Beef and Chicken Jerky

Last Christmas I was given a really cool gift – a jerky maker!how to make chicken jerky

This thing works like a caulking gun.  You mix your ground meat with whatever spices or cure you are using, load up the barrel, and then smoosh the stuff out onto a dehydrating tray or cookie sheet.  After several hours in your dehydrator or oven – voila – jerky!  It’s that simple.  The coolest part about it is that you make your jerky from ground meat.  No need to thinly slice the meat anymore!

I actually prefer this kind of jerky.  Why?  Because it’s a lot easier on the teeth and jaws!  I have eaten (at least tried to) many commercially produced beef jerky products before that were just like shoe leather.  They had lots of flavor but took forever to actually eat!  The jerky made from ground meat tastes just as good but doesn’t cause sore jaws!

beef and chicken jerky recipe

hamburger beef jerky ready to be dehydrated.

The Nesco jerky maker I got has six packages of spices with six packages of cure.  If you buy this product, you should probably make a batch or two using the spices provided, just so you know what it’s supposed to look like, taste like, etc.. Then, branch out and try some other recipes.  I have gathered several good recipes and list them at the end of this article.  Once you try these, you can start developing your own recipe to reflect your own tastes!

One note about the “cure” package that is included in the Nesco Jerky Maker.  The cure contains sodium nitrite.  Large amounts of sodium nitrite isn’t good for you.  Period.  There have been lots of studies proving that it can cause cancer. Sure, small quantities here and there aren’t much of a concern simply because there are lots of naturally occurring nitrites in healthy natural foods that we eat every day.  Spinach has lots of nitrites.  So does celery.  By the way, so does your saliva!  So, what is the sodium nitrite good for?  It keeps the meat a nice pink color and it prevents botulism.  Deli meats are “cured” with nitrites to prevent botulism from growing deep inside the meat while it hangs in a cool room. However, I don’t plan to stop eating bacon or salami any day soon.  Nope.  So, why tempt fate and add more in the jerky when it’s not really necessary?

The biggest fear of not using nitrites is with the devastating effects of botulism poisoning.  It’s deadly.  But, for botulism to thrive (it’s actually the toxins produced by the botulism that causes the problems) it needs four things:  an anaerobic environment (no oxygen), moisture, warmth, and a low acid food.  When canning meat, you have an anaerobic environment, you have moisture and you also have a low acid food.  But, when you pressure can the food, you are able to kill the botulism before it can cause any harm.  That’s why you always pressure can any low acid food such as meats and most vegetables.

When making jerky, it’s perfectly fine not to add in the sodium nitrite cure if you are going to eat the jerky within a month or so.  Why?  Because you took out one of the major needs for the botulism to grow – moisture!  If you want to vacuum seal your jerky, which would put the meat into an anaerobic environment – just throw it into the freezer!  Now you have taken away the warmth AND the moisture requirement for botulism to grow.  That’s what I do.How to make beef and chicken jerky

One more word of caution.  Some dehydrators out there don’t get very hot.  For your jerky to be perfectly safe, the meat must reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees, poultry 165 degrees.  This temperature ensures that all the pathogens that the meat can carry are killed off, including E. Coli, salmonella and other nasty bugs.  So, if you are drying in a conventional oven set at 170 degrees (which is the lowest most ovens go), you are perfectly fine.  However, if you dehydrator temperatures do not go that high, you will need to place your almost dried jerky strips in a preheated 275 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Since this will cook the jerky just a bit more, you will want to pull your jerky from the dehydrator before it has finished dehydrating to do this.  If, after the 10 minutes in the oven your jerky still isn’t done, that’s okay.  Just put it back into the dehydrator (after you have thoroughly washed the trays!) and finish dehydrating.  You have already killed off all of the bad bugs!

So – lets make some jerky!


This is the standard – or what my Nesco Jerky Maker was meant to be used with.  You can always buy your hamburger, but I prefer to grind my own.  That way I know what went into my hamburger and I can better control the fat content.

Once the hamburger has been ground up, mix in the spices and cure package (if you are using it) until it looks pretty uniform.  I found that when using my Kitchen Aid with the food grinder attachment, if I grind the meat using the large extruder plate, mix the meat and spices, then put the entire mixture back through the grinder with the smaller plate, I get a really good consistency that isn’t totally mush, but has mixed everything together really nicely.

how to make chicken jerky

The jerky “gun” loaded with the hamburger mixture and ready to go!

Now, load the barrel of the jerky maker. It will hold about 1 pound of meat.  Following manufacturer’s instructions, extrude the meat mixture onto either your dehydrator trays or onto a cookie sheet. Or, if you don’t have a jerky maker, roll the meat out between two sheets of waxed paper on top of a large cookie sheet.  Cut the meat into strips then freeze the entire cookie sheet with the meat on it.  When frozen (it shouldn’t take too long), you can carefully lift each previously cut strip of meat off the paper and place onto your dehydrator trays.  If you are using your oven to dehydrate, just separate the jerky strips a bit, leave them on the cookie sheet, and dehydrate it that way.  Once the jerky starts to dehydrate, flip them over and remove the paper.  Whichever method you use, carefully flip the jerky strips after about an hour, and then again at two hours.  It could take anywhere from 4-18 hours to sufficiently dry your jerky, depending on the humidity, temperature, method used and thickness of the meat.


You can make jerky from just about any kind of meat you want to.  Of course we have all heard of venison jerky, beef jerky and turkey jerky – so why not chicken jerky?

how to make beef jerky

Chicken jerky ready for the oven.

I took two breasts I had frozen last week (see how I prepared 40 pounds of chicken), cut them into strips and then ground them just like I did the beef.  You have to be careful with grinding chicken, however, because it tends to mush up a lot easier than the beef or even turkey.  I ground my chicken breasts on the large extruder plate, then added spices, and put only half of the chicken and spice mixture through the extruder again.  When it was mixed again, it was a perfect consistency. Proceed just from here just like you are making beef jerky.

Now, as promised, here are some jerky recipes I have found and used.  I listed the web site that the entire recipe can be found and an ingredients list.  If you find a recipe you like, just visit the website to find the entire recipe!  Enjoy!

This one comes from:

jerky 1


This recipe is from:

jerky 2


You can find this recipe here:  www.modernistcookingmadeeasy.comjerky 3

One more beef recipe:  www.offthecuttingboard.wordpress.comjerky 4

Now for some Turkey (or chicken) Jerky recipes.

Find this one here:   www.foodpreservation.about.comjerky 5

One more:   www.beefjerkyrecipes.comjerky 6

Have fun making and developing your own jerky recipes!  If you have a blog and have posted your version of the best jerky in the world, please let me know in the comments below!



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