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Ground Meat for Jerky

Ground meat jerky has attained popularity due to the fact that it is easier to chew and, if you are making it at home, can be made from lesser cuts of meat or even leftovers*. After all, who doesn’t like to save a few dollars.

* Note:  The meaty trimmings from making sliced jerky can be used for making jerky sticks.  Save them up in the freezer until you have enough for the recipe.


Unlike sliced jerky, you will need a way to shape or form the ground meat into jerky.  This is easily done by using an extruder, i.e., Beef Jerky Gun – Stick Attachment & Flat Strip Shooters.
But before any of this, if not using purchased ground meat, you will need a way to grind the meat to be used.  We’ll be taking a look at this process today.


Grinding Process




When grinding meat for jerky, especially when using lesser cuts . . . all fat, gristle  and sinew should be trimmed before the grinding process begins.   Regardless if  using a manual or electric powered grinder – the following are good guidelines to follow.

  1. The meat should be cut in sizes small enough to fit the grinder opening. If using a manual grinder the smaller the cut, the easier to grind.
  2. No bones as these may damage the grinder.
  3. Temperature of meat should be no higher than 40 degrees F. (Might be good to wear vinyl gloves during the process as ground meat is more prone to harboring bacteria.  Another reason to keep it cold until ready to use.)
  4. Never use your hands to push or force the meat. Use a pusher to feed the meat into the grinder opening.


Whether you grind the meat once (coarse texture) or twice (fine texture) will depend on how fine you want the finished jerky product.


If you are unsure as to texture, try using a coarse plate for the first grind. Should you decide you want something finer, replace the coarse grinding plate with a fine one – turning off the grinder first if electric.  Run the coarsely ground meat through, checking on the texture  – you don’t want mush – and decide whether or not to continue with the second grind.


Once the grinding process is complete, you can clean the grinder by running some dry crackers through it.  When you see most of the remaining meat bits are out, disassemble the grinder and wash  necessary parts in hot soapy water.  Allow to dry completely before storing.


Note:   Removable parts can be sprayed with a  Food Grade Dry Silicone Spray  to  prevent them from rusting.



Manual grinder: Electric grinder


All ground meat being used for jerky should be weighed before making jerky to ensure the correct amount of ingredients are being used, i.e, cure and seasonings.

Please check back next time when we’ll be offering up some recipes for ground meat jerky.



Smoking Jerky

smokehouse_1A good, smokey-flavored jerky is always a favorite of those who eat jerky. And while this flavor can be infused by using a ‘smoke flavored’  ingredient in the marinade, another way to achieve this woodsy taste is to smoke the jerky outdoors over wood chips rather than using a dehydrator indoors.

While this outdoor process will most likely require more attention rather than merely setting a dehydrator and coming back later, for those willing to take the time, the results can be simply delicious.


Wood Chips

The flavor will depend on both the marinade and the type of wood chips used, i.e., hickory, pecan, oak, mesquite, etc.   (Visit this link to read more about wood chips, as all woods are not safe  . . . some are toxic.)


offsetBBQSmokerWhen smoking jerky over charcoal and wood chips,  the preparation method is basically the same – lean meat, trimmed of fat, marinated –  with the exception of adding in a ‘smoke flavor’ to the marinade.



Before purchasing any smoker for making jerky, consider the frequency of making jerky, the amount of jerky to be made each time, and the possible use of the smoker to smoke (or BBQ) other foods like:

  • Sausage
  • Hams
  • Turkey, Chicken
  • Brisket
  • Ribs

The amount of jerky to be smoked will depend on the size and type of smoker required. Some use home-built wooden smokers that look like small buildings* –  while others use purchased ones. These manufactured smokers can range in size  from large to small;  charcoal  to propane, fancy to plain.

* It should be noted that if using a free-standing smokehouse-type building, due diligence  should be performed on how to effectively deliver the smoke to the meat as well as how to maintain a constant temperature for drying.



biggreenegg_aniMost home BBQs can be adapted to smoke jerky by using the offset method  or if you already have a smoker like the   Big Green Egg, you’re ready to go.  The following  link is to an alternate smoker similar to BGE (lower price) – Char-Griller 06620 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker, Red.



To see a variety of smokers & accessories available on Amazon, please visit this link.



More Jerky Basics – Measuring & Drying

Making jerky isn’t rocket science but care should be taken when making homemade jerky including marinades, seasonings, cures, etc.[1]


Most pre-packaged marinades, seasonings, cures, etc. will come with manufacturers directions on how much to use for set amounts of meat. These directions should always be followed.


Some other things to think about when making homemade jerky are:

  • Weigh the finished, trimmed cut strips or ground meat to be used so that the correct amount of marinade, seasoning, cure, etc. are used.  (Store any unused seasonings in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.  Do not re-use marinades.)
  • Be sure you have good measuring tools and that measurements are level – not heaped or packed down. Also,  ‘fluff’ the ingredients, seasonings before measuring.
  • marinatorFollow recommended ‘cure’ time for pre-packaged seasonings. For example, Hi Mountain Jerky Cure & Seasoning is formulated to work at 1/4 inch per 24 hours.  If the meat is thicker, or if you are making jerky cubes, you would increase this time.
  • If you are short on time to marinate your jerky or if you marinate a lot of different types of food, check out this vacuum marinator by STX.  Cuts the time significantly.


To read more information about the vacuum marinator,  visit this link:   STX International STX-1000-CE Chef’s Elite 15 Minute Meat & Vegetable Vacuum Marinator with Auto Shut Off and Free Meat Tenderizer










A couple  of basic rules to follow before drying your jerky (home oven, dehydrator, or smoker) are:


  • Place marinated (or dry-rub) strips on paper toweling or pat dry before placing in the dehydrator or oven.
  • If making jerky in your home oven, place the jerky on jerky racks over a ‘cookie’ sheet  – or line the oven with aluminum foil –  to help with clean-up.





To see the Bradley Set of 4 Jerky Racks pictured to the right, please visit this link.



jerky_hanging_in_ovenNote: If you are on a tight budget, jerky can also be dried in a home oven by placing toothpicks (or bamboo skewers) through one end of the strip and hanging  it  through the existing oven rack.  Be sure you have the oven rack on the highest level so your jerky strips do not touch the bottom of the oven.  This  is especially necessary if you are using an electric oven.  Place the other rack at the lowest setting and use a cookie sheet to catch the drips – or place aluminum foil on the bottom of  the oven.


Final thought, if you are a first-time jerky maker,  unsure of the flavor you are using, or  texture of the jerky you are making, take a piece out and taste-test it frequently.  ( Do not eat raw, marinated jerky strips or sticks )



[1] The Complete Jerky Book