If you’re looking for a food item to fill your survival pantry with, look no further than the humble jerky.
Like most survival food, these thin pieces of dried meat are very shelf-stable and can last for several weeks without refrigeration when stored properly. But unlike most survival food, jerky doesn’t taste like cardboard (thank goodness!), which makes them popular with just about everyone.
A Brief History Of Jerky
Civilizations from all over the world have been making jerky for centuries. The term “jerky” itself comes from the Quechua word for dry meat, ch’arki. Native Americans, in particular, made jerky from hunted game like deer or buffalo. Gradually, as societies transformed into more permanent settlements, people began to make jerky from domesticated meat like beef, pork, chicken, turkey and even fish.
These days you can find jerky of all shapes and sizes in convenience stores and groceries. Commercially made jerky can be a bit pricey though, especially if you plan on storing a whole bunch of them for your survival pantry.
Thankfully, this survival staple is very easy to make at home. We’ve gathered 5 tutorials that demonstrate just how simple and affordable it is to make your own jerky. Going the DIY is not only cheaper; it also allows you to tweak the flavors according to your taste buds.
Ready to make some jerky? Let’s get started:
Using An Oven
Back in the day, people used to dry jerky by hanging these strips of meat out in the open. Thankfully, we now have the convenience of modern appliances to help us out in that department.
Using a good old oven is one of the easiest ways to make jerky at home. The video above shows a simple, two-step process: first, marinate the meat using your marinade of choice, then slowly cook in the oven at 170 degrees F for four hours. The heat not only helps in the drying process, but also gets rid of any microorganisms that might cause the meat to go bad.
In making jerky, it’s important to trim out the fat since it doesn’t dry. Rancid fat can make the entire batch go bad. Instead, go for a nice lean cut of meat with just the right amount of marbling. Have it sliced into thin strips. The thinner the strips, the faster they dry. Then, make sure to press out any remaining moisture before popping them into the oven. After four hours, you’ll have some tasty jerky ready for storage.
Using A Dehydrator
Moisture is one of the major causes of food spoilage.
If you’re a prepper keen on keeping a pantry full of food to last an apocalypse or two, a dehydrator might be one of the wisest investments you’ll ever make. It’s great in making food items last longer, meat included. The tutorial above shows how easy it is to make several batches of beef jerky using a dehydrator.
All you have to do is to marinate the meat to taste then pop them onto the dehydrator trays. Make sure you lay them out flat and that the slices don’t overlap each other.
Some dehydrators come with a minimal set of trays but are expandable, once you’re confident with your skills, you can definitely buy more trays to make jerky and other dehydrated snacks.
If you can’t use an oven or dehydrator, you can always go back to basics.
The sodium content of your marinade should be enough to draw water away from the meat; exposing it to air further dries it out, preventing the growth of microorganisms that cause spoilage.
We’re lucky because these days, one doesn’t necessarily have to expose the meat to the elements and possible health hazards. The tutorial above shows how you can do the drying process in the comfort of your own home…all with the help of a trusty electric fan.
Don’t forget to put a baking sheet underneath the racks so your meat slices won’t drip onto your countertops. Also, make sure that your fan is nice and clean before using it— dust doesn’t count as a condiment!
Making Jerky In The Wild
When things have gone haywire and all our modern conveniences are gone, it pays to know a primitive cooking method or two.
This tutorial harkens back to how they made jerky back in the old days— through curing and smoking. The tipi setup helps trap the smoke and protects the meat from critters at the same time. The salt and heat help dry the meat faster while the smoke lends it a unique flavor. This method is very manual— so patience and some background in bushcrafting would come in handy if you wish to give this one a shot.
Bonus Tutorial: Salmon Jerky
Jerky can be made from all kinds of meat, including some tasty salmon. Salmon is rich in nutrients like vitamin B complex, omega 3 fatty acids and protein, making it a very healthy food choice, especially in survival situations where good protein is hard to come by.
This tutorial shows you how to prepare salmon jerky using an oven. It uses liquid smoke to give that salmon a bit of kick, so you might want to have a bottle or two handy if you want to give this recipe a try.
Jerky, whatever meat you make it from, is very affordable and easy to make at home. When done and stored right, they could last for several weeks, even without refrigeration. Jerky is a good source of protein and unlike other survival food products, it tastes really good. Make sure to have some in your pantry for when SHTF or if you simply need some excellent road or camp snacks when out hiking or backpacking.
Have you tried making jerky at home? Which methods do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below!