Smoke Deer Jerky The Easy Way

Meat drying is one of the earliest forms of preservation. When meat is cut in thin slices with the fat removed and dried over low temperatures results in jerky. Jerky history can be traced a hundred years back where people need to keep their own food while on a journey. Jerky is tough but salty to the taste and can last a very long time without having to refrigerate it or just leaving it alone.

Although there is no dire need in drying meats, a lot of people find pleasure eating jerkies. Since fat is removed from the meat, jerky is a healthy source of protein.

Nowadays, people can make jerky easily with various cooking units such as food dehydrators and ovens although the traditional drying in the sun is still done today. But if you would prefer a jerky with a little smoky flavor, you might as well – smoke it using your smoker grill. Today, we are going to focus on making deer jerky. Here are the following steps on how to smoke a deer jerky. Making a jerky involves two processes: preparing the meat and drying it by smoking.

Types Of Jerky

Sliced Jerky

A jerky is cut from the lean part of the meat and it is commonly comes from the back leg side of a deer called the round. Unlike steaks, jerkies are cut with the grain which produces the chewy consistency that people know about jerkies.

Pressed Jerky

This type of jerky is made up of lean ground meat which is pressed and formed into strips.

The Smoking Process
Part 1 – Preparing The Meat

Start cutting your venison. Trim all the fat from your meat. Fat will cause the spoilage of meat will decrease the drying time so you may want to get rid of it.

Wrap your meat in plastic and freeze it for 1-2 hours. Doing this step in not mandatory however, partially frozen meat is easier to cut. Use a very sharp knife if you do not prefer freezing your meat. It will work just fine.

Slice the meat against the grain or with the grain around ¼ to 1/8 thick so that it will be easier to chew afterwards. In addition, the thinner the slice, the faster it will dry up.

Marinade your venison according to your taste. There are a lot of recipes that uses different kinds of spices. Try to find one that suits your taste. You can also marinade your venison using a marinade mix bought from stores. However, if you prefer a simple way of seasoning your meat, just put a little salt and pepper. Soak the meat in the marinade overnight.

Marinade Recipes to Try Out

If you are looking for marinade recipes to try out, you can try the following recipes listed below. It is easier to marinade your meat in ziplock bags.

Legg’s Old Plantation Jerky Blend

You will need:

  • 2 oz. of Legg’s Jerky Seasoning
  • 3/4 tsp. of pink salt
  • 2 cups of water

Combine all the ingredients together and pour the mixture over the meat. Marinade the meat and store it in the refrigerator overnight.

Asian Style Jerky

You will need:

  • 4 lbs. of meat
  • 12 oz. soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 2 tbsp. cilantro
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp. of ginger minced
  • 1 tbsp. red chili paste
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes crushed

Combine the spices into a mixing bowl and mix it thoroughly. Pour the mixture over the meat and marinade it overnight.

Part 2 – Drying The Jerky

  • Spread up an aluminum foil on the drip pan. This will catch the meat drippings while smoking and allows easy cleanup afterwards. You would not want spending longer hours cleaning your smoker.
  • Remove the excess marinade on your meat. You put your meat in paper towels. The paper towels will absorb the excess marinade. You can also skewer your meat strips through barbecue sticks and hang them allowing the excess marinade to drip down.
  • Preheat your smoker. Since smoking a jerky only requires low heat, you should heat your smoker up to 150°F or 65°C. Some cooks prefer to smoke their jerkies on 225 degrees but it is proper to use the correct temperature when smoking to kill off the bacteria in the meat. If you use an electric smoker, there will be a considerable amount of smoke. However, if you are to use charcoal smoker, you can expect a lot of smoke.
  • Set your jerkies in trays and place it in the smoker. If you are using a vertical smoker, place it on the highest shelf. If you are putting the strips at the grate, spray some oil on the grate first to prevent the meat from sticking to the grate. Monitor the heat while smoking. Remember that you are supposed to dry the meat, not cooking it.
  • If your marinade is “wet”, do not put water in the water pan. But if you just seasoned your meat with dry seasonings, put water and a little bit of vinegar in the water pan for the whole duration of cooking.
  • Smoking usually takes 6-12 hours depending on the thickness of the meat so you will need to check from time to time. Check your meat after 4 hours. If you are using a horizontal smoker, this is a good time to rotate your meat.
  • Add the wood chips to add the smoky flavor the meat. However, be careful not to overdo it. Remember, too much smoke will ruin the taste of the jerky.
  • Smoke your jerky until it is fully dry. Cooking time depends on your technique and the current weather conditions. Remember that bad weather conditions can and may affect your smoker performance.
  • Remember, the jerky is done drying if it bends and cracks.
  • If using a smoker is quite a challenge for you, you can smoke your jerky for 3 hours to achieve the smoky flavor and finish drying it with a food dehydrator or oven for 5-6 hours or until the jerky is dried to your liking.
  • Enjoy your smoked venison jerky at its finest.

Additional Tips

Woodchip Combinations

Wood chips are important in smoking jerkies. It enhances the taste of the jerky by adding a smoky flavor to it. Using and combining different kind of woodchips can maximize the taste and smoky flavor of the jerky. Try the following combinations:

For mild sweet smoky flavor

 Combine apple and cherry woodchips.

For a mild hint of bacon flavor

Use hickory woodchips.

For the traditional smoky flavor

Use mesquite wood and tone it down a little apple or cherry chips.

Feel free to experiment other combinations.

What to Do if Jerky is Too Dry?

A dry jerky can be reconstituted by putting the jerky pieces it into a ziplock bag and sprinkled it with a tablespoonful of water. Shake the bag to distribute the water evenly to the jerky pieces. Leave the bag sealed for one hour. Open the bag and leave it for another few hours. This technique will moisten the hardened jerky although it would not undo burned jerky pieces.


Home-made jerkies usually last up to three months when refrigerated. If you don’t have a freezer, do not store your jerkies on plastic bags especially for long periods. The sealed bag will produce moisture and it will cause molds to grow on your jerky. If your jerky ends up in molds, do not attempt to eat it or feed them to your pets.


Learning how to smoke a deer jerky is easy. However, it would take some time and patience to be able to produce it. If somehow your first attempt of smoking jerkies turns up sour, don’t be disheartened. Continue to experiment and discover new ways of preparing and seasoning your own perfect batch of jerkies. Let us know how far you’ve gone.