Jerky is high up on the list of favorite foods that campers and hikers like to bring on their adventures. This is because it is lightweight, easy to find or prepare, and quick to eat while having many different types and flavor varieties to fit your specific taste. It is also great as survival food due to its very long shelf life. Jerky for sure is one of my favorite treats – I always have some lying around somewhere.
Something I also enjoy doing is making my own dehydrated jerky. It’s really simple to do and I get to play around with the types of meat, different marinades and spices to create an assortment of flavors to surprise my taste buds. Deer meat, or venison, is one of my favorites to dehydrate.
If you’ve decided you want to try dehydrating deer meat yourself, one of the first questions I’m sure you’re asking is how long to dehydrate deer jerky and how much meat from a deer? Well, let’s see, shall we!
WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
Let’s start your inquiry with a very short history lesson. The word “jerky” comes from the Quechua – a tribe from South America. They called this type of dehydrated meat “ch’arki” which means, “to burn meat”. Later on, it was adapted into the jerky we know and love today.
In general, it will take anywhere between 4 to 10 hours to dehydrate deer meat – this all depends on the temperature you dehydrate it in and your desired outcome of the meat. If you are planning to start dehydrating meat to turn it into jerky, I suggest grabbing yourself a dehydrator – there are a lot you can find on Amazon. Having one will come very handy for you if you like to camp a lot since you can make all kinds of lightweight, dried foods.
Having jerky or dried foods is something that may take awhile to prepare, but will be very helpful for you while you are out on the trail. Dried foods have a longer shelf life so you don’t have to worry about it getting spoiled during your trip. It is also very lightweight and easy to prepare – all you’ll need is some water to rehydrate the meals. The best part is that if you have your own dehydrator, you can choose exactly what you want to bring and experiment with different recipes.
CHOOSE VENISON AND PREPARE IT RIGHT
Venison is great to turn into jerky because the meat is very lean. This is because a deer in the wild is very active and constantly moves around, unlike cows, pigs, or chickens that are raised in farms. Venison is also “cleaner” since their diet will most likely be all-natural and they aren’t fed chemicals to fatten them up quickly like is often done with other meats.
When you have your venison, cut off any bits of fat from the meat because fat has a tendency to go rancid quicker and will affect the shelf life of your jerky. Once you’ve removed all the fat, cut the meat into thin pieces – kind of like the store-bought jerky that you can find. Preferably, the meat should be about ¼ of an inch thick. If you cut the meat with the grain, the meat becomes chewier. If you cut the meat against the grain, the meat becomes crispy.
Now the fun part is flavoring it. If you have your own marinades or mixes, you can go ahead and try it. If not, you can try a combination of these ingredients (which are often used for jerky):
- Black pepper
- Soy sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
- Onion and garlic powder
- Red pepper flakes
You’ll want the same amount of the Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce and about ¼ of that for the ketchup and then add in the rest of the ingredients to taste. It is also best if you can leave the marinade overnight or for 24 hours so that it really soaks into the meat giving it a rich and delicious flavor. The longer you marinate, the more it will stick to the meat and enhance the taste.
Once you’ve marinated your venison for as long as possible, take out your dehydrator and prepare for the drying process. When laying out the strips of meat, make sure that they are flat and spread out so that the pieces aren’t overlapping or touching each other. This is to ensure that the meat gets thoroughly dried out.
Set your dehydrator to 135F, which should take about 8 hours. After those 8 hours, check on your jerky to see if it has dried through. The color should have turned black or dark brown. If you want, you can also adjust the temperature differently but this will result in different drying times as well. Check out the guide below for an idea of how long to dry the meat for.
|Drying Temperature||Minimum Time|
|125 F||10 hours|
|135 F||8 hours|
|145 F||7 hours|
|155 F||4 hours|
Generally, the longer the drying time, the more dehydrated the meat will get, so the more “crispy” it will become. On the other hand, the shorter the drying time, the more “bendy” or chewy it is, so it all depends on your personal preference.
Be sure to check the meat if it is ready. Besides the color, the jerky should bend and slightly crack, but not crumble. Once it is ready, take it out from the dehydrator and allow it to sit at room temperature for a while. Then you can pack it into your Ziploc bags or jars, ready to be used.
If you are going to use your jerky immediately for your trip, you can just pack it straight away into your Ziploc bags and through it into your backpack. This will last about 1 to 2 months. You can also pack it in a paper bag but if you do, you need to consume it within the next few days. But if you have leftovers or you are planning to keep it as stored food for those “just in case” moments, you can store it in the freezer and it will last up to 6 months. You can learn more about storing jerky here.
NOW YOU’RE READY
Now that you know how long to dehydrate deer jerky and the way to do it, you can try it out yourself to make your camping food. Dehydrating isn’t limited to meats of course; you can even dehydrate fruits and vegetables to make a complete meal for you while you are out on the trail.
If you’re curious, you can check out this guide from Discount Juicers. They have a pretty complete list of the different types of food you can dehydrate as well as their drying times. The foods on the list include fruits, vegetables, herbs, and more, so feel free to check it out.
Jerky is my favorite to make though! What about you? Tell me what you think in the comments or if you have other recipes you want to share with the community. Feel free to share this as well with your friends so you can try dehydrating venison and other food together!