6 steps to making your own moose, caribou, or deer jerky at home
Blog and Photos by Melissa Norris
Alaska’s moose, caribou, and deer make great jerky because their lean fat content aids in shelf life, therefore it makes a great trail food on the go. There are a number of ways to make your own jerky and loads of different tools available to make it. My husband Wayne prefers to cook small 2 1/2- to 3-pound batches of jerky in the oven instead of a dehydrator because it takes a little less time, but if you are doing a larger batch it helps to have a dehydrator or smoker as well. Also, prepared to be home for at least 5-6 hours for the process and cooking time.
This is the way Wayne makes it:
-Meat Mixer (We use a KitchenAid mixer)
-2 1/12- to 3 pounds Alaska game meat, thawed
-Cookie Sheets x4 (Whatever fits in your oven at once)
-Cooling Racks x4
1. Thaw your meat if it is frozen. Cut the meat to the specs of your grinder. Ours calls for 1-inch strips.
2. Grind 2 1/2- to 3-pounds of moose or other game into ground meat through your grinder.
3. Season or marinate your meat depending on what flavors you prefer. See below for options and the time it takes. A lot of people we know like the prepackaged Hi Mountain Seasonings Original Blend for jerky and it is Wayne’s preference too. Making your own jerky seasoning is great but he likes consistency, so he buys the Hi Mountain Seasonings.
4. Follow the directions on the package to mix the seasoning. However, Wayne recommends using more spice than they recommend, almost twice as much. He also likes mixing it for ten minutes to thoroughly spread the seasoning through the meat. He uses my KitchenAid mixer with the regular mixing attachment.
5. Use a jerky gun to make quicker work of the process. Wayne uses an LEM Products Origi-nal Jerky Gun we’ve had for years. (link to https://www.lemproducts.com/product/jerky-cannon/jerky-cannon-gun-accessories) The gun can produce nice, flat jerky or circular snack sticks. Wayne likes to make flat jerky. It’s pretty easy to clean and has held up for several years. After placing the seasoned ground meat in the jerky cannon, squeeze it out in even strips on top of drying racks placed on the cookie sheet. This allows for airflow around the meat.
6. Preheat oven to 170 degrees (or as low as your oven goes). Place racks in oven and use a wooden spoon to keep your oven door slightly ajar. It will take about 4-6 hours for the desired consistency depending on the thickness of your meat. Make sure to not overcook or dry out your jerky. Flip the meat halfway through between 2 and 3 hours.
This process works for us although there are many ways to do it. We have a small family of three so we don’t need to make a huge batch of any one item. If you have a larger family or are always giving jerky or sausage as gifts, then you may consider a larger capacity meat mixer by LEM Products. You may also consider making the jerky in a smoker. We recommend looking into the Bradley Smoker or Smokehouse Products Big Chief.
Tips from our Team
Jerky tips provided by Marcus Weiner
• Sanitize all surfaces that will come in contact with raw meat. Since you cook jerky at a low temperature, it’s critical that surfaces are sanitized for optimal food safety.
• Cut jerky to a uniform thickness. One tip here is to put your meat in the freezer to firm it up – not frozen, but firm – and this will make it easier to cut uniform slices by hand. Another way to do it is to use a meat slicer.
• Start with small batches—Both for the learning curve of knowing when the jerky is done, as well as when experimenting with different flavors.
• Use the best quality cuts that you can get. Tough cuts make extra tough jerky. Cross cut against the grain to get a more tender product.
More jerky tips provided by Garry Greenwalt
My family has been processing meat for generations, both domestic and wild game. My uncle ran a commercial butchering shop for many years and I grew up helping my dad make every-thing from jerky to German sausage.
We make jerky three different ways: In the smoke house, in the dehydrator, and in the oven. The smoke-house cured jerky was brined overnight in my dad’s secret blend (I tried to get him to divulge it!) and then seasoned with regular black pepper or one of his experimental blends. We usually cut the meat across the grain, but if you like your jerky to be even more chewy, cutting with the grain or more diagonally to it will make your cuts tougher.
My favorite way to make jerky is to use ground meat. There are a variety of easy-to-use dry blends available that produce great results. The trick is to make sure you are using lean meat. Therefore, remove every last bit of fat that you possibly can before you grind it up. A jerky shooter is handy but you can also make it by rolling it out and cutting it into strips, just make sure they are an even thickness and make sure the seasoning is thoroughly mixed.
Over the years we have used a wide variety of products, from liquid brines, dry cures, teriyaki, liquid smoke, commercial seasoning mixes and our own old family recipes. They all produced good results. One thing I learned from my dad is to not be afraid to experiment with different fla-vors, mixes and recipes. If you want to learn the specifics of using a smoker, oven, or dehydra-tor, a quick internet search will give you more information than you’ll ever be able to go through.
Jerky Dry Seasoning Recipes
Use any number of steak seasoning mixes like Montreal Steak Seasoning or the Tongass Game Rub or Jamaican Jerk Grilling Spice made by Summit Spice and Tea in Anchorage. Alternately you can make your own blend. Here are a basic mix and some variations of a dry seasoning.
Mix any combination of the following to make about a cup of dry seasoning rub for your three pounds of game meat. You can increase or decrease the amount of rub according to your taste.
-Red pepper flakes
Jerky Marinade Recipes
Marinade lengths vary based on thickness of meat and time allowed. It can be anywhere from 3-24 hours. You’ll need about 1 cup of marinade for each pound of meat. You can marinade in the fridge in a Ziploc bag. Before cooking you can pat your meat dry to remove excess liquid, but some people prefer not to and will even baste with the marinade during the process.
Basic jerky marinade for three pounds of meat:
-3/4 c low sodium soy sauce
-3 tbs Worcestershire sauce
-3 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
-1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
-1 1/2 tsp onion powder
-1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
-3/4 tsp garlic powder
Add in any of the following one at a time to play with flavor options:
-1/4 c orange juice
-1/4 c teriyaki sauce
-2 tbsp honey
-2 tbsp brown sugar
-1 tsp sesame oil
-4 tbsp pure maple syrup
-2 tbsp blackstrap molasses
-1/4 c liquid from a jar of jalapeno peppers
-2-3 whole jalapeno peppers
-1 whole habanero pepper
-2 tbs Chili powder and zest of one lime
-3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
-3 tsp cayenne pepper
-1/3 cup white vinegar
-1 1/2 tsp oregano
-1 1/2 tsp thyme
-1 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
-1 1/2 tsp paprika
-1 1/2 tsp horseradish
Melissa Norris is Publisher of Fish Alaska and Hunt Alaska magazines. Wayne Norris is a life-long Alaskan who has fished and hunted around the state his whole life. They are both are notorious outdoor enthusiasts who love to make good food out of Alaska’s fish and game.
Marcus Weiner is Publisher of Fish Alaska and Hunt Alaska magazines and is a firm believer in harvesting and producing quality cuisine at home.
Garry has hunted almost exclusively with a bow for the last 20 years and has been fortunate to take a variety of game with archery equipment. Garry resides in Anchorage and is a Sales Executive with Hunt Alaska and Fish Alaska magazines.