I usually butcher a lot of deer and antelope each year. With every animal I harvest, I am faced with the dilemma of how to use every cut to bring smiles to the faces of my wife and daughter when I cook for them. When it comes to making jerky, almost every part of a deer or antelope will work, but most folks will use one of the cuts from the hind quarter. This makes sense because the big cuts mean larger pieces of jerky that are easier to work with. For this very reason, I usually set aside one of our deer just for jerky. But last year, I spent my entire fall hunting elk and antelope, so I never did get a deer.
Because of this, I spent some time meticulously cutting jerky strips off a front shoulder of a pronghorn antelope. After trimming away all the sinew, I was only able to get two pounds of meat slices that were big enough and good enough for the smoker. The rest of the trim and bones from the front shoulder went into a pot to make bone broth.
The best jerky is both chewy and pliable and should never leave you with a sore jaw after enjoying a piece. For this reason, I prefer to use the smoker instead of a dehydrator. Any wood chips will do, but my wife’s favorite is mesquite, so I used that for this recipe. I loaded the venison strips into my old Masterbuilt electric smoker and kept it at 180 degrees F for 3 hours until my girls begged me to bring it inside for them to devour. If your family doesn’t eat it all right away, the jerky will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, or in the freezer so you have a snack for your next hunting trip this fall.
- 2 pounds venison, sliced 1/4 – 1/8” think
- 1/3 cup Liquid Aminos (I used Bragg brand)
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- In a large bowl, whisk together the liquid aminos, Worcestershire, onion powder, and black pepper.
- Add slices of venison and toss to coat. Cover bowl with lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat smoker to 175 degrees F.
- Place meat slices on a mesh baking rack
- Smoke for 3 to 4 hours or until meat is dry but still pliable. Refrigerate in a sealed container or freeze.
About the contributor:
Jeff Benda is based in North Dakota, where he is an avid outdoorsman and family man. He spent 25 years in the restaurant industry and ran a successful catering business. He now focuses his time home cooking as a creative outlet to transform wild game and bring it into traditional recipes from around the world to help expand people’s perceptions. His goal is to celebrate local fish and wild game and provide achievable, bright recipes designed to build confidence for new cooks, and inspire everyone to elevate their cooking. Jeff is a field staff writer for Harvesting Nature. Follow him on Instagram: @wildgameandfish and online at www.wildgameandfish.com