Jerky is lean meat with its fat trimmed and cut into strips before being dried to prevent spoilage. The process normally includes drying the meat and adding salt to stop bacterial growth. Keep on reading to find out how to make beef jerky in a smoker in your own backyard.
Many types of meat can be made into jerky, including chicken, turkey, venison, and buffalo. But, the most popular meat for jerky is beef.
Beef jerky is the epitome of a high-protein, low-carb snack that you can eat while hiking. You can also use it as an ingredient in some dishes. Some people even add it to their soup or pasta sauce to give it a little zing.
But, did you know that jerky isn’t something new and has an interesting history behind it? If you didn’t, continue reading and find out.
History of Beef Jerky
Some people say that Native Americans were the first persons to make jerky from buffalo meat. But, others consider the Quechua, a South American tribe, as the first people to make jerky. The tribe used to be a part of the ancient Incan empire.
In fact, the name jerky is derived from the Quechuan word “Ch’arki,” which means dried meat. The name later evolved into jerky. The food preservation technique allowed humans to store food for a long time.
It also made it easy to carry the food around when they go on long journeys.
The Quechua used llama and alpaca meat for their jerky. They deboned it, removed the fat, sliced it thinly, and rubbed the meat with salt. After this, the meat was sun-dried or smoked. The practice later spread to different parts of the globe following the arrival of Spanish conquistadores in the New World.
The addition of spices enhanced the flavor of the meat and it soon became a staple food for American pioneers. It became an essential source of protein for traders and settlers in North America.
The Cree Indians of North America also had a similar product called the pemmican. It is a concentrated mixture of protein and fat that come from elk, deer, buffalo, and other large game animals. They added any available ingredients in the area.
Today, jerky is available in different flavors and styles. It is now among the most popular snacks in the world.
Making Beef Jerky in a Smoker
Now that you know the background about jerky, let’s take a look at how you can make beef jerky in a smoker.
#1: Choose a Lean Piece of Meat
The first thing you need to do in making beef jerky in a smoker is to look for a suitable piece of meat. Many jerky recipes normally specify around 5 1/2 pounds of meat. A sirloin tip may be a good choice for newbies.
The sirloin tip is normally lean and easy to trim. This makes it perfect for you if you’re new to making beef jerky through smoking.
#2: Trim and Cut the Beef
The next step is to trim away the fat and connective tissue on the meat. Removing the fat will prevent the meat from becoming rancid and ensure the drying period remains consistent. You may also ask the butcher to trim the meat for you before you take it home.
After trimming the meat, you should cut it into one-inch strips. Cutting against the grain is ideal and you should aim for a thickness of 1/4 inch. Each strip needs to be uniform to ensure they dry out evenly.
If the strips are not uniform, some pieces will become overdone and tough by the time the thicker slices are cooked.
#3: Flavor up the Meat
Flavoring up the meat means you should have your marinade ready. You can have your own combination of spices to use in adding flavor to the jerky. Make sure to gently turn each piece to ensure it’s covered by the marinade completely.
After marinating the meat, place it inside a bowl with a lid and put it inside the refrigerator. Leaving it in the refrigerator overnight will ensure the meat will be infused with the seasoning.
You have two main options. You can either buy a pre-made marinade, or you can use a beef jerky smoker recipe (see below for our favourite).
If you’re unsure about the marinade to use, you may want to check out what we found for you:
LEM Backwoods Original Jerky Seasoning
- Mix with ground meat and use with LEM Jerky Cannon or Jerky Gun
- One of our eight popular jerky seasoning flavors; Contains MSG
- Cure packet included
- Use to marinate jerky strips
- Seasons 25 pounds of meat
If you’re looking for a simple yet flavorful seasoning for your jerky, you can check out the LEM Backwoods Original Jerky Seasoning. You can use to give your jerky a delicious flavor before you smoke it. Each pack can season up to 25 pounds of meat and it comes with its own cure packet.
Hi Mountain Jerky Cure and Seasoning Variety Pack
- FLAVORS – Includes five authentic Wyoming recipe flavors: Original Blend, Mesquite, Hickory,...
- AMOUNT OF JERKY – Each of the 5 flavor packets in this variety pack will season 4 lbs of whole...
- MEAT CHOICES – Make jerky from beef, wild game, poultry, fish, or any meat of your choice. Each...
- USE WITH – Jerky can be made in an oven, smoker, or dehydrator.
- KIT INCLUDES – Five different seasoning packets, one cure packet, a shaker bottle for easy mixing,...
The Hi Mountain Jerky Cure and Seasoning Variety Pack comes with five flavor packets you can use to season meats. The five authentic Wyoming flavors are the Original Blend, Mesquite, Cajun, Cracked Pepper N’ Garlic, and Hickory.
Each pack allows you to season up to 15 pounds of meat. It also comes with detailed instructions, a shaker bottle, and a cure packet.
Beef Jerky Recipe for a Smoker #1
Or, consider making your own marinade. Here’s our top recommendation for a smoked jerky recipe:
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Worcester sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (adjusted to how spicy you like your jerky)
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Mix thoroughly, ensuring that the powder and sugar is dissolved well. Then, cover the meat with the sauce and let sit in the fridge overnight.
Smoked Beef Jerky Recipe #2
Here’s another beef jerky recipe for a smoker that you’ll want to consider. It’s delicious and be sure to pick up some extra beer to drink too!
- 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 a bottle of dark/stout beer
Mix up all the ingredients, ensuring that the powder, sugar and salt is dissolved well. Then, marinade the meat overnight in a shallow pan.
Use the other 1/2 of the beer in the water tray when smoking the beef jerky.
#4: Smoke the Meat
With the meat marinated, it’s time for you to smoke it. When you smoke beef jerky, you should use low temperatures with a little smoke. It’s also necessary to smoke the jerky until it’s completely dry.
Make sure you put the marinated beef strips on the smoker racks and avoid using a solid pan. You should allow a lot of airflow around the meat. Leave some space between the strips as you put them on the racks.
Set the temperature to 175 degrees Fahrenheit when you smoke the beef (see this meat smoking temperature and time guide). The process may take at least seven hours for you to get beef jerky. If the jerky is not cooked properly after seven hours, you may want to continue smoking it until it becomes perfect.
Some recipes show that the cooking period can even last up to 72 hours depending on the method, smoker, and climate of the location.
The recommended wood chips for smoking beef jerky are hickory or mesquite. These will give the meat the best flavour!
Reminders When Making Beef Jerky
There are a few reminders you should remember when you’re making beef jerky using a smoker. Check out these reminders:
- If cutting the meat is challenging, you can freeze it first before cutting.
- Never overlap the meat when you’re placing them in the smoker. Make sure there’s space between the slices by using multiple racks
- Make sure to turn the slices over to so that both sides of the meat will dry evenly
- When you reach the two-hour mark, you can check for doneness. You can also check it after every hour so you can avoid overcooking the meat.
- You can check if the jerky is done by bending the meat after the six-hour mark. The jerky is too dry if it cracks and breaks when you try to bend it at this point. On the other hand, it’s ready when you can easily bend and tear it off.
Smoker Recommendations for Making Beef Jerky
If you haven’t bought a smoker yet, you may want to consider the following smokers we found in the market:
Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker
- Digital panel controls on/off, cooking temperature and time
- Electric Smoker dimensions – 20.47" W x 19.88" L x 33.26" H | Max temperature setting – 275ᵒ F...
- Patented side wood chip loading system allows you to add wood chips without opening door
- Thermostat-temperature control for even, consistent smoking
- Fully-insulated body retains heat
The Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker features digital controls to turn on or off the equipment and set the cooking temperature. It also has a side-loading system for wood chips and a fully-insulated body for maximum heat retention. Moreover, its thermostat-temperature control ensures consistent and even smoking.
Weber 14-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
- Your purchase includes: One Weber 14-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal Smoker + Cover
- Item overall dimensions: 14.7" W x 14.7" D x 31.4" H. Item weight: 24 lbs
- Cooking Grid Dimensions 13 1/2 X 13 1/2". Main Grilling Area 143 Sq. Inches. Total Grilling Area 286...
- Easy assembly required, instructions avaialable in User Guide attachment.
- Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker reaches approximadetely 190°F inside temperature
The 14-inch Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is easy to assemble so you can enjoy smoking meats in your backyard every weekend. It features plated steel cooking plates, a built-in lid thermometer, and rust-resistant metal legs. Its 286 square-inch cooking capacity allows you to easily cook meat for the whole family.
Things to Consider When Buying a Smoker
Smoking is probably the best way for you to cook meat. Aside from enhancing its flavor, it also makes it tender that it can melt in your mouth when you eat smoked meat. At this point, you may already want to get a smoker for your home.
But, before you go and click the Add to Cart button, you should consider a couple of things before finalizing your decision on the smoker you are going to buy.
#1: Quality of the Smoker
Just like any other cooking equipment, the first thing you should consider is the quality of the smoker. You should make sure the smoker you purchased can last for years. Due to this, you should check the vents, seams, and welds to ensure its quality is good enough to last a long time.
#2: Materials Used
A smoker made of thick steel is ideal for any homeowner’s use. It can absorb and radiate heat better than cheaper materials such as aluminum. When it radiates heat better, you can be assured of better cooking results.
#3: Airflow and Ventilation
Airflow and ventilation are important indicators of a well-designed smoker. The smoker should allow you to control the fire and heat. It should also have suitable dampers and vents to facilitate smoking meat.
Additionally, the chimney and the firebox should also have a damper. You should also check if the seal is tight to ensure it will function properly.
#4: Capacity and Size
The last but certainly not the least thing to consider before you buy a smoker is its capacity. You should check how many meat slabs you can fit inside it. It should also have a suitable space in case you need to hang meat in the grate.
Moreover, you should also make sure it can easily fit in your backyard. You wouldn’t want to have a smoker that’s too big for you to use at home.
How to Make Beef Jerky in a Smoker: Tips and Tricks?
Do you have any tips or advice for smoking beef jerky? Leave a comment below and let us know please. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2021-05-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API