Venison Jerky Recipe (oven and dehydrator instructions)

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Venison (deer) jerky is a good way to preserve venison and have tasty, protein rich snacks available for your family. You can use this jerky recipe for other red meats such as beef or other wild game meat. So, if it’s not deer season and you don’t have any venison in the freezer, you can easily make beef jerky.

I’ll share our basic recipe and process but know that you can easily change up the ingredients to fit your family’s taste preferences. Also, you don’t have to have a dehydrator to make jerky, we’ve made it for years just using our oven.

One of the great things about having a homemade jerky recipe is that you can make sure that only natural ingredients that you feel good about are used. You’ll know that there isn’t any questionable ingredients such as monosodium glutamate or things that your family might be sensitive to such as nitrites.

venison jerky pieces on wooden slab with a small bowl of salt

Preparing the deer meat

Lean cuts of raw meats are ideal for jerky making. Cuts that have fat marbled in them will spoil faster than those that don’t. Fortunately, deer is naturally a lean meat, just be sure to remove as much fat as you can on the meat. While any cut of meat will work, hind quarters are ideal for jerky making.

You can also pick the leftover deer meat off the bones after processing the main cuts of meat and use those to make jerky bits.

If the meat has any silver skin attached be sure to remove it. Silver skin is connective tissue and will make that part of the jerky almost impossible to chew.

You’ll want to slice meat in thin slices that are about the same thickness. I think easiest to slice thin strips if the meat has been in the freezer for an hour or so. You want it firm but not all the way frozen. You don’t need a special knife to cut the meat, your favorite sharp knife will do.

If you use thick slices of meat, it can still make a good jerky but it will take longer to dry and will be a chewy jerky.

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Using ground venison to make jerky

You can use ground meat to make jerky, although it’s not the traditional way to of making jerky. If you’re going to use ground venison or ground beef for jerky making, it might be a good idea to invest in a jerky gun. This will make the process easier.

You’ll also need to use less liquid you when you flavor the meat. Once you’ve mixed the ground meat with the spices, you’ll need to let it rest in the refrigerator for a day to help it stick together better.

Marinating and flavoring the venison

Our favorite jerky marinade recipe for venison meat is just soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, black pepper powder and garlic powder. If you like a sweeter jerky you can add a sweetener such as brown sugar, honey, maple syrup or even pineapple juice to the marinade. For a spice, consider adding red pepper flakes or a small amount of cayenne powder.

There’s a printable recipe with flavoring suggestions below to help you make your own marinade recipe.

I store our deer jerky in the freezer and not in the pantry so I don’t worry to much about proper salting and curing.

If you’re going to store the jerky in the pantry, you’ll want to make sure to use 2 1/2 tbsp of salt for every 5 pounds of meat. If you’re using soy sauce, 2 tbsp of soy sauce can be 1/2 tbsp of the salt. You will also want to use a curing agent such as Insta-Cure which is a mix of salt and sodium nitrite. I prefer to just freeze the deer jerky.

Marinate the meat strips for at least six hours but it can be marinated up to two days. I use a large stainless steel bowl that will hold about 4 pounds of venison and keep it in the refrigerator while it’s marinating.

One of our favorite ways to flavor your own jerky is to smoke it. Place sliced venison on the smoker for 5-6 hours to get a nice smoky flavor throughout the meat. We like to use mesquite but any wood chips will do. Some people with skip the smoking step and just use liquid smoke.

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How to make venison jerky in the oven

Making jerky in the oven is super easy. You can place strips of meat in a single layer on the wire racks in the oven or use wire cooling racks and put those on the oven racks. Either way, you’ll want to put aluminum foil or a large baking sheet on the lower rack to catch drippings or any meat that shrinks up enough to fall through the racks.

Turn on the oven to the lowest temperature, for most ovens this will be about 180-200F. Ideally, you want to dry out the jerky meat at about 160F, so I use a wooden spoon to prop open the oven door a bit. The drying time will be about 4-6 hours.

The main problem with oven drying jerky is that it ties up the oven for a long time.

venison jerky pieces on dehydrator tray

How to make venison jerky in the dehydrator

To free up the oven, a dehydrator is an easy way to make the jerky. Lay out the thin slices of meat in a single layer on the dehydrator trays. Turn on the dehydrator to 160F and let it run for 4-5 hours.

You don’t need a fancy dehydrator for making jerky, but it’s best if the dehydrator has a temperature dial so you set the temperature on low heat.

How to know when venison jerky is done

Regardless of the drying process you chose – oven or dehydrator – it will probably take 4-6 hours for the jerky strips to dry out. After about 4 hours you should begin checking them for doneness.

When properly dried, you should be able to bend the long strips of dried meat end to end. At the bend, some of the fibers will break but it shouldn’t snap in half. If it does, it’s over dry and needs to be removed immediately. If the fibers just bend and don’t begin to break, they aren’t quite done. Check again in another hour.

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When the homemade deer jerky is warm it will be more pliable than when it cools off. So keep this in mind when you’re checking for doneness.

Storing homemade jerky

When the jerky is properly dried out, you’ll want to let it cool to room temperature before storing. Once it’s cooled off, you’ll want to store it in a sealed container. You can use ziplock bags, vacuum sealed bags, or even mason jars. We usually vacuum seal ours in a plastic bag.

The USDA recommends that properly cured homemade jerky will keep at room temperature for two weeks and that it should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer to increase the shelf life. This is why I just store ours in the freezer to begin with and not worry about curing it. When we open a bag, we store the opened bag in the refrigerator.

Other ways to preserve venison

Of course, venison roasts or ground venison can be frozen to use throughout the year. This is the most common way of preserving venison.

I also like to pressure can venison and can venison stew. Venison can also be substituted for beef in any canning recipe, so it’s a great way to have shelf stable meals available throughout the year.

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More Venison Recipes

Venison can be used as an alternative in any recipe that calls for red meat, although the flavor may be a little different since wild game meat is leaner than beef and most other red meats.

If you have a freezer full of venison, consider canning some of it for a shelf stable protein source. Canned venison also makes for super quick weeknight meals.

Here are 50 recipes to make delicious venison burgers, steaks, stews, chili and much more!

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>