Man vs. Machine: Two Tools for Better Wild-Game Jerky

meat, jerky, wild-game jerky, making your own jerky, board

We go through a ton of wild-game jerky in my household, particularly that made from Canada geese. It’s our go-to snack anytime we travel, and I gift it a lot, too. I’ve got the process down to a science, and my biggest tip for jerky makers is to cut every piece into equally thick slices. This ensures that the cure penetrates every piece fully and the entire batch dries evenly, eliminating the need to babysit the dehydrator or smoker. Even slices are tough to achieve without some kind of tool. Luckily, there are several items on the market to help. Here are two must-have tools for better wild-game jerky—one manual and one machine.

Weston Jerky Carving Board
For years, I've been using the Hi-Mountain Jerky Board, and this is essentially the same thing but offered at a lower price. The oak board is surrounded by oak trim, offset at a different thickness on either side—¼ inch and 3/8 inch. It's incredibly simple to use: just set your venison roasts or (as the photo shows) goose breasts on the board, then allow the trim to guide the knife as you slice for evenly thick pieces of jerky. It comes with an extra board that Weston says to use for thinner slices of meat and vegetables, but I've always used it as a handguard to press down on the meat as I slice. Depending on its firmness, the meat does tend to slide, resulting in varying thicknesses. To combat this, place meat in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour, then slice it in a semi-frozen state. Also, the knife tends to dull easily, so try to keep the edge from cutting against the wood trim as you slice.

Cabela's Jerky Slicer
For those serious about making homemade jerky from deer, elk, and other game, a crank-style (or motor-mounted) jerky slicer is hard to beat. I own the Cabela's Pro Model, but Weston sells one as well, including a Realtree branded model that comes with both slicing and tenderizing blades. All of them do a bang-up job of cutting perfectly even slices of meat extremely quickly. These machines are an investment, but I believe they're worth the extra money for jerky lovers. The biggest issue I have with mine is the narrow throat won't accommodate thick breasts of big Canada honkers without some trimming. And woe to the person who tries to force a too-thick steak through the slicer, because it will jam up the works. But, be mindful of meat thickness and these jerky slicers are a breeze. Until it comes time to clean up.