Deer Jerky

Slice it, season it and dry it. That's what it takes to turn your venison into tasty deer jerky that'll make everybody happy. And whether you like it mild, hot, or with a touch of that good ol' garlic, there's a jerky recipe that will fit the bill.

Slicing Venison For Jerky

Venison can be sliced along the grain or across the it's done depends on the jerky maker's preference.

When sliced across the grain, it's easier to bite off a piece of the deer jerky, and it's easier to chew. The downside to some is that the dried jerky tends to break apart, so it loses some of its visual appeal. Important if you're showing off.

Sliced along the grain, the jerky looks great and retains its shape, but it can be rather chewy, depending on how tough the cut of meat was and how the jerky was dried.

It's important that the venison slices are cut to the same thickness. One-quarter inch is standard, however some like it thicker, and some like it thinner. The uniform slices will dry evenly, and should all finish drying at about the same time.

To simplify slicing the meat, partially freeze it before cutting it into strips. If you make a LOT of deer jerky, a manual or electric jerky slicer will make the job a lot easier.

Sliced Venison Jerky Recipes

Take a look at these pages for some jerky recipe ideas...

Venison Jerky Recipes

Chili Head's Jerky Recipe

Seasoning The Jerky

Some deer jerky recipes call for a liquid marinade...others use a dry seasoning mix. Salt, sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, spices, herbs, and more are common ingredients of marinades and dry jerky seasoning mixes.

When using liquid marinade, the venison is usually soaked overnight. Some jerky recipes call for a longer soak, up to two or three the refrigerator, of course. The marinade adds flavor and improves the texture.

Jerky can also be seasoned with dry seasoning mixes. An overnight rest in the fridge will allow the flavor of the jerky seasoning to be absorbed into the meat. This type of deer jerky will dry in a shorter time than marinated jerky.

Drying The Deer Jerky

The jerky can be dried in a smoker, an oven, or in a food dehydrator. The thickness of the venison, the temperature, the humidity, and how it was prepared all effect the drying time.

When drying jerky in a dehydrator, follow the manufacturers instructions, or just check the jerky every time you rotate the trays. Rotating the trays every hour will ensure that the jerky dries evenly.

Oven drying is easy. The jerky can be arranged on a cookie sheet to dry, or it can be hung from the upper rack, using a toothpick in one end of each strip. Make sure to place some foil on the lower rack to catch the drips. Set the oven temperature at 170-200 degrees Fahrenheit, and leave the door cracked open a couple of inches to allow the moisture to escape. On average, it will take four to six hours to dry the jerky in an oven.

When drying in your smoker, keep the temperature close to 150 degrees. Lightly smoke jerky, because the thin venison strips can easily get too smoky and become bitter tasting. Drying times can vary from smoker to smoker. Plan on four to eight hours when using a smoker to dry your deer jerky.

How to Dry Deer Jerky offers a detailed look at drying venison jerky in a dehydrator and in an oven.

USDA Warning

The United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service warns that red meat should reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit before it's dehydrated, and poultry should be brought up to 165 degrees.

Wet heat is what kills bacteria. Dry heat won't do it. If the jerky slowly dries at 150 degrees, the bacteria won't be killed. After drying, the jerky temperature could be increased to over 160 degrees, and the bacteria still wouldn't be destroyed. Dry heat does not kill bacteria.

The USDA's article, Food Safety of Jerky, provides good information that will help you make safe jerky.

When Is Jerky Done?

To determine if the jerky is done, let a piece cool, then bend it. It should start to break, but it should not snap apart. When the meat fibers at the edges break, and the center is still pliable, it's just right.

Meat Substitutions

You don't have to stick to just making homemade deer jerky. Just about any red meat can used with the jerky recipes on this site. Elk, bison, and beef are all perfect candidates for the dehydrator, as is wild goose meat. Don't make jerky out of pork, chicken, or turkey unless it's thoroughly cooked first.

If you have a great deer jerky recipe that you'd like to share, send it in to Use the recipe submission form , and your favorite jerky recipe will be published online at

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