How to Make Beef Jerky in a Smoker

Beef jerky is a popular, convenient as well as a nutritious snack. Though you can make it in an oven or dehydrator, using a smoker is hands down the best option to inculcate intense smoky flavors in the meat. However, to make it flavorful, you need to be patient and attentive. 

With that said, several other factors also dominate the final flavor of the beef jerky. So, today we will cover everything about how to make beef jerky in a smoker. From buying the right cut to maintaining the right heat, and to adding the best ingredients, we have left no stone unturned to make this hours-long experience rewarding for you! 

Choose the Right Meat 

The first tip for making beef jerky is that the meat should be very lean. Fortunately, several cuts of beef fulfill this requirement. You can buy topside cut, round cut, or filet cut to smoke jerky. However, the filet is one of the most expensive cuts. So, if you are short on budget, try going with the other two options. They are economical and can yield delicious flavors as well.     

As a matter of fact, jerky can also be cooked from venison or kangaroo meat. Trying them is a great idea for the BBQ lovers looking to cook something exotic. 

Ideal Temperature for Smoking a Beef Jerky 

Keep the temperature of your smoker in between the range of 160-180°F. Cooking at this temperature will dehydrate the meat only without cooking it.   

Determining the Doneness of Beef Jerky 

Take out your jerky from the smoker after 2-3 hours or when its sides start to turn dry. If cracks appear on the surface while bending it, the beef jerky has been cooked. The white fibers are also an indication that the meat has been cooked. 

How to Make Beef Jerky in a Smoker – Ingredients And Directions 

Things You’ll Need 

  • A smoker 
  • A dehydrator (optional) 
  • Wood chips (apple, oak, or pecan)
  • A large bowl  
  • Sharp knife 

Ingredients 

  • Beef (2.5 lbs.)
  • Brown sugar (1/2 cup) 
  • Soy sauce (1/2 cup) 
  • Worcestershire sauce (1/2 cup) 
  • Grounded black pepper (1 teaspoon)
  • Paprika (1/2 tablespoon) 
  • Salt (1 teaspoon) 
  • Ginger powder (1 teaspoon) 

1. Slice the Meat 

When it comes to jerky, fats are a big no. Since fat never dries out completely, it can lead to spoiling your smoked jerky. So, trim down as much fat as possible before moving to the slicing step. 

To avoid a jaw workout while chewing a beef jerky, it is necessary to cut it against the grain. The thickness of meat pieces should be around 1/4”-1/8”. If you are having trouble slicing the meat, cover it in plastic wrap and freeze for around 1-2 hours. This will make consistent slicing easier. 

The freezing step is not necessary with a super-sharp knife. Or if you have a jerky slicer. It will cut down the meat in equal width and thickness so that even dryness is achieved throughout. 

2. Marinate the Jerky

Add all the marinade ingredients to a bowl and stir well. Next, place the meat slices in the marinade and make sure they are all covered under the spices. Put a cling wrap over the bowl and let the beef refrigerate for 12-24 hours.  

3. Light up the Smoker 

Don’t think that raising the smoker’s heat will fasten the grilling process. It will only result in overcooking the meat whereas cooking even is not the goal here. Remember, you only need to evaporate moisture from the meat. This is the sole purpose of smoking beef jerky. 

Maintain your smoker heat at 160°F. Take the marinated beef slices out of the refrigerator. Dry excess marinade using a paper towel and place the strips over a wire smoking rack. Make sure the meat pieces are not touching each other. Add your favorite wood chips to the smoker. Let the meat smoke while you keep an eye on the temperature. 

Note: Smoking beef jerky for more than an hour with wood chips is not recommended or the meat will turn too smoky. So, smoke it with fuel (charcoal or gas) only after 30-60 minutes of adding wood chips.  

4. Shift the Meat in a Dehydrator (Optional) 

If you have a dehydrator, pull the meat out of the smoker and load in a dehydrator set at 160°F. Go watch a movie while your dehydrator extracts all the moisture from protein. This will take around 5-6 hours.

5. Keep on Grilling  

For those smoking without a dehydrator, check your meat after a 2 hours interval. If not cooked, check after every 60-minutes and keep on smoking until firm meat with dry edges is attained. 

Depending on the weather conditions and thickness of the meat, the whole smoking procedure can take around 5-10 hours. 

6. Store 

Once done, take the jerky out of the smoker or dehydrator. Let it cool down and then store in a sealed container or resealable bag. Refrigerate and enjoy this snack for a week or two. 

Final Thoughts

Not only does the beef jerky taste exceptional, it is also loaded with nutrients and minerals like iron and zinc. Although the store-bought beef jerky can save you time and effort, its taste and sodium content are not controlled by you. 

So, we hope now you’ve learned how to make beef jerky in a smoker. Try out our recipe to make a great snack that tastes as per your choice and contains limited sodium content.