Can You Cold Smoke Beef Jerky?

Beef jerky is a great snack to have on a table at a BBQ or even in your lounge while watching sports. However, there are ways to add more flavor to the jerky, whether you make it yourself or buy it. So, in this article, I want to discuss whether or not you can cold smoke beef jerky.

You can cold smoke the meat in the pellet grill before using a food dehydrator when making homemade beef jerky. Remember to preheat and cure the beef first to limit the chance of any bacteria surviving in the meat. You can also cold smoke store-bought beef jerky. However, only do so for approximately three hours.

can you cold smoke beef jerky

I want to answer as many questions as possible in the rest of this article. To start, I want to talk about curing beef jerky. You must do it right when cold-smoking beef jerky. So, keep reading this article for everything you need to know and more.

Preparing Beef To Be Cold Smoked

It would be fantastic to take a few slices of beef, throw them in the pellet grill with a smoking tube and wait for your beef jerky to be ready. 

Unfortunately, this is not the case. You will want to take some precautionary steps to ensure that you get a flavorful yet healthy portion of beef jerky.

  • Marinade the beef in the fridge for four or five hours. Be creative with your flavors. Remember, it is not good to marinate the meat at room temperature.
  • Preheat the beef strips in the oven or pellet grill for approximately 8 minutes at 300F (149C).
  • Cure the beef. You can make your own mixture using salt and malt vinegar or curing salt. Remember, cure the meat in the fridge.
  • Cold smoke the beef in the smoker for around six hours, continually monitoring the internal temperature.
  • Dehydrate the beef until it is dry enough.

Must You Cure Beef Jerky Before Cold Smoking It?

Curing beef to prepare it to be made into beef jerky is extremely important. However, getting it right can be challenging. If you don’t cure the meat for long enough, it doesn’t work as it should. On the other hand, if you cure it for too long, the meat will become too salty.

Curing salt is most commonly used in the United States. I recommend Hoosier Hill Farm Prague Powder No.1 Pink Curing Salt. In other parts of the world, to make beef jerky or even Biltong, a mixture of salt and malt vinegar is used to cure the beef.

Theoretically, if you have preheated the beef, you do not need to cure it. However, with that said, it is always best practice to cure the meat. Not only does it add a layer of safety, but it also helps preserve the beef for much longer. The meat can go from lasting a few days to lasting a few months if it has been cured correctly. 

Try to use two teaspoons per pound of beef. Remember, you can use other spices as well to add flavor. Also, you have some leniency when it comes to the amount of curing salt. So, do not be afraid to experiment with more or less salt per pound of beef.

Is It Safe To Cold Smoke Beef Jerky?

There are two ways of answering this question. Scientifically, beef, poultry, pork, and game meat should never be cold-smoked before cooking. However, if you have cured the beef properly, it should eliminate most of the bacteria.

I also recommend using a combination of three things to cold smoke a beef jerky and limit the number of risks you are taking. These include:

  • Preheat the meat.
  • Cure the meat.
  • Dehydrate after smoking the meat.

Following those three steps will not guarantee that the beef jerky is safe to eat. However, it does give you the best chance possible.

Best Temperature To Cold Smoke Beef Jerky

Before writing this section, I will assume that you have cured your beef jerky. You would need to smoke the jerky at high enough temperatures to cook the meat if you haven’t. Doing this method will mean that you don’t have beef jerky but rather cooked pieces of meat.

Cold smoking beef jerky should be done at around 95F (35C) to approximately 113F (45C). You will not be cooking the meat at these temperatures, but instead, it is a cold smoke.

For How Long Should You Cold Smoke Beef Jerky?

It is recommended that you not cold smoke beef for more than 8 hours. But, at the same time, Not smoking it for long enough means you won’t be getting as much flavor as you should.

I recommend cold smoking the beef for approximately 6 hours; however, you should check up on the meat at the three-hour mark. If it starts to look too dry, you want to take it out.

Should You Cold Smoke Jerky Before Or After Dehydrating?

In terms of safety, it does not matter if you cold smoke the jerky before or after the dehydration process. With that said, if you want the best results, I find that it is best to cold smoke the jerky before dehydration. 

There are two reasons for this:

  • Cold smoking before dehydrating beef makes it easier for the smoke to fuse with the meat.
  • Dehydrating the beef after cold smoking makes monitoring how dry the jerky gets easier.

If you dehydrate the jerky before cold smoking it, you get a bit of bland flavor because, as mentioned, the smokiness infuses with the meat while it is still relatively wet. 

Also, monitoring the beef jerky is highly important. If you let it dehydrate for too long, you will get extremely dry and crumbly jerky. And cold smoking the jerky after dehydrating it might make it dry. On the other hand, you could take it out of the smoker early, but then you don’t get as much flavor.

Final Word

Look, when it comes to food safety, you always want to take proper precautions. However, don’t let that stop you from making things like beef jerky because once you can make your own, you can save a lot of money, especially around the holiday season.

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