Nothing says “relaxation” like grabbing a refreshing beverage and heading to the backyard to fire up the smoker. When that delicious mesquite scent of smoked ribs or sausage hits your nose, it’s easy to forget all your troubles.
But did you know that you can also make homemade smoked beef jerky? (Homemade beef jerky is magnificent in itself, but smoking adds a whole new dimension!)
That’s right. Learning how to make beef jerky in a smoker is an easy and addictive hobby, perfect for those long summer days (or really any time!). In this blog, we’ll outline the simple steps for how to smoke beef jerky at home.
How To Smoke Beef Jerky
If you’re looking for tips on how to make beef jerky in a smoker, Jerky Universe has got you covered. Here, we’ll give you our favorite old-fashioned smoked beef jerky recipe. Just follow along and enjoy the results!
Get a Smoker
When you want to learn how to make beef jerky in a smoker, the first thing you need to know is you must have a good smoker. Smokers that use charcoal or wood pellets are generally the most common types for smoking jerky — they really bring out the flavor.
You’ll want to look for a smoker that can handle low temperatures. That’s because you need to cook smoked beef jerky long and low to best evaporate moisture while retaining flavor.
When choosing your smoker, you should also look at the size. Check whether it comes with adjustable racks or other ways to vertically hang jerky strips to avoid overlap while they smoke.
Choose Your Beef or Alternative Meat
The best smoked beef jerky recipe calls for lean, thin-sliced meat. If the meat has too much fat on it, it’ll take longer to dry out and could cause issues when storing for a long time. While you use beef for traditional smoked jerky, you could also use lean-cut turkey, pork, lamb or even venison.
[Related: How To Use Beef Jerky in Recipes]
Prepare Your Beef for Smoking
Get a very sharp knife. Cut the meat into even, thin slices about a quarter-inch thick. Make sure to cut against the grain — it ensures the jerky has a nice bite without being too tough.
You could also have your butcher do this for you when you purchase the meat (they’re pros).
Mix Your Meat With a Marinade
Mix the meat with store-bought or homemade marinade to add some zesty flavor to your smoked jerky.
Popular marinade mixes contain soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, honey and brown sugar. If you’re looking to add a little heat and spice, stir in some paprika, chili flakes, garlic and/or liquid smoke.
Mix your marinade with the sliced meat until the slices are fully saturated. Let them marinate for at least six hours (the longer the better) in a covered bowl in the refrigerator.
Once they’re finished marinating, gently pat off the excess marinade with a paper towel and season the slices with pepper. Soaking up the extra moisture gives the meat a more consistent cook. If extra moisture is on the meat before you put it in the smoker, getting your desired results could take longer.
Now, you’re ready to fire up the smoker!
[Related: How Long Does Beef Jerky Last?]
Arrange in Smoker
After draining excess marinade and allowing the strips to cool a bit, arrange them in your smoker. Use racks to avoid overlapping, or hang each strip on its own vertically (if possible) in your smoker. You want all the jerky to heat up, become infused with delicious smoky flavor and then dry out.
If you’re learning how to make beef jerky in a pellet smoker, use your favorite smoking wood. Cherry, oak, hickory and pecan are some great options for wood pellet smokers.
If you’re using a charcoal smoker, opt for clean-burning lump charcoal made from 100% hardwood or compressed wood chips rather than briquettes. You’ll get a longer-lasting burn and tastier results.
[Related: How To Soften Beef Jerky]
Smoke and Enjoy!
For homemade smoked beef jerky, set your smoker between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. This dehydrates the beef without cooking it.
Check on your smoker after two hours. The jerky should continue smoking until it just barely bends when you shake it. Completely smoking jerky typically takes only two to three hours.
Here are your final steps: Allow the jerky to cool, and then store it in an airtight container. You can share it with your family and friends, but it might just be too tasty to distribute!
[Related: How To Make Tender Beef Jerky]
Explore the Jerky Universe
Well, there you have it.
Now that you know how to smoke beef jerky, you might be curious to learn more. Check out the Jerky Universe for beef jerky health benefits and nutrition guides, the history of beef jerky, exotic jerky types and even meatless jerky alternatives.
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