Riege: Why not make jerky?

Published 7:20 pm Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Next time you pop into the market, buy a steak, or reach into the freezer for a package of chicken breasts, take a moment to reflect on the American pioneers who trekked across this country by wagon or horseback – all without electricity or ice. They had fresh meat for a day or two after game was killed. The rest of the time these pioneers had to rely on meat that was salted or dried.

The dried meat, we call it jerky today, is once again very popular. This time we look at it as a snack rather than a mainstay of our diet. Jerky is easy to make and with summer fishing season upon us (and the fall hunts not far behind) right now is a good time to clean out some of last year’s meat from your freezer. Jerky is so delicious you can use it anytime for any cut of wild meat and “jerking” is also a good bet for game that has maybe been in the freezer “a little too long.”

Email newsletter signup

Preparation for making jerky takes some time, but the rewards are excellent. First of all, trim all the fat and as much connective tissue or gristle as possible from the meat to be jerked and cut it into strips about 1/4 inch thick. To avoid crumbly jerky, cut with the grain of the meat, rather than across it, as you would carve a roast, for example. Combine the following ingredients in a small bowl.

1 tsp. salt 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp. pepper 2 Tbsp. liquid smoke

1 tsp. garlic powder 1 lb. lean meat, thinly sliced.

Stir to mix well. Place meat 3 or 4 layers deep in a glass, stoneware, plastic or stainless steel container, spooning the mixture over each layer. Cover tightly. Marinate 6-12 hours in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally and keeping the mixture tightly covered.

To dry the meat, put a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of your stove’s oven to catch any drippings and drape the meat strips over the oven racks, leaving enough space between them for the air to circulate. Set the oven to about 150 degrees and then crack the door open an inch or two.

If I don’t want to tie up my stove or heat up the house in the summer time I will get out my dehydrator. I purchased mine from Bass Pro Shop (for under $30.00) and we use it all year round. This device has a series of trays and you can double or triple the recipe and still have ample room to dry all of your meat in one of these dehydrators. We also use it to dry apples and fruit to have as a snack in the boat or to carry with us in the woods during deer hunting. It may take a little longer than the previously mentioned stove method, but I think the meat is more tender and we don’t have the hassle of using the oven.

Most batches take five or six hours but times will vary, depending on the heat of your individual oven, the thickness of the meat, etc., so check on the doneness after three hours or so.

The jerky should not be pink inside. It’s done when you can still bend it. If it breaks while bending it is probably overdone.

Another thing that you can do is purchase marinades and seasonings from Lawry’s. This makes the job a little easier and the results just as delicious.

Choose 12-ounce bottles of marinade at your favorite market or check your sporting goods store for the new 5-ounce foil packs. The new Seasoned Marinade with a touch of hickory flavor is perfect for jerky but Mesquite, Teriyaki, and Herb & Garlic marinades are also good.

Store the finished product in a cool, dry place. Don’t worry about spoilage, it won’t last long!