My husband loves jerky and I’ve been more concerned with nitrates and preservatives lately. A small 3 oz. pack of nitrate free turkey jerky is $6 or more. So I decided to try to make my own. I do not have a dehydrator, so I researched how to do it in the oven. I bought a 3 lb. frozen boneless turkey breast from the Aldi freezer section….I think it was around $5-$6. When I was ready to use it, I let it thaw just a little bit, removed the wrappers and gravy packet, trimmed off and discarded any fat or membranes and started slicing it. You will need a sharp knife (please be careful!!) and then you will slice it into thin strips. The more uniform the strips are, the more even the cook time and texture. Since this was my first go, my strips varied from big to small and so I had to keep checking the cook time.
After I had cut the turkey into strips, it was time to marinate it. This is where you can really get creative and personalize it to your taste. I used pretty generic jerky marinade items and just tried to use up things that I had on hand. Put your marinade into a large Ziploc bag and mix together. Since my recipe had honey, I had to make sure that it was combined really well. Then you add your turkey slices or protein of choice.
You will want to let this marinate overnight for a good 10-12 hours, turning the bag over occasionally, so that all the turkey gets coated well. Whenever you’re ready to start, take your turkey out and drain it in a colander and let turkey come to room temperature. Blot off any remaining moisture from strips. Line the bottom of your oven with foil, remove racks and preheat it to 175 degrees. Start piercing/hanging your strips from wooden or metal kabob skewers. When I ran out of skewers, I just used toothpicks, especially for the smaller pieces. I also had pieces that were just too small and I stir fried them separately on the stove top and they were delicious!
Place a rack back in the oven, hang the jerky and prop a wooden stick or object in the door (about a 1 inch gap) while cooking. This is an important step to allow the moisture to escape and the meat to dehydrate.
Set timer for 2 hours and then check (this is a little early, but if you have any really small pieces, they might be done). Jerky will shrink, become darker in color, and is ready when bent, it gives way before breaking but doesn’t snap. If not ready, check every 1/2 hour or so. The longer the time, the chewier the jerky will be. You may have to take pieces out in waves, like I did, because some were ready earlier than others. Jerky may be stored in an airtight container on the counter for a couple weeks or frozen.
As my husband said, “I’ve never tried crack before, but I imagine it to be a lot like this turkey jerky.” I’ll take that as a compliment and I’ll definitely make this again. I think the second time will be a lot easier, now that I know the process better. Happy Jerky Making To You!!
Do you have a dehydrator? Have you ever made jerky before? What type of marinade is your favorite?