Jerky Cooking Tips and Hints

Should you salt your jerky?

Beef jerky
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Jerky Tips and Hints

• Before embarking on your jerky experiments, familiarize yourself with the recommendations of the Food Safety and Inspection Service to avoid any foodborne illness risks.

• Select only the leanest cuts of meat and remove all visible fat. Fat can become rancid.

• It is advisable to freeze wild game completely to kill any potential parasites in the meat.

• When oven-drying, you can place strips directly on the oven racks, but put a layer of heavy-duty foil on the bottom to catch any drips.

• A cake rack inside a foil-lined cookie sheet will also work, but may require boosted air circulation. A low-speed fan blowing toward the open oven door should do the trick.

• Be sure to allow adequate space in between slices for air circulation. Arrange slices at least 1/2-inch apart.

• Partially frozen meat is easier to slice into thin strips. For old-fashioned chewy jerky, cut strips along the grain. For more tender jerky, slice against the grain.

• Thicker slices will take longer to dry than thin ones. Try to keep your strips as uniform in size as possible for even drying.

• Use paper towels to blot any rising oils from the surface.

• Depending on your drying method, it may be necessary to flip the meat at the halfway point.

• Be sure jerky has completely cooled before storing. Blot away any moisture. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

• Jerky will weigh approximately one-fourth its original raw weight.

• Finished jerky products should be as pliable as a green stick. It should not break cleanly like a dry stick. This doneness test should be performed after the jerky has cooled.

• Salt not only helps pull moisture from the meat, it also acts as a preservative. Jerky using salt will have an appreciably longer shelf-life than that without. In general, using 1 teaspoon of salt per pound of meat, plus any optional herbs and spices, is considered unsalted jerky.

• Salted jerky is generally brined in a solution using 2-1/2 cups pickling salt per 3 quarts of water, plus any optional herbs and spices. After 1 to 2 days, remove from brine, pat dry, and proceed with drying.

• Most salted jerky can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer for 2 to 3 months. Any longer and it deteriorates. Unsalted jerky should be refrigerated and used within 2 weeks.

• When using a marinade, always refrigerate.

• Take a basic jerky recipe and add your favorite herbs, spices, and flavorings in a marinade or dry rub to create your own signature jerky.

More About Jerky and Jerky Recipes:


  • Just Jerky
  • Jerky: Make Your Own Delicious Jerky
  • Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook
  • Trail Food: Drying and Cooking Food for Backpacking and Paddling
  • More Cookbooks