How to Make Venison Jerky

Making venison jerky is a relatively easy process that can be broken down into 3 steps.

  1. Prepare and slice the venison
  2. Marinate the venison
  3. Dehydrate/Cook the jerky
How To Make Venison Jerky

To understand the process more intrinsically I will break it down further and look at the different cuts, methods of slicing, and marinades.

Choosing Venison Cut for Jerky

How To Make Venison Jerky

The first step to making your own venison jerky is choosing the cut.

I’ve tried just about every cut of venison for jerky. Even cuts like the shank and ribs can make ground venison jerky.

For regular jerky, there are a handful of cuts that I prefer:

  • Backstrap
  • Inside round
  • Outside round
  • Flat iron
  • Sirloin
How To Make Venison Jerky

All of these cuts are great options for venison because they have nice long grain.

Some of these cuts accept marinades very well, particularly the backstrap and flat iron.

However, the flat iron is a little more flavorful. 

It’s also worth noting that the backstrap and flat iron are what I would consider prime cuts, and you may not want to turn them into jerky.

How to Slice Venison for Jerky

Once you have chosen which cut of venison you will use the next step is slicing it.

How To Make Venison Jerky

There are two ways to slice venison jerky against the grain and with the grain.

The grain in meat is the direction in which way the muscle fibers are running.

Slicing against the grain is the most popular and creates jerky that tears easily.

Some people prefer slicing with the grain. Slicing with the grain makes chewy jerky.

The last thing to consider when slicing the jerky is how thick to slice it.

How To Make Venison Jerky

The most common thickness for slicing jerky is 1/8 – 1/4 inch. Jerky in this range gives good texture and an average drying time.

The maximum thickness you should slice venison jerky is 1/2 inch. 

However, slicing venison jerky this thick will require a long dehydrating time.

Slicing any thicker than a 1/2 inch will risk the venison not drying properly which could cause it to spoil.

Marinating Venison for Jerky

With the venison sliced you are ready to marinate.

How To Make Venison Jerky

Choosing the marinade is a balance between flavor, preservation, and tenderizing.

For the most part, jerky is pretty tender especially if you slice it thinly enough.

Also if using the flat iron or backstrap tenderizing isn’t really a concern.

However, it’s still worth keeping in mind when choosing a venison jerky marinade.

How To Make Venison Jerky

Common ingredients include:

  • Soy sauce
  • Brown sugar
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Liquid smoke
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Chili flakes
  • Citrus juices

With the ingredients mixed together pour them over the venison jerky and mix ensuring that all the meat gets covered.

There are 3 ways to marinade the jerky:

How To Make Venison Jerky
  1. Vacuum bag – This is my favorite method and the one I use. Allows for a more intense flavor and expedites the process by removing the air
  2. Ziploc bag – Another great option and easy option that keeps most of the air out. You can carefully submerge the bag in water to push the air out.
  3. Non-reactive container – This method is quick and easy. You can use the container to mix the venison. Place a lid on top and you are done.

Whichever method you choose, you will need to marinate the meat in the fridge.

Marinading times for venison jerky vary according to the cut of meat you are using, the marinade, and which of the 3 methods above you use.

On average, you could expect to marinade the jerky for 4-12 hours.

Dehydrating Venison Jerky

When it comes to dehydrating venison jerky you have 3 options.

Venison jerky can be dehydrated using a dehydrator, in the smoker, or in the oven.

All options work and it will be a matter of preference or equipment choice.


How To Make Venison Jerky

Using a dehydrator is the easiest way to make venison jerky. I use a Cosori dehydrator which you can find on Amazon and is affordable.

What I like about using a dehydrator is that if you get one with a rear-mounted fan you don’t need to worry about any marinade dripping.

I also find dehydrators to be the fastest at making jerky. It will take an average of 4 hours to dehydrate 1/4 inch sliced venison jerky at 145-150F.


  1. Place the jerky on the wire racks in the dehydrator
  2. Set the temperature to 145-150F
  3. Dehydrate jerky for 4 hours


How To Make Venison Jerky

Making venison jerky in the oven is a good alternative to using a dehydrator.

The time to dehydrate the jerky is not particularly longer, but you do need to wait for the oven to come to a temperature.

Once your oven comes to temperature you can place the venison in the oven on wire racks, and leave the oven door ajar.


  1. Heat your oven to 145-150f
  2. Shake excess marinade off jerky slices
  3. Place jerky on a wire rack in the oven
  4. Leave the oven door ajar
  5. Dehydrate for 4-5 hours


How To Make Venison Jerky

The smoker takes the longest to dehydrate venison jerky but some would argue that it’s also the tastiest.

While you can use liquid smoke in your marinade recipe, it’s not going to be the same as if you actually smoke the jerky.

However, the cost is a longer dehydrating time. Venison jerky from a smoker will take anywhere from 5 -10 hours.


  1. Heat your smoker to 180-200f
  2. Shake excess marinade off jerky slices
  3. Place jerky in the smoker
  4. Smoke for 5-10 hours

Storing Venison Jerky

Once your jerky is ready, remove it from whatever device you used for dehydrating and rest on a wire rack at room temperature to cool.

How To Make Venison Jerky

When the jerky has cooled you can pack it for storing.

The method by which you pack the jerky will determine how long it lasts.

I prefer to vacuum pack my venison jerky and store it in the fridge.

Alternative options are ziploc bags and plastic wrap. You can also store jerky in the freezer.

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