3 strip of deer jerky on white plate with blue background
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Avid campers and hikers might keep jerky, or dried meat, with them when outdoors. Drying is one method of preserving food for longer storage. While you can buy jerky, you can also make it yourself!

Our office had one last package of deer meat from previous recipes in our Wild Eats series, so we made jerky. 

For more information on jerky, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation through the University of Georgia. 

Raw Meat Safety

Large cuts of meat muscle, such as roast, work well for jerky, as compared to ground meat. Keep meat refrigerated at 40°F or below, and thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter.

If using wild game to make jerky, the meat should be frozen at 0°F or below for at least 30 days. Freezing will eliminate any trichinella parasite from the meat.

Slicing Meat for Jerky

Slice meat no thicker than 1/4 inch, and trim off all fat from meat because the fat can become rancid quickly. In fat, “rancid” refers to off flavors caused by oxidation of fat. Consider partially freezing meat to make it easier to slice.

Drying the Meat

Here are steps for drying jerky:

  1. Preheat dehydrator to 140ºF.
  2. Remove meat strips from the marinade and drain on clean, absorbent towels.
  3. Arrange strips on dehydrator trays.
  4. Place the slices close together, but not touching or overlapping.
  5. Place the racks in a dehydrator. Close dehydrator.
  6. Dry until a test piece cracks but does not break when it is bent, often between 10 to 24 hours.
  7. Once drying is completed, pat off any beads of oil with clean, absorbent towels.
  8. Remove strips from the racks. Cool.
  9. Package in glass jars or heavy plastic food storage bags.

Meat Safety After Drying

Because meat is a food commonly associated with foodborne illness, it is important to follow additional steps after drying.

  1. Preheat oven to 275ºF.
  2. Place dried meat strips on a baking sheet, close together, but not touching or overlapping.
  3. For strips originally cut 1/4 inch thick or less, heat 10 minutes in an oven preheated.
  4. Cool and store as directed in “Drying the Meat” above.

Storing Jerky

Properly dried jerky will keep at room temperature two weeks in a sealed container.

Jerky Marinade

1 1/2 - 2 pounds of lean meat (beef, pork, venison)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

  1. Wash hands.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a shallow pan. Toss to coat.
  3. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight.
  4. Dry according to directions above.

Recipe Adapted from:  National Center for Home Food Preservation, University of Georgia