Who doesn’t love jerky? And venison jerky, when prepared correctly, is one fantastic piece of on-the-go superfood.
Every year I make several batches of venison jerky. And, every year I think I am going to vacuum seal it and freeze it. I want a supply of jerky on hand for one of those “in case” scenarios. However, it always seems like things never go as planned.
Well, I know the reason why I can’t build my jerky supply. My family loves venison jerky, and they start eating it before I get it off the drying racks.
So, to have jerky for my emergency food supplies, I make beef jerky throughout the year. Don’t get me wrong; my beef jerky is fantastic. But, there is just something about deer jerky that’s so yummy.
No matter what you hear, not all venison jerky has a gristly, tough texture, reminiscent of cooked cardboard. Jerky’s not difficult to make, and you don’t have to smoke it for hours or even use a dehydrator.
In this post, I talk about making jerky in the oven. Although I prefer making jerky in the dehydrator, I like to experiment, and the oven makes a good jerky. Of course, I rarely find a jerky I don’t like.
So, pull up a chair and prepare to drool as we walk through the steps of making oven venison jerky.
Venison Jerky in the Oven Isn’t New
It’s amusing that almost all experts out there think making venison jerky in the oven is a new technique. I hate to disagree, but using the oven is an old method that has recently started resurfacing.
Both my parents came from several generations of farmers and survivalists. I grew up living on farm raised livestock and wild game. I also learned the family way of making all types of oven dried and smoked meats.
We always had a ready supply of venison, turkey, beef, and pork jerky. Since my family didn’t have home dehydrators, we used other methods for preserving meats like in an oven. So, I can tell you from experience; it ain’t nothing new.
Venison Meat Cuts for Making Jerky
You can use almost any part of the deer for jerky. The best jerky cuts are the rump roast and the eye of round, but any hind leg roast works well. With these big venison hunks, you get larger jerky pieces with most muscle fibers running the same direction.
When muscle fibers run the same direction, it makes cutting venison, or any other meat against the grain easier. I like cutting the roast in this way because it gives you a chewy yet pliable jerky. If you cut your meat with the grain, the jerky turns out tough, much like leather.
Slicing thickness also matters. I recommend about a 1/8-inch thick slice. If you cut your venison any thinner, you get an extremely dry jerky, something resembling the shingles on your house. Whereas cutting your jerky slices too thick, your meat has a hard time drying out. Jerky cut too thick has a risk of bacteria growth. The meat center never reaches 160° F which is the recommended internal temperature for avoiding spoilage.
For easier cutting and keeping a consistent 1/8-inch thickness while slicing, partially freeze the meat. With a large roast, about 5-pounds, leave in the freezer for 1 ½ to 2 hours before slicing. You don’t want your meat frozen solid. But you want the meat frozen enough that it’s firm, and about halfway to a frozen solid stage.
For the length of your slices, it depends on personal preference. As a rule, I normally cut my slices a little over two lengths of my index finger. If you want to get technical with your cutting, about five to six inches. There’s no length rules set in stone and depends on how you like it.
Prepping the Venison for Jerky
Once you have your meat sliced, you’re ready for the soaking stages. You have 24-hour soaking periods, so plan your jerky making phases ahead of time. If you don’t want to start the soaking right away, you can freeze your jerky slices.
The Venison Salt Soak Process
Your first jerky making stage is the salt soak. Due to the blood stored in the venison, the meat has a gamey taste. Therefore, it’s I recommend a salt soak for drawing out the blood and removing the wild taste from the meat. With the addition of vinegar to the last step, you also tenderize the meat.
I see a lot of back and forth about using salt soaks. Some prefer removing the wild taste while others say if you want a beef taste, go to the store. I’ve had venison both ways and can tell you, venison never tastes like beef no matter how you do it.
Prepping your venison following these five easy steps:
- Fill a large, non-metal bowl or bucket, half full of ice cubes. Don’t use shaved or crushed ice. By using cubes, the ice lasts longer and keeps the meat colder.
- Place ½ cup kosher salt in a pitcher and add 1-quart cold water. Mix until the salt dissolves.
- Lay venison slices on top of ice. Pour saltwater over venison making sure you cover all slices. You want the meat completely covered by the saltwater. If you don’t have enough, add more saltwater batches until the saltwater covers all the meat.
- Let the venison soak 12 hours. Remove meat and repeat process, letting the venison soak another 12 hours.
- Remove meat from water and discard the brine. Never reuse the brine water. Place meat in a clean bowl and cover with white vinegar. Let venison soak for 1 hour then remove from vinegar.
This step removes any leftover gamey taste and helps tenderize the meat.
I prefer starting a batch early in the morning, so I can change the water before going to bed.
You are now ready for the second soaking phase.
Another great tenderizing method is replacing the vinegar with buttermilk. I don’t use this method for jerky, but it works awesome when I fix a venison roast for dinner. However, you can use buttermilk for jerky if you prefer.
Venison Curing Soak:
This step requires commercial curing mix which you can find at most sporting goods or farm stores. The mix must contain sodium nitrite. You can use this with your homemade seasoning mix or a purchased seasoning mix.
I know sodium nitrate seems like a mixture from chemistry class and you may not want to add this step. However, if there’s no sodium nitrite, your jerky won’t turn out well. The nitrates are preservation agents that bring out the flavor and keeps your jerky tender. Without this ingredient, you have a tasteless shoe leather.
- Remove venison from saltwater and set aside.
- Mix cure and seasonings until well blended (see recipe and suggestions below.)
- For each 1 cup of seasoning and cure mix add 2 ½ cups cold water and mix well.
- Pour soak mixture over meat, covering all pieces.
- Cover bowl and place in refrigerator. Let soak for 24 hours.
- The next day, remove from seasoning mixture and throw away the soaking mix.
No need for changing the soak half way through as in the first phase. You’ve already removed the blood from the meat and this is more of a marinade phase.
The Venison Jerky Oven Process
If you have a convection oven, it’s the ideal appliance for making jerky. The convection oven is much like a dehydrator with the fan continuously circulating the air around the food. But, not everyone has one of these gems, so any oven works.
Start the Process
Your first consideration is the jerky making pans. I have a large commercial size baking sheet, with low sides, that I use for jerky. My well-worn sheet pan is 18” x 26” with half inch sides.
I set roasting pan racks on the baking sheet then lay my jerky strips on top. The racks must sit off the surface of the baking sheet. My racks are long enough that they rest on the pan edge when I lay the racks sideways.
You can also drill holes in the bottom of a pizza pan and place it directly on your oven rack. Place an empty baking pan on the oven rack directly below the pizza pan to catch the drippings.
I don’t recommend this method because you can only dry one pan of meat at a time. But, if you have some old pizza pans laying around and no racks this works great.
When using a rack and baking sheet, you can dry two pans of meat in the oven at once. Just place one oven rack towards the top of the oven and one a couple of rack rungs down. You want some extra space between the pans for better airflow.
Start by preheating the oven to 200° Fahrenheit.
Lay your slices of venison on the baking racks making sure your meat pieces don’t touch. Place pans in the oven and bake for 2 ½ hours. Turn the venison slices over and bake another 2 ½ hours. At the end of five hours remove the pans of jerky from the oven and let cool completely.
If the jerky isn’t dry enough, keep cooking in half-hour increments until the jerky reaches the desired doneness level.
Venison Jerky Seasoning Recipe
Now for the most important part of making jerky, the seasoning mix.
First, I must mention my favorite commercial jerky seasoning. I like making jerky seasoning because I have better control over what goes in. However, I occasionally use already make mixes, my favorite being Backwoods Original and Cajun.
|Backwoods Jerky Seasoning - Original||Backwoods Jerky Seasoning - Cajun|
I sometimes use these mixes on large batches of meat, usually about 15 pounds. I normally do these large batches right after we bring in our first deer at the beginning of the season. I’ve also used the Backwoods seasonings in addition to my homemade recipes.
When using Backwoods, I make a 2:1 batch. I use two 5-pound batch bags of Original and one 5-pound batch bag of Cajun. Unless you like your jerky really spicy, I recommend the 2:1 ratio. I also add 3 cups of water per bag instead of the 2 ½ cups called for in the directions.
If you don’t mind MSG as an ingredient, then these two Backwoods Jerky Seasoning mixes make a great jerky. I don’t use them often, but I occasionally do.
Finally, we get to the homemade stuff. Here is a simple basic recipe that gives you a flavorful jerky that’s almost full proof.
Plain Ol’ Beef Jerky Yum
- 5 pounds jerky sliced venison
- 1 tablespoons seasoned salt
- 1 tablespoons onion powder
- 2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon ground red pepper Optional
- 1 teaspoon cure
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 3 cups cold water
In large glass or plastic bowl, mix all ingredients until well blended.
Add meat slices, cover and refrigerate 12-24 hours.
Remove meat slices and place on racks or dehydrator trays.
Bake in preheated, 200° Fahrenheit oven for 2 ½ hours. Turn meat and bake an additional 2 ½ hours or until jerky strips are dry.
You can use this recipe with beef, chicken or turkey. When replacing the venison with other meats, skip the salt soak phase. You only need this soak phase with wild game for removing the wild taste.
This recipe also works well in a dehydrator, and either method makes a fantastic jerky. However, there is a slight taste difference between the two methods. Therefore, I seldom use the oven method, and usually only when teaching someone that doesn’t own a dehydrator. While I don’t dislike the oven method, I don’t prefer the taste.
|Excalibur Food Dehydrator|
I own four dehydrators, and I know, it sounds like, overkill. But I put all four machines to good use during gardening, apple, and hunting season.
The Excalibur 3926TB is my favorite dehydrator, hence my decision for getting another one.
Store your jerky in airtight containers. You can vacuum seal or store in canning jars with screw-on lids, preferably plastic. However, the length of storage time depends on how you store the jerky.
Place jerky in airtight container and store on the counter in a cool, dry place.
Use an airtight container like a mason jar with screw top lid and store in the refrigerator.
I recommend using a vacuum sealer for long-term storage. Also, I recommend adding an oxygen absorber to the package before sealing. Store in the freezer for up to 1 year.
In addition to Plain Ol’ Jerky Yum, check out my Best Jerky Recipes.