How to Make Tender Jerky At Home

  • Walton's Employee

    Tender Jerky
    Slicer Knife

    How to Make Tender Jerky At Home

    Learn How to Make Tender Jerky At Home with Walton's and Meatgistics. Watch the video, read the guide, and then post your questions or comments below.

    What Is Jerky?

    When you make jerky at home you are seasoning, curing and removing moisture from the meat by drying it out. Doing this helps prevent the growth of bacteria in your meat as it has a low water activity level, meaning that there is not enough water to allow bacteria to grow. Homemade jerky has a tendency to be a little dry and brittle, however it is possible to make a jerky that has low water activity but is still shelf stable like the store bought jerky from some of the better jerky making companies. To make this at home the best way to do it is to use a seasoning and cure package like normal and then add additional sugar. The sugar envelopes the water molecules and prevents it from being able to cook or dry out of the meat but also makes it unavailable for microbial or bacterial growth.

    Meat Block

    25 lb of Eye of the Round


    Walton’s Bold Jerky Seasoning Seasoning
    1 oz package of sure cure
    18% Additional Brown Sugar
    20% Water


    To do this we are going to be using 25 lb of eye of the round cuts with the fat cut off, a package of Walton’s Bold Jerky Seasoning and cure, then we will add 18% of the starting weight in light brown sugar and 20% of its starting weight in water. So this would mean we will be using 2.8 oz of brown sugar and 3.2 oz of water per lb of jerky. Because we need the water to dissolve as much sugar as possible we will be mixing that in first and then adding the cure and seasonings to the mix. You really need to mix this very well, my recommendation would be once you think you are done keep going for another few minutes.


    Since the goal here is to keep the pieces tender we will want to avoid cutting the pieces too thin so we will stay in the 1/4 to 3/8 range. Since we have large eye of the round cuts we are going to use a slicer, this will make the process faster and give us far more uniform cuts. If we want, we can cut the slices into strips to give it more of a classic jerky look before we tumble it. If you don’t have a slicer the Precise Slice Adjustable Knife from Victorinox works well, it will just be a little bit slower. Now, I put my eye of the rounds in the our blast freezer for about 45 minutes first to make the slicing easier and more accurate.


    Once we have sliced this into pieces that are 1/4 - 3/8" thick we will tumble them for 40 minutes to allow the meat to pick up as much of the solution as possible. We will have all the data on how much of the solution was picked up in the meat, what the meat weighed before smoking and what it weighed after. Average loss in product when making jerky is between 50 and 75%, we are hoping to achieve much better results with this recipe.

    We are going to tumble this using our KMV Vacuum Tumbler but you can use something like the Marinade Express Vacuum Tumbler-Pro. We have used that before and it works well, you just need to make sure you do not exceed the recommendations for the drum or it will not pick up as much of the solution as you want it too.

    Now, if you don’t have a way to tumble this at home you will need to hold it in a container in a cooler for 12-24 hours to try to get the meat to pick up as much of the solution as possible. Without a tumbler mixing in all the sugar and seasoning becomes even more important so make 100% sure everything is dissolved.


    We started out with 24.5 lb of meat, 11.35 lb of solution, after tumbling there was .35 of a lb left that the meat did not pick up. Our finished dry weight was 19.8 lb giving us less than 20% product loss.

    Thermal Processing & Smoking

    Stage 1 - 20 Minutes at 110° (dampers wide open)
    Stage 2 - 30 Minutes at 135° (begin adding smoke)
    Stage 3 - 10 Minutes at 140° (dampers wide open again for drying)
    Stage 4 - 30 Minutes at 150°
    Stage 5 - 175° until internal temperature is 160°

    Advanced Thermal Processing & Smoking

    Stage 1 - 20 Minutes Dry at 110° 0 Relative Humidity(RH)
    Stage 2 - 30 Minutes Dry at 135° 0 (RH)
    Stage 3 - 10 Minutes Dry at 140° 0 (RH)
    Stage 4 - 30 Minutes Dry at 150° Wet at 126° 50 RH
    Stage 5 - 30 Minutes Dry at 155° Wet at 130° 50 RH
    Stage 6 - Dry at 175° Wet at 155 RH 60 until internal temperature is 160°


    Allow the jerky to sit out at room temperature for an hour before packaging to avoid condensation inside the packaging.

    Wrap up

    We were very pleased with these results of this recipe, it gave us a nice tender jerky with a good (if somewhat sweet) taste and our product loss was minimal. We started with 25 lb of meat and after smoking and dehydrating we ended up with just about 20 lb of jerky giving us a product loss of only 20% which is outstanding when a loss of 50% is generally considered good.

    Additional Tips

    • It might be worth it to use a little more seasoning to cut through the sugar taste

    Other Notes

    Our water activity was below .85 so this is a shelf stable product but remember without a way to test water activity at home there is no way for you to be sure that yours will be and the main benefit to following this recipe would be that you end up with a soft and tender piece of jerky and far less product loss compared to traditional methods.

    Watch WaltonsTV: How to Make Tender Jerky At Home

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    Shop for KMV Vacuum Tumbler

    Shop for Marinade Express Vacuum Tumbler - Pro

  • @jonathon
    Wow, this is really awesome content, appreciate the work you guys did on this! I’ve spent the past year trying to replicate the really tender brands like “KRAVE”. I think my issue has always been misunderstanding the concepts of water activity vs. moisture content, and this was very eye opening.

    I’ve done a couple tests using your method with pretty good results. I don’t have a humidity-controlled oven, so have been adding a pan of water to my oven and putting dehydrator trays inside. Not perfect, but the humidity step definitely helps.

    As you mention, the final product is left with a tacky exterior. Any thoughts on how to minimize this? I’ve noticed a lot of brands use “cane sugar” instead of brown sugar, I will try giving that a shot. Maybe use some phosphates instead of sugar to increase the water holding capacity?

    Also, I was wondering if you’ve ever experimented with using celery powder/juice as your nitrite? I really want to perfect an all-natural jerky, but am uncertain where to start when it comes to processing and quantifying nitrite levels in celery.

    Really happy I stumbled upon your site, thank you!

  • Walton's Employee

    @maxmeats Glad you found us and are getting good information from our page.

    Yes, the humidity definitely will help and a pan of water is better than nothing!

    I’ve never done Celery Juice Powder for a cure, probably something I should discuss with our food scientist here and then do a video on!

    As for how to make it less tacky, I tried lightly dusting it with cornstarch to see if that worked, don’t do that, it did not work out well! The best thing I have found was a vacuum tumbler for a longer period of time than normal jerky and when laying it out you need to take a little extra care to make sure none of your pieces have depressions in the side facing up. If they do you will end up with an almost puddle-like area of the cure-seasoning-sugar mix. I ended up vacuum tumbling this for almost twice as long as I did regular jerky.

    We worked with Excalibur and had them remake Walton’s Bold Jerky with increased sugar, we just got the seasoning and will be making a test batch shortly, I will let you know how that goes!

    You could use phosphates in jerky, I never have though. I would be careful with usage levels as it would be pretty easy to dry too much out of it and you would be left with a soapy flavored coating on the outside of the jerky, no very appetizing!

  • @jonathon
    How do you get an internal temp on jerky sliced that thin? What do u use?

  • Walton's Employee

    @marctrejo I fold a piece in half before the cook cycle starts and then I place a probe thermometer in between the slices. It’s the closest you can get as trying to stick a probe into pieces of jerky that are already that thin and about to get thinner is near impossible!

  • @jonathon
    Thanks for the response!

    I think a video on processed celery would be incredible. The only place I have been able to find celery powder as a cure was from “The Sausage Maker”, they have a Facebook page. It was expensive, designed only for sausages, and wasn’t packaged well.

    As for the tackiness, good idea with the cornstarch! There are a bunch of big brands with zero additives that were able to achieve the soft texture with no tackiness, so I’m thinking it has to be in the processing. I read an article where someone at KRAVE mentioned a couple details about how they process their jerky. He said they first inject the meat, then cook the whole pieces, then slice, then marinate, then dry. I have messed around with the idea behind this process a lot. Injecting with brine, sous-viding at a variety of temperatures and times, slicing, marinating, and drying. Decent results, but to be honest the high sugar method you introduced to me has seemed to have better results.

    Anyway, I will keep trying to figure this out and will definitely keep you guys posted if I make any headway. In the meantime, if there is anything else you think might be worth testing, please let me know! It would be great to try and perfect this process together.


  • I would like to try to do this - I do have some limitations as a “do-it-yourselfer.” First - no vacuum tumbler, but I do have vacuum marinating canisters, so will use them to the best of my ability. Second - looking at the thermal processing schedule, it is a bit daunting. I have a traeger, and cannot get my heat down to 110, 135, 140, 150. I can do 175. Trying to keep my lid open has been a futile pursuit - as I have no consistency in temp. Any ideas on a heat/smoking schedule with the pellet smoker? Thanks! Love watching the videos and getting ideas!

  • Walton's Employee

    @rouse If you have a thermometer that would let you monitor the ambient temperature inside the grill (not just relying on the readout from the pellet smoker) that might let you dial in the temperature more accurately. Try playing with the lid AND different settings on your smokestack, raising it and lowering it. A key thing here will be trying to get an initial drying stage. I’d start it as low as you can with the smokestack open and the lid propped to give you good airflow. Since you’ve added cure it can withstand some low temperature initially while it dries a little, so maybe the lowest setting your smoker will go to and the lid mostly open for 20 minutes, then close the lid down to just slightly open for 1 hour, then close your lid and your smokestack and just go at 175° until you get to 165° internal temp.

    It’s definitely going to be a little more difficult with a pellet style smoker, this is why not everyone makes tender jerky, it takes some practice to get it right without specialized equipment!

    Good luck!

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