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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)

pic1 1I’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:

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  • 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).

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You should really think about supporting a family farmer by purchasing some decent pastured turkey breast to make your jerky with. EatWild.com 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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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. Question 1: I want to go backpacking and on trips. If I use your method, but in my dehydrator (if I determine it goes up to 165 degrees), of using regular lean turkey breasts, how can I keep it from going rancid if I have to keep it in a hot car for several days and then in a backpack for 3 weeks?

    Question 2: Could using a system that removes air from the bag help keep it longer?

    Question 3: What about freeze drying? I’ve never used it, but it sounds better for preservation? How would it be done?

    Background: I have made several batches of turkey jerky in the past, but made it using pre-made Applegate Farms organic turkey bacon in my dehydrator. I did not add any seasoning to it, but it tasted great.

    Problem: I think it had too much fat and went rancid too quickly when left out. When I tried to go backpacking and on a car trip, I wasted about 2 weeks worth of my meat. Didn’t learn my lesson and did the same thing the next year – after dehydrating in longer, thinking that was the problem.

    Susan Mintz wrote on April 2nd, 2013
  2. I have one of those new fangled ovens that has a fan in it. Convection, I think. The fan only works with the door closed. I would think the fan would help dry the meat. What do you think? If I closed the door and used the fan, would I still shoot for 200 degree, if you think the fan is a good idea?

    John Sams wrote on April 5th, 2013
  3. I’m puzzled. How can you hang sticks in an oven?

    Mary Jane Cummings wrote on July 1st, 2013
  4. Looks great David! Have you thought about selling some of your turkey jerky at Tendergrass?

    Diane M wrote on July 12th, 2013
  5. Mmmm!

    ninjainshadows wrote on August 1st, 2013
  6. Looks good will try it should work well with Ostrich breast too

    Brian Crawford wrote on November 2nd, 2013
  7. I’ve been looking for a turkey jerky recipe and all of them say to use ground turkey and a jerky gun, which is way more work than I wanted to put into making turkey jerky.

    I’d like to ask if you’ve tried other methods other than the skewers? In the interest of using less resources and saving time I’m wondering if placing the turkey on a rack such as a cake cooling rack set inside a baking sheet to catch any drippings would work as well as the skewer method.

    Healthy Low Carb Recipes wrote on January 8th, 2014
  8. I made mine following this guide except I made thicker cuts then the pictures advertise and after 4 hours my meat was ruined. I literally followed every step except I used 250 degrees instead of 200 and checked it at 4 hours and its all hard and crunchy like a rock. My advise, do the 200 degrees but screw the 6 to 10 hour comment…I bet 2 to 3 is enough…esp. if u cut your pieces as thin as shown above.

    marl wrote on April 30th, 2014
  9. Like Patrice, I really enjoyed the article and the photos. I have to definitely try this. I remember my uncles making venison jerkey after hunting. I couldn’t eat venison today as deer wander through my property and I just love them.

    My mother is a grass fed aficionado and she’s converting me.

    Thanks for the article. Well done!

    Eric wrote on May 2nd, 2014
  10. I’m so ready to try making turkey jerky, as beef does a number on my gut. I’m curious…has anyone tried seasoning the jerky with anything other than salt and pepper? I’m thinking something along the lines of Coconut Aminos, either dipping or marinating for a bit before dehydrating. Thanks!

    Tikvah wrote on June 8th, 2014

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