Friday, January 9, 2009

Jerky on a Smoker/Cooker

Jerky is a great treat that MUST be cured and then dehydrated on the proper equipment to be safe as a meat that can be left out in the open air and at room temp for days. Most of what you read about on the forums about this great treat shouldn't be called jerky but "Cooked Meat Strips" as unless it has been cured, it needs to be refridgerated or frozen to be safe for eating.

For this article, I will call my product "Jerky" as most folks won't know anything about this process if I use the term, cooked meat strips. Most all dehydrated products (Real Jerky) use very little heat and never over a temp of about 140 degrees to cure and process the meat.

My recipe and process will require a cooker/smoker that is fairly air tight so that it is possible to run the lower temps that are required for this meat. I would recommend a temp of about 140 grid to no higher than about 170 grid temp for the best results. I have used ceramic cookers, Backwoods cookers, and WSM's for this process with good results.

Jerky can be done with about any lean meat including poultry, beef, and some lean cuts of pork and some cuts of wild game. This article will be about beef as I like to use one of the very lean beef products like a bottom or top round roast.

This is 16 pounds of bottom round graded choice and I try to buy it on sale for under $2.00 a pound as this makes great jerky. I have the store cut it 1/4" thick so this saves me a step in the process.

I lay each piece of meat out on my cutting board and very carefully cut EVERY speck of fat out of the meat. Fat is the enemy and will make your finished treat get fuzzy and green very quickly if left out on the counter very long!! I then cut the meat into strips that are about 1-1/2" wide by maybe about 3-4" long.

This is what the meat looks like after is has been prepared for jerky. I freeze most all of the scraps on about any meat that I prepare and use it later in one of my sausage recipes.

For each four pounds of meat, I used the following recipe for the marinade. I made four batches for this cook.

1 cup soy sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp red pepper
2 TBL crushed red pepper flakes

This recipe may be toooo hot for most folks so do cut the heat down if you can't eat spicy jerky.

The meat then goes into this marinade and then into the fridge for a day or two.

On smoking day, I got my Backwoods Party ready for this very low temp cook. Was kinda a nasty day in Indiana with some misting rain and the temp is at about 35 degrees. The cooker was filled with lump and I added 3 small chunks of cherry wood for some smoke. I was real careful bringing the cooker up to temp as my plan was to cook this jerky at no higher than about 160 degrees. This was my first cook at this low temp on the Backwoods Party and I wasn't sure how the cooker would perform.

I ended up using 10 grids for this cook. The Party comes with six grids and I also used four grids out of my Chubby. I filled the grids about 65% full of meat as the cooker needs to breathe. I was sure glad that my Party came with the option of extra rails in the cooking chamber.

This picture shows the 10 grids of jerky in the cooker. I was running a dry water pan with my foil strips.

The cooker did a fine job for the first couple of hours and I was able to keep it at about 130 degrees.

I am now about 4 hours into the cook and the Party is "locked" in at about 145 degrees so I would guess that I will start getting meat off the cooker in just a few more hours.

The total smoking time was about 8 hours and later in the cook, the cooker did get up to a high of 170 degreees when I wasn't watching it very close but that was still ok for the jerky.

I started with just under 16 pounds of meat and the results were 5-1/2 pounds of finished product. Will repack into 1/2 pound vacumed packed bags in the morning.

My large Egg with my "Contraption" setup is another cooker that can be used for this treat. It is a little more work and does take longer but does produce a great product. I call my process on the smaller ceramic cooker "the stack and pile method".

This cook was about 20 pounds of choice top round. I use the same recipe and steps for getting this meat ready for the cooker.

This picture shows my 20 pounds of meat on two layers in my contraption about ready to go on the Big Green Egg.

It is difficult to keep the Egg under about 150-160 degrees required for this meat but can be done if the lid is never opened for more than just a few seconds. This is where my contraption shines as I just pull the whole setup out of the cooker and take it into the kitchen and re-arrange my meat for the next round and then take it out and drop it back into the cooker.

This is what my two layer stack and pile method looks like on the cooker just before I took it into the kitchen for my next service.

During this cook at about every two hours, I pull the contraption with the meat out of the cooker and take it into the kitchen for this service. I re-arrange the meat to where the stuff on the bottom in the pile goes to the top of the next pile, the meat in the middle then goes to the bottom of the pile and last, the meat on the top goes to the middle for my next round. Might sound complicated but with the use of six plates is pretty easy to do.

Here is another picture later into the cook and I think you can see just how much my piles have gone down in size as this cook gets done.

This picture shows my jerky cook about done. As I complete the cook, I usually start getting meat off the cooker in about 8 hours and this will continue until about 12 hours with this process on the Egg.

This picture really doesn't do this cook justice as it looks much more darker than it was but might give you some idea of how the meat comes out on the ceramic cooker.

To do this cook in a WSM, I use toothpicks and hang the meat from the top grid. I can only do about 5 pounds at a time but it still comes out great. I have a picture somewhere but can't find it this morning.

Again, this meat must be refridgerated or frozen after it is done as it hasn't been cured but is still a wonderful treat to snack on and sure is nice in a gift basket.


  1. before i put the strips into my dehydrator, how long would i have to smoke the strips in my Backwoods Smoker to give it a medium amount of smoke? thanks

    1. Hank, I would think about two hours in some hickory smoke would work quite well.