Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
19 Mar

How to Make Turkey Jerky (That’s Super Easy and Tastes Like Thanksgiving)

Turkey JerkyI’m pleased to have our friend David Maren of Tendergrass Farms pen today’s guest post. He’s written this great how-to for making your own delicious pastured turkey jerky.

Most folks who make turkey jerky just make beef jerky out of turkey. They tend to use lots of teriyaki sauce, sugar, and Worcestershire sauce to mask the turkey-ness of the turkey. To each his own, but in my opinion this is a real shame. After all, turkey is super scrumptious! Especially if you go to the trouble of getting some good quality pastured turkey, you’ll want to preserve its essential turkey flavor as a special feature of your turkey jerky. We’ve discovered an extremely simple way to make delicious, high-protein, sugar-free, turkey jerky that will not only taste and look nothing like beef jerky, but will also magically transport you back to your childhood Thanksgiving dinner table. In fact, between you and me, I think it tastes a lot like buttery mashed potatoes and gravy. But no worries – it’s about as primal as primal can be.

This recipe is the very pinnacle of culinary simplicity. You’ll need:

  • Turkey breast, at least about 2 LBS (preferably from a good pastured turkey)
  • Salt and pepper
  • An oven (no fancy dehydrator necessary)
  • A few kabob skewers (or wooden chop sticks)
  • Nothin’ else!

It’ll take about 10 minutes of prep time and then the jerky will need to be in the oven for 6 to 10 hours (depending on your oven and how thinly you cut the turkey strips).


You should really think about supporting a family farmer by purchasing some decent pastured turkey breast to make your jerky with. has a helpful directory of grass-based farmers across the USA, Canada, and beyond that would love your support. If you can’t find any local pastured turkey sources our little cooperative online meats shop, Tendergrass Farms, offers pastured turkey breast that we can ship right to your doorstep.

Once you’ve procured some good turkey breast, the first step is to cut it into very thin slices. There’s no danger of cutting them too thin, so just get a nice sharp knife and cut the pieces as thinly as you can. It’s best to keep them as even in thickness as possible to help them dehydrate at the same rate.


The second step is to sprinkle the turkey strips with a little salt and pepper. Salt and pepper the turkey just a little more than you would any other food that you were about to eat. The purpose of the salt and pepper is simply to bring out the natural flavor of the turkey, not to mummify it!

Hanging Jerky

The third and final step is to skewer the strips of seasoned turkey with your kabob skewers (or wooden chop sticks) and hang the skewers from the upper rack of your oven. Just make sure than the strips are spaced out well to allow the strips to evenly dehydrate. Turn your oven on to 200 ºF, but don’t quite close your oven door. It works well to stick a nice big wooden spoon or other similar object in the door of the oven to allow just an inch or so opening for the humidity to escape from the oven as the turkey dehydrates.

Turkey Jerky

Check on it periodically. At 200 ºF, with the oven slightly cracked open, it may take anywhere from 6 to 10 hours. This depends entirely on the thickness of your turkey strips and your particular oven, so it could be slightly shorter or longer depending on those factors. When the strips are completely hard to the touch with no hint of soft raw meat texture, your jerky’s done! It’s best to keep it in zip-top bags in the freezer, especially if you don’t think you’ll eat it all within a week or so.

Turkey Jerky

David Maren is a husband, father, farmer, and co-founder of Tendergrass Farms. Tendergrass Farms is a cooperative online grass fed meats shop that exists as a bridge between the often geographically isolated family farmer and committed grass fed meats enthusiasts like yourself. The Tendergrass Farms vision is to sustain family farms through making it easy for you to purchase their meats by taking advantage of appropriate technology and ultra-efficient transportation models that enable their meats to be shipped to fans all around the USA.

If you’re not already a huge fan of Tendergrass Farms, you’re missing out: Go bookmark their site, like their Facebook page, and follow them on Twitter!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. This looks yummy! Fortunately, there is a pastured turkey farm just a few miles away. (I’m tempted to add some paprika or turmeric, but will try to resist.)

    Jim Haas wrote on March 19th, 2013
  2. Great idea and step by step guide… and can I say, I LOVE the photography on it! Good job whoever that was!

    Patrice wrote on March 19th, 2013
    • Thanks – Patrice. That was just me. My general photography theory is if I need 6 pics then I take about 200 and just use the best 3%.

      David Maren wrote on March 19th, 2013
      • The power markets. I wonder if that statement is applicable to film camera era (i.e. the economics of film and dark room processing). Clearly the costs have been driven down by digital, no?

        Paleo Bon Rurgrundy wrote on March 19th, 2013
        • I love scotch!

          Paleo Bon Rurgrundy wrote on March 19th, 2013
        • which is your favorite?

          Terry H wrote on March 19th, 2013
        • scotchy scotch scotch.

          dead elvis wrote on July 29th, 2014
  3. To help with slicing, make sure your turkey is 32-35°F (0-2ºC), or even a little colder. Most refrigerators are probably in the range of 38-40°F (3-4ºC). Therefore, put the turkey in the freezer for 20-30 minutes before slicing. The firmer texture should allow a cleaner, more even cut.

    CB wrote on March 19th, 2013
  4. I’m so jealous of that baby, wish my parents gave me food like that! Going to have to give this a try.

    Nick wrote on March 19th, 2013
    • now you are going to be jealous of my babies because I am absolutely doing this as soon as I can thaw the turkey I’ve been saving.

      Joshua wrote on March 19th, 2013
  5. Thanks for the instruction! This is a lot like the way my father-in-law makes his smoked salmon, just with a smoke fire and outdoor smokehouse instead of the oven.

    We’re off for a Spring Break road trip next week, gonna try to get a batch ready for that…

    Tom B-D wrote on March 19th, 2013
    • I wonder if you could make salmon jerky the same way? I plan on going dip netting this summer and will need some easy recipes to cook all my salmon! Nom nom.

      Stacie wrote on March 19th, 2013
  6. Yum! Can’t wait to try this!! Love the idea too.

    Brooke wrote on March 19th, 2013
  7. This is going to be on my list this week. Yummy!

    Nocona wrote on March 19th, 2013
  8. Does this work with chicken? Pork?? Or, perhaps it’s easier to ask, is there anything this doesn’t work with??? My mind is racing through the possibilities…!

    Scott UK wrote on March 19th, 2013
    • Chicken is so similar to turkey that I’d have to assume that it would work just fine and evidently some folks make it from pork as well:

      The main thing, from a food safety perspective, is making sure that the meat is extremely dried out before you try to taste it. Raw beef is one thing but raw turkey, chicken, and pork are a bit less appetizing to me.

      David Maren wrote on March 19th, 2013
  9. There’s a wild turkey breast in our freezer thanks to my husband the hunter that I will try this recipe on. Thanks for the recipe!

    Kara wrote on March 19th, 2013
  10. O thank you so much, this is a must-do!

    Scratch wrote on March 19th, 2013
  11. Looks delicious and I’ll have to try it. Thanks!

    Would this method work for any lean meat and for salmon or would it create an unholy mess in the oven?

    Catherine H wrote on March 19th, 2013
    • I have more questions!

      I’m wondering about the diet differences between wild and grass fed turkeys. What do they eat in the wild and how do you ensure they’re not snacking on the GMO grains in Farmer Frankenjoe’s fields?

      Catherine H wrote on March 19th, 2013
    • See my response to ‘Scott UK’ above. You’re right that jerky is really only possible with lean meat. If you’re concerned about a mess in the oven just put a bit of aluminum foil in the bottom of the oven before you put the meat in.

      David Maren wrote on March 19th, 2013
      • Thank you for the foil idea Dave. I’ll use it for marinated meat.

        Once I’ve perfected the turkey, I’m going to try beef and fish. I live in BC and have access to some amazing grass-fed beef, there are trout and char in my front ‘yard’ and salmon from a friend.

        Too stoked!

        Catherine H wrote on March 19th, 2013
      • Meh, I make jerky with fatty brisket all the time. The contrast of the dry meat and the juiceness of the fatty bits is great. Tastse like steak :)

        I keep it the fridge in an airtight container, but it never lasts long enough to be of a concern really.

        Misabi wrote on March 20th, 2013
  12. I have been in need of this post for AGES. Thank you so much!! I’m psyched.

    Nicole wrote on March 19th, 2013
  13. These look awesome! I didn’t know it was that simple! :)

    Kristen wrote on March 19th, 2013
  14. I make mine with paprika and chili peppers. YUM.

    leida wrote on March 19th, 2013
  15. I would like to make this in my dehydrator. What temperature is recommended? Still 200 deg F?

    Erin B wrote on March 19th, 2013
    • Probably anything at or above 150F or so would be fine in a dehydrator. The reason I say that is that when you set an oven on 200F and leave the door slightly open to let the moisture out I’d guess that the actual temperature in there is a few degrees cooler. I wouldn’t go any lower than 150F in a dehydrator for food safety.

      David Maren wrote on March 19th, 2013
      • I just checked over on the USDA website and according to them the safe temperature to make sure that salmonella is killed is 165F. That said, when you’re leaving the the meat in that hot environment for extended periods of time (6+ hours) the actual safe temp may be a bit lower but it certainly doesn’t hurt to go by what the USDA says. :-)

        Here’s the link:

        David Maren wrote on March 20th, 2013
  16. Just wondering, is there anyway to do this with super fatty cuts of meat? I want an easy and convenient way to eat more fat!

    bjjcaveman wrote on March 19th, 2013
    • You should look into making pemmican instead. Fatty meats don’t keep very well. The Native Americans figured out that by separating the meat and fat, drying the meat, rendering the fat, and then mixing the two back together, you ended up with a very well preserved product.

      Erok wrote on March 19th, 2013
      • Pemmican has berries and stuff mixed in to the fats as well. Presumably the antioxidants and vitamins in the berries help to keep the fat stable.

        pm wrote on November 25th, 2013
    • Unfortunately I think that might be a tough one. Hey – it’s worth a try… but traditionally jerky is only made with lean cuts. Just keep food safety in mind. Rancidity and such are a a possible issue with high fat cuts.

      David Maren wrote on March 19th, 2013
    • Sure you can. I use cuts of fatty brisket, which is a slab of meat with a good layer of fat on and sometimes through it.

      Tastes great with the chewy meat and soft juicy fatty bits :)

      Misabi wrote on March 20th, 2013
  17. Looks good! Would the dehydrator setting on the oven work as well? We just happen to have that setting, and we’ve never used it.

    Nicole wrote on March 19th, 2013
    • Hmmm – sure, sounds like an interesting option. The only danger would be if it was somehow too cool and your turkey took longer to dehydrate. In that case you could theoretically run the risk of bacteria growth. Many home dehydrators have settings from about 90F all the way up to 160F. If your oven dehydrator mode gives you a temp of less than about 200F, I’d opt for just setting it to 200F. Many items, like herbs or fruit, do well at a lower temp but I wouldn’t recommend it for meat.

      David Maren wrote on March 19th, 2013
      • Update: I just checked the USDA website and it says that you need to get the turkey temp up to 165F to make absolutely sure that you kill all of the potential pathogens:

        David Maren wrote on March 20th, 2013
      • Thank you–I didn’t think about the bacteria risk (and I’m usually overly-paranoid about that!) Our oven is especially risk then at the moment as it’s either 25 degrees off (or taking longer to get to the right temperature). For instance, we have to cook chicken at 350 instead of 325 (and sort of watch it–obviously finished when the internal temperature is correct). Anyway, thanks again for the tip!

        Nicole wrote on March 20th, 2013
    • I have the dehydrator option on my oven and have used it many, many , many times to dehydrate beef. Works very well. But, I also store my jerky in the freezer in a ziplock bag. Only store in the freezer because I will make several pounds at a time and don’t want it in my fridge. It is a great snack at night when I have the munchies.

      Patty wrote on March 21st, 2013
  18. …that made me hungry :)

    Jeannie_5 wrote on March 19th, 2013
  19. …I’m always hungry:)

    Jeannie_5 wrote on March 19th, 2013
  20. Thanks, Dave (and Mark and Aaron). An amazing post. Can’t wait to try this. LOVE that there’s no sugar in the recipe.

    I’m new to jerky, so I need some clarification on safe storage, once the jerky is done. You wrote, “It’s best to keep it in zip-top bags in the freezer, especially if you don’t think you’ll eat it all within a week or so.”

    What about portions we ARE going to eat within a week? Should they be frozen and thawed, or just refrigerated, or can they stay out on the counter and/or be taken along on the go without a cooler or ice?

    Thanks, Dave. Really good of you to share this know-how. And thanks for doing the offer. :-)


    Susan Alexander wrote on March 19th, 2013
    • For venison in my house, we just keep it in the fridge until it’s gone… I’d probably do the same for any kind of jerky.

      Charlayna wrote on March 19th, 2013
  21. …hey Susan. Is that your prom dress? Love that!

    Jeannie_5 wrote on March 19th, 2013
  22. good idea for turkey – I would use my fancy dehydrator though since I have it. FYI to all, I also do this with beef, I prefer flank steak, and I use garlic powder as well…super simple and makes the yummiest, beefiest beef jerky ever. It’s always a hit. for storage – I put them into ziploc bags and get as much air out as possible, and refrigerate. It usually lasts a couple of weeks (if it’s not all gone by then).

    Silvia wrote on March 19th, 2013
    • Silvia,
      when you use flank steak do you cut the meat cross wise? and do you cut it while frozen or just deeply cold?

      carolyn wrote on March 21st, 2013
  23. I’ve always heard that poultry has to be cooked through — unlike beef. Poultry apparently harbours salmonella. We make homemade beef jerky every week. But I have stayed away from turkey. How would we minimize the risk of salmonella?

    Nancy wrote on March 19th, 2013
    • Great question, Nancy! According to the USDA, salmonella is killed as long as the poultry reaches a temperature of 165 °F. With this recipe, it will not only reach temperatures well above that but it will also stay at those high temperature for extremely long periods of time.

      Check out this link:

      David Maren wrote on March 20th, 2013
      • Be sure to check *internal* turkey temp with a meat thermometer. Learned this the hard way making salmon jerky… luckily you can see roundworms, not so with salmonella!

        PS: anyone thinking about salmon jerky, google roundworms + wild caught salmon. Awesome.

        Abby wrote on March 23rd, 2013
  24. will try this ASAP when I get back from camp. Here in Thailand, my bungalow does not have kitchen. ALL meals are taken at restaurants. :(
    also the home-made coconut milk idea

    Bill Berry wrote on March 20th, 2013
  25. This is really awesome! It’s kinda easy to make, it just takes too long. Guess, I have to be more patient in waiting. I really love turkey and I just would like to commend you for posting this recipe, very detailed and straight to the point. Thank you so much!! :)

    Erin wrote on March 20th, 2013
  26. How much weight is loss per pound? 1 lb of breast become .5 lb of jerky?

    Bobert wrote on March 20th, 2013
    • Here’s a helpful link that sheds some light on approx. percentages on water in different meats:

      Tendergrass Farms poultry is air chilled, not water chilled, so the water content is somewhere around 8% less than the numbers given by the USDA being that 99% of commercial poultry is water chilled …so they’re actually selling you about 8% less meat than we are, pound for pound! :-(

      David Maren wrote on March 20th, 2013
  27. This sounds great! I was wondering if I can do the same with chicken?

    Catherine wrote on March 20th, 2013
    • Catherine –

      Yes – I believe it is possible. See my response to Scott UK above. :-)

      David Maren wrote on March 20th, 2013
      • Thanks! (:

        Catherine wrote on March 20th, 2013
    • Catherine.

      I’ve used proven turkey jerky recipes on free-range chickens and I didn’t get the expected results, I don’t know why either. Likewise, I have proven recipes for smoking whole turkey’s that don’t translate well to chickens. I’m at a bit of a lose to figure out why. Admittedly I don’t spend a ton of time on it, there’s so many other good ways to make chicken I choose not to spin my wheels trying to make that work.


      Bryan wrote on March 21st, 2013
  28. I have not tried to make turkey jerky yet, but last year I invested in a food dehydrator and I use it frequently for ham jerky and beef jerky.

    Now I guess its time to move on and try your turkey jerky recipe!

    Turkey breast is pretty dry, so I would imagine it shrinks less than beef sirloin?

    John wrote on March 20th, 2013
  29. Psyched to see David and Tendergrass Farms on MDA. These folks are friends and neighbors of mine and, in case anyone is wondering, they are the real deal (highly ethical, family operation and still farming) doing real work providing markets to help farmers in our very rural area. Strictly local markets don’t provide many options beyond selling livestock at auction to be shipped out of the area to feedlots. You know the rest of that story. Thanks for the great post, David. I’ll be by later to get some breasteseses…..


    embur wrote on March 21st, 2013
  30. Hey, what happened to Wayne? Anybody know?

    Dano wrote on March 21st, 2013
    • Who’s Wayne?

      Catherine H wrote on March 21st, 2013
      • Wayne Static. Well, that’s fandemonium spam.. But he’s a primal artist, despite his vegetarian diet. He uses the word primal in the true sense. So does author Tom Robbins. Both of them have influenced me in primal ways.

        Animanarchy wrote on April 2nd, 2013
  31. I make Turkey Jerky every spring. I’m fortunate in that living in the upper midwest, there are plenty of hunting opportunities right out our front doors. We make our own jerky from turkey, goose, duck and venison…all wild of course.

    We’ve found that less is more when it comes to jerky recipes. There’s no need for a laundry list of ingredients, salt,fresh course black pepper and Tabasco are really the only ingredients that we use.

    Bryan wrote on March 21st, 2013
  32. Sorry, but Tendergrass Farms prices are WAY too high. 15 bucks a pound for bacon??? Seriously?? Their Family Pack, touting HUGE SAVINGS works out to 20 dollars a pound. Hey, Tender Butts, we’re Paleo, we’re not stupid.

    Dano wrote on March 21st, 2013
    • Dano,

      Thank you for taking the time to give us some feedback. Here at Tendergrass Farms we’re all about sustaining the family farmer – economically. Being that our beef is American grown and 100% grass fed, dry aged for more than three weeks, and then shipped (usually for “free” – typically about a $30 cost for us) to our customers’ doorsteps we realize that our meats are not the cheapest you can find. We do believe, however, that they are the very highest quality available and we offer an extremely high level of convenience to our clientele.

      The bulk savings mentioned to on our site refer to the price you would pay if you were to purchase those cuts “a la carte” rather than via the sampler savings packs. In this manner the Medium Grass Fed Beef Sampler pack offers a $26.86 discount and the Small Grass Fed Beef Sampler Pack offers a $20.93 discount. Both of these discounts are well over 10% off, which most of our customers value.

      If you’d like I’d be happy to chat a little over the phone about our business model and pricing. I think you’d find it interesting. (Believe it or not we’re actually running the organization at a net loss currently!)

      Thanks again for your feedback. I actually just changed the text on our bulk beef category page to now read “significant discounts” instead of “unbeatable savings!” I’ll be the first one to admit that we always have room for improvement!

      Sincerely – and respectfully,
      David Maren
      cell: 540-267-5721

      David Maren wrote on March 21st, 2013
  33. Awww, it’s just not fair, is it Dano?

    Terry H wrote on March 21st, 2013
  34. that sure looks yummy. thanks for the delicious recipe.

    Sammy wrote on March 21st, 2013
  35. There was a time when I regularly ate turkey bacon cooked in an oven. It was delicious, though not as good as pork bacon.

    Animanarchy wrote on March 21st, 2013

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