How Long to Smoke Beef Jerky: The Complete Guide

Making your own smoked beef jerky at home is incredibly satisfying. The smoky flavors infused into the meat are far superior to anything from the store. However, one common question is – how long should I actually smoke the jerky for?

The smoking time can vary quite a bit depending on factors like meat thickness, smoker temperature, and humidity. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to perfectly smoke jerky every time.

Overview of Smoking Beef Jerky

Jerky is made by drying thin slices of meat until they reach the desired texture. Traditionally this was done by air drying strips of meat in the sun. Now, we often use a smoker or dehydrator to mimic this process.

The smoking time infuses flavor while drying out the meat. Too little time in the smoker means under-dried jerky with a raw meat texture. Too long leads to jerky that’s dry and tough to chew. Finding the right balance is key.

Below we’ll explore how meat preparation, smoker temperature, and testing doneness all impact total smoke time when making beef jerky.

Meat Prep Steps

Properly preparing the meat is crucial for even drying and correct jerky smoke time. Here are some key steps:

Choose a Lean Cut – Top round, eye of round, and flank steak are ideal cuts to use. Their leanness prevents fat from turning rancid.

Trim Fat – Carefully trim off any excess fat before slicing to prevent spoilage.

Partially Freeze – Lightly freezing makes the meat easier to slice thinly and consistently.

Cut Against the Grain – Slicing against the grain makes the jerky easier to chew once dried.

Uniform Slices – Consistent 1⁄4 inch slices allow the meat to dry evenly during smoking.

Marinade – Soaking strips in a marinade adds big flavor. Salt also helps preserve the meat.

Proper prep is the first key step to ensuring you achieve the right jerky smoking time and texture.

Smoker Temperature for Jerky

The temperature you smoke at significantly impacts total jerky smoke times. Here are some guidelines:

150°F – 180°F – This low, slow temperature range is ideal for most jerky smoking. At these temps, it takes 5-8 hours depending on conditions.

200°F – 250°F – Smoking at higher heat like on a pellet grill speeds the drying process. Jerky may finish in as little as 2-3 hours.

Avoid Temperature Spikes – Big temp fluctuations lead to uneven drying. Keep temps steady.

Consider Humidity – Meat dries slower in humid climates. Lower temps help compensate for moisture.

Ideally you want the lowest temperature on your smoker that steadily produces smoke. Low, indirect heat dries the meat gently without cooking it.

Testing Smoked Jerky Doneness

The most foolproof way to test jerky doneness is by feel. Jerky is done when:

  • The meat cracks but doesn’t break when bent
  • It has a stiff, leather-like texture
  • The inside looks like cooked steak, not raw meat

The bend test is the best way to check for the ideal texture. The jerky should crack but not snap in half.

Visual signs like stiff texture and white fibers on the meat also indicate it’s ready. If you see any moist/raw looking spots, continue smoking.

The meat may still feel slightly flexible or moist immediately after smoking. As it cools to room temp, it will stiffen up to the proper chewy texture.

Average Smoking Times for Beef Jerky

Taking all the variables together, here are some general timelines for smoking jerky:

  • Electric Smoker – 5 to 10 hours
  • Pellet Smoker – 2 to 5 hours
  • Oven or Stovetop – 3 to 6 hours
  • Dehydrator – 5 to 12 hours

Electric and traditional smokers tend to take the longest since they don’t get as hot. Dehydrators and pellet grills are faster but require more attention.

No matter what you use, check often once you pass the halfway mark on the timeline. Go by texture, not time, to determine doneness.

Other Tips for Perfectly Smoked Jerky

Follow these extra tips for flawlessly smoked jerky every time:

  • Use cure like Prague Powder #1 for added safety and flavor
  • Apply seasoning like black pepper, red pepper, garlic before smoking
  • Use hardwoods like hickory, oak, or maple for the best flavor
  • Let the jerky rest before storing to equalize moisture
  • Store smoked jerky in airtight bags or jars for longevity

Making jerky is easy once you get the basic process down. Adjust your technique as needed to account for humidity, fat content, and other factors. With experience, you’ll learn exactly how your smoker works for perfect jerky.

Now that you know precisely how long to smoke jerky, it’s time to fire up the smoker! Try some of these tasty smoked beef jerky recipes:

Smoked Beef Jerky Recipes

Basic Beef Jerky

  • 1 lb beef eye of round, sliced 1⁄4 inch thick
  • 1⁄4 cup soy sauce
  • 1⁄4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Teriyaki Beef Jerky

  • 1 lb beef top round, sliced 1⁄4 inch thick
  • 1⁄4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1⁄2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Spicy Cajun Beef Jerky

  • 1 lb beef flank steak, sliced 1⁄4 inch thick
  • 1⁄4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp hot sauce

Make Delicious Smoked Beef Jerky at Home

With the right meat prep, temperature control, and doneness testing, you can easily nail the perfect jerky smoking time. Adjust to your individual smoker as needed. In no time, you’ll be making incredible smoked jerky to enjoy anytime.

Smoked Beef Jerky Easy Homemade Jerky on the Pellet Grill


How long does it take to smoke jerky?

Slice your beef into thin strips and pound them out to make them even thinner. Place your meat into a container or ziplock bag and pour marinade in and combine. Remove meat from the marinade and place onto your smoker between 160-200°F. Smoke for 4-6 hours until the jerky is cooked through and to your desired texture.

How long to smoke beef jerky at 165?

Smoke. Place the strips of jerky on the grill grates of your smoker and cook for 2-3 hours (or up to 4-5 hours depending on the thickness of the beef). Your jerky is done when it reaches 165 degrees F measured with a meat thermometer. The meat should be slightly pliable without breaking when you bend it in half.

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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