Best Smokers for Jerky Making and How to make Jerky in a Smoker

There are plenty of choices on the market when shopping for a new smoker. There are also a lot of different smoking methods, and prices vary considerably, so making the right choice can be difficult.

From the occasional user to one who enjoys many smoke-flavored foods including jerky, there is an impressive collection of smokers out there. To help in your search for the right machine, we have listed the best smokers for jerky.

Best Home Smoker for the Money

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The Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker slowly cooks and smokes your meats until they are the juiciest ever experienced. The Weber will cook slowly with a low temperature using charcoal so that you can enjoy an authentic smokehouse flavor on all cuts of meat including jerky. There are two nickel-plated cooking grates inside this smoker giving you more than 480 square inches of cooking space. A water pan has been built-in along with a thermometer, and individual vents on the lid and bowl for better temperature control.

The Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker is constructed from porcelain- enameled steel, and the measurement for this model is approximately 21 inches by 41 inches. You will appreciate the built-in thermometer that provides you with the control needed to keep your jerky smoking to perfection. With the two cooking grates, you will be able to smoke two batches of jerky at one time, or put another cut of meat inside to create a meal at the same time.

Customers who have purchased the Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker say this is the champion of smokers and it works flawlessly with easy cleanup. They love how easy it is to keep the heat consistent and the variety of meat cuts this model can handle. Their favorite to smoke is jerky and the reason they invested in a smoker, but are enjoying all the others foods this smoker can handle.

Another customer who purchased the Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker says this is a great smoker and they love the setup of the racks and grates. The vents on the lid and bowl make it very easy to control the heat, and the built-in thermometer is perfect. They state this smoker creates the best -tasting jerky in town and recommend to all their friends.

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Bestselling Outdoor Smoker

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The Masterbuilt 20070910 Electric Digital Smoker is a simple machine that starts with the push of a button. The electronic digital control panel will allow you to monitor the temperature inside the smoker from 100 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. The controls are easy to set and make it remarkably simple to keep your smoker at a consistent heat. The walls inside the Masterbuilt are 100% insulated for energy-efficient and even cooking.

The Masterbuilt 20070910 Electric Digital Smoker will evenly smoke all meat cuts or jerky and features a built-in timer for up to 24 hours to automatically shut-off so your food will never dry out or get overcooked. The inside of the Masterbuilt is spacious enough to hold up to four smoking racks to give you more than 700 square inches of cooking surface. These racks will give you plenty of room to smoke fish, sausage, chicken, or jerky.

Customers who have purchased the Masterbuilt 20070910 Electric Digital Smoker say you have to be careful when buying this smoker as you will find it becomes addictive to produce great tasting smoked foods. They love the design of this smoker including the wheels that allow them to move it around easily. They say the adjustable latch on the door works great, and they like the glass on the door that lets them keep an eye on their food.

Another customer who purchased the Masterbuilt 20070910 Electric Digital Smoker says this is a fantastic smoker that works great. They love the control panel that allows them to keep monitoring of the heat and time of their smoking process. They state the space provided inside this model is perfect for smoking several batches of jerky that comes out with a great smoke flavor.

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Best Smoker for Jerky

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The Char-Broil American Gourmet Smoker is great for smoker enthusiasts. There are over 1200 square inches of cooking surface with this model that is perfect for cooking large meals or smoking several types of meat. The offset fire box built onto the Char-Broil provides you with indirect cooking and transmits the smoke flavor through the cooking chamber.

The Char-Broil American Gourmet Smoker has a central chamber with a porcelain cooking wire providing you with more than 650 square inches of cooking space. It also includes a chrome wire swing-away rack with more than 350 square inches of cooking room. There is also a third cooking surface in the firebox to give you more than an additional 250 square inches of room for cooking or smoking your favorite foods and jerky. You will appreciate the side door on this smoker making it easy to remove the ashes.

Customers who have purchased the Char-Broil American Gourmet Smoker say this is a great smoker and love how easy it is to clean. It holds the smoke really well without leaking either heat or smoke to create great smoke-flavored meats. They say you can’t beat the quality of this smoker.

Another customer who purchased the Char-Broil American Gourmet Smoker says this is a sturdy smoker and they never worry about it holding up all the meat they can fit on to it. They used to smoke a batch of jerky and were impressed with the smoke-flavor it had. They say it is the best they’ve ever made.

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There are different styles and prices out there for smokers. Some smokers are electric, and others let you choose different types of wood for different flavors. These are the best smokers for jerky making to help you decide the one that will work for you.

How to make Jerky in a Smoker

Making Jerky in a Smoker is the best way to make jerky. Jerky dehydrators work great, but are just outmatched by smokers. Smokers tend to give a much deeper, richer flavor that you will struggle to get with a dehydrator. Also, having the ability to infuse the meat with different flavors of wood adds an extra layer of taste that you just can’t beat. In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about how to make jerky in a smoker.

The Meat

The first place to start is the with the cut of meat that you’ll be using. You can many different types of meat. Beef is the go to meat for jerky and is probably the best. You can also make venison jerky, which is very nice, turkey jerky and even alligator jerky, which is very… interesting.

We’ll stick with beef for now.

With any cut of beef, make sure you buy the correct amount. You’re going to be reducing the weight by about 2/3 so if you buy 3lbs of meat, you’ll be left with 1lb of jerky.

Any cut that has as little fat as possible will work great. The fat will ruin the jerky so stay away. We recommend using any of the round cuts. The eye of round is our favorite as it’s lean with little interior fat and relatively cheap.

The sirloin tip is another great choice. This is very lean and will give you the most tender jerky.

Lastly, the flank streak can make great jerky. This is generally tougher but when marinated can give you a great tasting jerky.

We’d recommend the eye of round if this is your first time making jerky in a smoker.

How to Cut the Meat

Firstly, you’re going to need to trim any visible fat off of it. If you’re using an eye of round then there will be an obvious chunk of fat that needs removing. You can always ask your butcher to do this.

Next, with a very sharp knife, slice against the grain of the meat to the thickness you want. We recommend ¼ inch. Slicing against the grain will give you a more tender jerky, if you slice with the grain you’ll get a chewier jerky. We prefer tender, but the choice is yours.

Pro Tip:

If the meat is a little soft and your knife isn’t as sharp as you’d like, you can freeze the meat for a couple of hours to give it some rigidity to make cutting it easier.

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The Marinade

There are so many different beef jerky marinade recipes that work amazingly well. Here we’ll provide a basic peppered beef jerky marinade. This will work well for around 2lbs of raw meat.

  • ½ cup of soy sauce
  • ½ cup of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • ½ tablespoon of garlic salt
  • ½ tablespoon of onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons of black crushed pepper

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl then pour the marinade and place the slices of beef into re-sealable bags. Massage the meat so that all the slices of beef get a good coating of the marinade.

Place the plastic bag in the refrigerator for several hours, ideally overnight.

raw jerky hanging in smoker
Raw Jerky Hanging in a Smoker

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How to Cook Jerky in a Smoker

Depending on which smoker you’re using will alter this step. Grab some foil and place it over anything you don’t want to be cleaning later. You’ll thank yourself for doing this as the jerky will likely make quite a mess as it will be hanging vertically.

Remove your jerky from the fridge and dry each strip with a paper towel to remove any excess marinade. You can then slide a tooth pick through each end or even a bamboo skewer to keep them aligned and manageable. We prefer to hang the jerky rather than lay it horizontally on the grate but both work just fine. If you don’t have bamboo skewers or toothpicks handy then simply hanging the beef slices over the rack will work. Some smokers come with jerky hanging racks which are ideal for this.

Next, set your smoker to 140°F and wait for it to get up to temperature. Hang your jerky from the very top rack with the top vent open all the way. We recommend leaving it for 3-4 hours at this temperature.

Half way through your smoke grab some wood chips of your favorite flavor and place them in your smoker. We’d go for hickory or oak with beef but there are many different flavors and combinations that will work fantastically. Check out our complete guide to smoking with wood for more information. After 1 – 1.5 hours with a light wood smoke your jerky should be ready.

Check your jerky by taking a piece out and leaving it to cool for 5 minutes. When your jerky is ready it will bend and should be able to crack without snapping completely. Feel free to experiment with the timings as some people may like their jerky different to us, but we’ve found that jerky at this point is our favorite.

If it bends and cracks without snapping then take the rest out, let it cool and you’re ready to eat it!


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How to Store Beef Jerky

If, for some reason, you’ve got some jerky left over then you’re going to want to store it correctly. There’s a few ways to store beef jerky, some work for the short term and others will keep your jerky for up to a year. Whatever you do, it is important to not let the jerky be exposed to the air or moisture for long periods as this will make your jerky spoil.

Short Term

The best short term option is to put your jerky in a zip lock bag and store it in the fridge. This will stop the air from getting to it and will usually last around 4 weeks. It’s best to note down the date on the jerky so you know when it’s going to go bad. Jerky will generally become much darker and drier with a different smell if it has gone bad.

Long Term

There’s a couple of ways to preserve your beef jerky for longer periods of time than a month. One method is to use mason jars but this can be a hassle and will only extend the life of the jerky to around 6 months. Another is to use a vacuum sealer. We highly recommend using a vacuum sealer as they remove all the air around the jerky and extend the life span to a whole year!

Check out our guide to the best vacuum sealers for more information.

Best Smoker for Smoking Jerky

Masterbuilt 30 Inch Electric Smoker

Read more: Top 10 best electric smoker for Smoking Jerky

To smoke beef jerky you need a smoker that can comfortably sit at around 140°F. This is going to be tricky for a lot of smokers as they tend to prioritize higher temperatures. If you only have a smoker that can go as low as 175°F or 200°F, for example, then you can still smoke jerky but it’ll require different timings.

A good charcoal smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain will be a good choice but will require a little tending to to make sure it stays at such a low temperature.

We’d recommend going for an electric smoker or a gas smoker. The Masterbuilt 30” electric smoker is an idea candidate as it can go as low as 100°F with just a touch of a button. Another option is the Camp Chef Smoke Vault. This is a propane smoker that even comes with a jerky rack. Both will work brilliantly, not just for jerky but for a huge range of food.

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We hope this has been useful and you’ve learnt a thing or two on how to smoke beef jerky. If you have any questions let us know in the comments below.