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Discussion in 'Making Jerky' started by knothead69, Nov 21, 2013.

  1. I've been doing jerky for a year or so now and it turns out pretty good., but I just can't seem to get that fine line between done and not done. I'm not a "rare meat" kind of guy, I like my steak, burgers, whatever, WELL DONE. But I just can't seem to find that magical balance in my jerky? I always take it too far I think. I want to get that doneness that you get from a good meat market jerky, dry yet moist...Any ideas? Thanks for listening
  2. Oh ya, I use a smoker, Homemade.
  3. Knothead I notice that no one chimed in on your question so I'll give you my two cents worth.

    Before I hit you with some of my techniques. Can you post up a picture of your smoker? If not no problem. 

    Do you use electric, gas or live fire? Do you hang or lay out the meat in your smoker?

    knothead69 likes this.
  4. foamheart

    foamheart Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I always used the bend test to check my Jerky. If its moist it ain't done. It you have to keep it in the freezer, it ain't done. If you have to keep it in the reefer, it ain't done. Good jerky swells in your mouth as you chew, releasing that flavor profile continuously, a bubble gum that's flavor lasts for 20, 30, 45 mins. That's good jerky.

    BTW it has to be tender enough for me to chew it even without my store boughts!


    Hope it helps. This was the best jerky, a different flavor profile, but the jerky was really good.

    BTW This taught me a valuable lesson about curing, Never attempt to rate anything cured until you give it a day or 10 to mellow out, it gets better each day. (I still have some of this jerky hidden away with the fruit liqueurs and its still like the day I made it)
    knothead69 likes this.
  5. elginplowboy

    elginplowboy Meat Mopper

    My assumption here is u r doing whole muscle meat. What thickness r u slicing the jerky? Are u hand slicing or meat slicer? What temp r u cooking at? Does your smoker have a fan and good draft? Some folks start in smoker and finish in dehydrator. Like Foamheart I do the bend test as well. I pull a test piece bend it in half and if it bends completely (not done) if it bends then cracks fibers(done) pull and let rest and air dry for 1hr before bagging. If it bends and breaks I went too long and get brittle jerky. For me, cooking at 150 in dehydrator with fan for right at 8 hours. My pieces are cut using a meat slicer for uniformity and having everything done at the same time. I cut at 3/16 of an inch. 1/8 is too paper thin for me and 1/4 is a bit too chewy.
    knothead69 likes this.
  6. It's just a homemade job I found plans for on youtube. About 4 feet tall, 2 feet wide, 18 inches deep. Two hotplate electric. I have the meat sliced at my local meat market and I've tried everything from 1/4" to 1/16". I like 1/8"  the best. I lay it on some old refer racks that I picked up. Tried hanging but it always curled around and slowed the drying because of touching. Depending on the weather (MN) my temp can fluctuate from 130 to 160. Warmer weather I just use one plate, colder I use two. Yes, whole muscle.
  7. @ Foamheart, What is Jerky Mix?
  8. Knothead I like to work with the jerky, as it is drying/smoking. What I mean is that I like to keep the heat and smoke as constant as I can. I usually run about 150 to max 180 but I turn the meat often to keep the drying steady over all sides and pieces of the meat. It requires moving meat away from and closer to the fire. I don't want the pieces to get exposed to too much heat because it causes them to cook and not dry.

    This process is different from what you would do as I am working with a live fire and I can increase and decrease the heat by adding more fuel or letting the fire die down and the opening and closing of the pit effects the temperature I’m working with. I know that working with hotplates is harder because recovery from opening the door often takes a long time.

    I’m not a set it and forget it kind of cooker. I like getting into the smoke if you know what I mean. [​IMG]

    Here is how I do it:

    I lay the meat on the grates and depending on how big a batch I'm doing, I may only work with the vertical section of my smoker. ( there is usually about a 50 to 75 degree difference from the horizontal to the vertical section) If it is a bigger batch I will use the horizontal section as well. Since the horizontal section is closer to the fire box then that section is watched and manipulated more often than the meat in the vertical section.

    Once I see the meat turning that nice mahogany color I know I'm getting close. Here are some photos of some of my cooks.  In the photos you can see the meat displaying a color change from a light pink to a mahogany. The decision to pull the meat comes from the bend test. I want the meat to bend and splinter some but not snap and break.

    That is an indicator that the meat still has some moisture in it, but it is not completely dry and brittle. This is how I do my jerky and this is where you should work at finding what is right for you. And what Foam says is right on the money

     “give it a day or 10 to mellow out, it gets better each day”

    I like to let the jerky set on the cooling racks for one or two days. It seems to get better. You do have to watch the process as it can go too far and you might be unhappy with your final product. ( over drying )

    I will caution you that if by chance you pull the jerky off a little too soon ( meat still has lots of moisture ) having meat on the rack and overlapping and for too long will promote mold growth. The key I have found is that the jerky needs to have the ability to get rid of the moisture. This is done by exposure to air. Not in a closed container, such as a can with the lid on or a zip lock completely closed. It can be done in a refrigerator because the cold dry air draws out the moisture in the meat. Your experience with each batch will make you better and better at your craft.

    There you go my 2 cents. Don’t for get to post pictures.

    Happy Smoking!

    Last edited: Dec 14, 2013
    knothead69 likes this.
  9. Awesome advice guys! I appreciate it! Will let you know how it goes next batch, Thanks
  10. foamheart

    foamheart Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Seems that one was from Spice Island or American Spice Co....

    You'll need a box to keep all the bags of premixed spice stuff that you'll end up with after smoking for awhile. You'll pick 'em up somewhere, friends give 'em to ya (those are my favorites to try), you'll get 'em as a reward for another purchase, you'll taste it and buy a little bag at a store but forget all about it. They accumulate up.
    knothead69 likes this.

  11. A few past attempts and a so so pic of the inside of my smoker...
  12. I see, I mainly use a mix I get from my meat market that I doctor up a bit...But I have tried others and you're right! They do accumulate :)
  13. foamheart

    foamheart Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Another big difference is the direction you cut your meat. Some like it with the grain which makes it pull long when trying to bite it. Some like across the grain which makes it easy to break when biting it. Its a personal thing. Me I do it at an angle. I don't care for the long pulls or tears of meat nor do I much care for the short bite. Mine is a good chew while allowing me easily to control the amount.

    To me with the grain just seems to give a tuffer chew. But that is just my opinion. Its jerky, its not supposed to be tender.
    knothead69 likes this.