consistent results every time. Here’s how to do it:


The first step is to set the temperature on your dehydrator. This will depend on the make and model of your machine, but most dehydrators have a temperature range of 125-160°F (52-71°C). For jerky, you want to aim for a temperature of around 145°F (63°C).

Why this temperature? Well, at 145°F, the heat is high enough to kill off any bacteria or pathogens that might be present in the meat. But it’s not so high that it cooks the meat, which would defeat the purpose of making jerky. Cooking the meat would dry it out, but it wouldn’t give it that chewy texture that we all love.


Once you’ve set the temperature, it’s time to load up your dehydrator with the meat. Make sure that the slices are evenly spaced and not touching each other. This will allow the air to circulate freely and ensure that everything dries properly.

Now, the length of time that you’ll need to leave your jerky in the dehydrator will depend on a few factors. The thickness of your slices, the humidity of your environment, and the temperature of your dehydrator will all play a role. As a general rule, though, you can expect your jerky to take anywhere from 4-8 hours to dry.

To check if your jerky is done, simply take a piece out of the dehydrator and let it cool for a few minutes. Then, try to bend it. If it bends without breaking, it’s not quite ready yet. If it breaks, it’s overdone. You want it to be somewhere in between – pliable, but not too soft.

In conclusion, the dehydrator method is a reliable and easy way to make jerky at home. By setting the temperature to 145°F and drying the meat for 4-8 hours, you can create delicious, chewy jerky that will last for weeks. Experiment with different marinades and seasonings to find your perfect flavor. Happy dehydrating!

Air Drying Method

Air Drying Method

Jerky can also be made by air drying the meat, which is a traditional method used by Native Americans. This method involves hanging the seasoned and sliced meat strips in a well-ventilated area to allow for natural air circulation. The process takes longer than using an oven or dehydrator, but it produces a unique and rustic flavor that cannot be replicated with modern appliances.

One of the most important factors to consider when air drying jerky is the humidity level. High humidity can lead to mold growth on the meat, ruining the batch and making it unsafe to eat. It’s best to choose a dry climate for this method and avoid days with high humidity levels.

Temperature is also a critical factor in air drying jerky. Ideally, the temperature should be between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything cooler will slow down the drying process, while anything warmer can cause the meat to spoil. In some cases, it may be necessary to use a fan to increase airflow and reduce moisture buildup.

When air drying jerky, it’s essential to keep a close eye on the meat to ensure it’s not spoiling. The process can take anywhere from two to four days, depending on the thickness of the meat and the humidity level. The jerky should be ready when it’s dry and brittle, with no signs of moisture. It’s important to properly store the jerky in an airtight container to maintain its freshness.

Overall, the air drying method is a great way to make homemade jerky with a unique flavor profile. It requires patience and attention to detail, but the end result is well worth the effort. By controlling the humidity and temperature, you can produce high-quality jerky that will satisfy your taste buds and impress your friends and family.

Storing Jerky

Properly storing your homemade jerky is crucial to ensure it stays fresh and safe to eat for as long as possible. Here are some tips on how to store your jerky:

Storage: Store your jerky in an airtight container to prevent moisture and air from getting in. This will help maintain its texture and flavor. Ziplock bags, mason jars, and vacuum-sealed bags are all good options.

Container: When choosing a container, make sure it’s clean and dry. Glass or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids work best. Avoid using paper bags or cardboard boxes, as they can absorb moisture and cause the jerky to spoil faster.

Shelf life: The shelf life of jerky varies depending on several factors, such as the type of meat used and the storage conditions. Generally, homemade jerky can last up to 2 weeks at room temperature and up to 6 months in the freezer. However, it’s important to check the jerky regularly for signs of spoilage, such as mold or an off odor.

It’s also a good idea to label your jerky with the date it was made so you can keep track of its freshness. If you’re planning to store your jerky for an extended period of time, consider vacuum sealing it or storing it in the freezer to extend its shelf life.

By following these simple guidelines, you can ensure that your homemade jerky stays fresh and delicious for as long as possible.
In conclusion, making jerky at home is a great way to enjoy a delicious and healthy snack. With the right meat, seasoning, and drying method, you can create a variety of jerky flavors that will satisfy your taste buds. Whether you prefer beef, turkey, venison, or salmon, there’s a type of jerky for everyone.

By taking the time to prepare and dry your own jerky, you’ll not only save money but also have control over the ingredients and nutrition of your snack. Plus, it’s a fun and rewarding activity to do with friends and family.

So next time you’re in the mood for a savory treat, try making your own jerky! With this guide, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a jerky-making expert.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button