There are a ton of great commercial jerky mixes available, and I always try to keep several different types on hand, including my all-time favorite Cracked Pepper & Garlic from Hi-Mountain Seasonings. That said, I believe every hunter worth his weight in dried venison should have a secret jerky recipe he developed on his own—if only so when your editor (a.k.a. The Boss) calls on Saturday asking for your best jerky recipe you don’t have to send him to Alton Brown’s Website (which has a killer jerky recipe, by the way) and risk looking like an idiot. (Or does this only happen to me?)
When working up your own blend, there are a seemingly infinite number of different directions one could go — from Asian flavors to South African biltong (another favorite) to something so spicy it requires a six pack of cold lager to cool you down. When I went about developing my own cure, I tried to stick with the Three-S Rule: Sweet, Salty, Spicy. While I’m not sure if my current jerky juice is perfect, it’s pretty darn good. And it’s going to remain a secret, as I need to have something in my pocket the next time The Boss calls on a Saturday.
That said, I will share my base recipe, which I think is where a good jerky cure should start. It’s enough for about 5 pounds of deer, elk, or other venison. Starting with these four ingredients, it’s easy to riff on whatever flavor profile you’re looking for, or you could just stick with this and end up with a pretty decent end product that’s slightly sweet and a little salty. For the hot sauce, I use a habanero blend, but Sriracha or another chile-garlic paste works well. Just make sure to whisk everything together well to incorporate the thick molasses. Then soak the meat overnight and dry in a dehydrator or oven. Lately I’ve been experimenting with smoking jerky in the Camp Chef Smoke Vault, but that’s a post for another day.
Base Jerky Cure
– 1 cup molasses
– 1 cup soy sauce
– 2 Tbsp. hot sauce
– 1 Tbsp. onion salt
Whisk together to fully incorporate molasses. Pour over five pounds of meat sliced ¼-inch thick. Marinate overnight. Dry in a warm oven or dehydrator set at 150 degrees until the jerky bends without breaking, typically 5 to 6 hours.