Marinade and Seasoning Recipes for Jerky



I have been asked many times for recipes for seasoning blends and marinades to flavor dehydrated meat. There are many who have tried the commercial packages supplied with their jerky guns or bought from different sites with less than stellar results. “No flavor, very bland,” says some. Others say, “Far too salty!” The truth is I have no clue what these packages taste like because I have always made my own seasonings from my store of herb/spice blends and seasoning mixes.

I determined that since the FDA studies show these meat cures do not alone help prevent pathogens, I might as well use what I know and love. According to FDA studies, although the spice and cure (nitrite) in marinades and dry seasoning mixes will help in the destruction of pathogens, marinating meat doesn’t make raw meat safe. “Marinating alone did not result in significant reduction of the pathogen compared with whole beef slices that were not marinated,” concluded the study. So if nitrates and salt brines are not mega-important to the mix, there is no reason for my family to ingest them.

I flavor my meats with what I love. One recipe I use that my family enjoys is a “meatloaf” flavoring package I have created using my vegetable powders. Hungry for some Tuna jerky? I use a nice lemon-pepper seasoning on it and we eat hearty! Another one we find delicious is my take on Buffalo wing marinade which is quite good on chicken jerky. Or perhaps we are in the mood for a nice teriyaki flavor, so I marinate my meat in my homemade teriyaki sauce.

The sky is really the limit when you realize that jerky, just like any meat you may roast/grill/ cook, can be flavored in the same way. Your most important consideration when using your favorite recipes should be to make sure you are not adding additional oils or fats to the rub or marinade; that means no vegetable oils, butter, or dairy products.

I have included some of my favorite recipes for you here but I encourage you to have fun with flavoring your jerky meats any way you wish! Montreal Steak Seasoning is great on London broil. KFC copycat seasoning blend tastes wonderful on chicken jerky. Flavor your seafood with a nice dill-cucumber mix. I am sure there is no end to the tastes you can think up.

PLEASE NOTE: When flavoring meats for dehydration, use a light hand and test your mix to see if your taste buds require more. Flavors will concentrate in the act of dehydration, so less is more in seasoning foods you are preparing for your machine. I always cook up a small sampling first after the meat has finished marinating to see what the taste is like. That way, I can determine if I need to add more seasoning or not. Setting the boys on fire during game day with buffalo chicken jerky that is too spicy does not make for a fun experience.

Jerky Making Process

It is simple to prepare your meat with the method I use. Please read Dehydrating Meat & Poultry for a thorough explanation of this process.

Preparing the Meat

  1. Add marinade or dry seasoning to meat of choice.
    *If you are working with strips of meat, cut them no thicker than 1/8 to 3/8 inch. The meat should be trimmed of fat and sliced into thin strips for drying. I like just dumping everything into a Ziploc gallon-sized bag when I am using a marinade. Make sure you have enough marinade to thoroughly cover the meat. Slice the meat with the grain if you wish to prepare chewy jerky.
    **If you are using ground meat, just incorporate the seasoning into the meat gently. Working the meat too much will make your result tough, so just combine just until the seasonings are throughout the meat.
  2. Refrigerate, covered, 2 hours or up to overnight.
  3. At this point, I pull out a small piece to cook up. This way I can tell how my finished product is going to taste. If it is too bland, I add more seasoning and refrigerate for another hour. If it tastes pretty close to the flavor you are looking for, then proceed. Remember that flavors do concentrate during the dehydration process.
  4. jerky2When working with ground meat, I cut two parchment paper rings the size of my dehydrator tray, put the meat between these two layers and then roll the meat out. These I can just load on my baking sheets. I score them into strips with my pie crust cutter or my pizza cutter before putting them into the oven.

Bringing the Meat up to Temperature to Kill Pathogens

  1. Steam or roast meat to 160°F and poultry to 165°F as measured with a food thermometer before dehydrating it. (Preheat the oven to 160°F/71°C, or the lowest setting it will go.)

Dehydrating

  1. jerkyPreheat dehydrator (meat to 160°F and poultry to 165°F) before the dehydrating process. The heating should be done for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Load up dehydrator trays with meat and dehydrate until the meat is done. (Dry the beef jerky for 6 to 12 hours. If thicker strips of meat are used it may take longer.) Once the jerky is satisfactorily dry, take out the strips from the drying trays and place them on a clean surface. With a paper towel, pat off excess oil and allow it to cool.
  3. In testing the strips for dryness, let them cool at room temperature then slightly bend the beef strip. When bent, an adequately dry jerky does not break in half but should crack instead. The dry strip should exhibit a firm, flexible form that can easily bend completely back on itself without snapping. Dried jerky should not be crumbly but instead displays a leathery texture that tastes palatably chewy. The chewy quality of dried jerky should have a nice crunch that breaks easily whenever you bite off a strip. Plus, even if it has a dry surface feel, it should still be tender on the inside.
    Another good sign that it is dry is that it leaves no greasy or sticky residue when handled. Even if they are dried meat strips, they should feel that there is a substantial amount of meat packed into them.
  4. Package the dried jerky in airtight plastic bags or glass containers with heavy lids and refrigerate. Keeping the jerky cold helps prevent bacterial growth. Properly dried jerky will keep at room temperature two weeks in a sealed container. For best results, to increase shelf life and maintain best flavor and quality, refrigerate or freeze jerky.

Meatloaf Seasoning Mix

2 teaspoons dried mustard
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons tomato powder
1-1⁄2 teaspoons basil
1-1⁄2 teaspoons garlic powder
1-1/2 teaspoons sweet bell pepper powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme

  1. In a small bowl, add together all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  2. Pour into an airtight container to store. If you keep this blend out of heat, light, and away from dampness, and it will last for 6 months to 1 year.
  3. This amount will flavor 2 pounds of ground meat.

Cajun Seasoning Mix

1/2 cup coarse salt (kosher or sea)
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoons onion powder
1 to 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground bay leaf

  1. In a small bowl, add together all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  2. Pour into an airtight container to store. If you keep this blend out of heat, light, and away from dampness, and it will last for 6 months to 1 year.
  3. This amount will flavor 3 pounds of meat.

Southern BBQ Seasoning

5 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons salt
1/4 cup paprika
3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons onion powder
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

  1. Combine all the spices in a small bowl and mix well.
  2. Trim all the fat, gristle, and silver skin from the beef. Slice the beef into thin strips against the grain. Set the strips down in a large container like a bowl or a flat tray.
  3. Coat the beef strips with the spices, mixing it all together well to be sure they are all coated.
  4. Place them in a plastic bag or bowl and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Buffalo-Style Marinade

This is the “medium” version. You can adjust the heat by adding more or less cayenne and Tabasco.

8 tablespoons Louisiana hot sauce (Frank’s is my personal favorite)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate 1 hour.
  2. Trim all the fat, gristle, and silver skin from the meat. Slice the meat into thin strips 1/8″ to 3/8″ thick, against the grain. Set the strips down in a large container like a bowl, flat tray, or sealable plastic bag.
  3. Pour the marinade over the meat and mix well. Store the meat in the fridge for about 4 to 8 hours, or overnight.
  4. This will cover 2-3 pounds of meat.

Teriyaki Sauce Marinade

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Worcester sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

  1. Combine the ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate for an hour.
  2. Trim all the fat, gristle, and silver skin from the meat. Slice the meat into thin strips 1/8″ to 3/8″ thick, against the grain. Set the strips down in a large container like a bowl, flat tray, or sealable plastic bag.
  3. Pour the teriyaki marinade over the meat and mix well. Store the meat in the fridge for about 4 to 8 hours, or overnight.
  4. This will cover 2-3 pounds of meat.

Other Recipes You Can Use for Jerky Flavorings:

Dry Rub Seasonings, the Ultimate “Man Food”
The Awesome Flavor of Homemade Dry Seasoning Mixes
Or try an Herb/Spice Blend from one of the recipes in these articles.