Making Beef Jerky in a smoker, in my opinion, is the BEST way to make beef jerky. There is no adding liquid smoke, you let the wood of your choice infuse an intense flavor into your jerky.
This way of making jerky is as close to how it was done hundreds of years ago. Plus you get to sit outside, drink beer, and stare at a smoking box all day. What's better than that?!
🥩 Choosing and slicing the meat
Start by buying a lean piece of meat, I am using a beef eye of round roast for this recipe.
Trim any visible fat from the meat. Fat will make your jerky spoil, so cut off as much as possible.
Wrap the meat in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about 1-2 hours to partially freeze. This step is not mandatory, but does make slicing the meat at a consistent width easier. A VERY sharp knife will also work well on non frozen beef. Slice against the grain at around ⅛″-¼″ thick for an easier chew or with the grain for more chew.
You can also skip the freezing stage and slice your jerky using a jerky slicer. I use a Weston Jerky Slicer. It makes sure all your strips are the same width which allows them to dry evenly. Having a slicer is great when making a lot of jerky.
🧂 Marinating the meat
Place the slices of beef to the side and assemble your jerky marinade. This recipe has a great black pepper flavor. Simply combine all of the ingredients and mix until everything is fully incorporated. Once you have made your marinade, place the beef slices in your marinade and make sure they are covered evenly. Marinate the jerky in the refrigerator for 6-24 hours.
♨️ Prepping the smoker
Cover the drip pan with aluminum foil to avoid cleaning up drippings after the drying process. It will make a mess if you do not put a layer of protection down. If you are like me, the last thing you want to do is spend an hour cleaning your smoker because you skipped a 30 second step in the process!
Put a small sheet of foil above the heating element to make clean up easier as well. Use a small piece of foil to allow air to easily flow from the bottom of the smoker up and out of the top.
⏲️ Drying the jerky
Dry the jerky strips on paper towels to remove any excess marinade and either lay your jerky pieces across the metal racks of the smoker or use toothpicks and hang your strips. I have decided to use toothpicks to hang my strips. After drying the strips on paper towels, I slide one toothpick through one of the ends of each piece of jerky.
Place the top metal rack on the highest slot in your smoker, and hang your strips. The Dehydrator that is shown in the photos is my Masterbuilt Electric Smoker.
Open the top vent on the smoker 100% and dry for 1 ½ hours at 170°F. *Do not put water in the water pan when making jerky if you soaked your strips in a "wet" marinade. If you used a dry rub to season your meat without any liquid, put a little water or vinegar in the pan during this 1 ½hrs.*
Bring the temperature up to 180°F to 200°F and add a handful of wood chips to the smoker. Before adding the wood chips, soak them in water for about 10-15 minutes. Smoke at this temperature until the wood chips have quit smoking (about 30 minutes to 1 hour). A blue smoke should be coming out of the smoker if the wood is burning at the right temperature. If the smoke is a heavy white, increase the temperature of the smoker. This white smoke can give the meat a bitter taste and ruin the jerky.
Lower the temperature back to 160°F and DO NOT add any more wood chips. Too much smoke will also ruin the jerky; 30 minutes to an hour of smoke is just perfect in my opinion. Leaving the wood tray door halfway open (after all the wood has finished burning) to allow airflow through the smoker also helps dry the jerky faster.
🍽 Pellet Smoker
If using a pellet smoker / pellet grill, simply turn the smoker to 200°F and lay the strips on the grill grates.
Smoke for 3-5 hours until finished. Beef jerky will finish a lot faster in a pellet smoker than an electric smoker. Start checking around the 3 hour mark.
🌡️ How to determine when it's finished drying
Continue to smoke at 160°F until your jerky bends and cracks but does not break in half. Periodically pull a piece out of the smoker and let it cool. Check to see if it is done by bending it AFTER it has cooled down (let cool for 5-10 minutes, this helps not to over dry).
It should bend and crack but not break in half. White fibers are also a good indication that the jerky is finished drying.
It should take a total of between 5 to 10 hours depending on the thickness of your jerky and the brand of smoker you have. With my Masterbuilt Smoker, jerky normally takes between 6-8 hours to dry to my liking. (Make sure to stop BEFORE you think it is totally done.
I have over dried more jerky in my smoker than any other drying method) During this final smoking step, I also leave the wood tray door open a small bit on the bottom of the smoker to allow air to circulate from the bottom of the smoker up and out of the fully opened top vent; this helps speed up the drying process.
That's it! You just made your first batch of smoked beef jerky. Let me know how your jerky turns out in the comments below!
👨🏻🍳 Pro Tips
- A pellet smoker is the easiest smoker to use for jerky
- Hickory and Apple woodchips infuse the best flavor
- If you have thick white smoke, increase the temperature to achieve a nice clear/blue smoke and avoid any unpleasant flavor.
3-5hrs in a pellet smoker and 5-10 in a traditional or electric smoker
No. There is no need to flip it
200°F is the ideal temperature for smoking jerky
Other Recipes & Information
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup cold water
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon Curing Salt (Prague Powder #1)
- Trim all visible fat from the beef, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for an hour or two to partially freeze.
- While the meat is in the freezer, combine the soy sauce, water, brown sugar, ground black pepper, sea salt, garlic powder, & onion powder in a bowl or ziplock bag and mix well.
- Remove the meat from the freezer and slice ¼" strips against the grain for an easy chew. Slice with the grain for a chewier jerky. Or skip the freezing phase and use a Jerky Slicer.
- Add sliced beef to the mixture and marinate for 8-24 hours in the refrigerator.
- After the meat has finished marinating, remove from refrigerator and strain excess marinade.
- Pat dry the strips with paper towels.
- The jerky is finished when it bends and cracks, but does not break in half.
- Use any type of smoker
- Make sure the smoke is a nice clear/blue color, NOT white. If you have white smoke, increase your temperature. The white smoke can alter the taste of the jerky... not in a good way!
- When testing the jerky to see if it is finished, let it cool for 5 minutes before testing it. Once cool, bend a piece, it should bend and crack but not break in half.
- Best wood chips to use are apple wood and hickory.