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

I’m pleased to have our friend David Maren of Tendergrass Farms pen today’s guest post. pile of turkey jerkyHe’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!


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.


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.


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!

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90 thoughts on “How to Make Turkey Jerky (That’s Super Easy and Tastes Like Thanksgiving)”

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  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.)

  2. Great idea and step by step guide… and can I say, I LOVE the photography on it! Good job whoever that was!

    1. 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%.

      1. 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?

  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.

  4. I’m so jealous of that baby, wish my parents gave me food like that! Going to have to give this a try.

    1. 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.

  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…

    1. 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.

  6. 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…!

    1. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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?

    1. 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?

    2. 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.

      1. 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!

      2. 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.

  9. I have been in need of this post for AGES. Thank you so much!! I’m psyched.

  10. I would like to make this in my dehydrator. What temperature is recommended? Still 200 deg F?

    1. 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.

  11. 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!

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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 🙂

  12. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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!

    2. 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.

  13. 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. 🙂


    1. 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.

  14. 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).

    1. Silvia,
      when you use flank steak do you cut the meat cross wise? and do you cut it while frozen or just deeply cold?

  15. 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?

      1. 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.

  16. 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

  17. 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!! 🙂

  18. How much weight is loss per pound? 1 lb of breast become .5 lb of jerky?

    1. 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! 🙁

  19. This sounds great! I was wondering if I can do the same with chicken?

    1. 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.


  20. 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?

  21. 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…..


      1. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

    1. 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

  24. There was a time when I regularly ate turkey bacon cooked in an oven. It was delicious, though not as good as pork bacon.

  25. How do you cut the meat?
    Across the grain?
    On the bias?


    1. Great question. The way the grain is in a turkey breast it’s hard to consistently cut it with the grain but you can give it a try being that I’d say that’s the ‘traditional’ way to do it. You’ll end up with a bit going both ways. 🙂

  26. I will definitely try this with beef! I only have access to pastured turkey at Thanksgiving but I buy 1 every year. It is so good. Buying jerky is really expensive. I have access to local, grass-fed beef so I will use that. I might put a little adobo on it just to spice it up.

    Dano, if we paid conventional farmers what it really costs them to produce food, it would be almost as much as organic farmers. Govenment subsidies keep the prices low, especially for certain foods.

    Thanks for posting this information. Can’t wait to try it out. My beef order comes in on Tuesday and I included a flank steak in it.

  27. I tried this recipe last week, followed the instructions to a tee, but after six hours, it was dried to the point of being hard and brittle. It was still pretty good, but it seemed much, much drier and crunchier than your standard jerky texture. Any thoughts?

    1. I tried the turkey jurkey and it was GREAT !!! I have placed my order with tendergrass and can’t wait. Check out their many products. As far as the cost, I will report back on the quality, but now that I am commited to primal cost is not an issue when I see and feel the benifits from clean fresh primal food !!! Dano was way too rude. You get what you pay for and I will pay for quality organic grass fed meats all day. Have been buying from Alderspring Ranch (great meat) but look forward to top of the line grass fed cert. organic closer to home.

  28. I just tried this, followed the instructions exactly, and after 3 hours at 200 F my turkey was hard as a rock. As in, I can’t even break some of the strips in half because they are so hard and eating it would probably break my teeth.

    Any ideas on what could have gone wrong? Is it possible my oven thermometer is inaccurate and the oven was too hot? So disappointed!

  29. 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.

  30. 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?

  31. Looks great David! Have you thought about selling some of your turkey jerky at Tendergrass?

  32. Looks good will try it should work well with Ostrich breast too

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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!

  36. 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!

  37. When I make beef jerky, I put the slab of raw meat in the freezer for about an hour (longer if it’s pretty thick) the outside starts to freeze, which makes it so much easier to get nice thin even slices. I believe that would work with the turkey as well. Just don’t let it freeze all the way!

  38. Hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but Tendergrass Farms doesn’t SELL turkey breast. If you can find it on their site – please correct me. All I see is “Ground Chicken Dark Meat,” “Finely Textured Pork,” “Ground Turkey,” and lard.