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The Jerk-Off Competition a few months ago was the last time I made jerky.  With some venison left, supplemented by some beef, I decided to experiment around a little to perfect the jerky process.  Who knows?  Perhaps I’ll have a pretty good chance at the Second Annual Jerk-Off Competition!  A little experience can go a long way.

First, I decided to branch out and try some new recipes, as well as some variations on some old ones.  I went with two marinades this time: 1) a modified version of Dan from Madison’s marinade and 2) a Caribbean Jerk marinade that Pam thought would be good.  I split the venison and beef between the two marinades and let it sit overnight.  So for the modifications…

For Dan from Madison’s flavorful marinade, I used the same ingredients as he posted (minus the BBQ sauce).  Instead of using the exact measurements, I instead just poured a little here, a little there, until I got the taste I was looking for.  True to his recipe, I did use about ¾ worcestershire ¼ soy sauce.  Also, instead of the garlic powder, I used crushed garlic cloves (about 6-7 of them).  I also did make one addition: I added about 2-3 shots of the Jim Beam that JohnnyJ had sent with his jerky (again, thank you my friend) to the marinade for extra flavoring. 

For the jerk marinade, Pam had bought some pre-made jerk marinade that she wanted to try on the jerky.  So I dumped that into a bowl, added a mid-sized handful of salt, a little water, and (again) 2-3 shots of Jim Beam.  Between the Bourbon and the water, it thinned out the thickness of the pre-made sauce.

Also, to see what results give me what, I also did half of each batch in the smoker and the other half in a dehydrator.  I had some hunches going into this that I confirmed (for improvement for the next few batches).  Here’s what I got: a smoker, especially an electric one with only an on/off setting, has limited jerky capability.  Unless you can really control the heat, the smoker cooks the meat more than it dries it, leaving it kinda burnt on the outside and still somewhat soft (not dried) in the middle.  This is what, I think, was leading to the greasiness and different texture of the batch I sent out for the first Competition.  It’s easier to think of it this way: with the smoker, you are essentially making flavored bacon.  The dehydrator, I’m quickly finding, is the way to go.  Why?  Because it doesn’t cook the meat, it dries it.  It allows the same texture through and through with no extremely well-done outside.  The problem I have with the dehydrator is that you cannot impart a true smoke flavor using it.  Perhaps there’s a way to run it through the dehydrator and topping it off with 30 minutes in the smoker.  That’ll probably be the next experiment I run.

As for the flavoring, they’re both great.  And as I predicted, all that’s left of the Jim Beam is the sweet hint of flavoring.  The alcohol all evaporated out on the smoker/dehydrator.  Pam seems to like the Jerk flavor more, but I haven’t made up my mind yet.

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