Venison Jerky

There are as many jerky recipes as there are people making jerky. This basic recipe is great “as is” but also a fine platform for tinkering.

Play around with the recipe all you want, but two rules should be followed:
  • Keep the ratio of salt and soy sauce to meat accurate
  • If you dry your jerky in a smoker, use a cure.
In anything other than a smoker you can safely omit the cure — though many people prefer the taste of cured jerky.

Cure is found under multiple names. A couple are “Prague Powder #1” or “Instacure #1”. They may be available from your butcher but are easily found online.  No matter what the name, cure is a pinkish 1:16 salt/Sodium nitrite mixture (6.25% sodium nitrite).

Some recipes just call it “pink salt” but don’t get confused — that term is also used nowadays for salt mined in the Himalayan mountains, which naturally bears a pink color but is NOT a cure.

This recipe works equally well with ground or sliced venison.  If substituting domestic meat, use only lean cuts.  When slicing, try to make the thickness as consistent as you can.  I prefer 3/8″, which is a bit on the thick side and takes longer to dry.  I think 1/4″ is more normal, some try for 1/8″.

Many cuts will work but I find round roasts are the best.  Trim the meat well before slicing.  Traditionally jerky is sliced with the grain, but you can always slice against the grain if you prefer your jerky crumbly rather than chewy.  Of course ground venison works great too and people love it, but I prefer the traditional whole muscle.

            >>   Hover here for the USDA position on safe jerky processing   <<
(Excerpted from the USDA “Jerky and Food Safety” document)

Illnesses due to Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 from homemade jerky raise questions about the safety of traditional drying methods for making beef and venison jerky. The USDA … recommendation for making jerky safely is to heat meat to 160 °F and poultry to 165 °F before the dehydrating process. This step assures that any bacteria present will be destroyed by wet heat. But most dehydrator instructions do not include this step, and a dehydrator may not reach temperatures high enough to heat meat to 160 °F or 165 °F.

After heating to 160 °F or 165 °F, maintaining a constant dehydrator temperature of [no less than] 130 to 140 °F during the drying process is important because:

the process must be fast enough to dry food before it spoils; and it must remove enough water that microorganisms are unable to grow. Why is it a food safety concern to dry meat without first heating it to 160 °F?

The danger in dehydrating meat and poultry without cooking it to a safe temperature first is that the appliance will not heat the meat to 160 °F and poultry to 165 °F — temperatures at which bacteria are destroyed — before the dehydrating process. After drying, bacteria become much more heat resistant.

Within a dehydrator or low-temperature oven, evaporating moisture absorbs most of the heat. Thus, the meat itself does not begin to rise in temperature until most of the moisture has evaporated. Therefore, when the dried meat temperature finally begins to rise, the bacteria have become more heat resistant and are more likely to survive. If these surviving bacteria are pathogenic, they can cause foodborne illness to those consuming the jerky.
Print Recipe
Venison Jerky Yum
Course Side dish
Cuisine Adaptable, American
lbs meat
Course Side dish
Cuisine Adaptable, American
lbs meat
  1. Mix ingredients except meat well in a glass, plastic or glazed crockery bowl.
  2. Add the meat and mix. With sliced meat take care to see that all meat surfaces get covered. This can take a little manipulation.
  3. Cover and store in the fridge from 1-3 days. Mix a little a couple of times a day.
  4. Place meat on the drying racks of your smoker or dehydrator. If using an oven try a cooling rack. If using ground meats you may want to use a tool designed to extrude the jerky into uniform thickness and width, or into round "snack stick" shape.
  5. Dry in either a smoker, a dehydrator, or a low oven with the door slightly propped open. Use only dehydrators with a fan and a thermostat. For safe processing, start with 160°F until all the meat has come up to that temperature - an hour should be plenty. Then drop to 150°F and dry until it is has a firm texture, but before it cracks when bent. The time varies widely depending on humidity, thickness, and your smoker or dehydrator. 4-8 hours is typical. Check it periodically.
  6. If there is any fat pooled on the surface, pat the pieces dry with a paper towel while still warm. Let cool before packaging.
  7. Jerky can be stored long term in many ways. Best is refrigerated in a sealed jar or plastic bag.
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2 Replies to “Venison Jerky”

  1. Your the best site out there for recipes .I found u a few years ago and corned a bunch of my venison.I just turned a bunch of hunting buddies on to you..I dropped a nice 8 yesterday can’t wait to brine. I also pickled the shank meat and smaller pieces w/silverskin and smoked em Cubed there a big hit.

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