Venison Smoked Jerky Recipe: A Comprehensive Guide to Flavorful Snacks

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Venison smoked jerky is a cherished delicacy for those who love the rich, smoky flavors of preserved meats. Derived from the lean and gamey meat of deer, venison jerky brings a unique taste to the traditional jerky experience. The process of smoking not only imparts a distinct flavor but also preserves the meat, allowing it to be enjoyed over time. Whether it’s enjoying a homemade batch on a hiking trip or as a satisfying snack, venison jerky stands out for its robust taste and texture.

Making venison smoked jerky involves a blend of seasoning, marinating, and slow smoking to perfection. Every recipe carries its own twist, from the inclusion of soy sauce for umami depth to a hint of brown sugar for subtle sweetness. Smokers prefer specific woods like cherry or hickory to enhance the meat’s flavor profile. The technique may vary from person to person, but the goal remains the same: to create a jerky that is both flavorful and portable. Smoked venison jerky represents a harmony of tradition and innovation, resulting in a snack that remains a favorite for outdoorsmen and culinary enthusiasts alike.

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Selecting the Right Cut

When making smoked venison jerky, the choice of cut greatly influences the end result. Venison refers to deer meat, which is a type of red meat known for its leanness. For the best jerky, one should choose cuts with minimal fat. This is because fat can spoil and give an off-taste to the jerky.

Ideal cuts come from the hindquarter of the deer, which includes the top round and eye of round. These cuts are not only lean but also relatively tough, which is perfect for jerky that requires a chewy texture. Sirloin and bottom round are also good choices. However, one should avoid using the backstrap, which is a tender cut more suitable for quick cooking methods rather than drying.

Here is a short guide on slicing the meats:

  • Top Round: A prime choice, slice it into long, thin strips going against the grain for best results.
  • Eye of Round: Similar to top round, ensure it’s trimmed well.
  • Sirloin: While not as ideal as round cuts, sirloin can work if sliced properly thin.
  • Bottom Round: Like the top round, but tougher and might require more marinating time.

For those without access to the specific cuts above, a lean venison roast can be a good substitute. The key is to slice the meat evenly to ensure consistent drying throughout the jerky-making process.

By being mindful of these aspects, one ensures their smoked venison jerky will have the proper texture and flavor.

Preparing the Marinade

The marinade is a crucial element in making smoked venison jerky, as it imparts flavor and tenderness to the meat. The right balance of ingredients and time is essential for a delicious outcome.

Creating the Base

The foundation of any venison jerky marinade typically begins with soy sauce and water. This combination provides both the salty flavor that jerky is known for and the liquid needed to evenly distribute the other ingredients. For a more complex taste, some may choose to use apple cider vinegar or another type of vinegar to add a slight tanginess to the marinade.

Adding Flavor Depth

Spices and seasonings such as garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and cayenne give the jerky its distinctive kick, while sugar or brown sugar can balance the heat with a touch of sweetness. Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke introduce a deeper umami and smoky flavor, mimicking the taste of traditional smoking methods. For extra punch, one might include maple syrup or red pepper flakes.

Marination Process

Once the marinade is mixed, it’s time to let the venison soak up the flavors. The meat should be submerged in the marinade and placed in an airtight bag or container. It typically needs to rest in the refrigerator for several hours, or even better, overnight. This ensures it becomes tender and fully marinated, allowing the spices and liquids to penetrate deeply.

Unique Marinade Variations

There are countless variations of the venison jerky marinade, and many of them involve switching up the smoking wood for different flavor profiles. Choices like applewood, cherry, hickory, mesquite, or pecan can influence the final product’s taste when using smoke. Additionally, one can customize the spice mix with diverse spices like coriander, paprika, or cayenne pepper, depending on their preferred flavor intensity.

Cutting the Venison

When making deer jerky, how the venison is cut is a critical step. The meat should be trimmed of all visible sinew, which can be tough and chewy. Cutting against the grain of the meat makes the jerky more tender and less difficult to chew.

One should use a sharp knife or a meat slicer for even, consistent thickness. Thinner slices dry out faster and become more pliable. Here’s a simple guide to follow:

  • Freeze the venison slightly: This makes it easier to slice.
  • Aim for strips: About 1/4 inch thick is ideal.
  • Check the grain: Find the direction of the muscle fibers and slice perpendicular to them.

Pro Tip: Use a cutting board and always cut in a stable, controlled manner to ensure safety and uniformity.

Venison slices should be consistent not only for cooking evenly but also for ensuring every piece has the right balance of flavor and texture. The goal is bite-sized jerky that is easy to eat and enjoy.

Drying and Smoking

When making smoked venison jerky, the choices of wood and the control of the smoking process are crucial. The right type of wood will impart a distinct flavor, and proper smoker management ensures the jerky dries consistently.

Choosing the Right Wood

The type of wood used for smoking jerky greatly affects the final taste. For a classic smoked flavor, hickory pellets are a popular choice. Those looking for a sweeter note might opt for cherry wood or apple wood, which are known for their mild, fruity flavors. For a bolder taste, mesquite or pecan can be used, but it’s important to use them sparingly as they can overpower the meat.

Setting Up the Smoker

Before smoking jerky, one must correctly set up the smoker or pellet grill. Ensure that it’s clean and the jerky racks are positioned for optimal airflow. A consistent temperature is key, typically around 160-180°F (71-82°C). Load the wood pellets, like oak or hickory, into the smoker.

The Smoking Process

For smoking venison jerky, it’s vital to allow for enough smoke while avoiding over-drying. The goal is to dry the jerky thoroughly and not cook it. This can take several hours depending on the thickness of the slices and the smoker’s efficiency. One can also use a dehydrator or an oven as an alternative to a pellet smoker, setting it to a low temperature to achieve a similar result. Regularly check the jerky throughout the smoking process to ensure even drying.

Storage and Preservation

When someone makes homemade venison jerky, keeping it fresh and tasty is important. They need to store it properly to enjoy it as a snack later on. Here are some tips:

  • Keep it Dry: Moisture is jerky’s enemy. Make sure the jerky is completely dry before storing it. After following their favorite jerky recipe, they should let the jerky cool at room temperature.
  • Airtight Containers: They can use zip-top bags or airtight containers. Press out all the air before sealing the bag.
  • Vacuum Sealing: For those who make lots of homemade jerky, a vacuum sealer is a great investment. It removes all the air and seals the jerky, keeping it fresh for a longer time.
  • Cool & Dark Place: Store the sealed jerky in a cool, dark place like a pantry. Sunlight and heat can spoil the jerky.
  • Refrigeration: If they plan to eat the jerky within a few weeks, storing it in the refrigerator is a good option.
  • Freezing: For long-term storage, they can freeze their deer jerky. Frozen venison jerky can last for several months.

Remember, properly stored wild game preserves its flavor and quality, making the effort of making homemade venison jerky well worth it.

Expert Tips and Tricks

Choosing the Right Meat: For the best smoked deer jerky, one should select high-quality venison meat. It should be lean and free of any silver skin or fat to ensure a tender bite.

Marinade Matters: To achieve flavorful jerky, marinating the venison for at least 4 hours, better overnight, is crucial. A well-crafted jerky rub or spice mix will impart depth and complexity to the taste.

  • The Right Cut: Slice the venison against the grain between 1/8-inch and 1/4-inch thick. Thinner slices will be more crisp and chewy, while thicker slices will be juicier and more tender.
Prague Powder #1Preserves the jerky and adds flavor
Soy SauceAdds umami and depth
Brown SugarContributes a slight sweetness
Garlic PowderProvides a robust, aromatic component

The Smoking Process: Smoking not only cooks the jerky but also gives it a distinctive flavor. Use woods like hickory or cherry for a classic taste. Smoking should be done at a low temperature to avoid overcooking.

Ground Meats: While less common, ground venison can be used to make jerky. Season well, press into thin strips, and smoke until fully dehydrated.

Alternative Proteins: Although this recipe focuses on venison, one can also apply these techniques to beef or other types of wild game.

The use of American flavors like hickory and traditional barbecue spices can elevate the simple venison to a sumptuous treat.

In conclusion, patience and attention to detail when preparing and smoking will result in irresistible smoked venison jerky.

Nutritional Information

Smoked venison jerky is a nutritious snack that offers several health benefits, particularly when it comes from lean red meat like venison. This wild game meat is known for being lower in fat compared to other red meats.

Calories and Protein:
A typical serving size of smoked venison jerky can contain around 70 calories and 5.6 grams of protein. Protein is vital for muscle repair and growth, making venison jerky a great option after workouts.

Fat and Cholesterol:
Venison contains less fat than many other meats, with a serving of jerky having approximately 4.4 grams of fat and 8.2 milligrams of cholesterol. These numbers can vary based on the recipe and preparation method.

Carbohydrates and Sugars:
Carbohydrates are relatively low in smoked venison jerky, with a serving size usually providing around 1.9 grams, including 1.5 grams of sugars. This makes it a suitable option for those on low-carb diets.

Vitamins and Minerals:
While not a significant source of vitamins, venison jerky does provide essential minerals like zinc and iron, which are important for immune function and oxygen transport in the blood, respectively.

Salt Content:
One thing to monitor is the sodium content. Jerky usually contains salt as part of the curing process, and a serving could have as much as 354 milligrams of sodium. It’s important for those watching their salt intake to take note of this.

It’s clear that deer jerky offers nutritional benefits, especially as a source of high-quality protein with lower fat content than other snacks. However, moderation is key, especially because of its sodium content.

Customizing Your Recipe

Customizing a venison jerky recipe involves personal touches to the marinade and spice mix. Each hunter or chef can create a unique flavor profile. The key is to start with a basic smoked venison jerky recipe and then experiment.

Marinades: A typical marinade might include soy sauce, brown sugar, and various seasonings. One can modify this by adjusting the sweetness or saltiness. For a twist, they might add pineapple juice for sweetness or Worcestershire sauce for depth.

Spice Mix: The spice mix creates the jerky’s signature flavor. People often use black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. They might want to experiment with smoked paprika for a deeper smoke flavor or include red pepper flakes for heat.

Here’s a simple guide to possible marinade adjustments:

IngredientFor SweetnessFor SaltinessFor AcidityFor Heat
Soy SauceLessMore
Brown SugarMore
Chili FlakesMore

The thickness of the cut impacts flavor absorption and drying time. They should slice their venison between 1/8-inch and 1/4-inch thick.

Cooking time also affects the final jerky. Smoking it longer results in a drier and smokier jerky, while a shorter time keeps it more tender.

Remember, the longer the venison sits in the marinade, the more intense the flavors will be. It’s usually best to marinate overnight.

Making jerky is a balance of art and science. They must monitor their adjustments and remember that small changes can make a big difference.

Serving Suggestions

When it comes to enjoying smoked venison jerky, the options are as varied as they are delicious. As a high-protein snack, it fits perfectly into the American love for savory, portable treats. Here is how one might enjoy homemade venison jerky:

  • As is: The simplest way to enjoy jerky is straight out of the smoker or package. No fuss, just pure, smoky flavor.
  • With Cheese: Pairing jerky with a slice of cheese adds a creamy contrast. Cheddar or gouda are great companions.
  • In a Trail Mix: Mix chunks of jerky with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for a satisfying trail mix. It’s a classic choice for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
  • With Crackers: Lay a small piece of jerky atop a cracker for an instant mini sandwich. Add a dot of hot sauce or mustard if one likes a kick.
  • As a Salad Topper: Cut the jerky into bite-sized pieces and scatter it over a fresh salad to add a smoky, meaty element.
  • In Soups: Stir pieces into soups or stews for added texture and flavor. The jerky will soften slightly, infusing the dish with its taste.

Remember, smoked deer jerky can be quite rich, so they should serve it in moderation. It complements various textures and tastes, making it a versatile choice for different eating occasions. Whether someone’s on the go or adding a burst of flavor to their meals at home, venison jerky is a distinctive treat that stands out for its rustic appeal.

smoked venison jerky recipe

Maple-Glazed Smoked Venison Jerky

Maple-Glazed Smoked Venison Jerky combines the rich, gamey taste of venison with the natural sweetness of maple syrup, resulting in an irresistible snack. This jerky is perfect for those who enjoy the robust flavors of smoked meats with a hint of sweetness. It’s an excellent choice for outdoor activities or as a nutritious snack, offering a delightful twist on traditional smoked jerky.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 20 minutes
Course Snack
Cuisine Wild Game
Calories 110 kcal


  • 2 lbs venison thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper optional


  • Combine soy sauce, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, minced garlic, black pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, and cayenne pepper in a bowl to create the marinade.
  • Place venison slices in a large ziplock bag and pour the marinade over them. Seal and massage the marinade into the meat. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  • Preheat your smoker to 160°F (71°C). Arrange the marinated venison slices on the smoker racks, ensuring they don’t overlap.
  • Smoke for about 4-6 hours, or until the jerky is dry but still pliable.
  • Let the jerky cool before storing it in an airtight container.
Keyword deer, game, jerky, venison
User Review
5 (1 vote)