The Easy Way To Make Homemade Jerky

By Texas Homesteader ~

Have you priced a package of beef jerky lately? WHEW! Thankfully I’ve been very pleased at how easy and inexpensive it is to make our own meat jerky at home. We use a mixture of ground meat, seasonings and ‘cure’. You can use ground beef or strips of steak to make jerky. But we decided to make  wild-game jerky using venison and elk.

Homemade jerky made easy using ground beef or wild game meat #TexasHomesteader

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Wild Game Jerky

RancherMan is an accomplished hunter. He keeps our freezer filled with wild pork and venison. We have our game meat professionally processed into tenderized steaks, roasts, and ground – both regular and chili grind.

RancherMan also has the meat processor add 10% beef fat to our ground game meat because it’s too lean on its own. We had plenty of ground venison and elk, so that’s what we used for our jerky.

Simple homemade jerky strips using wild game ground venison or elk meat #TexasHomesteader

You can use thinly-sliced strips of whole cuts instead. But I feel the jerky made with ground meat is a little easier to bite into and chew so that’s what we chose.

Jerky Seasonings

We bought complete *Jerky Seasoning Kits pretty inexpensively online.

You can use your own seasonings if you like, but we knew we’d have to buy the cure mixture anyway. This time it was easier to just buy the complete kit. We decided on Jerky seasoning kits which included both seasonings & cure.

Is Meat Cure Just Salt?

Is meat cure really just salt? Well, no.

Table salt is sodium chloride. But meat cure is sodium chloride PLUS nitrite and/or nitrate, necessary for the purpose of food preservation.

Meat cure is required for a safe outcome since meat will be dehydrated at low temperatures for a long period of time. 

We decided on both the original flavor as well as the Garlic/Cracked Pepper flavor. In the future we may go ahead & buy some *Meat Cure and make some snack sticks using RancherMan’s favorite Dry Rub Seasoning.

Preparing Meat For Jerky

For every cup of ground meat he added ¼ cup water as per the directions. He also added the spices and cure. Then it was mixed thoroughly and covered. He placed the prepared meat in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours.

Then when we’re ready to make jerky we brought out our *9-Tray Excalibur Dehydrator and the *Jerky Gun. We have the Sportsman 15” Jerky Gun and we love it. It sure simplifies making jerky! RancherMan likens it to an oversized caulk gun, but designed for meat. HA!

Jerky gun transfers prepared ground meat onto dehydrator trays to dehydrate into homemade jerky. #TexasHomesteader

To prepare to make the jerky, the tip is removed from one end of the jerky gun and the prepared ground meat is added to the large cylinder. RancherMan presses the meat in as tightly as he can, but the action of the jerky gun will also compact the meat so he doesn’t worry if a few little air bubbles remain.

Then he replaces the tip – whether the flat jerky tip or the round snack-stick tip – depending on what we want the finished product to be.

We bring out one of the large square dehydrator trays and using the Jerky Gun he places a thin strip of prepared meat onto the surface of the tray. 

The video below shows exactly how quickly the jerky gun works:

We’re able to apply 6-7 full-sized strips per tray and they’re between 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick.

Dehydrator Temp Clarification

The FDA recommends dehydrating homemade jerky at a temperature of 160ºF. My basic model Excalibur dehydrator temperature selector only goes to 155ºF.

But Excalibur states on their website that the temps on their dehydrators actually go above 155ºF +. Excalibur has noted that the 155º setting actually heats from 155º to 165º. So I contacted them for clarification, giving them the model of my basic 3900 Excalibur dehydrator for reference.

According to Excalibur Dehydrators:

“155 degrees is the highest temperature marking on these but your machine does go up to 165. You would need to set it between the 155 markings and the “off” marking to reach 160 degrees.”

Jerky can be dried in an Excalibur dehydrator. #TexasHomesteader

So be sure to contact the manufacturer of your dehydrator if you have any questions about the highest temps for your dehydrator.

Wild Game Jerky In Dehydrator

When all the meat was placed on the dehydrator trays we turned the dehydrator’s dial to 155º and then as far as it would go further. Then we allowed the jerky to dehydrate.

The Excalibur dehydrating instructions specify to dehydrate the meat for 4-8 hours until leathery. In our case it usually takes from 6 to 8 hours.

Homemade jerky strips dried on dehydrator trays - wild game jerky #TexasHomesteader

Depending upon how thick your strips of jerky are, the humidity in your kitchen, how dry you want your jerky, etc. your time may vary. 

Oven Jerky Dehydration Method

If you don’t have a dehydrator, don’t worry. You can easily use your oven to make your jerky. And apparently in less time too.

The instructions inside our jerky seasoning kits indicated we could make the jerky in an oven preheated to 200ºF.

You put the jerky slices on an *Oven-Proof Jerky Screen on the top rack of the oven. (I assume you’d want a baking tray somewhere beneath it to catch drips.)

Then you can dehydrate the jerky for an hour & 20 minutes. (or more if you like a drier product)

Safe Internal Temperature For Wild Game Jerky

According to University of Minnesota, the National Center for Home Food Preservation, my local extension agent and many other qualified sources, it’s recommended that the internal temperature of wild game jerky reach 160ºF. after it’s dry. But how the heck do you test internal temperatures of jerky??

It was an easy fix. After our homemade jerky was dried to leathery perfection we placed the strips on a rimmed baking sheet for 10 minutes in a pre-heated 275ºF. oven. That should do the trick! 

Plus, that short stint in the oven also pulls any residual fat from the surface of jerky strips too. After heating in the oven I bring those rimmed baking trays out and elevate one side to allow any extra melted fat to drain away while the jerky is cooling.

Packaging Our Homemade Wild-Game Jerky

To package up our homemade jerky we bought some *Sealing Bags and vacuum sealed them with our *Food Saver Vacuum Sealer.

To prepare them for gift presentation we printed out a tag on our laser printer. Then I used ordinary packing tape to make Customized Labels for our jerky gifts.

Homemade ground venison wild game jerky with customized label - vacuum sealed #TexasHomesteader

Everyone in our family loves jerky so it’s a great homemade gift idea.

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the finished jerky can be stored at room temperature in a sealed container for about 2 weeks. It can be refrigerated or frozen for longer storage.

~TxH~

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Homemade Jerky Safety References

National Center For Home Food Preservation

University of Minnesota – Safe Jerky Procedure

University of Wisconsin Extension – Safe Jerky Procedure

 

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2 thoughts on “The Easy Way To Make Homemade Jerky

  1. candace ford

    here’s hoping my first attempt at a reply just went off into the stratosphere. When I was a child my father was a hunter, fisherman, clam digger extraordinaire! We had a smokehouse that he built in the back yard and it often had either deer jerky or salmon smoking most of the time. I always thought we were poor but boy we ate like kings. Pa had a recipe for salmon that had come from my grandfather and I can’t remember what he used to season the venison. My dear (but kind of silly) mother wouldn’t eat venison – hot dogs were her red meat of choice. She did like the smoked salmon, maybe because her father was where the recipe came from. Speaking of salmon we are now watching them jump the falls on a little creek on our place as they head up to where the spawn. I always enjoy reading about what you are doing at your place.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      A homemade smokehouse – how wonderful. And what lovely memories you must have, Candace. And watching salmon jump on their way to spawn. You live a life I can only dream of. You’re certainly blessed. ~TxH~

      Reply

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