When deer hunting season is over and done with, many hunters end up with tons of venison that they won’t be able to get through before it spoils. Instead of throwing it out and wasting it, making deer jerky is the one of the best ways to preserve the meat (also consider making pemmican).
Jerky is basically salted and dried meat. The combination of salt and lack of moisture help to inhibit bacterial growth. Jerky is a healthy, high nutrition snack that is great to keep around. Below are a few tips for making jerky as well as some tasty recipe ideas to get creative with your snack.
Dehydrator, Oven, or Smoker?
Deer jerky can be made with several methods. Basically, all methods are low temperature. The meet is not cooked, per se, rather dried out. The process of drying must be done quickly to ensure as little bacterial growth as possible. The main requirements are a constant temperature and airflow.
Below are the most common methods for drying deer jerky.
Dehydrators are machines made especially for the process of making jerky. The machine works by producing heat and maintaining a constant airflow. The heat causes the water to evaporate out of the deer meat and the airflow blows out the moisture. The process takes a few hours and the dehydrator must be plugged in during the cooking process depending on its power source.
As far as benefits, dehydrators are probably the easiest to use out of all jerky methods. This is because they are automatically able to maintain temperature and airflow, while other methods require a little more attention. This is easily the most hands off method.
Dehydrators can also be used for other foods apart from jerky, such as fruits. They can also be bought in solar forms or other alternative power sources, which can make them both portable and environmentally friendly.
However, this is probably the most expensive method of making deer jerky as it requires buying a specialized machine. They can also be difficult to clean at times due to their specific trays and compartments.
Oven deer jerky is made by using a normal house oven that everyone has in the kitchen. The oven must be preheated to at least 155 degrees before the jerky is placed inside (lower is better, but 155 is a minimum). A thermometer should be used to check the temperature just to make sure.
The oven should have a fan as well in order to keep airflow constant. The meat is either placed in a tray or set directly on the grills and left to cook throughout the day. Portable ovens can also be used, but this is generally not recommended due to the extended amount of time required to make jerky.
The most obvious benefit of using an oven is its accessibility; every house has an oven. The process of making venison jerky in and oven is also easy and straight forward. Most ovens can also reliably keep their temperatures constant. The oven also cooks any marinade into the meat the best because the heat source is applied directly to the meat.
However, the downside is that the oven has to have a fan to remove the moisture from the air while the meat is being cooked. If a fan is not available, the oven door may be propped open to allow the air to escape. Cooking will take up to four hours and constant attention will be necessary if the door is left open.
Using a smoker is probably the most creative way to make deer jerky. Smoking foods also has an added benefit of preserving the food that is being smoked. Most smoking methods consist of building a specialized structure outside the house.
A long burning wood is placed inside the smoker. The amount of wood used determines the temperature of the smoker. The smoke is allowed to run through the top of the smoker, where a vent is placed to allow the smoke to escape.
The main plus side of using the smoking method is that it adds the flavor of the wood that is being burned. This really helps the flavor profile of the meat and will lead to a more satisfying snack. Smoking also aids in the preservation of the meat as the smoke will kill bacteria living inside it.
Finally, smoking can be done while camping given the fact that there is usually an ample supply of wood and the structure can be built on site or brought with the campers. This makes smokers especially handy for extended camping trips.
However, this process requires a structure that must be built with specific instructions. It is also a difficult skill to maintain a constant temperature within the smoker at all times. This method generally means a lot of trial and error is going to be used to make the perfect batch of deer jerky.
Deer Jerky Recipes
The following are some popular recipes for cooking deer jerky, or venison jerky. For all recipes, you should cut the venison into strips before marinating. The amount of time for marinating depends on the marinade.
Teriyaki Venison Jerky
One of the most popular flavorings for jerky, teriyaki is a soy sauce based style of marinating jerky for a sweet and tangy taste. You simply prepare the marinade by mixing the ingredients listed below and coat the meat with the sauce. Leave the coated meat in the fridge, covered, for at least 8 hours and up to one day.
- 10 oz. Soy Sauce
- 1 cup Brown Sugar
- 1 cup Burgundy Wine
- ½ tsp. Garlic Powder
- ½ tsp. Cayenne Pepper
- ½ tsp. Onion Powder
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp. Pepper
Steak Sauce Deer Jerky
This is a perfect barbecue flavoring for deer jerky. This recipe requires the longest preparation, as it needs at least 36 hours to marinade, or 72 hours for maximum flavor.
- 1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
- 1 tsp. Cumin
- 2 tsp. Garlic Powder
- 1 tablespoon Steak Sauce of Choice
- 8 tsp. Salt
- 2 tsp. Black Pepper
Spicy Venison Jerky
Spicy jerky is great for someone who will want a bite with their jerky. The marinade should be left on the venison strips overnight before cooking, or about 6 to 8 hours.
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce (optional)
- 2 tablespoons Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Salt
- 1 tsp. Red Pepper
- 2 Cloves of Garlic or 1 tsp. Dehydrated Garlic (Leave in vinegar for 2 minutes to allow the garlic to rehydrate before marinating)
- 2 tsp. Cayenne pepper (or any other type of pepper)
- 1 cup Water
This jerky marinade is reminiscent of flavors of the Wild West. It is especially good when cooked with a smoker. The meat should be left in the refrigerator for at a day, at most, or 12 to 24 hours.
- 1 tablespoon Salt
- 2 tablespoons Muscovado or Brown Sugar
- 2 tsp. Garlic Powder or 1 tsp. Dehydrated Garlic
- 2 tsp. Ginger Powder
- 2 tsp. Black Pepper
- 1 cup Orange Juice
- 2 Cups Cold Water
Zesty Deer Jerky
This is a classic marinade recipe for those jerky lovers who like the taste of zesty jerky. This flavor is closest to store bought jerky, but will taste even better! The strips should marinade overnight, or 4 to 8 hours. The meat should be kneaded every two hours to allow the marinade to soak into the meat.
- 4 tablespoons Soy Sauce
- 4 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Ketchup
- ¼ tsp. Black Pepper
- ¼ tsp. Garlic Powder
- ¼ tsp. Onion Salt (or powdered onion)
- ½ tsp. Salt