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How to Make Beef Jerky in a Smoker? Step-by-Step Guide + Tips

by Outdoor Cooking Pros August 06, 2021

How to Make Beef Jerky in a Smoker

Smoking meat is among many tricky cooking techniques that aspiring chefs aim to master. However, despite its simple recipe, making jerky perfectly smoked remains a challenge even for experienced cooks. From picking the right marinade ingredients up to storing the meat, feel free to stick with us as our culinary experts teach you how to make beef jerky in a smoker. 

Steps to Make Beef Jerky with a Smoker

Step #1: Prepare and Slice Meat 

Learning how to make beef jerky in a smoker starts with achieving perfectly sliced meat. For your homemade jerky to be cooked thoroughly, always remember that the beef slices have to be thin. These meat strips can be sized around 1/4 to 1/8 inches with a sharp knife, but be sure that the final jerky still has some bite. 

If you’re a novice cook with trouble slicing meat, you can use a measuring tool or jerky slicer in making sliced beef. Just ensure that the required fields are marked according to your convenience for a faster slicing process. You also have the option to store the beef jerky meat in the freezer for 1-2 hours for a more lean cut. 

Prepare and Slice Meat

When making beef jerky, our experts also recommend removing all excess fat from the meat. If you don’t do this procedure, there’s a high chance that it’ll make your jerky spoil.  The next step is to prepare the smoked beef jerky marinade. 


In a typical jerky recipe, you just need to create a concoction made of different spices like a mixture of ¼ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup soy sauce, 2 tsp garlic salt or garlic powder, red pepper flakes, 2 tsp onion powder, ground black pepper, ½ sea salt, 1/4 curing salt or Prague powder, and 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce.

This marinade is suitable for a 1 pound of beef round roast. While ingredients vary differently in a smoked beef jerky recipe, brown sugar, soy sauce, and black pepper are still the base of the marinade. 

After whisking it together, put both marinade and meat in an airtight container or ziplock and refrigerate overnight. After marinading, the next step is to take it out from the fridge and place it on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and a paper towel. 

You can also opt to pat dry excess marinade from the jerky meat using paper towels to allow it to cook consistently. 

Step #2: Prepare the Smoker

The next crucial step on how to make beef jerky in a smoker is prepping your cooking chamber. Make sure that your drip pan is completely covered with foil so that you wouldn’t make a mess when drying the smoked jerky meat later. Our kitchen specialists also recommend cleaning your smoker thoroughly before any food prep to avoid contamination. 

Prepare the Smoker

Step #3: Smoke the Beef

Set your pellet smoker in a low heat between 160°F up to 200°F and lay your jerky meat in the grill grates or cooling rack. You also don’t need to add liquid smoke for extra flavor. It will also be wiser to use more wood chips of your choice, depending on the flavor you want for your smoked jerky.  

Let the smoker do its job for at least two hours before checking. Keep in mind that the cooking time of smoked beef jerky can be much faster in a pellet smoker than in an electric smoker. The typical smoking duration can take three to four hours. 

Step #4: Dry the Beef 

There are many ways to make your jerky dry. Besides using a smoker, you can also use a dehydrator or over if that’s your available resource. To determine if your jerky is dry enough, our resident experts recommend taking a piece out periodically to see if the meat will bend instead of breaking. 

If white fibers are already visible, that’s a good indication that the jerky’s ready. The drying process can also exceed five hours, depending on the cut and the brand of your smoker. You may open the smoker vent slightly to let the air circulate in the cooking chamber and dry the meat better.

Dry the Beef

Getting the Right Meat to Make the Perfect Jerky

For this recipe, you’ll want to select a lean piece of meat, especially because the smoking process requires an extensive amount of cooking time. And even though fat can add extra flavor to the jerky, we highly discourage you from selecting meat with a lot of it. Why? Because it could leave your meat with a stale taste. 

Determining the Right Temperature

When cooking beef, the general rule of thumb is the thicker the meat, the more heat it needs[1]. When handling beef in any type of cooking procedure, the health experts recommend heating it for at least 160°F to eliminate the usual contaminant on the meat. 

Drying the Beef

When drying the meat, the typical hour until it’s completely dry is around the 4 to 5-hour mark. You wouldn’t want it to be over-dried, so it’s best to check on it periodically. Ensure that the jerky still has some chewiness and bite into it. 


After the smoking and drying process, let the meat cool down at room temperature for an hour or so. You can place it in an open container or bag and seal it tightly before putting it inside the refrigerator. 

Other Tips and Reminders 

You may not know it, but you can lay your beef jerky on wire racks. Besides having convenient access to your beef strips, this also means that you can put multiple racks together if you’re doing a bulk serving of smoked jerky.  

Slices of meat in the bowl

Besides that, there’s no need to fill your water pan if you soaked your meat with wet marinate because the moisture is more or less already sufficient for your smoking process. If you used a dry rub for seasoning, you may put a bit of water or vinegar in the pan. 


What temperature do you smoke beef jerky at? 

The temperature you can smoke beef jerky at is around 160 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this heat measurement varies depending on the brand of your smoker, the thickness of the meat, and other considerations. If you’re aiming to dry out the meat further, it’s okay to keep it around 200 degrees or higher. 

Can you smoke jerky at 225 degrees? 

Yes, you can smoke jerky at 225 degrees Fahrenheit, especially if you’re aiming to dry out the meat. In fact, it will make your cooking time faster. However, you need to be careful not to overdry the meat. Typically, experts would recommend keeping the heat low, around 160 to 200 degrees.  

Is jerky better in a smoker or dehydrator?

Jerky is better in a smoker than a dehydrator. Although it’s easier and cheaper to use a dehydrator when preparing your jerky, the final outcome often leads to a tougher, drier, and easily cracked piece of meat. With smoking, the right amount of meat juices will be sealed and maintain their chewiness. 

Do you use water when smoking jerky? 

No, you don’t need to use water when smoking jerky, especially if you rubbed your meat with a wet marinade. However, if you used a dry marinade, you should fill your tray with some water or vinegar to allow your jerky to absorb moisture during the entire smoking process.


As you may have already noticed, learning how to make beef jerky in a smoker isn’t the easiest cooking adventure out there. While it may appear intimidating, especially for novice chefs like you, our cuisine experts assure you that closely following recipes like these will lead you into serving a delicious meal for your family and friends. 

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