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How to Make Jerky
by Susan Brewer
Muscles from the round or leg are most often
used. It is recommended that muscles be removed
from the carcass and made into jerky the day after the
kill to prevent unnecessary bacterial growth.
However, aged meat can be used. Meat which has
been frozen and thawed can also be used
Freezing meat for a month before jerky is made
insures that it will be free from live parasites which
are sometimes found in game meat. In order to have
freshly made jerky during the year, many people
freeze meat which is to be made into jerky. The meat
is then thawed in small quantities and made into jerky
as it is needed.
Meat should be trimmed of fat and connective
tissue and then cut into strips 1/2 inch thick, 1 inch
wide, and up to a foot in length. Cut with (not
across) the grain. Small muscles, one or two inches
in diameter, are often separated and made into jerky
without being cut into strips. These thicker pieces of
meat take longer to absorb the sale and seasonings
and longer to dry, but with these exceptions, no
changes in the jerky recipes need be made. Some
recipes call for drying jerky in the sun. Because of
sanitation problems this method is not recommended.
If sun drying is used, the jerky should be cut into
strips 1/4 inch thick or less.
Slicing of meat to be used for strip jerky is best
accomplished when meat is slightly frozen. Slice 1/8"
or 1/4" thick with the grain (parallel) of the meat.
Ground meat of less than 20% fat should be used for
hamburger jerky (if you have wild meat processed,
use ground meat with no fat added for jerky).
Strip jerky is usually marinated
in a solution of
spices for 2 to 12 hours to enhance flavor; seasonings
are "kneaded" into ground meat jerky then mixture is
allowed to stand for 1 hour for flavors to mix. Strips
may be dried either on a rack or tray or hung over
the rungs of the oven rack with a pan below to catch
drippings. Ground meat mixture is spread 1/4" thick
by placing mixture between two sheets of waxed paper
and rolling with a rolling pin to a uniform thickness.
Top layer of waxed paper is then removed and meat
on lower layer is placed on try. Trays or strips are
placed in oven at 140-150ºF to dry until brittle,
strip jerky should be turned occasionally and drip
pans should be emptied.
Cooled jerky should be stored
in airtight containers in the refrigerator.
Color of the finished jerky ranges from a light
brown to black. Color variations depend upon the
recipe used, the species of animal, and the age of the
animal. The latter two factors are related to the
myoglobin concentration in fresh meat. Myoglobin is
the pigment in meat responsible for color. Higher
levels of myoglobin result in darker colored jerky.
A Jerky Maker's Check List
- Use fresh lean meat that is free of fat and connective
- Slice the meat with the grain, not crosswise.
- Add the correct amount of seasoning. If you do not have a
scale, use approximate equivalent measures
jerky recipes as shown in Table 1.
- Cure the meat the correct length of time at refrigerator
temperatures. Salted meat should be placed in
wooden, stainless steel or stone containers.
- Keep the drying or smoking temperature in the smokehouse or
oven at 120ºF or below (use a
thermometer). Gas ovens usually maintain the proper temperature
when the pilot light alone is on.
- If an oven is used, line the sides and bottom with aluminum
foil to catch the drippings. Open the door
first or second stop to allow moisture to escape and to lower the
oven temperature when necessary.
- Use any hardwood for smoking. Do not use pine, fir or
- Remove the jerky from the smokehouse or oven before it gets
too hard for your taste. Five pounds of
should weigh approximately 2 pounds after drying or smoking.
- Store jerky in clean jars or plastic bags, or wrap it in
freezer paper and freeze it. Although jerky will last
indefinitely at any temperature, its quality deteriorates after a
- Seasonings and smoking or drying times can be altered to
suit individual tastes. Examples of spices which
be added to 5 pounds of meat in the previous recipes include: 2
tablespoons chili powder, 2 tablespoons
powder, 2 tablespoons onion powder, 1 teaspoon ginger, 2
tablespoons coriander or 1 teaspoon all spice.
Simple Dry Cured Jerky
- Prepare 5 pounds of meat as described above (1/2 x
1 inch strips).
- Spread out meat and sprinkle on 2 ounces salt (3
tablespoons), 0.08 ounces ground pepper (1 teaspoon)
and 1 ounce sugar (2 tablespoons).
- Put the meat in a pan or dish and let is stand 24
hours in a refrigerator.
- The strips of meat may be dipped in liquid smoke 1-2
seconds for added flavor or this step may be skipped.
- Spread out meat in the top half of a kitchen oven on
a rack to dry. Open the oven door to the first or
second stop. Heat at 120ºF (lowest
temperature) for 48 hours or until the desired dryness
is reached. Use an oven thermometer to make sure
the oven does not get hotter than 120ºF.
Higher temperatures result in hard, brittle jerky that
crumbles when it is eaten.
- 1 1/2 lb. lean meat, partially frozen
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 1/2 c soy sauce
- 1 tsp pepper or seasoned pepper
- 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- Liquid smoke (if desired)
Remove all visible fat, slice meat 1/8" to 1/4" thick
with the grain. Mix soy sauce, worcestershire, salt
and pepper. Marinate meat 2 to 12 hours. Lay strips
over oven rack rungs or on cookie sheets. Brush with
liquid smoke. Dry for 5 to 12 hours at 140°F-
150ºF until meat is hard and brittle. Pat off
any oil beads with paper towel. Store refrigerated in
an airtight container.
- 1 1/2 lb. extra lean ground beef (20% fat or
- 1/4 c soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp garlic salt
- 1/2 cup Teriyaki sauce
- 1/2 tsp pepper
Mix all ingredients and "knead" well. Allow to stand 1 hour in
refrigerator. Spread wax paper on
flat surface. Divide mix into thirds. Place ball of mixture on
waxed paper. cover with another sheet of waxed paper
and roll to 1/4" thick with rolling pin. Remove top sheet of waxed
paper and place meat mixture on tray. Dry
at 140-150ºF until dry and brittle. Store refrigerated.
|Table 1. Seasoning Amounts|
||10.5 ounces (298 grams) = 1 cup|
|8.0 ounces (227 grams) = 3/4 cup|
|2.0 ounces (57 grams) = 3 level tablespoons|
||5.0 ounces (141 grams) = 2/3 cup|
|3.5 ounces (100 grams) = 1/2 cup|
|1.0 ounce (28 grams) = 2 level tablespoons||Ground Spices
||0.5 ounce (14.3 grams) = 2 level tablespoons
|0.08 ounce (2.4 grams) = 1 level teaspoon|
- Field, R.A., 1970. How to Make Jerky. Ag
- Bulletin B-586R. University of Wyoming,
- Laramie, WY.
- Field, R.A., 1973. Aging Big
Game, Ag Extension
- Bulletin B-513R. University of Wyoming, Laramie,
- Gaida, U. and Marchello, M. 1987. "Going Wild. A
- to Field Dressing, Butchering, Sausage-
- Making, and Cooking Wild Game and Fish.
- Watab Marketing, Inc.: Sartell, MN.
- This document is EHE-733, a publication of the
Cooperative Extension Service of the University
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
- Susan Brewer, Ph.D., Foods and Nutrition Specialist,
Illinois Cooperative Extension, University of Illinois
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