How to Make Jerky in a Smoker
Among the many cool smoker recipes out there, making jerky is definitely one of the coolest. Because it’s made in a smoker without a bunch of artificial preservatives, smoked jerky is nothing like the overpriced jerky in a store. It’s tender, succulent and packed with complex flavors!
The even heat and consistent temperature of a pellet grill makes them ideal for smoking jerky. Read on to find out how to smoke up a batch on your pellet smoker, but don’t say we didn’t warn you — it’s just about impossible to stop after one piece.
1. Remove the fat and cut the meat into strips.
Most traditional meat cuts for smoking are thick slabs packed with fat and connective tissue. Jerky is the exact opposite. You want to start with the leanest cut you can find. Fat isn’t tasty on jerky, and fatty jerky also spoils much faster. Our pitmasters use an eye of round roast in the signature Grilla pellet grill jerky recipe.
Start by trimming as much fat as possible from your meat, or get it pre-trimmed and sliced from your butcher. Then, cut it into thin slices against the grain of the meat. The texture of your jerky will depend on the thickness of your slices. For a thinner and crispier jerky, about one-eighth inch is good. Slicing closer to one-quarter inch will get you a chewier texture. Follow your heart — or, better yet, make more than one batch!
2. Apply rubs and marinades to add flavor to the meat.
Smoking your own jerky also means you get to customize it with all the delicious marinades and rubs you could want! If you’re not quite sure where to start, we highly recommend Grilla Beef Rub. This rich, savory rub brings out the best in beef, especially slow-smoked recipes.
For best results, you’ll want to marinate your jerky pieces in a zip-top bag in the fridge overnight (or for at least eight hours). Make sure that the pieces don’t stick together so each one has the chance to absorb as much marinade as possible.
3. Smoke the meat.
Now you’re ready to smoke! Set your smoker temperature to 180º F, and make sure the hopper is filled with your favorite wood pellets.
Jerky smokes faster than other meat cuts because it’s so thin and lean. That makes it extra-important to monitor your smoker closely so you can pull the jerky off when it’s ready. Smoking time tends to be around two to three hours, checking jerky every hour or so. Once the jerky is finished smoking, take it out and let it cool.
Want to simplify the smoking process? Grilla Grills’ jerky rack is a must-have upgrade for our pellet grills. These tiered stainless steel racks can add up to 800 inches of cooking space in your smoker. The slim slide-out racks are perfect for your cuts of jerky. With so much space, it’s easy to smoke multiple pounds at once!
4. Store your jerky correctly.
First, the bad news: Homemade jerky doesn’t last as long as commercial store-bought jerky. (Of course, as we mentioned before, that’s because you’re not dumping artificial preservatives into it!) As far as flavor and texture goes, we think you’ll agree that the smoker is the hands-down winner.
Store your jerky in a sealed container in a dark, cool place. An airtight, vacuum-sealed container will give you the maximum shelf life of around one to two months. (Food grade oxygen absorbers — you probably know them as the DO NOT EAT packets — can help maximize this.) In the pantry or the fridge, you can expect a shelf life of one to two weeks.
5. Experiment with meats, cuts and flavors.
Another great part of smoking jerky is that it’s a versatile cooking method. You can smoke all kinds of different meats, from elk to venison to turkey to ostrich. Smoke whatever cuts you can get your hands on, so long as they’re lean (or you take the time to remove the fat).
Smoking jerky is also a great opportunity to experiment with different marinades and rubs. Jerky takes on strong flavors easily, so there’s a lot of ways to get really funky with it and produce tasty results. Mad marinade scientists, now is your time to shine!
Source: Morgit Dziuban/Shutterstock
Time to try it for yourself! Get our Grilla pellet grill jerky recipe here, and make sure to watch our resident pitmaster break down how to make jerky in a smoker. PS: Don’t forget to tag our social media accounts when you post your jerky creations. We love to see them!