We are in the final weeks of deer season right now, which means you probably have put one or two in the freezer as steaks and/or burger and it’s about full. There’s no reason to stop hunting just start making jerky. Deer jerky is a tasty, healthy snack that can be made from almost any cut of venison. Many jerky companies have venison jerky varieties, but did you know you can easily make your own at home? While making your own venison jerky may sound like a daunting task, it can actually be done in just a few simple steps. Here’s a guide to teach you how to make deer jerky with the meat you bring home.

1. Process the Deer Meat

After you’ve had a successful hunting trip, the first thing you need to do is process the meat. Some hunters do this themselves, while others prefer taking the deer to a butcher for processing. If you prefer the later then be sure to ask the processor to leave you whole cuts of meat, they will be easier for you to slice correctly.

2. Clean and Soak

Once you have chosen the deer meat, make sure you rinse it before going any further. This way, you can get rid of any lingering hair or blood that may have stuck around during processing. Then, soak the meat for three to five days. This takes away the gamey flavor by draining out the remaining blood. Most people will use either a solution of saltwater or vinegar and water over ice. Change out the solution each day to keep it fresh. You will then be left with clean, non-gamey venison that will taste great as jerky.

3. Thinly Slice the Meat

The key to good deer jerky is thin slices of meat. The thinner the meat, the more tender and flavorful the jerky will be. Thick slices will take much longer to dehydrate, and the resulting texture will be all wrong. Some people are able to create really thin slices by hand with a sharp knife, while others find this difficult. If you can’t get your slices thin enough by hand, you may want to consider investing in a meat slicer to cut thin, uniform slices that are perfect for turning into jerky.

4. Create Your Spice Mix

If you want to make jerky that tastes good, you need to use a spice mix that tastes good. The spice mix is where all the flavor comes from, so choose carefully. You can combine your favorite spices and seasonings to create your own recipe or look up tried-and-true recipes online. You can also purchase a premade marinade that’s already full of flavor, which makes less work for you.

Some jerky companies such as Crockett Creek sell their jerky marinade for people to buy to make their own jerky at home. If you want your deer jerky to taste like Crockett Creek’s homestyle jerky, you can use our Original Marinade. It’s the same marinade we use on our best-selling jerkies, and we have been told by many customers that they use it to give their homemade deer jerky a bold, delicious flavor.

5. Marinate the Meat

Once your spice mix or marinade is ready, it’s time to marinate the venison. In the biggest bowl you have, pour in your marinade then fill the bowl with as much meat as you can. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator. It’s best to let the meat marinate overnight or longer so that it can soak up as much flavor as possible. If you don’t have a large bowl, you can use plastic freezer bags to marinate the venison. Just add the marinade and meat, seal the bag, and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

6. Dehydrate the Venison

Dehydrator: After marinating in the spice mix all night, the meat is now full of flavor and ready for the drying process. The best way is with a dehydrator. Lay the strips of meat in a single layer on the trays in your dehydrator without touching each other, then follow the instructions provided with your particular machine. Different dehydrators will take different amounts of time to get your deer jerky to your desired level of dryness. The goal should be to dehydrate the jerky until it is dry and firm but still a little pliable. Keep an eye on the jerky as it is drying and test it by taking out a few pieces and breaking them to see if the meat is drying on the inside.

Oven: If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use your kitchen oven. Heat to 175 degrees Fahrenheit and place the racks in the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Cover two large baking sheets with aluminum foil, then place a wire cooling rack on each sheet. Lay the strips of meat on the wire racks in a single layer so that they are not touching each other, then place in the oven. Bake the venison until it is dry and firm but still a little pliable, which usually takes approximately four hours, though cooking times will vary based on meat thickness and your oven. Make sure you flip the jerky halfway through baking.

7. Store Your Deer Jerky

When your deer jerky is completely dried, it’s ready to eat. You can enjoy the jerky now, gift it to friends and family, or store it for later. To store deer jerky, place it in a plastic freezer bag and press out the air. If you store your jerky in a dark pantry, it will stay fresh for about a week. Place it in the refrigerator to make it last up to two weeks, or you can freeze it for up to six months. To extend the shelf life of your jerky without refrigerating or freezing, you can add food grade oxygen absorbers or use vacuum packaging to remove oxygen and prevent spoilage for a longer time.

What Every Hunter Needs This Deer Season

When you bring home more meat than you can keep in the freezer, turn any extra into jerky. Deer jerky is a tasty, healthy snack that you can take with you on the go, including on your next hunting trip. If you want your homemade jerky to taste especially amazing, use Crockett Creek’s Original Marinade to add bold smoky, sweet, and salty flavors. This marinade is made with all-natural herbs and spices, so it’s both healthy and delicious. Buy yours online today to bring a Southern homestyle taste to your homemade deer jerky.