spicy turkey jerky
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Jerky’s got a bad rap. It’s long been synonymous with truckers, gas stations, a hard, nigh-unchewable texture, and dank, fake flavor more akin to dog treats than human food. But jerky has come a long way from its early iterations, and it’s a pretty perfect road trip snack or hiking fuel, not to mention something to stash in your desk for those mid-afternoon hangry moments between lunch and quitting time. In short, we think it’s high time you give jerky a second look (and chew).

Related Reading: What Is the Difference Between Biltong and Beef Jerky?

You can find premium versions of jerky made from all sorts of meats (and meat substitutes), with countless flavor variations even in chain grocery stores these days, but it’s really easy—and a lot cheaper—to make your own jerky at home. You don’t even need a dehydrator, although if you have one, it’ll come in handy. If you don’t, just use your oven!

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Make jerky, veggie chips, and dehydrated fruit at home.
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There are only a handful of simple tips to keep in mind to maximize your jerky’s flavor, texture, and shelf life. Other than the right meat (or meat substitute), a sharp knife, and an oven, you really only need time to make great jerky.

Test upon test taught us what does and doesn’t work when it comes to jerky. Here are some pointers:

Equipment

  • If not using a dehydrator, use an oven thermometer to confirm that your oven is at the right temperature. (If your recipe only gives instructions for a dehydrator, just set your oven to the same temperature indicated.)
  • Check your thermometer periodically throughout the drying process to ensure a consistent oven temperature.

Ingredients

  • Work with cuts of meat that are lower in fat, since they will have a longer shelf life once dried. For poultry, that means the white or breast meat; for beef, the top loin, sirloin, or tenderloin. (It doesn’t apply to fish.)
  • Get the right amount of meat—it will shrink considerably once dried. Three pounds of meat should give you about one pound of jerky, so plan accordingly.
  • When making the rub or marinade, be sure to use salt (or ingredients that include salt), which helps the flavor and extends the jerky’s shelf life.

Preparation

  • Freeze the meat before you slice it (anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour ahead) to make slicing easier.
  • Use a very sharp knife to cut the meat to keep the strips as even and thin as possible.

Storage

  • Pat any excess oil from the dehydrated meat before storing it. In general, fat is the enemy of the jerky’s shelf life and will make it turn rancid a lot quicker.
  • Let the jerky cool completely on the oven racks before storing.
  • Store the jerky in an airtight container. The turkey jerky is fine stored at room temperature, but the salmon and beef jerky should be refrigerated.

See? It’s pretty simple! Here are some of our favorite jerky recipes to get you started on your homemade jerky journey.

Teriyaki Beef Jerky


Teriyaki is a classic jerky flavor, and one of the best. If you’re vegan, try this teriyaki seitan jerky to get your fix. For meat-eaters, beef, pork, or turkey all take equally well to the soy-heavy seasoning. Get the Teriyaki Beef Jerky recipe.

Related Reading: The Best Way to Cook Bacon Is Actually the Easiest

Spicy Turkey Jerky

spicy turkey jerky

Chowhound

Chile garlic paste and honey give turkey hits of spicy and sweet. Get our Spicy Turkey Jerky recipe.

Smoked Sweet Tea Pork Jerky


A southern-inspired jerky, this one’s made with pork loin in a smoked sweet tea marinade. Use partially frozen loin for best results. Get the Smoked Sweet Tea Jerky recipe.

Spicy Sriracha Tofu Jerky


You don’t even need meat to make jerky! This spicy tofu version is savory and chewy, just like you expect from jerky. (You can find Sriracha beef jerky too, of course.) Note that the tofu will get even chewier as it cools, so don’t overbake it. Get the Spicy Sriracha Tofu Jerky recipe.

Related Reading: How to Eat So Well While Backpacking, It’s Like You’re Glamping

Thai Beef Jerky

thai beef jerky

Chowhound

Jerky can take on any flavor combos you dream up. Ginger orange jerky, Kentucky bourbon jerky, and black coffee jerky all (deliciously) attest to that. This Thai-inspired version is one of our favorites. Fish sauce, ground coriander, and honey infuse beef with an irresistible, almost floral flavor. Get our Thai Beef Jerky recipe.

Keto Bacon Jerky


An easy and keto-friendly jerky snack that requires little more than an oven and some spices. Oh, and bacon. Get the Keto Bacon Jerky recipe.

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Dr. Pepper and Jalapeno Beef Jerky


You heard correctly, that’s Dr. Pepper and Jalapeno which honestly sounds like a combination that would definitely work. Especially with jerky. Get the Dr. Pepper and Jalapeno recipe.

Chili Lime Beef Jerky


Chili and lime are Mexican peanut butter and jelly and a natural duo to flavor this beef jerky. A recipe that would also work with pork or fish too. Get the Chili Lime Beef Jerky recipe.

Salmon Jerky “Candy”

salmon jerky candy

Chowhound

Smoked candied salmon is delicious, but it’s not true jerky; it’s much moister, plumper, and softer, thus quicker to spoil. Our salmon jerky is still as addictive as actual candy—caraway and sugar partially cure the salmon before it’s dried, resulting in a sweet jerky with a pop of Nordic flavor. Get our Salmon Jerky “Candy” recipe.

Cauliflower Jerky


Yes, cauliflower. Technically, you can make jerky out of practically anything, and there are lots of veggie versions: mushroom jerky, eggplant jerky, beet jerky. (There’s even at least one dessert jerky comprised of cacao and chia seeds.) This cauliflower version is deeply savory from tahini and nutritional yeast, and super chewy after 12 hours in the oven. Get the Cauliflower Jerky recipe.

 

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Jen is an editor at Chowhound. Raised on scrapple and blue crabs, she hails from Baltimore, Maryland, but has lived in Portland (Oregon) for so long it feels like home. She enjoys the rain, reads, writes, eats, and cooks voraciously, and stops to pet every stray cat she sees. Continually working on building her Gourmet magazine collection, she will never get over its cancellation. Read more of her work.
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