There were turkey breasts on sale this past week, and I took it as a sign that I was intended to make something I’ve been thinking about for a while — turkey jerky. I’ll let you google it yourself, because all the sites say the same thing — slice thinly, marinate and dehydrate, either in an oven or dehydrator. How hard could it be?
Well, the first step was the slicing thinly. I knew from experience with fruits and vegetables that getting uniform thickness can be difficult, but is important for even drying. With apples and sweet potatoes, I’ve used a mandolin, but that wasn’t going to work with this big ol’ turkey breast. My next thought was my trusty food processor and its lovely adjustable slicing blade. I set it for its thickest setting and fed in a test portion of the turkey breast. About half of the turkey came out nicely, uniformly, and thinly sliced, and the other half would be better described as ground meat. I did the rest of the cutting by hand, which produced thicker and less even slices, but made it easier to trim fat.
You know me — I’m always up for an experiment — so I kept my piles of turkey slices separate. I marinated the food processor slices (which were cut across the grain) in apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, and some pickling spices, and I marinated the hand-cut slices in apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, and a few drops of liquid smoke flavoring. Oh, and I put a few cloves of garlic in each.
While those went into the fridge to marinate, I put my ground turkey to good use by mixing in some fennel seeds, paprika, salt, pepper, egg, onion, and chopped radish greens to make mini-burgers for a tasty meal. I initially thought that these would be a vehicle for the delicious sweet hot mustard I had leftover from my corned beef, but I ended up being so happy with the fennel-paprika seasoning that I had most of them plain. Yes, most of them, even though you only see two burgers in this picture — I may have discovered a food photography secret: the meal is bound to look good if there’s not very much of it on the plate. I actually ate twice as much as was pictured here.
After about 12 hours of marinating, I dried the jerky on Sunday, when I was planning to be around the house and could check it regularly. I set the dehydrator for its highest setting (160F) and let it go about 10:30. By 12:30 I think all of it was cooked. By about 2:30 most of the thinly sliced stuff was done, and I reduced the heat to 130F. The rest of the hand-cut stuff finished over the next three hours, but I needed to keep checking it because different pieces finished at different times with their irregular thicknesses.
The verdict? Tasty! The pickling spice marinade was a little more interesting than the smokey one, and a little more natural tasting. I ate quite a few pieces before freezing the rest for later. I could probably just keep it in the cabinet, but I’m hoping that in the freezer, it’ll last longer. This jerky seems like a dangerously good method for eating four pounds of turkey breast in one sitting.
Notes for Next Time
- Hand slice, but try partially freezing the turkey before cutting to see if it makes it easier to cut evenly. Maybe this would make the food processor work better, too? Would I end up with less ground turkey?
- Pickling spices are good in the marinade, but make sure to remove all mustard seeds, bay leaves, etc. before drying. They aren’t any easier to get off afterwards
- Go easy on the liquid smoke in the marinade.
- Drying when you have time to monitor closely is a good idea, especially with uneven slices.