Recently, chicken jerky has been immensely popular around the house, and it is no secret why. Do-it-yourself chicken jerky creates a delicious snack that is packed with nutrition and it is easier to eat than other types of jerky. The secret to our amazing DIY chicken jerky recipe is a healthy dose of all-natural flavors using a few of our best-selling seasoning blends.
Making chicken jerky at home is easy and fun, and you’ll find that you can save a ton of money compared to buying jerky at the store. Of course, the best part is that you get to add as much or as little flavor as you would like and you will know just what is in your jerky.
Tips for Making Chicken Jerky
Tip #1: The most important thing about this recipe is to make sure you either have a very sharp knife or a meat slicer that has a straight blade. You will also want to have a sharpener or a honing steel on hand to keep an edge on the knife. We really like using the Victorinox boning knife for slicing chicken to make jerky as the long, thin, flexible blade is ideal for getting consistent slices.
Tip #2: Placing the chicken in the freezer for about an hour before slicing will firm up the meat and make slicing it easier. This tip works whether you are using a knife or a meat slicer.
Getting consistently sized slices makes the drying process easier, and slightly freezing the meat will also make it easier to keep the slices small.
Tip #3: Make plenty, because it disappears fast. It might not even get a chance to cool down before you notice that it's disappearing. Chicken jerky is tender and delicious, and the mild meat is the perfect canvas for bold flavors.
What Type of Chicken to Use
Chicken jerky can be made from most cuts of chicken, but by far the easiest is to use whole, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The breast meat makes excellent jerky because it has little fat which can cause issues when drying jerky. The large size of the chicken breast compared to other parts also makes the slicing process easier.
We always advocate using fresh chicken breast for jerky making, but you can use thawed, previously frozen breast meat as well. We've even experimented with ground chicken that is formed into strips and made into jerky. It was totally doable and tasted delicious – though it was a little crumbly. But the method would work just fine to turn leg and thigh meat into jerky strips.
How to Dehydrate Chicken Breast
There are three ways to dehydrate chicken breast at home to make your own jerky.
- The simplest way is to use the oven, preheated to the lowest possible temperature.
- A food dehydrator is one of the best choices and makes the process of drying the jerky practically foolproof.
- You can also make chicken jerky in the smoker, but this is a bit more labor-intensive and time-consuming. Chicken can easily become over-flavored in the smoker which can be too much for a snack.
For this method, we will use the dehydrator for this recipe. The dehydrator has racks for drying the chicken, it keeps everything contained in one spot, and it doesn’t heat up the kitchen as much as the oven will.
Slicing and Marinading the Chicken
As discussed above, you’ll want a very sharp knife to slice the chicken breast. Make long cuts in one, smooth motion to cut slices about ⅛-inch thick. You can slice as thick as 1/4-inch, but thinner is often better. The most important thing is to try and be as consistent as possible when slicing the chicken. Consistent slices will dry at the same time. Thicker slices will take longer to dry and might not ever completely dry in the center.
As you slice the chicken breast, place it in a large bowl with a lid or a resealable plastic bag. This will be used for the marinade once all of the chicken is sliced.
The marinade that we use is pretty simple. It is made of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or liquid aminos, honey, and a big dose of Bearded Butcher Blend Seasonings. In this case, we like to use the Chipotle blend that pairs well with the sweetness from the honey. However, our most recent batch was spiced with our Cajun blend, and it might have become our new favorite.
Both seasoning blends offer a little spiciness and help develop a smoky flavor.
A few drops of liquid smoke added to the marinade will amp up the flavor when you are planning to use the oven or a food dehydrator to make chicken jerky. We also use a small amount of curing salt to ensure that bacteria are killed while the jerky is in the danger zone.
Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and then pour them over the chicken strips. Gently massage the chicken to ensure that the marinade completely coats all of the chicken, then place it in the refrigerator for 6 to 24 hours. Longer marinade times result in more flavorful jerky, but letting it sit for more than 24 hours can cause the meat to begin breaking down.
Dehydrating the Chicken Jerky
Place the chicken in a colander or strainer to remove as much of the marinade as possible, but it isn’t necessary to wipe the chicken off. Just shake it to remove the excess, then place the chicken strips on the rack of the dehydrator. Do not let the strips touch or overlap. You want a consistent layer with airflow between each piece. This makes sure the chicken dries evenly.
Set the dehydrator to the highest setting and start a timer. After about three and a half hours, the chicken should begin to smell good and you can start to check on the doneness. Keep checking every 30 minutes as the chicken dehydrates to catch it before it over-dries. The time usually takes between four and six hours to dehydrate depending on the thickness of the chicken strips.
How to Tell When it’s Done
The best way to tell if your chicken jerky is ready is to bend it. If it bends easily and feels rubbery, it isn’t ready. You will want the jerky to crack, but not be so hard that it breaks.
Look for the little white fibers that appear when tearing or cracking the jerky. These are a sign that the jerky has finished dehydrating.
Storing Chicken Jerky
Store this jerky like any other jerky – in a cool location out of direct light. It is not a bad idea to put the jerky in a food-safe jar and keep it in the refrigerator to ensure there is no risk of bacterial development. Chicken jerky should be consumed within a week or so – though ours never lasts that long.
DIY Chicken Jerky Recipe
- 1 lb of chicken breast, boneless and skinless, cut into thin slices
- ⅓ cup Worcestershire sauce
- ⅓ cup Soy sauce or liquid aminos
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tbsp Bearded Butcher Blend Chipotle or Cajun Seasoning (more or less to taste)
- ¼ tsp curing salt
- A few dashes of liquid smoke (optional)
- Begin by placing the chicken breast in the freezer for about an hour to firm up.
- Using a very sharp knife or a meat slicer, cut the chicken breast into thin strips 1/8-1/4 inch thick, cutting the long way down the breast.
- Mix all ingredients for the marinade in a bowl. Add the marinade mixture to the chicken strips in a resealable bowl or bag. Place in the refrigerator for 6-24 hours.
- Remove the chicken strips from the marinade and drip dry. Place in a food dehydrator, on a cookie sheet in the oven, or hang in a smoker set at 165 to 200 degrees.
- Dehydrate for 4-6 hours, checking after 3.5 hours every half hour using the crack test.
When jerky is done, remove it from the dehydrator and allow it to cool to room temperature before storing. Store in an airtight container in a cool cupboard or in the refrigerator.
Consume within one to two weeks.
Making chicken jerky at home is immensely fun and it is a great way to get the whole family involved. Chicken jerky typically is a little more tender than beef or pork jerky and takes flavor better than even turkey jerky. Chicken jerky is an excellent snack food that provides a good protein kick and offers delicious flavor. Once you start making it at home, you probably won’t be buying much jerky at the store anymore. Not only is jerky addictive, the process of making it is, too.
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