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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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July 31, 2008

How to Make Your Own Jerky

By Worker Bee
121 Comments

Beef JerkyIn the modern world it’s hard to get more “primal” than dried meat. Consider it one of Grok’s many talents and culinary achievements. Jerky is essentially strips of lean meat that have marinated and dried. The result? Tasty, rich, salty and pumped with about twice the protein gram per gram of regular “hydrated” meat. To boot, you’ve got a snack that travels well under circumstances as varied as weekend camping trips to NASA missions. Awesome, huh?

But when we say jerky we mean something so much better and healthier than the processed strips and sticks (e.g. “Slim Jims”) you find at the gas station checkout. The best jerky is made from whole-muscle meat, homemade or in small batch varieties. We’ll agree that there’s some great small label jerky out there. Meat shares from small farms often include it. To try out a few varieties, farmers’ markets are a great place to pick up some of the real deal especially if you’re new to the world of genuine jerky.

But there’s real pleasure and a very primal sense of accomplishment in making your own. But rest assured that the endeavor needn’t be the tedious, complicated effort many people think it is. Sure, the overall time commitment involves several hours, but most of it is plain old “dry” time when you have the liberty to go about your business at home, fixing the front steps, weeding the garden, watching the kids in the pool, catching a cat nap, etc. Consider it a great excuse to enjoy hanging out at home on a weekend afternoon.

But don’t I need a dehydrator or smoker? Nope. If you have an oven, consider yourself set. Many long-time jerky connoisseurs actually find oven-made easiest and on par taste-wise. If you’re, in fact, using a dehydrator or smoker, simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you’re going the oven route, we’ve got some tips.

The Devil Is In the Details (of prep, that is)

Turkey Jerky

Tip #1: Go for a meat with next to no fat. This is not the time to look for marbling. When it comes to jerky: fat just doesn’t work. It goes rancid – unhealthy and, well, downright unappetizing. Jerky can be made from beef, venison, bison, and (less often) pork, turkey, and chicken, ostrich, and salmon. Beginners might start with beef for simplicity and availability sake. An easy and common cut is flank steak. London broil cuts are a good option as well. (As always, we suggest clean, grass-fed meat if you can get it.)

To save time and frustration, you can always request that the butcher do the trimming and cutting for you. Go for long, ¼ inch strips cut across the grain for tenderness. A tip for trimming your own: put the meat in the freezer long enough to firm up but not harden and then get out the ginsu.

The next step involves the marinade. You’ll get a lot of advice on marinades. A million different opinions, actually. In addition to the marinade recipes themselves, there’s the marinade method. As the folks at Oregon State University tell us, the USDA recommends that jerky meat “be heated to 160 degrees F before the dehydrating process in order to destroy pathogenic microorganisms.”

Some people dry in the oven at this temperature, but another method for heating is the “hot marinade” option. Instead of letting the meat “soak” overnight in a plastic bag, you can boil your marinade mix and drop in your meat strips for a minute or two. Rest assured that a lot of people swear by this method just for the taste itself. If you’re using conventional meats, going the safe route is a good idea. Raised, grass-finished might present less risk. The safety of wild meats like venison often depends on factors as various as overpopulation to butchering mastery.

As for marinade recipes, chalk it up to personal taste. We’ll offer a humble suggestion to get you started in your experimentation.

For a 2-lb cut:

¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. liquid smoke
3 minced or crushed garlic cloves
2 ½ tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. hot chili powder
½-1 tsp. each of salt and black pepper

(Hint: For a hotter taste, add red pepper flakes or hot sauce. To add a hint of sweetness, include a Tbsp. of honey.)

The Heat Is On

Again, if you’re using an oven, you’ll use the power of the dry heat to dehydrate the meat over several hours. Lay the strips across clean wire racks or a broiler pan, and place in the oven. You’ll want to put a lined pan in the oven a couple rack bars lower than the strips in order to catch the drippings. If you don’t have racks that will hold the strips, line backing sheets with aluminum foil, and lay your jerky strips on the pans. Make sure the strips don’t touch. Particularly if you used a hot marinade, you can use a lower temperature (150 degrees is common) for 6-8 hours. Turn strips half-way through cook time.

Jerky is done when it’s darkened and cracks when bent. (It shouldn’t break apart.) Allow to cool completely at room temperature.

Call It Good

Once the strips are fully cooled, it’s time for storage. Homemade jerky (i.e. jerky without all the nitrates and preservatives) won’t store long at room temperature. Vacuum sealing is your best bet for this option. The packaging will allow you to bring the jerky with you on that longer backpacking trip minus the fuss and worries. In the meantime, your best bet is refrigerator or freezer storage. Wrap or vacuum seal in plastic, and store for 2-3 months in the refrigerator. (Freezer storage, provided you’ve wrapped the jerky well to prevent frostbite, will buy you a few more months.)

There you go. A nice big batch will give you plenty of portable protein nourishment for days walking on the trail or biding your time in the airport. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be a jerky convert, we guarantee it. It’s a subculture in itself, we tell ya.

Got stories, recipes, tips and trials in your own jerky-making ventures? Do share, we say. Enjoy!

alau2, lightsoutfilms Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

Definitive Guides to:

Homemade Condiment Creations

Top 10 Meat Questions Meet Answers

10 Delicious DIY Salad Dressings

DIY – Butter, Yogurt, Kefir, Oh My!

Tips on Foraging in the Modern World

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121 Comments on "How to Make Your Own Jerky"

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George
8 years 1 month ago

At http://georgesrecipes.blogspot.com/2008/03/angry-jerky.html You can find a great recipe for jerky that I invented – without the soy sauce. Its also a sweeter spicer flavor which everyone I’ve made it for (hundreds) love.

Jim
Jim
6 years 6 months ago

I’ve been using the hot marinade method using salsa.

I just get a jar of salsa from the supermarket — make sure it’s got no added sugar or weird chemicals — just tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, etc.

I add a good dose of sea salt to the brew.

Bring the salsa+salt just to a boil. Drop the meat in. Let it soak for a minute or so, bringing the mixture back up to a simmer (when you drop the meat in it drops the temp a bit).

Then dehydrate until dry.

Love it.

ericfoster3
6 years 6 months ago

If you don’t have the time to make it yourself, this is the next best thing:
http://chipsamericanjerky.com/

I’ve tried just about every brand, and this one is the absolute best.

Chip
6 years 5 months ago

Yes,
I’m a BIG fan of this Jerky as well!!!!*
(Disclaimer- “Shameless self promotion” {;-P
I hope you’ll give our website a look and try us out.
All Natural.
No MSG.
U.S.D.A. certified manufacturer.
Our jerky is based on my homemade recipe and it is very much like Mark recommends above.
Thanks!

Ruth
Ruth
4 years 8 months ago

I just checked their website, and it says that the jerky contains soy and wheat. booooo 🙁

Christina
Christina
3 years 8 months ago

Confused?!?! I thought soy, as in sauce, was a no-no?? Can coconut aminos be used? Also, George, you posted a link to a soy-free marinade but the link is a road to nowhere. Suggestions?

Jen
Jen
3 years 5 months ago
I’m going to reply to Christina since Mark hasn’t yet. I agree that it’s very strange that soy is the first ingredient in his marinade! Not only is soy a legume, but also 99% of it in the U.S. is GMO! Christina, I’m going to try coconut aminos and will post results here. Also strange is the use of Worcestershire sauce. I’m standing in my kitchen reading the label of a bottle I found in the back of my fridge from before I went paleo: besides the “paleok” ingredients it has molasses, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and caramel color.… Read more »
McFly
McFly
8 years 1 month ago

I’m a big fan of the slim jim. In fact, I like them so much I once almost mail ordered myself a slim jim bouquet. Anyway, always wanted to try making my own. Looks fun. If only I had a vacuum sealer.

jim
jim
8 years 1 month ago

Jerky is the preferred snack when I am out backpacking in Northern California. And as this article states, jerky is not at all hard to make, it is a little time consuming but not difficult. I like to soak my meat in teriyaki sauce for an hour or so before cooking.

MizFit
8 years 1 month ago

as a woman who goes into the shakes if she doesnt git some jerky DAILY—-thank you for this post.

I need to make the time to make it more often.

my addiction? the TERRIBLE CUSTOMER SERVICE of Chipper Jerky.

Chip
6 years 5 months ago

Just for clarification, C****** Jerky mentioned above is in no way related to CHIP’S AMERICAN JERKY COMPANY.

We have an EXCELLENT customer service reputation and invite you to check us out at:

http://www.chipsamericanjerky.com

Thanks for the opportunity to respond,

Chip Forward
President & Owner
Chip’s American Jerky Company

Crystal
Crystal
8 years 1 month ago

I was in Alaska last month and had some great salmon jerky. I had never thought about salmon as jerky before.

simon fellows
simon fellows
8 years 1 month ago

Folks try making biltong…it’s ‘lekker ‘

mario
mario
8 years 1 month ago

Alton Brown has a nice recipe for jerky using a box fan and air filters instead of an oven or commercial dehydrator.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,1977,FOOD_9936_31151_,00.html

Donna
Donna
8 years 1 month ago

I can’t forget about dogs, they love beef jerkey dog treats, too, my ShihTzu loved it. When i took her to obedience classes, it was such a reward and made it easier to train her!

Dee
Dee
8 years 1 month ago

In South Africa we’re lucky enough to have amazing jerky – Biltong (available everywhere, from any shop and in all good butchers). My family also regularly goes hunting, so venison biltong is never in short supply (Springbok and Kudu in particular). I’d say biltong is a truly South African speciality, much like Parma Ham might be to Italy!

chiromom
chiromom
6 years 10 months ago

Oh,I love Biltong.

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[…] How to Make Your Own Jerky […]

Ryan
7 years 11 months ago

I never liked slim jim’s, and having once read the ingredients list, I saw mechanically separated chicken parts – confirmed why I shouldn’t be eating them. Wow… just wow.

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[…] How to Make Your Own Jerky […]

P.O.M.
7 years 10 months ago

Hi. Just found your blog thru MizFit. I am so excited about this jerky info. I have been wanting to make some homemade, but didn’t know where to start.

It’s the perfect snack for traveling too. Easy protien while stuck on plane that thinks protien = bagel (seriously).

Mark Sisson
7 years 10 months ago

Welcome, P.O.M! I hope you find many other articles you like on MDA. Please take a look around and if you have any questions feel free to drop me a line. Cheers!

Justin Wright
7 years 9 months ago

Hey I found this site on stumble and I’m very glad I did. I go hiking/backpacking a lot and have been wanting to make my own jerky instead of paying for it.

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[…] The most commonly hunted – and prolific – game is the deer. East of the Rockies, the white-tailed deer reins supreme; to the west, the larger mule deer can be found. Large, lean, and meaty, deer venison is a great source of protein. Its incredibly low fat content makes it easy to overcook, and some people even blend it with bacon fat to make deer burgers. The leanness makes it ideal for jerky (if you ever get your hands on some wild venison, try our jerky recipe). […]

mick
mick
7 years 6 months ago

Kangaroo meat is almost fat free and makes some of the best jerky ever.Best eaten with home made chilli salsa.

Tamin
Tamin
5 years 9 months ago

Oh I love kangaroo must try making ‘Roo Jerky’ mmmmmm.

ken
ken
7 years 5 months ago

As usual you “beautiful” people turn my stomach. If you use meat with a little marbling it will add tremendously to the tenderness and flavor of your jerky. However, if you prefer flavored shoe leather, then by all means use lean meat. When using marbled meat, just refrigerate the jerky if you are worried about it spoiling. It is usually not around long enough to spoil. I have made jerky dozens of time with marbled meat and have never had a problem with spoilage.

Marty Johnson
6 years 4 months ago
I have been making jerky for a LONG time and my experience with the use of marbled beef is much different than some persons on this blog. I have found that the fat turns to a grisly mass of gunk that is difficult to chew; lots of flavor and you can chew it for a long time like gum. I make mine with 15 different flavors in beef and in chicken. I don’t boil it because that seems to make it tough also, but we all have our preferences. My recommendation is to slice the beef THIN at 4.5mm against… Read more »
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[…] How to Make Your Own Jerky […]

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[…] Make your own snacks (jerky, energy bars, dried fruit, nut […]

jennifer
jennifer
7 years 3 months ago

and if you’re in the meat business, you can then use your jerky for a business card: http://meatcards.com/

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[…] How to Make Your Own Jerky […]

gay ann mcclellan
gay ann mcclellan
7 years 1 month ago

Do you sell the web feet rubber sandals I always see you wearing in your pictures on this web site if so I would enjoy buy some…

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[…] you’ve read my posts on beef jerky and dried fruit, you know that they are tasty and Primal, but tricky to make unless you have the […]

Candy
Candy
7 years 1 month ago
My husband and I live in San Diego but we’re from South Africa where it is common to eat Biltong. This is dried meat a little like jerky but the pieces are cut thicker and vinegar is used in the marinade to ‘cure’ the meat which is then dry hung. This means we can use ‘fattier’ pieces which is great because the fat is the yummiest part. My husband built a cabinet for our garage with a fan mounted on top where he can hang our Biltong – in a few days it is dry and ready to eat. My… Read more »
Candy
Candy
7 years 1 month ago

Oh … and biltong is also made from ostrich or game meats. All kinds of buck are common in South Africa and those meats are used.

Graham Wheeler
Graham Wheeler
6 years 9 months ago

If you’re from South Africa and live in the USA like I and several others here clearly do, you find jerky quite unsatisfactory compared to biltong. Jerky – at least shop bought – tastes too much like boiled meat. Biltong has a great “chew”.

For those interested there are lots of resources on the web for biltong; here’s an example:

http://www.markblumberg.com/biltong.html

Raven_Glance
5 years 5 months ago

I made a load of Pemmican, three years ago: dry the meat, no marinade [strange American idea!], no heat,no salt, no smoke, just air, outside, in the shade: fat was removed first & tallow made; jerky was shredded between a couple of rocks: just keep hitting it: the shredded meat was mixed with cooled liquid tallow, just enough to coat it. Stored in airtight tins. Primitive at its best! Oh, some dill seeds or wild greens make a good accompaniment.

Graham Wheeler
Graham Wheeler
6 years 9 months ago

Here is a really good comparison of biltong to jerky. The key differences:

– jerky is marinaded, biltong is salted (I guess this is the reason jerky is much softer)
– jerky is dried quickly with heat, biltong is dried slowly at a cool temperature (making it classified as “raw meat” by USDA)
– jerky typically uses pepper/garlic for flavoring, biltong uses coriander

http://www.jedsjerky.com/blog/difference-biltong-versus-jerky/

BTW the best biltong is made from Kudu. We can only dream of it here; I’ve been tempted at times to go night-time hunting at the local zoo in Seattle 🙂

Mike
6 years 7 months ago

I am definitely going to try and make my own jerky. I am tired of the dried out store bought stuff.

John
John
6 years 7 months ago

Does anyone know if jerky can be made with previously frozen meat? All of our meat from the farmer’s market comes frozen.

Marty
Marty
6 years 7 months ago

Yes you can use frozen meat to make jerky. The best to use is the beef top round (London Broil). Set it on the counter when it is still frozen and wit till it still has some ice crystals in it and then slice it at about 1/8 inch thick. It is easiest to slice when slightly frozen. The leaner the meat, the better the jerky and the longer it will last.

J. Monty Rivers
J. Monty Rivers
6 years 6 months ago

Just wanted to say that this well-written article was one I merely stumbled upon via a Google search for home made jerky, and I’m very excited to learn it can be done with a common oven (since I don’t particularly feel like shelling out for a dehydrator at this point in time.)

I’ve bookmarked this page for future reference, and I am eagerly anticipating the day that I do!

Thank you very much (and your commenters as well.)

Steve
Steve
6 years 5 months ago

What about the brand Buffalo Bill Jerky? Anyone know if it is good for you?

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[…] Jerky: Beef, Salmon, Venison, Quail, Turkey, Aardvark, basically any meat you can dry out. DIY Jerky is the best route, though it may only last six months if you don’t vacuum seal it. If you choose […]

mike
mike
6 years 3 months ago

I’ve found that jerky without heat is much better. If lay the strips in the grooves of an air filter (not the fuzzy one, the plastic one) put one on top and bungee the whole thing to a box fan over night you’ve got tender flavor filled jerky.

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[…] How to Make Your Own Jerky […]

Renee
6 years 2 months ago

hubby and I are on the p90x program and I am aghast at the price of a tiny bag of turkey jerky at the store!! I am anxious to try your recipe and see how it works out for us. For recipes and cooking adventures, check out my blog at http://www.mealsforfriends.com. cheers!!

TLC
TLC
6 years 1 month ago

Traderjoes has their own brand of beef/ turkey jerky in 6 different flavors, without the nitrates, msg or weird stuff, and much lower sodium than most of the other brands out there. For a good price too.

And please folks, please don’t even consider super market ones like jack links, slim jims or oberto brands. They come with weird stuff and they put hydrolyzed protein to jack up their protein amount, not to mentioned about 3 times the amount of sodium per oz compared to the independent brands.

Dave Maybe
6 years 1 month ago
Mark, Have you ever considered offering alternative seasoning methods that do not include items containing salt? I really like a lot of your receipts, but I have high blood pressure. As such, my goal is to add no salt to my food if at all possible. For a while now, I have been wanting to explore spices as an alternative. This concept as a whole would seem to jive with being more primal as even the little bit of salt you’re adding to the above dish is definitely above what would be considered primal intake. Any thoughts? David
Sero
Sero
5 years 2 months ago

Hi David,

Have you tried seasoning with chipotle powder? If you don’t mind a bit of heat (I would eat peppers with my peppers) that would help give it a rich smoky savory taste. I find that I don’t really need salt with that (and add some garlic/onion/etc. mmmm).

-Sero

Mark
Mark
6 years 1 month ago

Ok, just to clarify… once the cooking, cooling and vacuum sealing process is complete…. I must then refrigerate for 2-3 months before consuming? Is this right?

Ray
Ray
6 years 1 month ago

I’m 99.44% sure that they mean it can be stored for up to 3 months in the refrigerator before it goes bad. You should be able to eat it as soon as it’s out of the oven and cooled off a bit.

Mark
Mark
6 years 1 month ago

Thank you sir!

beth
beth
6 years 26 days ago

Made this two weeks ago and loved it! I’m going to make some for a friend that is on the Zone. Anyone know how many blocks and what the caloric breakdown is?

Biltong
6 years 25 days ago

Beef jerky and especially Biltong is great stuff. Just make sure you are careful what recipe you go by if you are making your own. Some older recipes ask for “saltpeter” which isn’t really needed and has been shown to be bad for human health.

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[…] http://blog.yourlighterside.com/2009…ka-oopsie.html http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-t…our-own-jerky/ Stay away from HFCS and ALL sweeteners, except Stevia or Truvia…also no sodas or juices or […]

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[…] meats, like jerky and pemmican, are obviously convenient choices and can help you get enough calories. In addition, […]

notivuga against the grains
notivuga against the grains
5 years 10 months ago

Soy sauce contains wheat, folks! Does someone have other marinade suggestions that come close in flavor, but ditch the grains?

Cate
5 years 10 months ago

San-J makes a gluten-free (wheat-free) tamari soy sauce. It’s actually pretty good. 🙂 Whole Foods and Vitacost both have it.

mich
mich
5 years 9 months ago

Worcestershire’s second ingredient is sugar and the third is HFCS. Anyone have any alternative suggestions? Believe me, I love the flavor!

Lauren
Lauren
5 years 7 months ago

Annie’s Worcestershire has just molasses for sweetness, but the soy sauce in it contains wheat.

There are recipes for making your own Worcestershire that you could adapt to be more primal-friendly.

I’ve also wondered about using Asian fish sauce for that umami flavor.

So far, I just have my first batch of Mark’s recipe going into the dehydrator today. Will report back on how it turns out!

Homer
Homer
5 years 6 months ago

I found “The Wizard’s” Worcestershire sauce (Gluten and HCFS-free) in the store and and made lamb’s heart jerky yesterday. Delish.

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[…] explains how easy it is to make your own jerky, WikiHow has an illustrated guide, and there are even more tips at Mark’s Daily […]

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[…] Who doesn’t love beef jerky? My kids would eat it by the pound if I kept enough of it around. It is high in protein, and good versions don’t have any chemicals or artificial preservatives. Stores like Trader Joes and Whole Foods often carry healthy versions, and you can easily make your own (Mark’s Daily Apple has a great how to guide with recipe). […]

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[…] sugar. I took it a step further, and built my own jerky maker!I found some good information on making your own jerky on one of my favorite new sitesMark's Daily Apple. They have recipes for marinades and a […]

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