The Jerky Primer
compiled by Steve Tobin
Jerky is meat cut into thin strips and dried to preserve it for future use. It is probably one of the most
ancient methods of food preservation known. The meat can be flavored or treated during the drying
process to improve flavor or nutritional content. The American Indians made pemmican out of dried
venison or buffalo meat, mixed with dried berries and buffalo fat. This was packed and sealed into
leather bags where it would keep for months without spoiling.
The most popular use for jerky today is as a high protein snack, and as a source of meat on outings
where fresh meat is not available, or where weight is a factor. Meat looses about 1/4 to 1/3 of it's weight
when it is dried. Jerky may also be rehydrated and used for cooking.
Meat Selection and Processing
Meat Jerky may be made from beef, venison, moose, elk, antelope and other game animals. The fat in
meat goes rancid and will spoil the jerky fast. When using beef, use only the leaner cuts such as the
round and chuck roast. Wild game animals are typically very lean, so this is less of a problem. Trim off
all of the fat and membrane that you can as you cut up the meat. When making jerky cleanliness and
sanitation are of utmost importance. Be sure all work surfaces, equipment and hands are thoroughly
Cut the meat into thin strips across the grain of the meat. The thinner the strips are, the quicker it will
dry. 1/4" thick and 6" long is about right. You will be able to cut the meat into slices easier if it is
partially frozen. Freeze, or thaw, the meat until the meat is just barely pliable and still cutable.
Once you have the meat cut into strips the next step is to dry it. There are several methods you may use.
Method 1: Lay out the strips on a cookie sheet lined with foil, turned up at the edges so juice won't
get over everything. Lay out meat in rows and a single layer. This is easiest, but the pieces in the
middle will dry slower than the edge pieces. You also need to turn the pi