If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you may have seen or even tried this recipe before, either in Traditional Bowhunter or the book A Man Made of Elk; but give it a second try anyhow, as the version below reflects several subtle improvements and makes the best game jerky I’ve had to date, with none of the nitrates, nitrites and other toxins common in commercial jerky rubs.


Preparation: Thaw a 2-pound shoulder roast (better cuts make better jerky) until you can slice it. After trimming away all fascia and other gristle, slice the meat across the grain as thinly as possible, preferably no thicker than 1/8″. Set it aside in a glass bowl. Unless I’m using really low cuts of meat, a 2-pound chunk, after cleaning and trimming, generally reduces to 1 to 1.5 pounds of jerky slices, just right to fill a standard food dehydrator.

Marinade Recipe:

  • 1 cup beer (non-alcoholic beer also works)
  • 1/2 fresh squeezed medium lemon
  • 1 T soy sauce (I use lite)
  • 1 T Worchestershire sauce
  • 1/2 T table salt
  • 1 T coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. red Mexican chili powder (optional)
  • 1 clove fresh minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. Liquid Smoke
  • 1/2 finely diced medium jalapeno chili (optional)

Blend the marinade ingredients in a bowl and pour it over the meat; the liquid should cover the meat. Stir gently so that all meat pieces are wet. Cover and marinate the meat for two hours at room temperature, stirring occasionally … or cover and marinate 24 hours in the refrigerator (my preference), stirring gently every few hours.

Drying: Pour the marinade and meat into a strainer and allow it to drain. Spread the meat pieces on paper towels or a clean cloth and lightly dab the tops to remove excess moisture. Having tried most drying methods, I find a standard inexpensive electric food dehydrator to work best. Spread the meat strips evenly on the dryer trays, with no pieces touching. Dry four hours at 155 degrees. Check after four hours and continue drying according to personal taste. Remove the meat from the dryer racks while it’s still warm (it’s easier), and dump them onto paper towels or a clean cloth to cool thoroughly. Jerky can be left unrefrigerated for several days, unless the weather is hot and humid. For longer storage, refrigerate or freeze it in zip-top bags.

This recipe makes a mildly hot and modestly salty jerky; anything less I find bland, but go easy with the jalapeno. Adjust the marinade recipe and drying time to your taste. Jerky — the perfect hunting food.

Editor’s Note: You can find all of Dave’s books, including A Man Made of Elk, at www.davidpetersenbooks.com