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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 of jerky.

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 jerky.

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 those testing.

For each pound of meat, you will need to mix in a small bowl: (one-half) teaspoon salt, (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 overnight.

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 blot dry.

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




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