How long to Smoke Jerky?

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Original poster
Jan 1, 2014
I smoked my first jerky today.  I used my brinkman smoker/grill and had a blast.  It is a charcoal smoker, and I used Hickory chips,and smoked venison.  I just used curing salt and pepper on one of the bunches, a marinade I got the recipe for, but didn't have half of the ingredients, and some store bought marinade.  My little girl and I prefer the salt and pepper, but the wife (who refuses to eat deer) liked the home made marinade better, the weber is way to peppery for any of us. 

My question is, how long should I have smoked it?  I started with the temp around 160-170, early jumping early to 200, but after an hour or so, I let it cool to around 140 to 150, and it stayed that way all day.  I let it smoke for right at 6 hours, checking it at the end every half hour or so, but it got dark on me, so I was looking at the meat with a flashlight.  I pulled it off and  the 2 marinades were overcooked.  Am I imagining this? or did the marinade speed up the process?  they are just a the point where they are bendable to a point, but will break.  The one with the salt and pepper are less done, but a little too done as well.

Thanks for any help, as this is my first attempt at jerky, using curing salt (I about never found this), making my own marinade, using venison,  and only my third time firing up the smoker.  This is my new favorite hobby!

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Grudge, evening.... Jerky looks good.... I'd eat it... When making jerky and using cure #1, smoking at 160 for several hours is fine.... Those high temp suggestions, at first in the cooking process in some recipes, is for ground/formed jerky or sliced jerky without cure, so you will kill the bacteria that is hiding in the meat..... Whole muscle sliced jerky that has cure in it is a different animal... the surface bacteria that has been forced into every nook and cranny like a meat grinder accomplishes, ain't there.... salt, cure, sugar, spices and a smoker temp of 160 ish is fine for the duration... When jerky is removed from the smoker, it will be a lot drier than when it is in the smoker... So a flexible piece of meat will be a lot more brittle when it has cooled... Jerky is difficult to judge... takes lots of practice... at least you get to eat the practice pieces....
If you have a grams scale, when mixing up a batch, weigh all the meat, spices, salt, soy sauce or whatever you use, then add 1.1 gram of cure #1 per pound of stuff... that will give you about 156 Ppm nitrite in the mix... let it marinate overnight or longer... then do your normal thing.... Nitrite can safely be lowered to 0.8 grams per pound also... that would be 110 Ppm nitrite... that is acceptable for bacon so it's good for jerky...

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I've found that jerky is imprecise as to when, by time, it'll be done. You'll get a feel for it over time. When I say 'feel', just give it a squeeze or bend. Any piece that gives a little needs more time. I like mine right to where it almost cracks in half, but not quite. It's often that even individual pieces aren't evenly cooked. Cut the done parts or just leave them on if you have a thick end that needs more time.

I've found that once everything is off the smoker, if you let cool on the counter and then throw in a zip lock for 2 days, all the pieces will equalize to roughly the same dryness. Don't leave in the zip lock or you'll invite mold; paper bags in the fridge work fine or vaccuum pack and freeze.

Practice, practice. It's a good problem to have.
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Its like everything else in smoking, everyone has their own ideas. If there was only one way we could all buy what we like. Dave ..... he'll keep you healthy, he's going to keep you out of trouble. As to how long it al depends upon if your type and cut of meat, your curing process, your dehydration process, your flavor profile, as well as how you like your snap, crunchy jerky, dry jerky, moist jerky, or steak. You want your jerky to be able to sit in your trucks tool box all year and still be ready for chewing? You want to keep it in the freezer until you need it? There is so many ways that its a hard question to answer.

Myself, I want mine to be good year after next, when I find the piece I dropped behind the gun case! before I always used a dehydrator for at least 1/2 the dehydration factor. My last time here I did it all on the smoker and it came out much better than my initial evaluation.

I cut my jerky on the bias, not with the grain, not across but at a 45. When I think my jerky is ready to pull I use a bend test that a lady here showed me last year. Bend the slice around your finger and when you see the white strands or spiderwebs inside the meat, the meat it is ready. It was the best dehydrated jerky I have made.

Post 19/32 shows the bend over method I used.

I hope it helps, I know it seems we are all beating around the bush, but it depends upon so many things. You've just got to decide what you want and start building that way.

Good luck
I think that you have received three insightful answers, even if they seem a bit in conflict. Everyone has their

approach. So here's my two cents.

Since I don't use a cure (but always use meat from a reputable butcher) I think your temperatures are fine.

Give my non-nitrate approach I need to take the temp up to about 200^ for an hour, then I bring it down

to about 150-160. In my opinion, I would pull the jerky after about four hours. I look for the jerky to get

past that grey-brown color and more toward dark brown. And, yes, it should bend but not break.

My experience suggests that the jerky will get much more "jerky like" after an overnight stay in a plastic bag in the fridge.

So "hot off the grill" is not probably a good test time. (And yes, due to no cure, I do keep it sealed in a bag in the fridge. But that's OK. In our house it's never in the fridge for long.

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