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 1/8″-1/4″ 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. I used the great tasting Garlic Black Pepper Beef Jerky Recipe here. 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.
Find a great recipe by visiting my beef jerky recipe page where there are over 100 great tasting easy to make marinades.
♨️ 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 1/2 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 1/2hrs.*
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.
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 take a total of between 6 to 15 hours depending on the thickness of your jerky and the brand of smoker you have. With my Masterbuilt smoker, jerky normally takes between 7-9 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!