Homemade Jerky in a Smoker

By on December 22, 2015

For the better part of human history, the primary way to safely preserve and store meat was to dry it. Sometimes the old ways are best.

Jerky is not only delicious, it is an incredibly healthy form of protein due to the method of “cooking” and the removal of fat and moisture from the meat. Although delicious, few things are as misunderstood as homemade jerky. It really couldn’t be easier to make your own jerky, from a variety of meats, for far less cost than buying a bag at the grocery store but a lot of us are still on the fence about making our own. We’re here to point you in the right direction.

The Meat

From venison to beef, you can smoke nearly any kind of meat that your heart desires. The most popular is beef, based on taste and availability, but getting adventurous and using unusual meat is half the fun. The cuts of meat that you will likely use are flank steaks or top round cut to one-fourth-inch thick slices. Based on the shape of the top round, you get larger pieces that can either be cut to bite sized chunks after smoking or eaten whole. With beef cuts, you will likely have your butcher cut the slices for you; simply tell them what you are using them for.

The Marinade

You can buy pre-made jerky marinade mix at pretty much any grocery store but sticking with the spirit of do-it-yourself jerky making, starting from scratch allows you to customize the flavor and experiment with combinations that you wouldn’t find in an off-the-shelf mix. Below you’ll find a list of ingredients that are commonly combined to make the marinade. The basics of Worcestershire, soy sauce, and garlic and onion powder are common but you can add spices and seasonings to fit your taste.

Homemade Jerky in a Smoker
For 4 lbs. of jerky steaks:
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. red pepper
  • 2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 2 cups Worcestershire sauce
  • Something sweet (sugar, honey, brown sugar)
  1. After you combine all the ingredients in a large tupperware or a resealable plastic bag, thoroughly coat each cut of meat and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. The next morning, take each jerky steak out of the marinade and dry them as much as you possibly can. Paper towels work well for this. Removing any excess moisture is the key step to making amazing jerky, so take your time and pat dry each steak.

The Smoker

The goal should be to keep the smoker between 150°F and 175°F for 6-8 hours. The easiest way to do this is adding lit coals to a base of briquettes already in the smoker. This allows the lit coals to slowly spread to the base coals, helping to maintain a consistent temperature for a longer period of time.

Adding chunks of hardwood such as oak or pecan is a great addition to the briquettes and can add a distinct smoky flavor. Use larger chunks to prevent the wood for catching on fire and producing large flames. Remember, the goal is to smoke dry the jerky, not grill it.

Throughout the 6-8 hours, you will have to adjust the vents on your smoker to maintain the “goldilocks” temperature range of 150°F to 175°F. Closing the vents will cool down the smoker while opening them will increase air flow, thus increasing the heat.

Don’t overlap the jerky steaks when arranging them on your smoker grates. It is perfectly fine if they are touching, the steaks will shrink as they dry, but overlapping them will prevent them from properly drying.

beef jerky on kitchen table


If you’re anything like us, our homemade jerky doesn’t last very long based on our eating habits. Although we eat ours too fast to worry about spoilage, jerky has a pretty good shelf life of up to three months if stored properly. As far as storing your homemade jerky, we love using sealable glass jars commonly used for canning or preserves. Resealable plastic bags also work well in a pinch.

Share the flame:


The following two tabs change content below.
Love cooking over an open flame? So do we. We're in pursuit of the perfect meal cooked over a fire. Grill, pit, campfires and more. Let's go for a ride.

Latest posts by Fired Up Food (see all)