Ingredients for Jerky

Red Meats • Game Meats

Poultry • Pork


The ingredients for jerky in a marinade or a rub play a crucial role in flavoring and tenderizing different types of meats when making jerky. While there are common elements, the impact of specific ingredients can vary based on the type of meat.

Jerky Cowboy logo on a covered wagon. Bring the ingredients for jerky.
Bringing the ingredients for jerky.
Here’s a breakdown of how different ingredients in a marinade affect different types of meats:
  1. Soy Sauce or Tamari
    • Beef: Enhances the savory flavor and adds depth.
    • Deer/Elk: Complements the natural gaminess* of the meat.
    • Turkey/Chicken: Adds umami* and richness.
    • Pork: Provides a savory and slightly sweet undertone.
  2. Worcestershire Sauce
    • Beef: Adds a tangy and savory kick.
    • Deer/Elk: Balances gaminess with savory notes.
    • Turkey/Chicken: Enhances overall flavor complexity.
    • Pork: Contributes a savory and slightly sweet layer.
  3. Teriyaki Sauce
    • Beef: Imparts a sweet and savory profile.
    • Deer/Elk: Blends well with the natural flavors.
    • Turkey/Chicken: Adds a sweet and tangy twist.
    • Pork: Provides a delightful balance of sweet and savory.
  4. Honey or Maple Syrup
    • Beef: Adds sweetness and helps caramelize during drying.
    • Deer/Elk: Balances gaminess with a touch of sweetness.
    • Turkey/Chicken: Enhances the overall sweetness.
    • Pork: Provides a sweet and sticky glaze.
  5. Garlic and Onion Powder
    • Beef: Introduces robust, savory notes.
    • Deer/Elk: Complements the gamey flavors.
    • Turkey/Chicken: Adds aromatic depth.
    • Pork: Enhances savory and umami* elements.
  6. Black Pepper
    • Beef: Adds a bold, slightly spicy kick.
    • Deer/Elk: Enhances the overall flavor profile.
    • Turkey/Chicken: Contributes warmth and depth.
    • Pork: Provides a peppery contrast to sweetness.
  7. Liquid Smoke
    • Beef: Enhances smokiness, especially if not using a smoker.
    • Deer/Elk: Adds a subtle smoky note to balance gaminess.
    • Turkey/Chicken: Imparts a hint of smokiness.
    • Pork: Provides a smoky undertone.
  8. Citrus Juice (Orange, Pineapple, etc.)
    • Beef: Adds brightness and acidity.
    • Deer/Elk: Complements the gamey flavors.
    • Turkey/Chicken: Enhances freshness.
    • Pork: Balances sweetness with acidity.
  9. Ginger
    • Beef: Adds warmth and a hint of spiciness.
    • Deer/Elk: Complements the natural flavors.
    • Turkey/Chicken: Adds a zesty and aromatic note.
    • Pork: Enhances savory and sweet elements.
  10. Hot Sauce or Cayenne Pepper
    • Beef: Adds heat for a spicy kick.
    • Deer/Elk: Introduces heat without overpowering.
    • Turkey/Chicken: Provides a subtle spicy kick.
    • Pork: Adds a touch of heat to balance sweetness.

Experimenting with these ingredients and adjusting quantities allows for the creation of unique marinades tailored to each type of meat, enhancing their individual characteristics and creating delicious jerky with diverse flavor profiles.

You can use the recipes found throughout this website and adjust the quantities and combinations of ingredients based on the information above. It’s your jerky – experiment!

A couple of definitions used above

Gaminess – When something tastes “gamey,” it typically means that it has a strong, distinctive flavor that is often associated with wild or game animals such as deer, elk, or moose. The taste can vary depending on the type of animal and the way it was prepared, but it is often described as earthy, musky, or even slightly metallic. Some people find the taste to be appealing, while others find it unappealing.

*Umami – u·ma·mi      /ˌo͞oˈmämē/ noun

  1. a category of taste in food (besides sweet, sour, salt, and bitter), corresponding to the flavor of glutamates, especially monosodium glutamate.

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