State University Extension
Preserving Food Safely - 01600823
Muscles from the round are usually used since they are
easily prepared and contain little fat. However, any muscle
in the carcass can be used. Muscles from the round or leg
are most often used today. It is recommended that muscles
be removed from the carcass and made into jerky the day
after the kill to prevent unnecessary bacterial growth.
However, aged meat can be used. Meat which has been frozen
and thawed can also be used satisfactorily. Freezing meat
for a month before jerky is made insures that it will be
free from live parasites which are sometimes found in
game meat. In order to have freshly made jerky during the
year, many people freeze meat which is to be made into
jerky. The meat is then thawed in small quantities and made
into jerky as it is needed.
Meat should be trimmed of fat and connective tissue and
then cut into strips one-fourth inch thick, one inch wide,
and up to a foot in length. Cut with (not across) the
grain. Small muscles, one or two inches in diameter, are
often separated and made into jerky without being cut into
strips. These thicker pieces of meat take longer to absorb
the salt and seasonings and longer to dry, but with these
exceptions, no changes in the jerky recipes need to be made.
Some recipes call for drying jerky in the sun. Because of
sanitation problems, this method is not recommended.
If jerky is dried to a low moisture content. (it should
be crispy and leathery), it may be stored at room
temperature in air-tight containers. Store moistened jerky
in the freezer for no longer than a month; the saltiness of
the product encourages rancidity. Color of the finished
jerky ranges from a light brown to black. Color variations
depend upon the recipe used, the species of animal, and the
age of the animal. The latter two factors are related to
the myoglobin concentration in fresh meat. Myoglobin is
the pigment in meat responsible for color. Higher levels
of myoglobin result in darker colored jerky.
Checklist for Making Venison Jerky
1. Use fresh lean meat free of fat and connective
2. Slice the meat with the grain, not crosswise.
3. Add the correct amount of seasoning. If you do not
have a scale, use approximate equivalent measures for jerky
recipes as follows:
Salt 10.5 oz.= 1 cup
8.0 oz.= 3/4 cup
2.0 oz.= 3 level tablespoons
Sugar 5.0 oz.= 2/3 cup
3.5 oz.= 1/2 cup
1.0 oz.= 2 level tablespoons
Ground Spices 0.5 oz.= 2 level tablespoons
.08 oz.= 1 level tablespoons
4. Cure the meat the correct length of time at
refrigerator temperatures. Salted meat should be placed in
plastic, wooden, stainless steel or tone containers.
5. Keep the drying or smoking temperature in the
smokehouse or oven at 120 degrees Fahrenheit or below
after the first 30 minutes. Oven or smokehouse temperatures
of 170-190 degrees Fahrenheit are often recommended for the
first 30 minutes.
6. If an oven is used, line the sides and bottom with
aluminum foil to catch the drippings. Open the door to the
first or second stop to allow moisture to escape and to
lower the oven temperature when necessary.
7. Use any hardwood for smoking. Do not use pine, fir
8. Remove the jerky from the smokehouse or oven before
it gets too hard for your taste. Five pounds of fresh meat
should weigh approximately 2 pounds after drying or smoking.
9. Store jerky in clean jars or plastic bags, or wrap
it in the freezer paper and freeze it. Although properly
dried jerky will last almost indefinitely at any
temperature, its quality deteriorates after a few months.
10. Alter seasonings and smoking or drying times to
suit individual tastes. Examples of spices which could be
added to 5 pounds of meat include: 2 tablespoons chili
powder, 2 tablespoons of garlic powder, 2 tablespoons onion
powder, 1 tablespoon ginger, 2 tablespoons coriander or 1