Jerky Making 101

Wild game makes excellent jerky. The lean, long-grained meat is a natural for smoking and drying, which adds texture and flavour. Read on to tackle your own signature batch!

More on meat.

Round roasts are ideal, with long meat grains. The fewer sinew or fat lines, the better.

The cure.

Jerky-making kits are a great way to start, as the instructions are easy to follow and explain why you need to use cure when smoking or drying meat. After experimenting, it is easy to branch out and try making your own wet or dry brines. The basics include salt, sugar, cure or nitrates, and spices for flavour.

Tips on trim.

You must remove sinew or connective tissue. Slice the full length of the roast, with the grain, to ¼-inch thickness. Using a jerky board helps guide your knife to maintain consistent results, ultimately keeping cooking times more even. Slicing the meat partially frozen can make even slicing easier.

Brine or rub?

It’s up to you whether you’ll go with brine (wet) or a rub (dry). Brine should be mixed in a non-metallic container or resealable bag. Simply lay the meat strips in the brine. If you’re going the rub route, mix the seasonings and spices together. Sprinkle half the spice mixture over the slices, then turn them over and sprinkle on the other half. Let your brine or rub work it’s magic for at least 24 hours.

Prep for slow cook.

Lightly greasing jerky or oven racks will prevent sticking. For wet brine, remove the meat, pat dry, and lay out the slices on your jerky racks. Let the slices air dry for at least 15 minutes to eliminate potential moist areas that will prevent the smoke from penetrating evenly. Dry rubs also need the same air dry time.

TIP: Jerky should reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Remember meat continues to dry as it cools, so be careful not to overdry it or it will become brittle and tough to chew.

The smoker.

Smoke your meat at 200°F for 45 to 90 minutes, checking the meat and tasting if often to ensure it doesn’t get oversmoked or overdried. Use smoke to add flavour and experiment with any type of wood or pellet. Outside temperature, wind, and your type of smoker will affect how long the process takes. Test for doneness by pushing on the meat—look for the same resistance on the meat as when you push the pad between your thumb and when your thumb is pulled back.

The oven.

If your oven allows it, place foil or a pan on the bottom to catch drippings. If not, line your bottom rack with foil. Place meat slices directly on oven racks in a single layer and bake at 200°F with the oven door slightly ajar. Bake for 60 minutes or until desired doneness. Check and taste the jerky often.

TIP: You can also use a dehydrator—follow the manufacturer’s directions for drying jerky.

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