Making jerky at home is a very simple process that requires very little equipment. While there are numerous items on the market geared towards Jerky making, very few of them are necessary. Commercial seasoning kits are readily available, and some of them can be quite good, however homemade recipes are relatively simple to make and there are an abundance of them out there.
Am I the only person who thinks that “Cajun Blend” and “Authentic Wyoming Recipe” is, at best, ironic and, at worst, bad marketing??
What you need to make Jerky at home:
- Oven, Smoker, or food dehydrator.
- Refrigerator or Cooler
- Non metallic containers (Tupperware, Freezer bags , plastic or glass bowl + plastic wrap
- Uncoated wire racks (commercial Jerky rack or a cheap trip to the hardware store)
While it is possible to make Jerky from ground venison, doing whole muscle cuts is the simplest and most traditional way. I personally find whole muscle cuts to be the most aesthetic jerky. To make whole muscle cuts, simply start with a Venison steak and trim, with the grain, very thin slices. This ain’t a beauty pageant nor is there a prize for consistently sized pieces. If you are using commercial Jerky seasoning, mix the cure and seasoning according to the directions. From here it is the simple matter of thoroughly coating the meat and placing in a airtight container for 24 hours.
If you are intending to use the oven, you will need to prop the door open to allow for drying. The best tool for this task is a beer can. Set your oven to its lowest setting, 150 to 200 degrees Farenheiht is fine, anything over 225 F is not recommended. (just use your oven’s lowest setting). If you are using a smoker, get the temperature settled at 150 F (cold smoking) before adding the meat. Allow the meat to dry until it is brittle enough to snap in half. This could be anywhere from 5 to 12 hours. I start checking every half hour or so after about 5 hours. Note that if you are using a smoker, it is difficult (depending on your setup and skill level) to maintain low temperatures for an extended period of time. After the first 3 hours, the desired smoke flavor should be accomplished, so you could, at this point, move to a oven or dehydrator. Also note that depending on your setup and skill level, and the amount of jerky, this drying process could take as long as 72 hours in a smoker.
If you wish to make your own cure, there are plenty of recipes out there. Here is a good one to work with. My friend Robert brought this one with him up from Florida. I have no idea of the origins.
5 lbs Venison
3/4 cup Soy Sauce
3/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce
2 tsp Black Pepper
8 cloves Garlic – Pressed
1/2 tsp Powdered Onion
2 tsp Nutmeg
2 tsp Ginger
1 – 2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 Tbs Dark Brown Molasses
2 Tbs Raw Sugar
1/2 bottle of Chipotle Tabasco
3 capfuls of Meat Tenderizer
- Heat the ingredients to melt the sugar and infuse the ingredients, however, do not bring them to a boil as the mixture will burn. Heat just enough to melt all the ingredients together.
- Place the mixture in the freezer to cool, then add the meat.
- Cover and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours
Darker color of whole muscle Jerky made without Sodium Nitrate. The darker color appears to be the only distinguishable difference. However, Jerky made with Sodium Nitrate will have an extended shelf life. If you intend to store your jerky for long periods of time, this may be a option to consider, however, it is still likely overkill. I tend to make my jerky more on a “as needed” basis. By “as needed”, I mean “I’m going rabbit hunting this weekend, so I need to make some jerky”, or, “I need to make some Jerky for the fast approaching Spring Turkey season.” You will know if your Jerky turns as it wil have funky mold. Alton Brown suggest ssomething in the neighborhood of 30-40 years and that’s without a nitrate. You should be fine.
Here is Alton Brown’s jerky recipe.