Homemade BEEF JERKY the quick & easy way! (We think this recipe is pretty nearly perfect :-)

Jerky is a favorite portable snack. It's protein-rich, low-fat and healthy--that is, it's healthy if you make it so. With homemade jerky, you avoid a whole arsenal of chemicals and additives commonly found in commercially prepared jerky. If I sent you shopping for some truly healthy store-bought jerky, you'd have a long day ahead of you. That's because most commercially prepared jerky is crammed with unwanted stuff: Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Monosodium Glutamate, Maltodextrin, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Erythorbate, Hydrolized Corn Gluten, and the list goes on. (OK sure, there may be a handful of jerky brands out there that might possibly pass a health-nut's scrutiny--but be fairly warned, you'll pay dearly for them). Why not save yourself some money and spare your body of a long list of nasties by making your own jerky? It's incredibly simple to do.

Today, I'm going to show you how to make jerky using a Nesco Food Dehydrator and Nesco Jerky-Works GunWith these tools, making jerky doesn't get any easier! Are you ready? Then put on your apron and let's get started! 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. That means, if you click through and make a purchase, we receive a small percentage in commissions from the company you buy from. We value our readers and want you to know that the products we link to are only products we use ourselves, or that we feel will add value to your life. Thank you for supporting Farm Girl Inspirations! To read our full disclosure statement click here.) 

How to easily make homemade beef jerky 

My family loves this beef jerky recipe! It's the perfect saltiness, yet not too salty, with a smokey tamari-brown-sugar-garlic flavor. We've tweaked this recipe over time until we think it's pretty near perfect :-) We think you'll like it! 


2 pounds lean ground sirloin (grass-fed, organic if possible)
1/4 cup tamari sauce (organic, low sodium, GMO-free)
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (all-natural, mesquite)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed firm
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
garlic salt to sprinkle


(A note about the Jerky-Works Kit: It comes with seasoning packs and packets of a curing product that I threw away when I got mine, as they contained things I was trying avoid by making my own jerky. But I've been happy with the gun, and more than happy with my own seasoning recipe, so nothing's lost, but only gained :-)


Step 1: Season and prepare the meat. When choosing the meat for your jerky, choose only very fresh meat that is at least 93% lean. And of course, grass-fed, organic beef is best. To make your seasoning, combine the tamari sauce and seasonings in a small bowl. Place the ground sirloin in a medium bowl and press a well into the center. Pour in the seasoning mix. Using a fork at first, work the seasoning mixture into the meat until the sauce no longer runs separate from the meat. The flavoring should reach every part of the meat, so to finish incorporating the seasoning mixture, use your hands (or if this grosses you out, use the back of a large spoon) to knead the seasoning thoroughly throughout the meat. 

Step 2: Set up the trays and load the Jerky-Works Gun. Before loading the gun, have 4 drying trays ready (the basic model of the Nesco Food Dehydrator comes with 4 trays, so you're all set there). Nesco also makes Clean-a-Screen mesh sheets that I like to use, because they help reduce my clean-up time. Now that your trays are standing ready, we can proceed with loading the Jerky-Works Gun.    

To load the gun, choose the tip you want to use. (I like the double strip tip, but Nesco offers two others in their Jerky-Works Kit: a rope tip, like for pepperoni, and a wider single strip tip). Screw the tip of you choice in place, then using a rubber spatula, fill the barrel of the Jerky-Works Gun with the meat mixture. When the gun is loaded, screw the pump handle in place. Now you're ready to make jerky strips!

Step 3: Fill the drying trays with jerky strips. The Jerky-Works Gun functions like a caulking gun. Simply pull the trigger and allow the strips to lay out on the trays. Keep a knife handy to cleanly cut the strips when they're the length that you want. See that they lay flat against the screen for even drying. If they buckle up with any folds, adjust them with your hands so there's no extra thick places. Likewise, if a strip tears, just press it back together with your fingers. (This is one reason I like the Clean-a-Screen sheets, so if I do any pressing or adjusting, the meat doesn't squish through the slats).

The Jerky-Works Gun functions like a caulking gun.
Just pull the trigger, and out comes your jerky mix.

You'll fit more on each tray if you lay the strips out in roughly quartered sections, as opposed to laying them out like spokes on a wheel. This way, you'll have enough room in places to make some of the strips longer, as well. Lay them out so they don't touch, to promote even drying.

To maximize space, you'll fit more on each tray
if you lay strips to fill four quarters, rather
than like spokes on a wheel.

Right before drying, sprinkle a very light dusting of garlic salt over the surface of your jerky strips. This is a reduced salt recipe, yet by adding a small amount of garlic salt to the surface of the strips, you'll give your jerky a flavor boost without adding much sodium to the end product. 

It takes about 4 hours to dry 4 trays of jerky,
when following this recipe.

Step 3: Dry the jerky. It takes about 4 hours to dry 4 trays of jerky when following this recipe. In order to safely dry meat and kill dangerous pathogens, such as Salmonella and E. coli, you'll need to set the temperature dial on it's highest setting, which 160 degrees. The Nesco Food Dehydrator and Jerky Maker has a powerful (yet quiet) fan that circulates the heat evenly throughout the unit, so rotating while drying is not necessary when using four trays.

Jerky should be dried at 160 degrees to kill
pathogens such as Samonella and E. coli.

Approximately every hour, unplug the dehydrator and open it up. Dab the fat off of the jerky strips, then flip each piece over and dab the second side too. Re-stack the trays and restart the dryer. Removing the fat helps the meat dry faster. Also, over time, fat residue can make the jerky turn rancid. Removing as much as possible will help it last longer. 

About once an hour, unplug your dehydrator
and dab off any fat from your jerky strips.
Then turn the strips and dab the second side, too.
This helps the meat dry faster.

Step 4: Storing your jerky. The jerky is done when it's no longer pink inside, and it's dark brown on the outside and dry. When it's done, open the dryer up again, and dab and turn each piece one more time to remove as much oil and fat as possible. Allow the dried meat to cool entirely before storing in a bag or jar. If stored while still warm, moisture could build up around the jerky and cause it to mold, which would be bad. Homemade jerky is best stored in the freezer, rather than on a pantry shelf. Freezing your jerky will make it last longer, and help eliminate risk. In the freezer, your jerky should last 4 months. We keep our jerky in the freezer. If we take some on a hike or to work, it's quite safe to leave out all day, as long it's not in a hot place like your car dashboard or something. The thing is, homemade jerky doesn't have loads of salt and additives for curing like commercial jerky does to help it be shelf-stable. But that's exactly why we like homemade, right? And it's no big deal, to me anyway, if my jerky lives in my pantry or in my freezer. Just as long it's on hand. (Because it sure tastes good)! 

Let's chat: Do you make your own jerky? Jerky recipes are very flexible. It's hard to go wrong with one really. What are some of your favorite flavors for jerk? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

Until next time...

Joy--Fearless Farm Girl,

"Farm girl: it's a verb, because it's what you do."

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, we receive a small percentage in commissions from the company you buy from. We value you as a reader and want you to know that the products we link to are only products we use ourselves or that we feel will add value to your life. Thank you for supporting Farm Girl Inspirations! To read our full disclosure statement click here.

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  1. Love that you posted a tested spice for the Jerky - the reason I have been hesitate to make it, I don't like what is in the commercial packets... Question... what do recommend for Venison? any changes to the recipe? Can you advise.. As I'll be making this soon.

    1. Good question. I've worked with ground turkey, pork and beef, but not venison. I think this recipe would work for venison, too, but not sure. Since the Jerky-Works Gun holds 1 pound of meat at a time, you could cut this seasoning recipe in half and use 1 pound of venison to see if you like it. Then if it's not a fave, you've only used a small amount of meat. That's what I would do, like a test batch. Thanks for your great question!

  2. I'm going to be doing your recipe as soon as I get the jerky gun from Amazon. I have an Excaliber dehydrator and my family loves jerky. We usually buy the teriyaki style. How close does your recipe using tamari come to tasting like teriyaki. I do know to make teriyaki, you add ginger and some sweetner. I'll let you know the outcome.

    1. I'm so glad you're going to try this, Sylvia! Teriyaki is my family's favorite variety of store-bought jerky, too. I think this recipe tastes exactly like teriyaki jerky, so I think you'll be pleased. Let us know how it turns out! Glad you're going to try the jerky gun, too.

    2. Just did this recipe yesterday. I love it! It will not last long around here. So delicious. Thanks for sharing. The family will devour these strips.

    3. That's great! I'm glad you like the recipe. Thank you for taking the time to come back and share how it turned out for you. I'm pleased.

  3. The Venison was a hit, the spice mixture is so much better homemade, we added red pepper flakes, used the same process with the press and we have a nesco, same machine for 16 years only took about 6 hours to get nice and dry, next time I will watch closer as venison is lean. Dale (my husband) loves his jerky and this was a hugh hit. Tip on Venison, it drys faster

  4. One more comment, this spice recipe is a hugh hit! We have made jerky for years, My husband asked were I got the mix, I told him from a farm girl, he was surprised, but happy. That is how good it is.

    1. Thanks, Nancy, for the tip regarding venison. It's true, the more lean your meat is, the faster it will dry. I'm so glad you liked the seasoning recipe! I saw your jerky on Facebook. Looked fabulous. Thanks for sharing your results with us :-)