This is your introduction to the jerky gun. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about using a jerky gun, and can start making great tasting ground beef jerky at home right away.
The Jerky Gun
The jerky gun is the secret to getting professional looking strips of jerky out of your dehydrator. Since ground beef can be molded, the jerky gun presses out perfectly even strips of meat that look like they came from the store.
Essentially, a jerky gun is like a big caulking gun. The shape and function are basically the same. There is a barrel full of material, a dispensing tip, and a handle with a trigger to press out the jerky mixture.
You load the barrel with your meat and seasonings, and strips of jerky or jerky sticks exit the tip. It’s about as easy as you can possibly imagine to use, and the results are definitely worth the small price.
Jerky Gun Parts and Pieces
There are a lot of different jerky guns, but they all have nearly the same parts and pieces. This makes them easy to learn, and if you can use one of them you can likely use all of them.
The main part of the gun is the barrel. This is a large tube, many times clear, that you load with your meat and spice mixture. They come in different sizes depending on the gun you get, and the only difference is how many times you’ll have to fill it.
On one end of the jerky gun there is a ring and a tip. The tip is shaped like a piping tip or a pasta making tip, and the meat that exits the gun will have the same shape.
For most of these, they come in a single wide strip, a double strip, and a round stick shape. This lets you make a few styles of jerky with the same dispenser.
On the other side of the gun, there is a handle with a plunger that slides inside the barrel. As you press the handle, the plunger advances, pressing the jerky forward and ultimately out of the tip.
When the jerky gun is empty, you retract the plunger, and fill the barrel with meat again to keep going. It’s very easy, and the device makes strips that look like they came from a jerky factory.
Dispensing Tips for Making Jerky
There are three main shapes of jerky dispensing tips that will come with most ground beef jerky gun kits. They are:
- Large Flat Single Strip
- Flat Double Strip
- Single Round Shape
These three tips are the most commonly used in making homemade jerky, and your jerky gun will come with at least two of them normally.
The single wide tip makes a large strip of jerky. This is a bit bigger in most cases than you might be used to, though it’s an easy way to dispense a lot of product in a short amount of time.
The double tip also makes strips, but they are half the size as the big tip, making them easier to work with and easier to eat.
These strips are the most commonly used size, and they look very professional.
Finally, the round tip makes a tube or stick shaped jerky that is round and long. This is a common shape for jerky, and the pieces also look good.
The tip that you choose to use in your jerky gun really depends on your personal preference. You can make each one and see what you like, or just pick the double strip tip and know you have made a good choice.
As a beginner, you should try the others at least once. If you end up liking them more, you can keep on using them as you make more batches of homemade jerky.
What to Look for in a Good Jerky Gun
There are a lot of jerky guns on the market, but it’s easy to get a good gun and also a good deal. There are a few things to look for, and once you check those boxes, you should be all set.
First, since they are so inexpensive anyway, look for a model that has a larger barrel and holds more meat. There is nothing wrong with the smaller models, but you will have to load them twice as often.
The big guns have a barrel that will hold a pound of meat, which means you will only have to load it twice. In reality, adding spices and ingredients will inflate the batch, so you will have to load it about three times.
It’s still better than loading six times though, and worth the extra couple dollars over the tiny versions.
Another thing is to look for a name brand, and look at the construction. If the jerky gun feels loose, or poorly made, get something else.
These are nearly all made of plastic, but you can tell a difference between the good noes and the cheap ones.
If you can’t get your hands on the item before you buy it, look at reviews, or just look farther down in the post and get the same jerky gun I have. It’s been with me for years, and it always works well.
The Least Expensive Jerky Guns
Low priced models are typically only a couple dollars less than the main price point selection, though you can run into instances of low quality that you will want to avoid.
For example, cheaper guns tend to not fit well between the plunger and the barrel, causing meat to slide between them. This meat ends up behind the plunger, and it causes problems down the road.
Another problem with really cheap guns is the handle can sometimes break or stop working because of the higher pressure it takes to dispense meat. When this happens, your gun is trash, and you need to buy a new one.
Finally, the middle of the road jerky guns are really good, and they are about $15 to $25 each. This is such a low price already that it doesn’t make sense to save a few dollars to use junk when the good stuff is so inexpensive.
The High End Jerky Guns
The more expensive models typically have a few improvements that make them stand out. They are metal construction, metal tips, and higher capacity. If you want to load your gun once and be done, then high end is for you.
They are absolutely nice to have, just be prepared to spend about $40 to $60 depending on what you decide to buy. At this point, you are using the very best, and you will notice a nice difference.
The Best Jerky Gun
The jerky gun that I have, and what I consider to be the best jerky gun is the Nesco Jerky Works Jumbo Kit.
This is an inexpensive kit, but it has a lot of the features of the higher end kits.
First, it has a one pound capacity, which means a larger barrel, and more meat can go inside with each filling.
Next, it comes with a couple different tips, and that means you can make a couple different shapes of jerky with the same jerky gun.
Finally, the construction, mechanics, and overall quality of the item is really good. I’ve had other guns that are more expensive, and they have not been as easy to use or as quality feeling.
Don’t let the price fool you, this is a really nice beef jerky gun, and if you take care of it, you will get a lot of use from it.
How to Use a Jerky Gun
Using your jerky gun is pretty straight forward. The quick version is that you load the gun with your seasoned meat mixture, assemble the handle and barrel, and then pull the trigger.
Out of the tip will come your jerky strips, and you can lay them out on the dehydrator trays right from the gun. As you create strip after strip, the gun will eventually empty, and you can add more meat and make more strips until your meat is gone.
The slightly longer version is you need to wash your gun and all it’s parts first, and then dry them with a clean cloth. Then, choose a dispensing tip, and tighten it on one end of the barrel with the included ring.
Load the meat into the cylinder until it is full. As you put in each piece, press them down so you eliminate any air gaps. Small ones are ok, big ones will create gaps in your strips and they won’t look good.
Pull back the plunger on the handle all the way, and then screw the handle in place with the plunger inside the open end of the barrel. Pull the trigger a couple times to create pressure, and you will see meat starting to come out of the tip.
Point it downwards towards your dehydrator trays, about half an inch from the surface, and pull the trigger. As the meat comes out, move the gun backwards to lay out perfectly shaped strips.
Keep on doing this until your trays fill up, and the gun empties. Add more meat, and repeat the process until all the jerky meat has been made into strips no the dehydrator trays.
Washing and Cleaning Your Jerky Gun
The best way to keep your jerky gun in good shape and clean for when you need it is to wash it right after you use it. If you let the meat dry, it will weld itself to the insides of the gun, and be miserable to remove.
Most jerky guns are machine washable. Just pay attention to the little parts so they don’t fall down and make contact with the heating element.
Disassemble the unit and wash everything by hand to remove any meat chunks or debris that the dishwasher might have trouble getting to. Even powerful dishwashers are not perfect, so the more help you can give the better.
Ideally, the pieces should be free of debris but still need to be sanitized. Run the dishwasher, and when the pieces come out inspect them. If they still have any meat residue, hand wash them again and then run them through the dishwasher again.
You may need to soak the gun parts a second time to loosen up the meat that is stuck to the pieces. That’s ok. Soak the pieces in warm water for a couple hours and the meat should come off much more easily.
Storing Your jerky Gun
After you wash and inspect your gun, it’s time to store it away. Pick a place that is free of dust, and that you don’t have to worry about. Good candidates are back in the original box, or in a large zipper bag.
For storage location, choose the kitchen cupboard, pantry, or a drawer. This will help keep it from getting dusty, and that’s good for your jerky.
When you take it out again, give it a good rinse with water, and that should be all you need to get ready for making jerky.
It’s always a good idea to wash your equipment before you get started. Since jerky is a raw product, the more you practice safety in your preparation, the better your jerky will be.
Tips and Tricks
There are a few things that you will just have to learn as you use your jerky gun, but it can help to learn some of these tips and tricks before you begin. This way, you have a better idea of how to troubleshoot on the fly.
- It’s better to dispense your meat quickly and move your gun faster. You will make better looking strips, and there will be less breakage.
- Looser meat mixtures dispense better than dense mixtures. The meat will stick together better, and your strips will look more even and consistent.
- Pack the barrel eliminating air gaps. These will create gaps in your strips, and they will not come out as nice.
- Don’t crank down the ring that holds on the tip too hard. When it comes time to remove it for cleaning, it can be very difficult.
- Wash your jerky gun before and after use. Cleanliness when making jerky is very important, and it only takes a couple minutes to do it right.
Jerky Gun Recipes
The only recipes that you can use a jerky gun for are ground meat recipes. Most of these will be beef, though you can do other meats as well.
My Jerky Recipes are the best place to start with your brand new jerky gun, and there are plenty to get you started. The directions are all easy to follow, and you can start making excellent jerky right away.
You can also find lots of recipes in my ground beef jerky books, which are both available on Amazon.
Your Next Step
The only thing you will need after you have your jerky gun is a good dehydrator and I wrote the Ultimate Jerky Dehydrator Guide to tell you all about them.
This is a simple piece of kitchen equipment that is really common, inexpensive, and easy to find in stores and online.
Thankfully, a basic model is all you need, and you can get right to making jerky without a lot of practice. The machines are reliable, and the results are consistent.