I have been hanging around the forums for a bit and this is my first "cook" related post. I have been infatuated with smoking meats and making BBQ for a long time. I've smoked salmon in an old gas stove converted to a smoker, pork on a Brinkmann Vertical charcoal unit, various BBQ cuts on a Wal Mart special, and now I am using a Char-Griller Akorn Kamado to smoke and BBQ with. Of everything I've used so far, the Akorn is by far the easiest to manage and produces the most flavorful and moist foods. Now I'm ready to step up to a professional quality cooker, but more about that at a later date.... Let's talk about jerky, Venison jerky!
A month ago my BIL took a good sized doe and asked me if I wanted any of the meat. You're dadgum right I did, so I drove over to his place and helped him with the processing task and was rewarded with a nice share of meat. My wife has always been skeptical on the flavor of wild game, that's just because she's never had it made like I make it. More to come on that subject as well. She does however like some jerky, who doesn't, so I decided to dedicate my rewards to that. I've made a lot of beef jerky, from whole muscle to my favorite quick and easy Jerky Cannon stuff, but seeing how I don't get out and hunt much I hadn't got the opportunity to make any deer jerky. That changed last week....
I started off with a nice whole hind leg. The leg was cut into muscle groups and sliced into whole muscle strips. In order to get the right thickness with a knife, I froze the meat for a few weeks until I had the time to make the jerky and defrosted in the fridge for about two days. The slow defrost in the fridge left the meat plenty firm and allowed me to get nice even cuts with a sharp filet knife. I cut the meat from the deer so all the fat and unwanted connective tissues were largely removed before the meat even went into the freezer.
For the marinade, I wanted a sweet and spicy tang so BBQ and Teriyaki seemed like the best flavor profiles to combined. I like to make my own fusion BBQ sauce, it is a sweet and smokey tomato based sauce that is mixed with a vinegar tang found in a Carolina style sauce, this would give the Teriyaki a nice kick and lend some sweetness without having to add too much sugar into the blend. I usually do Teriyaki with pineapple but didn't have any on hand so a little lemon juice was used but the flavor seemed to be lost in the BBQ and spices. I'm sure that the acid helped though in tenderizing the meat. As for additional flavor, some Brown Sugar and a few spices went into the mix:
Ground Black Pepper
Crushed Red Pepper Flake
To season, I just liberally applied the spices to the meat, gave it a stir, then repeat. Due to the salt content of the Teriyaki, I kept the added salt down. Add brown sugar according to how sweet you like things. After stirring and seasoning a few times, in went the liquid components. Those consisted of 12 oz Teriyaki Sauce, 4 oz homemade BBQ Sauce, 3 tbsp Lemon Juice. I was going to smoke this jerky so I decided not to add any Liquid Smoke but that could be incorporated if you are dehydrating or oven drying and wanted some smoke flavor. I would let this set in the refrigerator for a full 24 hours before letting it dry about 30 minutes on a rack to remove the excess marinade, that helps speed the smoking process by not having added moisture to drive off.
As mentioned above, the plan was to smoke the jerky.... The problem was that I had limited space on my Akorn and with temps outside below freezing, I was not looking to make this a multi batch cook. So, into the oven at 200°F went half the batch and the other half was smoked on the Char-Griller Akorn over Royal Oak lump and Pecan wood at 200°F. The Akorn did exceptionally well given the conditions and not having any special equipment such as a pit temp controller, special mods to the cooker, or anything else. Some folks believe that the Akorn is not capable of doing a low cook like this for jerky out of the box, my results would beg to differ. This was some of the most flavorful and best looking jerky I have made, even the oven stuff was pretty good! I don't like shoe leather jerky so I cooked this for 4 hours or so and then let it rest on trays to cool.
The final product was like what you would get out of a bag of Jack Link's, in terms of moisture, which is exactly what I was shooting for. Above is a picture of the two trays stacked on top of each other, the smoked jerky is setting on top. If you haven't tried making your own jerky, I highly recommend it! I would have liked to have got more pictures of the process and smoking but it's tough when you got one clean hand, one dirty hand, and a DSLR camera that needs two hands! I need a smaller camera and one that shoots video.
Making your own jerky is a fun and educational process, it's also a good way to preserve the traditions of our forefathers and countrymen.These are the kind of things I enjoy doing in my spare time and look forward to passing down to my son so he can carry on the tradition when he gets older. Thanks for reading, I hope you've been inspired or at the very least been entertained by my efforts!