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It’s that time of year again when our freezers are (hopefully) full and our thoughts turn to holiday cooking. For me, that means making venison jerky for my family’s Christmas gifts. While jerky made from the sliced, marinated meat of the deer’s hindquarters is certainly popular and delicious, ground meat is what you need for snack sticks. It’s also a brilliant way to utilize any lean trim you might have accumulated. And to learn how to make venison meat sticks, you will need to bust out a jerky gun.
Please note that this article is about using a manual jerky gun, not an electric one.
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The first thing you’ll want to do is cut up your meat into manageable chunks that are small enough to fit into the hopper of a meat grinder. The meat you use is up to you; it can be from anywhere on the deer. I grind flank and front quarter meat that’s too awkward or sinewy to slice. I don’t like the taste and mouthfeel of deer fat, so I remove as much of it as possible. However, any silverskin or white gristle can stay, as you won’t even notice it in the final product. I recommend using a large chef’s knife and a smaller boning knife for this process.
Once you’ve gotten your meat cut up, run it through your meat grinder using the fine grinder plate. Combine the ground meat with any fat or spices according to your recipe. Be sure to mix the meat thoroughly. The heat from your hands will warm it up considerably, so let it chill in the fridge so it will be easier to handle. This is a great time to put together your jerky gun.
A jerky gun operates by squeezing a trigger that works an internal rod to push meat through a tube and pipe it out of a nozzle. The main parts of the jerky gun are the handle assembly, pushrod, chamber, collar, and nozzles. Assemble the pushrod by attaching the first piston washer, piston, second piston washer, and nut. This is what will push the meat through the chamber. Screw the pushrod into the handle assembly and screw the back end of the chamber (a plastic or metal tube) into the handle assembly.
Press down the thumb lever on the handle assembly and pull out the pushrod. It will now be sticking out of the back of the gun. To load the jerky gun, attach the funnel to the front end of the chamber and stuff your ground meat mixture into the tube using the tamper/pusher (like you would using a meat grinder). Make sure you fill the tube completely and avoid creating air pockets.
Once the chamber is full of meat, choose your nozzle tip (flat, round, or round double) and secure it to the front end of the chamber using the retaining ring. Dispense meat by repeatedly squeezing the trigger of the jerky gun. You will see the pushrod move down into the tube as you go. I pipe the meat directly onto the trays of my dehydrator and use a butter knife or spoon to cut them to size.
Once you’re out of meat, you simply press down the thumb lever and pull out the pushrod again, then reload the chamber with meat and repeat the process.
Dehydrate for about 3 ½ to 5 hours at your dehydrator’s highest setting until beef jerky has reached 160°F and has dried. Let cool, then store in ziplock bags.
I like to completely disassemble my jerky gun to clean it, but be sure you keep track of all the pieces! For example, if you take apart the handle assembly, there is a small recoil release spring under the thumb lever plate you will need to reattach when putting the gun back together.
Use the brushes that came with your jerky gun to clean out the chamber tube and nozzles. I recommend washing/drying and storing the gun in a plastic dish tub so when it’s time to make jerky, I know all the parts are in the same place.
Looking for more jerky recipes? Try this Garlic and Soy Venison Jerky!