How to Tenderize Jerky

by Esperance Barretto

Depending upon the type of the meat you plan to use to prepare jerky, there are several ways to soften and tenderize it. While this snack food is commonly prepared from beef, you can also use firm cuts of meats such as pork, venison, turkey, tuna and salmon. Flatten the meat, score the flesh and marinate it with an acidic agent to break up the muscle fibers and tenderize the jerky.

Place tough meats such as beef, pork and venison in between two layers of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Use a tenderizing mallet to pound and flatten the meat and soften the muscle fibers.

Score and slice tough meats across the fibers with a sharp knife. Cutting the meat against the grain will soften it and prevent the jerky from tasting rubbery.

Prepare a liquid marinade with acid-based ingredients such as vinegar, lemon juice, wine or orange juice. Add cooking oil, soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce and herbs including garlic, ginger, onion or chili powder. Mix well in a plastic bowl or plastic zipper bag. For 3 pounds of meat, combine around 2/3 cup each of oil and sauce with 1 tablespoon of each of the herbs.

Place the meat in the marinade liquid and refrigerate. Toss the meat around in the marinade at regular intervals to ensure that it absorbs the liquid evenly. Allow lean cuts of meat such as turkey, salmon and tuna to marinate for around four hours before wiping dry and dehydrating them. Marinate tougher cuts of meats including beef and venison overnight, as these meats take longer to tenderize.

Items you will need

  • Plastic wrap or waxed paper
  • Tenderizing mallet
  • Knife
  • Vinegar, lemon juice, wine or orange juice
  • Cooking oil
  • Soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce
  • Garlic, ginger, onion and chili powder
  • Plastic bowl or plastic zipper bag


  • If using ground meats to prepare jerky, rub dry spice powders all over the meat instead of a liquid marinade. Ground meat is soft and does not require tenderization with a liquid marinade, which will cause it to disintegrate.
  • Use a chef’s syringe to inject the liquid marinade into thicker cuts of jerky.


  • Do not reuse the marinade, as it may be contaminated with bacteria from the raw meat.