smoked venison jerky recipe
Jennifer Danella for Wide Open Spaces

The Tastiest Deer Jerky Recipes, Using a Dehydrator or Smoker

These delicious marinades translate to juicy, flavorful venison jerky.

Venison is an incredibly versatile meat. The ways to cook deer meat are virtually endless, especially with a fresh bag from your latest deer hunt. The best deer recipes result in crowd-pleasing appetizers, such as honey balsamic venison bites or pizza dip and main dishes, like venison tenderloin and venison backstrap. But one preparation is a guaranteed hit with the whole family: deer jerky.

Making venison jerky might sound daunting, but it's simpler than you think. It requires some time and patience, but if you've mastered the art of patiently waiting for the perfect harvest, you're more than equipped to handle the 14 to 20ish hours it takes to transform venison into delectable deer jerky.

Apart from that, all you need is a reliable dehydration method and the perfect deer jerky recipe. Here's how to make venison jerky, plus a handpicked selection of delicious deer jerky recipes from some of our favorite food creators and hunters.

How to Make Deer Jerky

Making venison jerky—which involves removing the moisture from the meat—can be done in an oven, smoker, or dehydrator. The process begins by choosing your cut. The prime cuts for jerky are top eye and rump roast, though opting for the hind leg gives you more extensive slices and the uniform muscle fiber direction ensures more tender results. The basic how-to::

  1. Slice the meat against the grain, aiming for a quarter-inch thickness
  2. Marinate and season the meat to taste, letting it sit for at least 24 hours
  3. Arrange your meat strips in a dehydrator, smoker, or oven
  4. Monitor the meat, and once it reaches your desired dryness level, it's ready to eat

How Long to Dehydrate Jerky

Place the venison slices in a dehydrator, setting it for three to six hours. Of course, this timing is a general guideline. Several factors can affect the dehydration duration, including:

  • Meat thickness
  • Meat marbling/fat content
  • Specific venison cut used
  • External temperature and humidity

Ultimately, jerky-making is a test of patience. Begin with a three-hour setting, then check the meat. If it isn't dry enough, continue the process in 30-minute increments. Perfectly done jerky should be dry to the touch and slightly flexible, showing minor cracks when bent. If the ends snap easily, it's a sign of over-drying and you should stop dehydrating immediately.

How to Store Jerky

Homemade deer jerky doesn't have the shelf life of its store-bought counterpart, as it lacks the preservatives added to the latter. Luckily, storage is straightforward and simple. Store your jerky in a resealable plastic freezer bag, ensuring all air is removed, and refrigerate, and it'll remain fresh for up to a month. For extended shelf life, consider vacuum-sealing the jerky and freezing it. But given its deliciousness, it may be consumed faster than that!

Our 6 Favorite Deer Jerky Recipes

READ MORE: Is Deer Meat Healthy? What to Know About Venison's Health Benefits