Whether you prefer turkey, chicken, or beef jerky, they are all great tasting high protein snack options. However, when I first got into eating jerky, I found that it can be downright expensive to buy bags of them on the regular. I also prefer to avoid the unnecessary additives that many brands of pre-packaged jerky put in their jerky. I wanted to have more control into what goes into the jerky I eat.
Which is why I opted to make my own jerky. Luckily, it is fairly simple to do and you can make your own jerky for 1/5 of the cost it would take to buy a pre-packaged bag.
You’ll need to invest a little money into some supplies for making your own jerky, but it is well worth it and pays for itself. Your main purchase will be a food dehydrator. You’ll also need seasonings, raw meat of your choice, and any sauces you may want on it. You’ll recoup your costs in making your own jerky in only a few batches.
How to Make Your Own Jerky
The process to cook jerky takes awhile, but most of the time is spent slow cooking in the food dehydrator. Expect a batch of jerky to take between 4 – 12 hours to cook depending on the type of meat. Luckily food dehydrators are built to be on for long periods of time to slow cook.
When cooking jerky, I tend to experiment with my own mix of seasonings and sauces. I find it’s a great way to get rid of some of my lesser used seasonings and sauces that sit in my pantry.
The process of cooking jerky isn’t too complex and it doesn’t take too much prep time.
The process of making your own jerky is as follows:
- Use a large bowl or freezer bag, mix your choice of seasonings and sauces.
- Thinly slice your meat of choice. Should be roughly 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick and around 5″ to 6″ long. (use a meat tenderizer if needed)
- Mix in sliced meat with the container of seasonings and sauces. Mix around until evenly coated.
- Seal the container with the meat, sauces, and seasonings and leave it in the refrigerator for 3 – 6 hours.
- Take sealed container out of refrigerator and let meat reach room temperature. (Approximately 30 minutes)
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to place the meat into your dehydrator to cook.
If you’re planning on cooking chicken or turkey jerky, you’ll need to have the raw meat reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill all the bacteria. That is why I recommend you first put chicken in the oven in between step 5 and 6. You should preheat your over to about 200 degrees and leave them in the oven for roughly 20 – 30 minutes and then place them into your dehydrator.
My Recommendation for Dehydrators
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a good dehydrator. My personal recommendation for a dehydrator is the Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator FD-75A which I think is the best bang for the buck. Sure, it isn’t the best dehydrator out there, but I think it’s the best bang for buck food dehydrator currently on the market.
If you want the top of the line food dehydrator then I recommend buying one of the Excalibur brand food dehydrators. They are known as the Ferrari of food dehydrators and won’t disappoint.
My Personal Ingredient List
To give you an idea of some of the ingredients I use here is a rough list of what I mix for my jerky:
Note: The amounts listed are for two pounds of raw meat of your choice.
- Type – Soy Sauce, Worcestershire Sauce, Barbecue Sauce, A1 Steak Sauce, Teriyaki Sauce, Balsamic Vinegar
- Amount – Approximately 1 cup total should be enough to fully coat 2 pounds of meat. Sometimes I use one type of sauce and sometimes I combine them.
- Type – Black Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Yellow Mustard, Spicy Brown Mustard, Dried Chili Flakes
- Amount – Approximately 1 – 2 tsp each except mustard which is 1 – 2 tbsp. I mix roughly 2 – 3 seasonings in usually.
- Type – Honey, Hot Pepper Sauce, Lemon Juice, Lemon Pepper
- Amount – Around 1 – 2 tbsp each. I occasionally may add one of these in if I am trying to get a specific taste out of my next batch of jerky.
These are just some of the more common ingredients I’d use. I encourage you to look in your kitchen and grab a bunch of ingredients to marinate your meat in. It’s pretty hard to mess up the flavor of jerky and you may discover new and exciting flavors rather than following a traditional recipe.
I do want to point out using salt. Certain sauces contain high amounts of salt in it already such as soy sauce. Pay close attention to the kinds of sauces you’re using. Because salt is a natural preservative and is important in the preservation of your jerky, it is important to have some salt in your jerky if you want it to last. I find if using a high salt sauce, I won’t add additional salt, however if I am using very little salt in my sauces then I will add a few pinches of salt to help preserve the jerky.
There you have it. You now know how to make your own jerky. Once you get the hang of things you’ll be able to make many different tasting variations of jerky that you can eat as a healthy snack on a regular basis.
What’s your favorite way you’ve discovered to make great tasting and healthy jerky?