Flavor-Your-Own Jerky

From the Recipe Book: Smoke It!

3 pounds beef or venison, cut into strips
1 quart water
1/4 cup tender quick or curing salt
1/4 cup white sugar
2-4 tablespoons seasoning blend of choice
2 teaspoons liquid smoke, optional


Jerky is not an exact science. Jerky can be soft, hard, sweet, salty, full of exotic flavors or basic. There are endless ways to make jerky. In this section you will find tried and true recipes using a variety of flavorings and meats.

Cutting Jerky-Cut to desired size.

When slicing meat for jerky, the traditional cut is in strips that go with the grain. For an easy to chew cut, meat can be sliced across the grain. Roasts can be sliced to make a circular piece of jerky or steaks can be cut into strips. Only the size of your smoker is a factor in how long your jerky pieces are cut. Keep in mind that thinly slicing meat will result in a dryer and possibly crisper end product. Thickly sliced meat will usually need to be finished in the oven or food dehydrator for proper preservation. The joy of making your own jerky is that you can cut the meat just how you prefer it.

Brining Jerky-In a large bowl mix until salts and sugars dissolve.

In preparing any brine, it’s best done in a vessel that won’t transmit foul tastes. Glass, crockery or plastic containers work well, as do stainless steel bowls. Wood and aluminum bowls, when exposed to ingredients in some brines, undergo a chemical reaction and may taint meat. Always discard brine after one use.

Soaking Jerky-Soak in the refrigerator 8-12 hours.

Unless you have a very cool place in the house to soak, meat should be refrigerated during the brining process if it is recommended to last more than a few hours. Unless specifically stated in a recipe, do not rinse brine off meat before putting on smoker racks.

Loading Jerky-Place on smoker racks.

Keep smoker racks clean and free of debris. Give them a light coating of cooking spray before each use. When placing meat on smoker racks, take care to keep adequate space between each piece. Foods should never be touching during the smoking process. Once you know the hot spots in your smoker, place thicker cuts nearest to those spots. If additional flavors are desired, sprinkle or spray these on at this time while the meat is moist. Let meat air dry 15 minutes to an hour to keep drips to a minimum in your smoker.

Smoking Jerky-Smoke 3-6 hours, check often.

Follow smoking directions for your smoker. Cooking times vary greatly, depending on make and model of smoker and outside weather conditions. Try to keep the temperature of the smoker between 150º and 200º. Check for doneness after 3 hours.

Finishing Jerky

Larger cuts of jerky can be finished on a baking sheet in the oven at 165º, check every 15 minutes. When jerky is done, place in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool. This will allow the jerky to reabsorb moisture, making it softer. Refrigerate immediately once cooled.

Storing Jerky

Keep refrigerated or freeze if storing for an extended period of time. Vacuum sealing is a great way to preserve jerky for long periods of time. Smoke flavors hold up well and jerky can be enjoyed year-round.