Hunter, author, outdoorsman and preparer of delicious wild game Steven Rinella is the host of Meat Eater, which airs on the Sportsman Channel. Out now: the first volume of his most recent book: The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering and Cooking Wild Game. This installment tackles big game — really big game. Elk, moose and buffalo big. Once you’ve tracked, hunted and butchered these titans, you’ll need to know what to do with hundreds of pounds of meat. Chicken it ain’t. Tackle that meat pile by making jerky that’s better than anything you…well, didn’t track, hunt, butcher or dehydrate.
It’d be interesting to know how many pounds of game meat get turned into jerky every year in the United States. It has to be an astounding number. After all, there’s nothing better than chewing on last year’s deer while you hunt for this year’s. While there’s certainly no shortage of great preblended jerky-making kits on the market, it is fun and rewarding to make your own. This is a favorite recipe of mine, developed by the folks at Weston Products. It has a much more complex flavor profile than any jerky blend you can find at a sporting goods store. When slicing the meat, take the time to do it right. If your slices are of uniform thickness, they’ll finish drying at the same time and you won’t have to hover over the dehydrator while you remove individual pieces as they get done.
A note on drying jerky in your oven: I like to use a dehydrator. It’s the most efficient way to control the heat and rate at which the jerky dries out. But if you don’t have one, you can use an oven set at very low heat — say about 170º. Crack the door of the oven, and let it go for several hours at least. (It usually takes somewhere between 4 and 7 hours.) Watch it carefully throughout the process — you want it to cook evenly and not get overdone.
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- zest of 1 orange
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 shallots, finely minced
- 1 jalapeno, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 pounds lean meat from horned or antlered game (deer, elk, caribou, moose, etc.), sliced into 3/8-inch strips (freezing the meat for a couple of hours makes the slicing easier and helps to get slices of even thickness)
For the jerky
Combine all of the ingredients except for the meat in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine well. Add the strips of game meat to the marinade, being sure to cover it all completely. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 12 hours and up to 48 hours; the longer it’s in the marinade, the better.
Remove the meat from the marinade and drain. Pat it dry. Lay out the meat on dehydrator trays, with space between the slices. Set the dehydrator to 145º-155º and dry the jerky for 1½-2½ hours or until completely dry. (Dehydrators may vary.) You want the meat to still have some flexibility. The pieces shouldn’t crack in two when you bend them; rather, they should break to reveal a network of thin white lines.