Looking for a rough and tough beef jerky made for a REAL jerky fanatic? You just found it. Bourbon + Beef Jerky = A BOLD Beef Snack!
Not only is this a beefy jerky, it tastes fantastic as well. The bourbon gives it a nice kick and amazing flavor. FYI, I drink a lot of Bourbon!
Original Post Date - November 4th, 2015
Choosing the best cut of BEEF
There are several different cuts of beef to use when making beef jerky. You can either slice up a big piece of meat or use ground meat. Beef is easily found at your local grocery store. All of the ingredients for this beef jerky recipe can be found at your local store.
Whole muscle jerky is what you think of when you think beef jerky. It's thin strips of meat sliced from a large piece of beef that is then marinated and dried. There are several different types of beef to use, read more about them all on my best meat for beef jerky page.
My favorite cut to use in Beef Eye of Round. This is a lean and tender piece of meat. It's easy to slice and tastes great.
This beef jerky recipe can also be made into ground beef jerky. Simply cut in half the amount of ALL liquid ingredients and mix into 1lb of ground beef. So instead of ¼ cup bourbon, only use 2 tbsp.
Make sure to use a ground beef that has 10% of fat or less when making ground beef jerky. This will prevent the jerky from being greasy when finished and will also last longer when stored.
More information: How to make ground beef jerky
Slicing the meat
Don't let this intimidate you into not making jerky. Slicing meat into thin strips is actually quite easy. If using ground beef, then skip right over this section.
Bullet points for slicing meat for jerky
- Place beef roast in the freezer for 1-2 hours to partially freeze. This helps in slicing the meat and maintaining a consistent thickness.
- Slice jerky strips ⅛" to ¼" in thickness. This is the best thickness when making jerky.
- Use a VERY sharp knife. My favorite knife is the Victorinox 8" chef knife.
- Slice WITH the grain of the meat for a chewy jerky.
- Slice AGAINST the grain of the meat for a tender jerky.
If you want more in depth instruction and video on how to slice beef for jerky, visit my slicing meat for jerky page. It has EVERYTHING you need to know about perfectly slicing the jerky meat.
Making the bourbon beef jerky marinade
The number one ingredient in this beef jerky marinade recipe is the BOURBON! I have several different bourbons that I love to use when making this recipe.
Maker's Mark is a strong and bold bourbon that has a great flavor. Most everyone has heard of Maker's and might even have a bottle in the cabinet.
Any bourbon can be used when making this jerky. Some other bourbons I recommend are:
Once you have chosen your favorite bourbon, simply mix together all of the ingredients and mix well. This recipe has a little bit of everything to make a sweet and strong tasting jerky.
You can totally mix this by hand, but if you want to make sure the sugar is fully incorporated and dissolved into the marinade, bust out a blender to really get the brown sugar and molasses mixed well.
*If using curing salt, make sure to include the curing salt along with all of the other ingredients into the marinade.
Place your jerky strips in a 1 gallon ziplock bag and pour the beef jerky marinade over the meat.
Marinate in the refrigerator for 6-24 hours to allow the meat to soak up the great flavors of the marinade.
Once the jerky is finished marinating. Remove from the fridge and strain the meat in a colander to remove any excess jerky marinade. Now it's time to dry the jerky!
After the meat has finished marinating, it's time for the fun part of dehydrating! This can be accomplished by either using a smoker, dehydrator, or oven.
This is one of the most popular ways to make beef jerky. Dehydrators produce great tasting jerky and also heat the meat to a safe temperature of 160°F to kill any potential bacteria.
My favorite dehydrator to use when making jerky is the Excalibur 9 Tray Dehydrator.
Simply arrange the jerky on the trays leaving space between each piece of meat and dehydrate for 4-6 hours at 160 degrees.
More information: How to make beef jerky in a dehydrator
I love using my smoker to make beef jerky. It gives the jerky a great smoke flavor and really produces extraordinary jerky.
Either use a pellet smoker or traditional smoker. Light woods such as hickory or apple and cherry wood is the best for jerky. You don't want to use a very harsh wood such as mesquite.
Smoke at 180°F to 200°F for 2-5 hours until the jerky is finished. It's easy to over cook/smoke jerky, so make sure to be careful if you decide to use a smoker. The main problem comes when testing for when the jerky is finished.
The key to not overdoing it here is removing a piece from the smoker and allowing it to cool for 5 minutes before bending and testing it.
More information: How to make beef jerky in a smoker
Using a home oven is the most inexpensive way to make jerky simply because most everyone already has an oven. No need to go out and buy equipment, try using your oven to make sure you LOVE making jerky.
Then you can go out and buy the fancy dehydrators and smokers.
Using an oven is a lot like dehydrating. Set the oven to 170°F and allow it to dry for 4-6 hours. The key tip when using an oven is to place a wooden spoon in the door of the oven when you close it.
This small space that the wooden spoon makes allows for moisture to leave the oven and helps dry the jerky.
More information: How to make beef jerky in an oven
Testing for when it's finished drying
Testing for when the jerky is finished is very important in achieving your desired texture. Start checking to see if the jerky is finished 3 hours into the drying process.
Step 1 - Allow to cool
Remove a piece of jerky from the dehydrator, oven, or smoker and allow to cool to room temperature for about 5 minutes before proceeding to step 2. Jerky is more pliable when it is warm, so if you check the jerky without letting it cool, you will ultimately over dry the jerky.
Step 2 - Bending the jerky
Bend the jerky in half and see if it cracks. The goal here is to have the jerky bend and crack, but not break in half. If it breaks in half, it's over dried. If it doesn't create a crack where bent, it's not finished and needs to be dried longer.
Step 3 - Rip the jerky
Another way to test if it's finished is by ripping the jerky in half. When perfectly dried jerky is ripped in half, you will see white fibers where it has been torn. If you see these, the jerky is finished and ready to be packaged.
Jerky can last several days to several months depending on how you package it. I tend to make jerky in small batches and eat it very fast. Therefor I don't package it often with the intent on it lasting long.
Decide how much you made and how long you want it to last. Then store and package it accordingly.
1 week - Store in ziplock bags and keep out of sunlight in a dark place such as a cabinet.
1 month - Store in ziplock bag or vacuum seal, use curing salt, and keep in the refrigerator.
2 months or longer - Vacuum seal, use curing salt, and keep in the fridge or freezer.
For more in depth information on storing beef jerky, visit my page on storing jerky.
No, if you are alcohol free and don't want to use alcohol. Substitute apple juice instead of the bourbon.
Yes. Simply cut all liquid ingredients in half and use ground beef that is 10% fat or less.
No. Most of the alcohol will evaporate and simply leave the flavor of the bourbon behind. Don't worry about getting tipsy from eating too much.
Old Pro Tips:
- Slice the meat at ¼" thickness for best results. Partially freeze the meat before slicing.
- Use a Jerky Slicer if you are making a lot of beef jerky.
- Pork can also be used when making this jerky recipe. Use pork loin or tenderloin.
- 1 lb Beef Top Round or Venison
- ¼ cup bourbon
- 2 teaspoon liquid smoke (hickory)
- 1 teaspoon molasses
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- ¼ teaspoon Prague Powder #1 (curing salt - Optional)
- Trim all visible fat from the beef and place in freezer for an hour or two to partially freeze.
- While the meat is in the freezer, combine the bourbon, liquid smoke, Prague Powder #1, molasses, brown sugar, black pepper, soy sauce, & worcestershire sauce in a blender. Mix well.
- Remove the meat from the freezer and slice ¼" strips with the grain and tenderize with a meat mallet. Cut against the grain for an easier chew. Or skip the freezing phase and use a Jerky Slicer for evenly sliced strips.
- Add sliced beef to the mixture and marinate for 6-24 hours in the refrigerator.
- After the meat has finished marinating, remove from refrigerator and strain excess marinade.
- Dry with either a dehydrator, oven, or smoker. A dehydrator was used with this recipe and dried for 6 hours at 160 degrees.
- The jerky is finished when it bends and cracks, but does not break in half.
- Slice the meat at ¼" thickness for best results. Partially freeze the meat before slicing.
- Use a Jerky Slicer if you are making a lot of beef jerky.
- Pork can also be used when making this jerky recipe. Use pork loin or tenderloin
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Best venison jerky recipe every.... But I will use Jack Daniels #7 for the bourbon/whiskey
Everyone that I have let taste it loves it!
Hi. Thanks for the recipe! Can regular salt be used?
You can definitely just use salt instead of curing salt. The finished jerky won’t last as long when stored, so keep that in mind.
Erika Peterson says
Does the alcohol ‘cook out’ of the jerky during the dehydration process?
Most of the alcohol evaporates and cooks out of the jerky. It will definitely have the flavor but minimal alcohol. Best to eat at home and not on the job though… can’t be too careful!
Yes, but the flavor of the bourbon/whiskey will stay in the meat!
The directions on the beach book day don't dehydrate meat soaked in alcohol. Is there a reason, because I'm doing it as I write. Whoops????
I believe this probably has something to do with a fire hazard and covering themselves legally. Hazard being having evaporated fumes from alcohol and an appliance running. I don't believe it poses much of a threat and have never had any issues myself. If you are worried though, I advise you to take their recommendation. <---covering my butt too 🙂
Michael J Cimino says
Rob S. says
I’ve made jerky using this recipe and it’s delicious!!! I’m now curious if I can swap out the whiskey with rum for a slightly sweeter, yet manly, jerky?
Curiosity might get the best of me and I’ll have to try to make it this weekend with some venison I have... what are your thoughts on using rum over whiskey?
I think it will turn out pretty good. Give it a shot and let me know how it turns out!
Michael Cimino says
Can you ground up the meat and marinade it and shoot it out of a jerky gun?
Yep. You can totally do that!
Tastes like meat and bourbon just like he said, but I found it to be a bit bland. I would suggest a little extra brown sugar to give it a little sweeter taste. Possibly even some liquid smoke for more flavor. To me it just tasted like bland meat and then bourbon aftertaste. Good if you want that sort of thing. Three stars cause it was just OK.
My son is in the Army and presently in Iraq. I’m gonna make this recipe for him but don’t have a dehydrator. I’ve made jerky before in my wood pellet smoker. Usually at 225 for a couple of hours. Can you see any difference I should do to this recipe?
Just remove the liquid smoke from the marinade if you are using a smoker. Other than that, it should come out fine! I'm sure he will really enjoy it!!
Hey will, I was wondering if smoke with hickory is the liquid smoke necessary?
Hey man! If you are using a smoker, there is no need for liquid smoke.
John A. Gawel says
Hi...I'm an ex pat living in Poland. Here, Liquid Smoke is hard to come by. So...I have been using smoked salt and also really nice smoked paprika. Jerky always turns out perfectly.
Reuben Joiner says
Question relating to the alcohol used in the jerky, during dehydration will the alcohol evaporate from the meat?
Yes, pretty much all the alcohol will evaporate. The flavor however will stay with the meat!
Ken Rock says
Have always been a jerkyholic...just never tried to make it on my own. Your site above all others inspired me. Went all in with the Nesco dehydrator and a manual slicer. Tried this recipe first as I am a whiskey guy with a little over a pound of meat. First batch was so good I've already done a second batch. I used Texas distilled Silver Star Whiskey both times. I whipped up another pound using Jack Daniels Honey. The honey sweetened the jerky just a touch.
Just a minor question...should the Nesco be pre-heated before starting the drying process? I've found that six to six and a half hours is about right when slicing quarter inch thick pieces when I don't pre-heat.
I gave you a shout-out on my facebook page. Five other of your recipes are on tap. Thanks.
Nice! My Nesco Snackmaster Pro DOES heat the jerky to an internal temp of 160F and therefor I do NOT preheat in the oven. Thanks for giving me a shout out!
Gail McAlister says
I just made my first batch of jerky. I used the shot Fromm the hip recipe. It turn out OK but I think I may have sliced it too thin. These are more like beef chips. Next batch will be thicker. My question is; I can't find the curing powder you use in your recipes, I'm trying Morton's Tender Cure. Do you know if it's the same?
Thanks for the helpful hints.
Hey Gail, thanks for stopping by. The Prague Powder #1 is really hard to find in stores, it's best to buy it online. Morton's Tender Quick is NOT the same thing as prague powder. The amount needed will be different (follow directions on bag) and will also add more of a salty taste to the recipe. The Prague Powder only takes a small amount and doesn't add as much of a salt flavor.
Kathi D Farrell says
I'm Slovak and have never heard of Prague powder. What is it please?
It is a curing salt. Curing salts are used when making meat products such as beef jerky to aid in preventing bacteria growth. You do not NEED it when making beef jerky, just make sure to heat your jerky to an internal temperature of 160F before drying to kill potential bacteria. Otherwise, google Prague Powder #1 and you should find a lot of information on it. It is hard to find in stores, but you should be able to buy it online. Not sure if you can use this link if you are in Slovakia, but amazon has it here.
I made Whiske Pete and was told never to make anything else. I did not use Jack but a less expensive brand name I can't remember. Doing it again. Using jack for sons 30 th. What's bette for next time? Jack or bourbon?
30th Birthday? Good idea to stick with what you know turns out great, not the time to be switching up recipes. I do like the Bourbon, but have not made it with Jack so I can't compare the two.
In the oven right now, thx will
What are the advantages of patting the meat with paper towel? I have been doing it because most recipes call for it, but you seem to know the pros/cons.
very helpful site!
Hey Jerome, it comes down to personal preference with patting down the jerky. On most recipes, I pat the jerky strips dry as long as it won't rub off most of the ingredients. The reason I pat it dry is because I hate having jerky that is sticky and messy. I don't want to have to lick my fingers or have a napkin near by after taking a piece of jerky. It also cuts down on the drying time by having less liquid to dry on the surface of the jerky strips. I would say on the next batch you make, pat dry half of the strips and leave the other as is and see which one you like better. Glad you like the site!
So I am on my third round of making this. The first was meh but had potential. I felt like the flavors didn't really cling to the meat. It could have just been my marinade time TBH. I wanted to give it another go so all I did to amp the flavor was to double the recipe and reduce. Half of the bourbon went right over the beef and the other half went into the marinade mix. The merinade mix went into a small sauce pan and reduced by half over low heat. After it cooled it was syrupy and clung to the meat well. After 24 hours I popped it in they dehydrator and the results.... well, everyone begs for it now! Thanks and I look forward to trying your other recipes out!
I do have one question, the dehydrator directions specifically say not to dehydrate meat marinated in alcohol but I can't find a reason as to why not. Clearly it's not stopping me but any clues as to why?
Hey Emily! I'm glad you were able to tweak this recipe to really get the taste you wanted. I love reading comments about people experimenting with these recipes. Thanks for sharing your findings, I will have to try your method! I hope you enjoy some of the other recipes I have on the site. As to the directions on your dehydrator, I have no clue as to why it says not to dehydrate meat w/alcohol. That's the first time I have heard anything like that....
Tom Benz says
Hey Will I always have used wine in my marinade and never had a problem but I was doing some research why not to dehydrate/marinade with alcohol and found this for you. Hope it helps you. Tom
No alcohol. A lot of folks like to use wine, beer, and spirits in their marinades, but this is not be a good idea. Alcohol in a marinade in effect cooks the exterior of the meat, preventing the meat from fully absorbing the flavors in the marinade. Raw alcohol itself doesn't do anything good to meat. So put your wine or spirit in a pan, add your aromatics, cook off the alcohol, let it cool, and then pour it over your meat. This way you have the richness of the fruit of the wine or Cognac or whatever you're using, but you don't have the chemical reaction of 'burning' the meat with alcohol or it's harsh raw flavor."
Interesting! I'll look into this some more and do some tests to see if there is a difference in the texture or flavor. Thanks so much Tom!!!
Really glad I found your site, I'm getting into making jerky and it looks like you have some great recipes here.
Regarding no alcohol in the dehydrator. The big concern is that when you're using something like bourbon that's 80 proof, the alcohol will evaporate and can create a situation where there's enough vaporized alcohol inside the dehydrator that it's ignited by the heating element of the dehydrator.
The flashpoint of pure ethanol is less than room temp. As a vapor, with a heat source, and with high enough concentration you *could* reach the Flashpoint and create a fire.
Not sure how likely it is, I'm sure the warning is as much of a cya from the manufacturer, but definitely something to be aware of.
Glad you are enjoying the site Scott! Thanks for the great info on the alcohol in the dehydrator. I appreciate it!
When you say half of the bourbon went right over the beef, do you mean half of the doubled recipe or did you just double the bourbon and pour half of it on the meat and the other half went into the marinade?
I love the taste of the jerky, and I love using Kentucky Bourbon in anything that I can. The jerky is well balanced in taste and seasoning, and the Bourbon gives it a kick.
Try Yoshida's Deluxe Marinade in with the bourbon, it will give you a sweet tasting bourbon Jerky. If you are dehydrating it add some liquid smoke. Just a thought. Yours sounds good though, I am going to try it.
Aussie Troy says
What does the Molasses add to the jerky? What difference would maple do to this or any other substitute do?
Really enjoy reading this whole site. Also, have you got any other recommendations with other alcoholic drinks.
Hey man! Love Australia. Lived in Bondi Beach for a little bit before traveling north to Asia. Good times! To answer your question. It is used as a sweetener. You could use maple syrup instead. Feel free to switch up any of the ingredients, it's not crucial to use Molasses. I do have a couple other alcohol jerky's. There was a wine one, beer, Mai Tai.... You can find them on my Beef Jerky Recipe page.
Fred S Bennett says
Your Receipe looks godd. I'm going to try it with Southern Comfort, and peach or apricot extract. I may also use Top Sirloin!
Sounds like it will be tasty! Let me know how it turns out.
Got some marinating right now and it smells amazing can not wait to try it bet it tastes more amazing then it smells and it smells amazing even the guys at work are anxious to try it will update you on how it turns out. Can't wait
I do love a good bit of jerky. I'd recommend adding a teaspoon or 2 of both Garlic and Union powders, as well as lighten the amount of Worcestershire to 1 tbsp. I found that though the Worcestershire can add flavor, a bit to much can ruin the natural flavor of the beef. The natural flavor of beef can make some really great addition to flavoring as long as it isn't snuffed out.
I personally like to add in more pepper. However instead of using pepper, or even salt. I slip in 2-3 tbsp of Spicy Montreal Steak Seasoning which adds quite a bit of spice to be added to the kick. Soy sauce imo has enough sodium already which is why I don't add any salt. Spicy Montreal also has paprika which is used in a lot of beef jerky recipes.
Great recipe. I enjoyed making it (and modifying it to my own tastebuds)
Just finished my first VERY successful Jerky batch, I marinated 48 hrs and did not let stand 6 hrs, smoked right out of bag. Love the Bourbon flavor; Nice over all KICK, Meat candy at it's finest.
Will, I really appreciate you helpful suggestions. Your web page is awesome and I look forward to trying your other recipes!
Glad you liked it! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy some of the other recipes. Thanks for stopping by!
of course alcohol evaporates...besides I tried this jerky and it is very unseasoned one. I do not thing this recipe is any good
Will the dehydration process burn out the alcohol from the bourbon? Thanks and love the site.
I have never felt any affects from eating the Bourbon jerky, but you can really taste the Bourbon. I would say that the alcohol is not cooked out of the jerky.
I forgot to update. Very good jerky. Friends and family loved it. My wife and I thought it could bare to be a touch sweeter to balance the bourbon a bit. Any recommendations on the best way to do that? More brown sugar? More molasses? Add honey?
And fresh off a bourbon tour in Kentucky, I may hit a touch of banana extract into a batch. May highlight the bourbon tones and ease up the alcohol tones of the bourbon a bit.
Glad you guys liked it. This Bourbon Jerky definitely has a strong Bourbon taste! Haha. I would use a little bit more brown sugar to sweeten it up. If the Bourbon was too overwhelming for you, adding 1/2 bourbon 1/2 water will also tone it down a bit. Banana extract sounds intriguing.... Let me know how it turns out!
with bourbon, only REAL maple sirup can do the trick !! Thats what i use and everybody loves it ! if you try it let me know what you think !
Trying this with some goose breast this week hope it turns out good will update later
My wife and I fell in love with some Bourbon Bacon we found at Kroger. Naturally it's a limited-time thing so who know when/if they'll make it again. Well, I'm not willing to wait and see. Hopefully this recipe turns out to be just as good and we forget all about that bourbon bacon. I put it together yesterday after work and it's some of the best looking top round I've seen for jerky. I had ZERO trimmings and the meat was a beautiful bright red. It will go on the dehydrator tonight. I'm excited to try it!
Love the site. I hope to use more of your recipe links.
I'm gearing up to do this one this weekend but I am going to use the Wild Turkey American honey which is obviously sweet..
My only concern is that I haven't got the curing salt but I am using an Excalibur which I have done jerky in without curing salt before so I figure it should be right.
It is recommended by the USDA to bring the temperature to 160F at the beginning of drying, so I would recommend heating it in the oven for 10 minutes at 300F before drying. As you mentioned, I have also made jerky with that dehydrator without using curing salt and not pre-heating it and have had no problems. In my tests it will bring the meat to 160F in 3 hours. The jerky is normally not fully dry at that point, which is good because you want to bring the meat to 160F before it is dried. I can't go against the USDA and say everything will be 100% OK if you don't pre-heat. The decision is up to you. Hope that helps Matt.
I chucked it in the oven for ten on 150C... meat temp got to 160F so hopefully toasted any nasties... did notice that a hell of a lot of the marinade came out in that 10 minutes. I paper towel dried the meat prior to that too so it was pretty amazing to see how much fluid the meat holds!. Makes you wonder how the dehydrator is able to make it all dissapear in a few hours.