How Do You Know When Beef Jerky Is Done? Guide to Smoking Jerky

As a popular snack for all occasions. Many people have opted to make their own beef jerky at home. With smoking being one of the best and most popular methods of making jerky. But how do you smoke beef jerky and know when it is done? 

When smoking beef jerky, on a pellet grill or using a dehydrator. The following four tests should be performed to make sure the jerky is done:

how do you know when beef jerky is done
  1. Texture test
  2. Moisture test
  3. Grease test
  4. Taste test

These tests ensure the jerky is dried and safe to eat. 

Although there are many ways to make beef jerky. Smoking it on a pellet grill or smoker is the most popular method. Given that these smoky notes complement the full meaty textures of beef jerky due to its preservation characteristics.

So let’s explore how to smoke it as well as a great recipe to follow.

How To Smoke Beef Jerky? 

Before discussing the tests mentioned above to make sure beef jerky is done correctly, we first need to look at the smoking process to understand what can be done to ensure your beef jerky is smoked to perfection. 

Prep time: 10 minutes. 

Cooking time: 7 hours. 

Additional time: 8 hours. 

Total time: 15 hours and 10 minutes.

Servings: 6 people/yields. 


  • Two pounds of beef sirloin steak. 
  • A dash of Worcestershire sauce. 
  • A dash of hot pepper sauce of your choosing. 
  • One tablespoon of cider vinegar. 
  • One cup of soy sauce. 
  • Half a cup of brown sugar.
  • One tablespoon of ground pepper.
  • Half a tablespoon of paprika. 
  • One tablespoon of ginger powder. 
  • One tablespoon of salt. 
  • Half a tablespoon of unseasoned meat tenderizer (optional)


  1. Place your sirloin in the freezer for between 1 and 2 hours. The purpose of doing so is not to freeze the meat but to chill it for a short period making it easier to cut and trim. 
  2. Slice the meat between 1/8 and ¼ inch thick with the grain. The strips should be thick enough to have some texture to them while not being so thick as to be tough or unwieldy.
  3. Mix all your spices and sauces in a mixing bowl. Make sure to use a whisk to thoroughly dissolve certain ingredients, such as brown sugar. 
  4. Add the meat strips to the marinade in the mixing bowl. Make sure the meat is submerged, and the marinade is massaged into all crevices of the meat.
  5. Cover the bowl or put the strips/marinade in sealable plastic bags and refrigerate overnight. During the refrigeration process, make sure to mix the bowl or turn over the plastic bags to ensure all the meat is marinated evenly. 
  6. When preparing your smoker, you should use cherry, pecan, or oak and make sure your smoker is at a very low heat. This is because the purpose of smoking is not to cook the jerky. But rather to dehydrate it and remove moisture.
  7. It is recommended you use a thermometer and keep your smoker running at approximately 140F and 160F throughout the smoking process (electric smokers are easier to maintain for long periods of time).  
  8. Lightly oil the grate and even ay out your strips of meat. Take care not to overlap them and keep the smoker’s lid closed throughout the process, save for some period flipping of the meat.
  9. Allow the meat to smoke for approximately 6 to 8 hours. The easiest way to tell if the meat is done is when the edges appear dry, while the body of the meat still holds some moisture (more on this below).
  10. Store the jerky in sealable plastic bags or an airtight plastic jar. This should keep the jerky preserved for about a week at room temperature (for further preservation, you may opt to refrigerate or freeze the jerky in sealable plastic bags).

Smoking jerky with a dehydrator

While not essential, dehydrators are a great addition to preparing jerky. This is because they dehydrate jerky and kill bacteria without the risk of over smoking or overcooking the jerky in the smoker. 

To use a dehydrator, simply remove jerky from your smoker after 2 hours. Then place the jerky in a dehydrator between 4 to 6 hours at 160F. 

How To Tell When Beef Jerky Is Done?  

As mentioned above, the four methods of checking to see if smoked beef jerky is done involve texture, moisture, grease, and taste. Let’s take a more in-depth view of how to use each test. 

Smoked Beef Jerky Texture Test 

A key feature of beef jerky is that there is no “right answer” to determine when jerky is done. Instead, jerky sits on a spectrum in which wetter jerky is tastier and more flexible but doesn’t preserve as long, while drier jerky is tougher and lasts longer. 

While the texture is a question of preference, beef jerky needs to be smoked and dried enough to eliminate the possibility of harmful bacteria growing in the jerky. 

To test the texture of beef jerky, remove the jerk from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, bend the jerky gently with your hands. 

If the jerky tears, then it isn’t ready. If it cracks and crumbles, the jerky is overcooked.

Smoked Beef Jerky Moisture Test 

Similar to the texture test. There is a level of variability when determining how dry you want your jerky to be. However, a good method of testing moisture is to cut your jerky and to look in the center of its thickest section. 

If the inside of your jerky is pink. This indicates the meat is raw, and it is not safe to consume. While the center can have a slight red tinge, it should ideally be darkened and hardened from the smoking/dehydrating process.

Smoked Beef Jerky Grease Test 

Beef jerky should be firm and leathery. If you see grease glistening on the jerky’s exterior or the jerky leaves a sticky residue when handling it, it means the jerky needs to be smoked/dried for longer.

Smoked Beef Jerky Taste Test 

Finally, a taste test is essential for determining the safety of the jerky and its flavor profile. Jerky should be tough but soft enough that it doesn’t crumble when you bite into it.


Smoking beef jerky can be a lengthy process that requires patience and constant testing throughout the smoking/drying process. 

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