Homemade Smoked Beef Jerky: It’s Easier Than You Think

Homemade Smoked Beef Jerky: It's Easier Than You Think

Store-bought jerky can be expensive. These days it's cheaper just to make your own.

In fact, homemade beef jerky is much tastier than the stuff you get from the store (not to mention, healthier). And guess what...it’s easier than you think.

Today we’re going show you how to make perfect smoked beef jerky using some fantastic savory jerky recipes which will clearly be the pick of the litter.

For our demonstration, we will be using the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker, but of course, you can pick any smoker of your liking. (If you don’t already own one, and are not sure which smoker to purchase, you should check out our electric smoker reviews here.)

Jerky has been a popular method for centuries, and nearly any meat can be made into jerky - but for this article, we will be primarily talking about beef.

So, without further ado, let's make some beef jerky!

History of beef jerky

Jerky is long, thin strips of meat that have been dried to prevent it from spoiling.

Jerky has been a staple for many cultures, and the earliest evidence of it was found in Egypt. Archeologists discovered that ancient Egyptians were drying mass amounts of meat (perhaps by laying strips of meat out in the sun) when they found dried foods preserved in tombs.

Meat in jerky form is not subject to decay or insect infestation and could have been stored for long periods–especially in a tomb. That's because drying meat deprives the bacteria that cause food spoilage of the moisture they need to survive.

The best meat for beef jerky in a smoker

The best meat for beef jerky in a smoker

If you're considering making some homemade beef jerky, you’ll want to keep these things in mind when shopping around for meat:

  • Do not buy old or expired meats.
  • Jerky will lose about two-thirds of its weight after drying, so you'll want to buy the correct quantity of meat.
  • Inspect each specific cut to find the one with the less fat
  • Bonus tip: Ask the butcher to slice the meat for you – some butchers will slice the meat to your specified thickness which saves a lot of time!

How to make beef jerky (in a smoker)

Making beef jerky in a smoker is one of the best ways to make beef jerky.

Generally, there is no adding liquid smoke, and all you need to do is let the wood infuse an intense flavor into your jerky.

Plus, making jerky in a smoker is as close to how it was done hundreds of years ago.

Here are the steps!

  • 1. Start by purchasing a lean piece of meat, such as a beef eye of round roast. This is the most popular cut for making jerky because it is the most tender of the Rounds.

Tip: Fat will spoil and ruin jerky, so you'll want to pick a cut that has the least amount of fat is best.

  • 2. Trim any fat from the meat. As mentioned above, fat makes your jerky spoil, so be sure to cut off as much as possible.
  • 3. Now you'll want to wrap the beef in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about 1-2 hours to partially freeze. Freezing makes slicing the meat at a consistent width easier.
  • 4. With a very sharp knife, slice against the grain at around 1/8″-1/4″ thick for a more natural chew or with the grain for more chew.

Tip: You can skip the freezing stage and slice your jerky using a jerky slicer.

  • 5. Move your slices of beef to the side and assemble your smoked beef jerky marinade.
  • 6. Once you have finished making your marinade, place the beef slices in your marinade and make sure they are covered evenly.
  • 7. Marinate the jerky in the refrigerator for about 6-24 hours.
  • 8. After the drying process, cover the drip pan with aluminum foil to avoid cleaning up drippings.

Tip: It will make a mess if you do not put a layer of protection down. You can also set a small sheet of foil above the heating element to make clean up more comfortable as well. Use a small piece of foil to allow air to easily flow from the bottom of the smoker up and out of the top.

  • 9. Dry the jerky strips on paper towels to remove any excess marinade and either lay your jerky pieces across the metal racks of the smoker or use toothpicks and hang your strips.
  • 10. Place the top metal rack on the highest slot in your smoker, and hang your strips.
  • 11. Open the top vent on the smoker 100% and dry for 1 1/2 hours at 170°F.

Tip: If you soaked your strips in a “wet” marinade, do not put water in the water pan when making jerky. However, if you used a dry rub to season your meat (without any liquid), then you can put a little water or vinegar in the pan during the one 1/2hrs.

  • 12. Bring the temperature up to 180°F to 200°F and add a handful of wood chips to the smoker.If you are using a Masterbuilt electric smoker like us and aren’t sure what the best wood for smoking beef jerky is, check out our 19 Best Wood Chips For Masterbuilt Electric Smoker.

Tip: Before adding the wood chips, soak them in water for about 10-15 minutes.

  • 13. Smoke at this temperature until the wood chips have quit smoking (about 30 minutes to 1 hour). A cloud of blue smoke should be coming out of the smoker if the wood is burning at the right temperature.

Tip: If the smoke is a dense white, increase the temperature of the smoker. This white smoke can give the meat a bitter taste and ruin the jerky.

  • 14. Lower the temperature back to 160°F and DO NOT add any more wood chips. Too much smoke will also ruin the jerky; 30 minutes to an hour of smoke is just perfect.
  • 15. Leaving the wood tray door halfway open (after all the wood has finished burning) to allow airflow through the smoker also helps dry the jerky faster.
  • 16. Continue to smoke at 160°F until your jerky bends and cracks but does not break in half. Periodically pull a piece out of the smoker and let it cool.
  • 17. Check to see if your jerky is done smoking by bending it AFTER it has cooled down (let cool for 5-10 minutes, this helps not to over-dry).

If you're wondering how long to smoke jerky, well it all depends. Sometimes it can take a total of 6-15 hours, depending on the thickness of your jerky and the brand of smoker you have. With a Masterbuilt smoker, jerky takes typically between 7-9 hours to dry.

Voila! You've just made a great batch of smoked beef jerky.

Storing your beef jerky

Storing your beef jerky

Before storing your finished jerky, you'll want to make sure it is completely dried and cooled. If not, it will give off some moisture as it cools, and you don't want any condensation in your stored jerky.

If you're going to be making lots of jerkies and you want them to last a long time, you can buy a food-grade oxygen absorber and a vacuum sealer.

When stored this way, homemade jerky will stay fresh for 1-2 months in the pantry and up to 6 months in the freezer.

  • Tip: label the package with the type of jerky (including any spices) and the date you dried it.

If you are storing the jerky (in a cool dark place) inside a sealed container or plastic zip-top bag, it will last about one week. If stored in the refrigerator, it can last 1 to 2 weeks. Once you've opened the bag or container, the jerky should be eaten within a week.

Our top 10 best smoked jerky recipes!

For so long, beef jerky had a pretty bad reputation for being processed and salt-filled. However, nowadays, nutrition experts agree that homemade beef jerky can actually be a healthy snack.

Jerky recipes are especially convenient because they are compact and easy to carry. For this reason, beef jerky can be a perfect road snack and is a staple for outings like camping trips or long hikes in the mountains.

With that said, if you're looking for a snack that will keep you full for a while (and is packed with beautiful minerals like iron and zinc), these 12 savory smoked beef jerky recipes will do the trick.

So, fire up that smoker and let's begin!

1. SMOKED PEPPERED BEEF JERKY

SMOKED PEPPERED BEEF JERKY

This jerky is immersed in a beer, soy sauce, and a black pepper marinade, making it a tasty protein-packed snack.

What you'll need:

  • 1 can/bottle dark beer
  • 1 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp of brown sugar
  • One tbsp of curing salt
  • 1/2 tsp of garlic salt
  • 3-4 tbsp of coarsely ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 lbs trimmed beef

Preparation


1. In a mixing bowl, mix the beer, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, curing salt, garlic salt, and two tablespoons of the black pepper.

2. With a sharp knife, trim any fat off of meat and slice the beef into 1/4-inch thick slices against the grain.

3. Place the beef slices into a large resealable plastic bag. Pour marinade mixture over the beef, massaging the bag so that all the slices get coated with the marinade.

4. Now, seal the bag and refrigerate for several hours to overnight.

5. When ready to smoke, set the temperature to 180℉ on your smoker and preheat, lid closed for 15 minutes.

6. Remove your beef slices from the marinade and discard the marinade.

7. After discarding, dry the beef slices in paper towels then sprinkle beef slices generously on both sides with black pepper.

8. Set up the beef directly on the grill grate. Smoke for 4-5 hours or until the jerky is dry - but still chewy and somewhat flexible when you bend a piece.

9. To finish, let the jerky rest for about an hour at room temperature.

10. Press out any air from the bag and refrigerate the jerky until ready to be devoured.

2. Smoked Tennessee Beef Jerky

Smoked Tennessee Beef Jerky

What you'll need:


Lean Meat
  • 1 lb Top Round Beef Roast
Marinade
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup of cold water
  • 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp of cane sugar
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp of Prague Powder Curing Salt

Preparation


1. Trim all fat from the beef, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for an hour or two to freeze.

2. While your beef is freezing, mix the soy sauce, water, cane sugar, Worcestershire, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and curing salt in a bowl or ziplock bag and stir well.

3. Now, remove the meat from the freezer and slice 1/4 inch strips against the grain.

Tip: Slice with the grain for a chewier jerky or you can skip this part and use a Jerky Slicer for even sliced pieces.

4. Add your sliced beef to the mixture and marinate for roughly 8-24 hours in the refrigerator.

5. After your beef has finished marinating, remove from refrigerator and strain excess marinade.

6. Pat dry the strips with paper towels.

7. Dry with your favorite smoker at 160°F

Tip:  After that 1.5 hours, fill the wood tray with soaked wood chips and bump the temperature up to 200°F. These chips can be smoked for about 45 minutes.

8. Lower the temperature back down to 160°F and leave the turkey to dry for another 4 hours, checking every so often.

9. Your jerky is done smoking when it bends and cracks but does not break in half.

Bon appetite!

3. Smoked Jalapeño Beef Jerky

SMOKED JALAPEÑO BEEF JERKY

What you'll need:

  • 4 lb of Eye of round
  • ½ cup of Honey
  • ½ cup of Soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp of El Yucateco Jalapeño Hot Sauce
  • 2 tbsp of Lime juice
  • 2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp of onion powder
  • 1 tbsp of Garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp of Black pepper
  • Wood chunks for smoking, preferably apple or alder

Preparation


1. Preheat your smoker to 225°F

2. Store the eye of round roast into your freezer for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

3. While your beef is freezing, get a bowl and mix all ingredients.

4. Now take out your beef and slice across the grain into 1/4 inch thick slices. When done, place the beef slices into the marinade.

5. Marinate for 6 hours up to overnight.

6. Take out your beef slices from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels.

7. Place the jerky into the smoker and toss a few wood chunks onto hot coals for smoking — Cook at 225°F for 4 to 5 hours.

6. When done, remove the beef jerky from your smoker and serve directly.

Tip: sprinkle freshly shredded jalapeños on top of the jerky for an extra kick.

4. Dr. Pepper Smoked Beef Jerky

DR. PEPPER SMOKED BEEF JERKY

What you'll need:

  • 2-3 pound beef eye of round roast thinly sliced against the grain
Marinade
  • 2 cups of Dr. Pepper
  • Two jalapeños sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • Two teaspoons black pepper