Making Deer Jerky In Your Oven
Some people love hunting just for the sport, but for most of us it’s all about the meat and what you can do with it. When it comes to venison, making deer jerky is one of our favorite things to do. Making jerky may seem like a daunting task. Many people think you need a food dehydrator to make it, but all you really need is a working oven. While deer jerky is easy to make, it does take several hours to dehydrate. In all reality, the most complicated part of making jerky is simply choosing the marinade recipe. Follow these simple steps to make your own deer jerky today!
Safely Defrosting Venison
Preparing your own meat can be dangerous if you don’t prepare correctly. Nobody wants to get sick from bad meat. Defrost the meat in your refrigerator at 40 degrees or below in order to prevent bacteria growth.
Clean Your Work Space
To be super safe, sanitize your utensils and the surface of your work space with a mixture of 1 tablespoon bleach to one gallon of water. Let the surfaces air dry. Even if you don’t sanitize with bleach, you need to wash your tools and counters before you start making the jerky. Wash your hands before handling the meat. The bacteria from your hands is not an ingredient you want on your jerky.
Prevent Food-Born Illnesses
There are a couple different techniques you can use to prevent deadly bacteria from contaminating your meat. First off, cut your meat into 1/2″ wide strips with an even thickness. Suggested thicknesses range from 1/8” to 1/4”. This will help your jerky cook evenly. (If you don’t want to pre-cook your jerky, skip to “Marinading”.)
One option is pre-cooking the meat in order to raise its internal temperature and kill off any dangerous bacteria. After you’ve selected and prepared your marinade recipe, bring the mixture to a boil and insert the jerky strips. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir the pieces for 1.5 – 2 minutes or until their internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the strips quickly and start the drying process immediately.
Another option is to bake your jerky strips before drying them. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Season the strips with your preferred recipe and place them on a cookie sheet. You don’t want them to touch or overlap, but they should be close together. Heat the strips until they hold an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit for about two minutes.
Marinading Deer Jerky
If you chose to skip pre-cooking the jerky, go straight to this step. Many people choose to marinade the raw jerky strips overnight to infuse it with their favorite flavors. If you don’t already have a recipe, the internet is full of tasty ideas. You can also find a variety of jerky seasonings here. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different spices until you get the prefect marinade.
Put your marinade and meat into a mixing bowl or large container. Mix the meat around so every piece is covered in marinade.
Put the lid on the container or use a zip lock bag to store the meat in the fridge overnight. Marinating the meat in the fridge will prevent bacteria growth.
You don’t need a food dehydrator to make jerky. Set your oven to 200 degrees or a minimum of 160 degrees to kill off bacteria while dehydrating the meat. Setting the temperature any lower will not kill off harmful bacteria.
You can place your jerky directly onto the oven rack or on a cookie sheet. Place another pan or layer of tinfoil under the meat to catch drippings. If you use a cookie sheet, make sure to flip the strips halfway through the cooking process. You can also put toothpicks through the ends of the strips and hang them from the oven rack. Cooking time varies, but it usually takes around 4-6 hours to dehydrate meat.
Since not all the strips will have the same amount of moisture, you’ll want to condition them. To condition, pack the jerky loosely in a plastic or glass container. Only pack each container 2/3 full. Cover each container tightly and shake them every day for 2-4 days. This will help distribute moisture throughout the batch. If moisture starts to form on the lid, put the jerky back in the oven.
Once your jerky is conditioned and cooled, store it in an air-tight package or container. Jerky can last one or two months in a refrigerator before going bad.
Creating the prefect jerky takes practice and experimenting. Keep making jerky until you find a recipe you love!
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