Jerky Purely From Scratch in my Smoke Vault

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Original poster
Nov 24, 2013
Port Moody - BC - Canada
This is my first post and contribution to this site - and my third attempt at Beef Jerky.

I have read through countless forms and there is a lot of awesome information on this site.

Not sure if this should be posted here or in the recipe section, Jerky section, or a section on propane upright smokers, but looking for feed back regardless. 

So a little bit about me to put this all in context: I am  a Canadian in Port Moody, a suburb of Vancouver in the Pacific North West, and love going down to tailgate at the Seahawk games with my American cousins, but unfortunately, no meat can cross the border. The experience of smoked ribs from my fellow Seahawk fans got me hooked, and I bought a Propane "Smoke Vault" made by Camp Chef. I thought I was buying a Caddy, but then I found this site! 

So I am open to any help or tips on using this unit which I'm thinking might be more like a Corvair. 

This third attempt starts with two Baron of Beef roasts out of my freezer probably 8 - 10 lbs total. This is free range organic beef from my Brothers farm up the vally, from a steer that was actually chased by Jedi  for good muscle tone and conditioning, prior to the slaughterhouse. ( Jedi is my poorly named black Lab guarding the smoker - really more like a Sith lord as his mantra is"Kill Somthin' n' eat it" )

As best I could, I cut this into 1/4 inch thick slices while still partly frozen, or thawed just enough to cut.

I then Marinaded this for 3 days in the following recipe:

1 cup of soy sauce

1 cup of Jamican Rum

1 can of Molson Canadian - any old lager beer will do. 

1/2 cup of Maple Syrup ( the real McCoy is expensive & hopefully worth it and not a waste here ) 

3 Tbsp of Seasoning salt - the orangy looking stuff made popular here by Hy's steakhouse.

3 Tbsp of Worsheshire

3Tbsp of pepercorns coarsely ground up in a pestol & morter 

Then it is time for the smoker. the first attempt I could not balance the smoke production with the heat - so I read more forums and now I will try for a third time to keep the heat at 140 farenhiet for 4 - 6 hours is my goal.

The problem I am having is this thing is running too hot and my fist batch was basically tree bark, Jedi was the only one who would eat it, and good thing I started with a small batch. That time I stuck with the time recommended of 10 hours instead of using common sense knowing the temperature was close to 250 f for most of the time. I was too focused on keeping the smoke production up. 

Today I have hickory chips that are shredded to a fine grain with lots of surface area, and it seems to keep the smoke production up even 3 hours later at 140 f . I have the smoke vault dialed down to the lowest setting.  The first two batches I used Mesquite for smoke and they were 2 inch square blocks of wood so that may have been a factor.

Here is a shot of the current experiment at hour 2 maintaining 140 f and an outdoor temperature of 3.6 degrees Celsius - I'm guessing that would be 37 - 40 f . 

This smoker came with the three trays and the bottom one has a finer mesh over the grill bars an was labeled as the Jerky tray. The bulk  of the Beef is hanging off the other two grill bars included with the unit. 

The unit also came with a water tray that I leave in when doing my ribs with water of course, but left it out for this smoke job.

So I am looking for pointers on a few things: 

What grain of wood chips are best? this shredded batch I have now seems ok but most of what I have used previously would be like what you would get from choping with an axe - do you call that medium grade? The other "blocks" look like the odd ends from a mill just left in big chunks 2" square or as big as 3" square.

Should I be using the water tray with water? 

How about leaving it in empty as a shield should some of the chips"ignite" I could get direct flame on the meat ? 

I have not seen any of the chips ignite so far even on high. 

One final note, the above recipe does not have a brine or cure as I have 19 year old twin boys, and a 15 year old hockey player, so even this won't last more than 3 days. 

At that, would it be safe in a jar on the counter?

Have any of you ever used a desiccant to keep out an lingering moisture? 

Thanks all in advance for the help 

Your wood chip size doesn't really matter as long as you can get them to smoke. If you are worried about them catching fire wrap them in foil and punch holes it the top of the foil so smoke can escape. You don't want to use water in the water pan because you want to remove moisture not add it. you want indirect heat or a diffused heat, as direct heat will dry the ends rather quick and possibly burn the sugar in the maple syrup. Try to keep the temp down around 180  and open all the vents to let moisture escape. If your jerky is getting too dry try stopping the process a little earlier and let them hang in the smoke vault for a day with the heat off. Just let it air dry naturally till it's dried to your satisfaction.  I would also use cure #1  at a rate of 1 teaspoon / 5 lbs of meat just for safety's sake. soy sauce is somewhat of a cure because of the salt content but a lot of people are using the low sodium type which won't protect the meat as much. Hope this helps.  And as far as I am concerned your post is in the right place.
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Many thanks Jerky Nut. 

I can't leave it hang for a day as the Raccons around here are pretty smart, even if I did have a combo lock on the vault!

I will try tweaking a little more propane and open the vents a little more to let the moisture out.

I want to keep the temperature steady for this round between 140 & 150. 

After 5 1/2 hours here is the latest snag: 

 What you see above is the "inside" of the strips that were hanging. Clearly under done. 

All meat that was flat on the jerky rack is done; 

 but the inside edges of the hanging strips were too close together and prevented the drying so I have opened them all up and laid them flat on the racks with soft sides down and they are back in the smoker. 

I now appreciate the need to cut the thickness consistently the same. 

I have three racks now of varying degrees of completion. 

I can also say the maple syrup was probably a waste. So that needs to be tripled or doubled in addition to perhaps even taking out some of the Worcestershire and pepper which is carrying the flavour. 

Not sure if the maple is just subtle or I am convincing myself I can taste it because I know it is there? 

Onward through the fog! 

Let me ask you this, did you ever think of just smoking the meat in the smoker for say 3 hours then putting them in a dehydrator.  I had the same problems when I first made jerky.   Their is a  learning curve and it seems you are smart enough to realize what happened and adjust accordingly.  As far as the maple syrup goes if that is really a flavor you are after I would suggest  brush maple syrup directly to the meat. When I make a sweet and smoky jerky I will use a bristle brush and paint corn syrup on the pieces.  As the water evaporates from the syrup it sticks to the outside of the meat and won't come off.  The bonus with painting the syrup on is if you sprinkle pepper or spice on the meat it sticks.
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I have used propane for jerky and found controlling the heat to get low enough was a pain. I liked to smoke at about 120 with the  wood in a small iron smokebox set on top of the burner. I found that by taking screws I could close off some of the burner ports. I also turned not only the temp down but also the porpane tank. Just enough to keep the burner lit.
Thanks for the reply's all, I have modified the vents on this unit and now can get the temperature down to 140, at least in january, I may try your other tweaks in the summer FuzzyFishin.

JerkyNut, I will add a dehydrater to the list of toys in need 

I appreciate the brush on Idea at the start as well as the marinading tips.

I did turn the oven on to 150 and then shut it off, and brought the Jerky in and left it over night in there for a final drying.

The boys are already ploughing through it and the hickory flavour is awesome.

overall it is a success. 


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