Making great chicken jerky at home is a snap and only requires a few simple tools. If you’re looking to change things up with your snack cabinet, chicken jerky is a delicious and easy to make at home.
To make the best chicken jerky at home simply pop your chicken breasts in the freezer for about an hour to firm it up. Slice the chicken into ¼’’ to ½’’ strips and then let them sit in a marinade for one to four days in the refrigerator. Once the chicken is marinated simply lay the pieces in your food dehydrator at 165 degrees Fahrenheit or in the oven on a cooling rack at 200 degrees Fahrenheit with the door open. Plan to dry the chicken for four to eight hours and flip the pieces over halfway through. After your chicken is dry, pop it in the oven at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes to ensure that any remaining bacteria is killed off.
This article is the one-stop-shop for all the information you need to make the best, tastiest chicken jerky at home. Making jerky at home is by far more cost effective than buying it at the store and it can be fun to experiment with different flavors of marinade. I hope after reading this article you feel inspired to use up your extra chicken and create a new, healthy snack for yourself!
Tools Needed To Make Chicken Jerky
There are only a few tools you need to make chicken jerky at home. These tools include a sharp knife, a clean cutting board, a food dehydrator, or if you don’t have a food dehydrator, a cooling rack and a baking sheet you can leave in the oven. Let’s go over these one by one.
- Sharp Knife: In order to cut the meat cleanly and easily you need to make sure you have a sharpened knife. Believe me, it makes a difference when slicing the meat. If your knife is dull you may end up with ragged, unevenly thick pieces that will dry at different rates.
- Clean Cutting Board: Remember when working with raw chicken it’s important to keep all your utensils you use in preparation separate from other items in the kitchen to prevent cross contamination.
- Food Dehydrator: You can purchase a food dehydrator for as little as $60, and they get more expensive the more bells and whistles they have. If you’re going to do any emergency preparedness at all, I strongly suggest purchasing a food dehydrator. It’s much more efficient than using the oven to dehydrate food.
- Cooling Rack and Baking Sheet: If you don’t want to purchase a food dehydrator you can absolutely use your oven to dry out food. Simply place your chicken on a cooling rack over a baking sheet and pop them in the oven. The baking sheet will catch any drippings, whether fat or sauce, and make cleanup easier.
Which Cut Of Chicken Makes the Best Jerky?
You can use almost any cut of chicken for jerky as long as it doesn’t have fat or tendons on it. Most people will gravitate towards using breast meat as this cut will allow you to slice nice big pieces off. Some people avoid thigh meat as it is a little fattier, however almost any part of the chicken will dry out nicely as it isn’t a particularly fatty meat to begin with.
How To Slice Chicken To Make Jerky
Raw chicken is notoriously slippery to work with. To make the chicken easier to handle, place the chicken in the freezer for 45 minutes to an hour and half to firm it up. You don’t want the chicken to freeze completely though as it will be impossible to slice. You just want it to hold it’s shape while you cut it.
Slice your chicken between ¼’’ and ½’’ inch thick. Try to be consistent with how thick your cuts are so that all your meat dries at the same rate. Don’t cut strips too much over ½’’ inch or the inside of the cut may not dry out properly.
If you want to get a visual tutorial on how to slice the meat, check out this video.
Marinating the meat is the most fun part for me because this is where I get to decide what I want my jerky to turn out tasting like. You can get creative here and the only rule of thumb I’d use would be to say to use enough marinade to coat all the pieces evenly.
One very easy marinade I use is to just take a pre-made barbeque sauce, mix it with some red pepper flakes and marinade my meat overnight in that.
Best Chicken Jerky Marinades
Easy Marinade (for 1 lb of chicken):
- Pre-made barbeque sauce (any flavor)
- 1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper
Traditional Marinade (for 1 lb of chicken):
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup soy sauce or coconut aminos
- 1 Tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
- ½ Tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1/3 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/3 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/3 teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Asian Inspired Marinade (for 1 lb of chicken):
- ½ cup soy sauce or coconut aminos
- ¼ cup teriyaki sauce
- ¾ Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ¾ teaspoon smoked salt
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¾ teaspoon black pepper
- ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper
No matter which recipe you choose, place all your chicken and your marinade in a plastic bag, seal the bag, and then squish all the marinade around the chicken until it is evenly coated. You can achieve the same result by just adding all the items to a bowl and covering it.
Place the marinaded meat in the refrigerator.
For best results plan to marinade your chicken for a minimum of overnight, but up to four days.
Dehydrating Chicken Jerky
When you’re ready to place the jerky in the dehydrator simply lay the pieces onto the drying racks, being sure to give each piece lots of space. You want to make sure each piece gets enough room for the air and heat to circulate around.
Set the temperature on your dehydrator, or oven, to around 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Many ovens will only go as low as 200 degrees, in which case just crack the door to let some heat out and give it better air circulation.
Chicken jerky will need to dehydrate for between four to eight hours. You may want to flip the pieces over halfway through the process for the quickest dry time.
You will also notice, no matter what you’re drying out, that the rack closest to the heat source will dry out more quickly than the others. For this reason, depending on the design of your dehydrator, you may want to rotate the racks as well so the one farthest from the heat source spends some time closer to the heat source.
Post Heat Treatment
The purpose of doing a post heat treatment is to give the meat one last shock of heat to kill of any remaining bacteria that didn’t die during the dehydration process.
To do you post heat treatment simply bake the jerky in the oven at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.
Confession: I don’t think I’ve ever done a post heat treatment and it’s always turned out fine, but honestly, it’s not going to hurt anything to do one, so might as well be safer than sorry.
How Long Does Chicken Jerky Keep?
Chicken jerky should keep for about 2-3 weeks at room temperature and 4-6 weeks in a refrigerator. I usually eat my jerky fast enough I don’t have to worry about keeping it for long periods of time, but if you’re looking to lay in jerky as an emergency preparation ration be sure to store it in a place it will keep for long periods of time!