How Long to Smoke Beef Jerky – The Complete Guide

Making tasty beef jerky in a smoker may seem intimidating for beginners. One of the most common questions is how long you actually need to smoke beef jerky to get perfect results. The smoking time can vary quite a bit depending on factors like meat thickness, marinade, smoker temperature, and personal taste preferences. Typically it takes 4-6 hours to smoke beef jerky, but a foolproof method is to smoke until it reaches the ideal texture.

This guide will provide a complete overview of time and techniques for smoking jerky to help you understand exactly how long it takes. With these tips, you’ll gain the confidence to fire up your smoker and make incredible beef jerky.

Factors That Affect Beef Jerky Smoking Time

Several key factors impact how long it takes to smoke beef jerky:

Meat Thickness

  • Thinner sliced jerky dries faster than thick slices.

  • Slice meat 1⁄4 inch or less for quicker smoking time.

Type of Smoker

  • Electric smokers take 5-10 hours.

  • Pellet grills take 3-5 hours.

  • Offset smokers take 4-6 hours.

Smoker Temperature

  • Lower heat (160°F) makes jerky smoke longer.

  • Higher heat (200°F) reduces smoking time.


  • Wet climates increase drying time.

  • Dry climates decrease drying time.


  • Wet marinades lengthen smoke time.

  • Dry rubs shorten smoke time.

Step-by-Step Smoking Times

Follow this timeline as a general guide for smoking times when making beef jerky:

1. Marinate the Meat: 6-24 hours

  • Allow time for the marinade to penetrate the meat.

2. Preheat the Smoker: 30 minutes

  • Let it heat up to at least 160°F before adding jerky.

3. Initial Low Smoke: 1-2 hours

  • Smoke at 160-170°F with some water in the pan.

4. Higher Temp Smoke: 1-2 hours

  • Increase heat to 180-200°F and add wood chunks.

5. Finish Drying: 2-6 hours

  • Drop temperature back down to 160°F to dry jerky without oversmoking.

6. Resting Time: 1 hour

  • Let jerky cool and dry further before eating.

Pellet Grill Smoking Times

Pellet grills make jerky smoking super easy. They typically require less time:

  • Marinate: 6-24 hours
  • Preheat: 15 minutes
  • Smoke at 200°F: 3-5 hours
  • Rest: 1 hour

The hotter temperature produces jerky faster. Check frequently after 3 hours.

Electric Smoker Times

Electric smokers take the longest, especially for thicker cuts:

  • Marinate: 6-24 hours
  • Preheat: 30 minutes
  • Low smoke: 1-2 hours at 160°F
  • Higher temp: 1-2 hours at 180°F with wood
  • Finish drying: 4-8 hours at 160°F
  • Rest: 1 hour

The key is low heat for an extended time to dry jerky without cooking it.

How to Tell When Jerky is Done Smoking

Testing doneness by texture is the best way to know when jerky is fully smoked:

  • Let a piece cool for 5 minutes after removing from the smoker.

  • The jerky should bend and crack but not break in half.

  • Lighter color and dryness on the surface indicates doneness.

  • Jerky will continue to dry out so don’t over-smoke it.

General Smoking Tips for Beef Jerky

  • Use cure in marinade for food safety.

  • Rotate racks and swap pieces occasionally for even smoking.

  • Keep smoker vent 100% open to allow moisture to escape.

  • Use a thermometer to monitor smoker temperature.

  • Add more smoke flavor in early stages, not at the end.

  • Let jerky rest before eating to allow smoke to permeate.

The Benefits of Low and Slow Smoking

While you can crank up the heat to shorten the smoking time, longer drying has advantages:

  • Deeply infuses smoky flavor into the meat.

  • Maximizes moisture removal for better preservation.

  • Minimizes risk of burning or overcooking the jerky.

  • Breaks down collagen for more tenderness.

Good things come to those who smoke and wait! Patience is rewarded with the best textured and most intensely smoky jerky.

Sample Smoking Schedule

Here is an example timeline for smoking 2 pounds of 1/4 inch thick beef jerky:

  • 10 PM – Prepare marinade and cover beef strips. Refrigerate overnight.

  • 8 AM – Rinse jerky and pat dry. Load smoker and preheat to 165°F.

  • 9 AM – Smoke 1 hour at 165°F with water pan.

  • 10 AM – Add wood chips and increase temperature to 185°F.

  • 11 AM – Smoke 1 hour until wood is spent.

  • 11 AM – Reduce temperature to 160°F. Smoke until jerky is dry.

  • 4 PM – Jerky is bendable but not brittle. Remove from smoker.

  • 5 PM – Jerky has cooled. Ready to enjoy!

This example took about 7 hours with an electric smoker. Try making a timeline for your first jerky smoking session.

Adjusting Time for Thickness, Humidity and Personal Preference

The above timeframes are general guidelines. You may need to adjust slightly based on these factors:

  • Add 1 hour for thicker sliced jerky

  • Add 1 hour for very humid weather

  • Subtract 1 hour if you prefer softer jerky

  • Add 1 hour if using a large batch of meat

Play around with your smoking times to find the perfection point to match your preferences.

Master the Art of Smoked Jerky

Learning how long to smoke jerky takes some trial and error. With some practice and these timing tips, you’ll quickly become an expert jerky smoker. Understand the factors that affect duration and learn to test for doneness. Then relax, enjoy the process, and let the smoke work its magic to make the most mouthwatering beef jerky!

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How long should you smoke jerky?

cooking. temp for jerky is 180° for 4 to 6 hours. Thinner pieces will finish in about 3 hours.

How long does it take to smoke beef jerky at 225?

Heat your smoker or pellet grill to 225°F, and smoke the jerky for 2 – 2 1/2 hours.

What is the best temperature for beef jerky?

Steam or roast meat to 160 °F and poultry to 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer before dehydrating it. Dry meats in a food dehydrator that has an adjustable temperature dial and will maintain a temperature of at least 130 to 140 °F throughout the drying process.

Can you smoke jerky at 250 degrees?

Preheat smoker to 225 to 250 degrees F (110 to 120 degrees C). Drain beef and discard marinade. Smoke beef in the preheated smoker until jerky is dry and chewy but not crispy, 6 to 8 hours. Store jerky in the refrigerator.

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