How to Make Venison Jerky Sticks

Jerky
Homemade jerky sticks.

Wild Game Jerky Sticks Recipe

Now that the holidays are over I can sit back, relax, and chew on some good ol’ fashioned, homemade jerky. That’s right folks, I’ve been making my own jerky for almost fifteen years now. It didn’t start out so well, but through lots of trial and error–and a literal ton of wild meat–I believe I’ve perfected the art of making wild game jerky sticks.

For that last several years, I’ve been giving the stuff away to family and friends at Christmas. Since it’s illegal to sell wild game meat, it does me no good to just sit on the recipe. So, for all you hunters out there with way too much meat and time on your hands, here’s my famous, perfected recipe:

Wild Game Jerky Sticks

Materials Needed:

  • Food Dehydrator w/ extra Trays (You’ll need 8 total trays). I recommend the Nesco FD-37 food dehydrator available at amazon at this link Nesco FD-37 Food Dehydrator.
  • Jerky Gun w/ Attachments (here’s a another link at amazon for the Nesco Jerky Gun/Kit)
  • Jerky Cure & Seasoning (I’m using the Hi Mountain brand available at Amazon.com, outdoor suppliers, and supermarkets).
  • Electric Smoker: mine is the Big Chief front-load smoker. It’s a simple and inexpensive smoker. See here at amazon: Big Chief.)
  • Meat Grinder
  • Kitchen Scale
  • Disposable Rubber Gloves
  • Scissors
  • Fillet knife and cutting board
  • Wood chips
  • Measuring cups & spoons.
  • Extra Spices: Salt, Sugar, Pepper, Crushed Red Pepper, fresh jalapeno, etc.
  • A pound of lean ground beef

The Jerky “Snack Sticks” Method

  1. Plan on using 4-5 pounds of lean muscle meat per batch to maximize dehydrator space.
  2. Trim off all sinew, fat, hair, dirt, etc. from venison. Then, cut meat into smaller chunks for grinding.
  3. When grinding venison muscle meat (which is pretty dry), you’ll want to add some fat and moisture in the form of bacon ends or just mix in some cheap ground beef at a ratio of about 1:4 beef-to-wild-game. If you are making jerky from pre-packaged venison with fat already added, then you can skip this step.
  4. Grind meat twice using smaller grinder plate.
  5. After mixing spices, cure, and water (according to  included instructions), cover the meat mix and store in refidgerator for a minimum of four hours (or overnight) to cure.
  6. Before you begin filling the trays, start soaking a pan-full of wood chips. My favorite wood chips are mesquite, but any quality chips will work. Just be sure to soak wood chips for a minimum of two hours.
  7. For seasoning, I use the Hi Mountain Jerky Seasonings. Thoroughly mix in the meat and seasoning according to the  included instructions.
  8. For extra spicy jerky, add extra black or red pepper, minced jalapeno, or any other seasonings if desired.
  9. Use the jerky gun with either the large round or flat attachment to form long sticks across trays. You can cut them down to size later before putting them into the smoker.
  10. Dehydration takes 7 – 8 hours depending on ambient temperature and humidity. Dehydrate indoors at room temperature to avoid over- or under-cooking.
  11. After two hours in the dehydrator, remove the jerky, cut into smaller lengths, and then place them in the smoker for 3-5 hours . Over-smoking will impart too much smoke flavor into the meat. Also, in hot weather keep your smoker in the shade or it will over-cook your meat. Remember, you are dehydrating not cooking!
  12. If it’s freezing cold outside, the jerky won’t smoke well, so leave the dehydrator in the sunlight so it stays warm and moist inside.
  13. After smoking for a few hours, put the jerky sticks back in dehydrator until firm. This usually takes about six more hours.
  14. Rotate jerky trays every 2 hours so they dry evenly.
  15. Taste-test occasionally for consistency. You don’t want the meat too moist, or too dry.
  16. After 8-10 hours (dehydrated 2 hours, smoked 2 hours, and dehydrated again) the jerky is done. Remove the jerky sticks and stack them on a plate layered with paper towels to soak up any extra oil, and let cool for an hour.
  17. Once cool, put jerky in freezer bags and place in fridge or freezer.

Final Notes:

  • The jerky process takes all day, so be prepared to babysit your meat.
  • Jerky meat dries down to about 50% original weight.
  • The best way to ruin your jerky is to over- or under-season it. Use extra spices sparingly. Jerky that’s too salty is the worst!
  • The second best way ruin your jerky is to over- or under-cook it. Under-cooked jerky is mushy and prone to mold. Over-cooked jerky is tough and dry. Also, don’t over-smoke your jerky or it can  taste smokey and bitter.
  • The Hi Mountain seasoning is the best I’ve used. However, it isn’t very spicy, so a little extra black and red pepper is usually required. You can also add some Tabasco sauce and crushed red pepper for extra kick.
  • Your homemade jerky will last one week in your backpack, two months in the fridge, and two years in the freezer. But most likely it won’t last two days, especially if you have kids around.
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