Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Cooking and Produce
Making Delicious Jerky at Home
Karma Metzgar, C.F.C.S. Former Northwest Regional Nutrition Specialist, Nodaway County Extension Center, University of Missouri Extension
If you have hunters in the family who bring home deer, a
lightweight way to preserve meat is drying it into jerky.
Or, if you want homemade jerky year round, purchase lean
beef roasts or loins, slice thinly and you’re a day away
from delicious jerky! How?
Here are some steps to follow to insure a delicious batch
Make jerky from meat that has not been in contact with
fecal matter. When using home-slaughtered meat, be sure to
dress the deer properly and cool the carcass quickly. Hold
it at temperatures between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Missouri weather often is not reliable to maintain this
temperature in deer season. Hold deer meat in a
refrigerator or freezer to reduce risk of growing colonies
of harmful bacteria.
The best jerky comes from leaner cuts of meat. Trim
excess fat off since it can turn rancid and spoil the jerky.
Partially freeze the meat to make slicing easier. Slice off
strips that are no more than 1/4-inch (one-fourth) thick and
1 1/4-inch (one and one-fourth) wide by several inches long.
Four pounds of raw meat dries down to about one pound of
Once your meat is sliced, place in a shallow pan and
cover with the following homemade marinade for Western
Jerky. This recipe is from the extension guide, How to
Dry Foods at Home (GH 1563) and can be viewed online at:
In our own in-home taste test with a 4-H food preservation
project, the Western Jerky recipe was always a favorite of
For each pound of meat, you will need to mix in a small
bowl: ½ (one-half) teaspoon salt, ¼ (one-fourth) teaspoon
freshly ground or seasoned pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder,
1 teaspoon onion powder, 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce,
and 2 tablespoons Liquid smoke. I like to use a plastic bag
for the bowl, adding the meat and shaking well to evenly
coat the meat. Cover container or close bag containing the
meat and marinate in refrigerator 6 to 12 hours or
To decrease the risk of food-borne illness, a new
procedure recommended is to heat the meat strips after
marinating. Boil the mixture for 5 minutes. Use a metal
stem-type thermometer to make sure the internal temperature
of the strips has reached 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Drain and
Now you are ready to begin the drying process. Missouri
has high humidity and changing temperatures so a dehydrator
or oven is recommended for drying. Drying meat outside
cannot insure that meat will be dried well enough to be
safely stored at room temperature.
Place marinated strips on drying racks without
overlapping the meat. Dry in a 140 degree Fahrenheit
dehydrator oven. Check samples for doneness beginning after
3 hours. When it is done, jerky will crack but not break. No
moisture should be visible. Pat strips with clean paper
towels to remove drops of oil. Remove from racks and cool.
Properly drying the thin strips removes the moisture
bacteria needs to produce.
To store, jerky can be kept in a sealed, airtight
container at room temperature for two weeks. It will last
longer if refrigerated or frozen. If you notice mold on any
of the dried meat during storage, discard the entire piece.
This information was obtained from:
So Easy to Preserve Cooperative Extension Service, University of Georgia
University of Missouri Extension guide "How to Dry Foods at Home", GH 1563
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009