Deer Jerky, How to Make Venison Jerky

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We will guide you on a mouthwatering journey on how to create your own venison jerky, a traditional snack loved by adventurers, hunters, and foodies alike.

Jerky in jar in woodland scene.

Today, we’re diving into a recipe that unites the joy of outdoor life with the art of culinary creation. Our quarry? Venison.

Venison is a lean, flavorful meat harvested from deer, full of protein, and packed with essential nutrients. It’s a beloved choice for many due to its low-fat content and distinct flavor that sets it apart from your everyday beef or chicken. But when it’s transformed into jerky, that’s when the magic really happens.

Jerky has long been a tried and true method of preserving meat, originating from the ancient practices of indigenous peoples. Today, it serves as the perfect, protein-packed snack for long hikes, road trips, or just those moments when you need a quick, tasty pick-me-up.

This homemade venison jerky recipe combines the best of the culinary world with a touch of wildness and a sense of rustic tradition. It’s the perfect way to utilize your latest hunting trip harvest or to try something new if you’ve managed to get your hands on some store-bought venison. And the best part? It’s simple to make, customizable to your palate, and way better than anything you’d pick up at the convenience store.

Which cuts of meat should you use?

The best cuts of the deer are the larger muscles from the rear leg and hind quarter. Top round roasts, bottom round roasts, butts, and eye-of-round all make great jerky and are the easiest to cut.

How to slice the meat

Decide which roast you would like to use. Put the roast in the freezer for a couple of hours until semi-frozen. With a very sharp knife (a filet knife works great for this), slice the meat against the grain into very thin strips, about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick.

If you have a meat slicer, this will make the job incredibly easy. You can slice the meat with the grain if you prefer a chewier product.

What you need

  • Thinly sliced deer meat; remove silver skin and any connective tissue before slicing.
  • Soy sauce
  • Brown sugar
  • Oil
  • Grated fresh ginger or ginger powder
  • Minced garlic or garlic powder
  • If you’d like a smoky flavor and are doing the jerky in your dehydrator or oven, add a few teaspoons of liquid smoke.
  • You can add the recommended amount of cure to preserve it for longer. This is most important if using a dehydrator to dry your jerky.
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How to make it

In your oven

Note: You can also hang a piece of meat on a skewer or toothpick and feed the slices through the rack of your oven to hang them. Protect the bottom of your oven against drips with a layer of aluminum foil.

Place in oven on the lowest setting. Mine is 170°F, but some have the lowest temperature of 200°F. Dry for 4-6 hours until the jerky is done to your liking. If jerky is still flexible when you try to break it, it will be chewy. If the jerky breaks, it will be sufficiently dry and crunchy.

Store the jerky in plastic bags in the refrigerator for at least two weeks or freeze it for longer storage. The jerky will be good in a cool, dark, dry place for up to two weeks. It can be used for camping and hiking trips but should be consumed within a few days.

In your food dehydrator

Step One

Mix all of the ingredients together in a covered plastic or glass bowl. Add venison. Marinate for 1-2 days, shaking the batch a few times per day to mix the ingredients up again. Don’t leave the meat in the marinade for more than 48 hours.

Step Two

Let some of the liquid from the marinade drip off of the slices. Pat dry with a paper towel.

Lay the sliced, marinated meat on your dehydrator trays in a single layer.

Step Three

Slide dehydrator trays into the dehydrator.

Set the temperature to 145-165°F/ 70°C. Set the timer for 4 hours. Check. See if jerky is done to your liking. If not, dry jerky until it bends but cracks as it bends.

In your smoker

The smoker is our favorite way to make jerky. It adds a smoky flavor without the addition of liquid smoke, and you can dry it at a lower temperature than you can in most ovens.

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Marinate the meat as above in step one.

Hang slices on bamboo skewers instead of individual toothpicks; they are easier to thread.

Hang the skewers on the racks of your smoker, threading the pieces through the racks so that they hang.

Set up your smoker with wood or pellets and water. Set temperature to 145°- 165°F (70°C)

We like to use mild woods like maple, oak, or fruit woods. However, you can use mesquite, hickory, or any other wood you like.

Jerky on parchment paper.

Pro tips for success

  • To make this recipe gluten-free, substitute tamari for the traditional soy sauce.
  • Don’t skip the marinade time. It will give the jerky move flavor.
  • Do not marinate the meat at room temperature. This will allow harmful bacteria to grow!
  • You can use ground meat and use a jerky gun to make jerky. We prefer slicing thin. We find the texture is more pleasurable than the jerky gun produces.
  • Make sure you cut pieces thin. If you have a meat slicer, that is a great tool to use to get uniform pieces.
  • You can also ask your local butcher to slice the meat for you.
  • Cook the jerky to your liking. Some people like jerky that is chewy and not as dried. Others prefer their jerky to be thoroughly dried out.
  • Use this jerky recipe with any protein you like. Most domestic and wild-sourced meats work great for jerky.

How to store jerky

Properly storing your homemade venison jerky can help prolong its shelf life and keep it fresh. Here are some tips on how to store venison jerky:

1. Cooling: Once your jerky is dehydrated, let it cool down to room temperature. This can take an hour or two. Cooling is essential because it prevents condensation from forming when the jerky is stored, which could lead to spoilage.

2. Packaging: Next, place the jerky in airtight containers or vacuum-sealed bags. Mason jars, zip-top bags, or specially designed jerky containers can all work well. If you’re using a zip-top bag, squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing.

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3. Storing: Store the jerky in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Pantries, cupboards, or basements can all be good options. The key is to avoid heat and humidity, which can lead to spoilage. It will only store at room temperature for a few days.

4. Long-Term Storage: If you want to store your jerky for longer periods (months to a year), consider vacuum-sealing it and keeping it in the freezer. While this isn’t necessary for short-term storage, it can help preserve the jerky’s quality over longer periods.

5. Checking for Freshness: Always check your jerky before eating it, even if it’s been stored properly. If it has an off smell, looks discolored, or has a sticky or slimy texture, it’s best to discard it.

Remember, homemade venison jerky doesn’t contain the same preservatives as store-bought jerky, so its shelf life may be shorter. Generally, you can expect properly stored homemade jerky to last a few days at room temperature, a few weeks in the refrigerator, or up to a year in the freezer. Always use your best judgment. When in doubt, throw it out.

Some other delicious venison recipes

  • Venison stew
  • Venison burger
  • Deer neck roast
  • Venison enchiladas
  • Venison Summer Sausage
  • Smoked venison backstrap

Helpful tools

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you go to the link and purchase something at no additional cost to you. See FTC Disclosure here.

  • large glass bowls
  • non stick cookie sheet
  • cooling rack

That is how easy it is to make deer jerky at home! Venison jerky is a great way to preserve your harvest. Make some today!

Close up of jerky on slab of wood.

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If you have any questions or comments, please ask in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you!

I hope you enjoyed the recipe today!

Enjoy. And have fun cooking!

Originally published December 8, 2020. Updated August 2, 2024.

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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 >>