The 10 Best Jerky Guns
This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in January of 2017. These jerky guns can be packed with your signature raw mixture that is then squeezed onto a baking tray or dehydrator in uniform pieces, helping turn ground beef, chicken, turkey, or venison into delicious morsels with little hassle. They're a must-have for anyone who enjoys tasty dried snacks, but not the high price tag of store-bought options. You don't need tons of cooking experience, either. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 07, 2020:
We bid goodbye to the Weston original, which was having fulfillment issues, but are glad to welcome some fun and effective new jerky guns to the list. The Presto 08632 is a solid beginner’s version for kid cooks or for those who want to try making their first jerky. The Delta Prime is a large, sturdy contraption that’s a nice upgrade for those looking to graduate to a more sophisticated system, and it has some great extras to help with cooking and cleaning up afterwards. For dedicated jerky-makers, the Eastman Outdoors Professional is solid with a big capacity, and comes with a metal cooking rack.
Of course, if you run out of homemade and want a quick fix, you can always check out options for ready-made beef jerkies, and don’t leave out your vegetarian and vegan friends and family. There’s a whole new world of vegan jerky for them, too.
October 16, 2019:
Unfortunately, The Judge from JerkySpot is no longer available, so we've removed it, along with the Weston Aluminum. For most, the Weston Original represents the best value among the company's offerings, so it's really the one to consider. As for top choices, we have kept the Cannon and the 555, both from LEM Products, a popular manufacturer in this space. Considering their durability, they are priced well, and they come packaged with seasoning for your convenience. The 555 is the smaller of the two; you'll want this one for modest batches and occasional use. Finally, we've opted to keep the Nesco Snackmaster Express. While it's true that its jerky gun can't match some of the more robust (and expensive) choices, the fact that it comes with a handy dehydrator makes it a good bargain, especially for those who want to make not just meat snacks but also fruit leather, dried herbs, and more.
Cabela's Electronic Jerky Blaster For the casual snacker, it might be overkill, but if you've got a big appetite and a lot of jerky to make, you might consider the Cabela's Electronic Jerky Blaster. True, it's more expensive than non-electric models, but it's also more powerful and should keep your hands from tiring too quickly. cabelas.com
Bojerky Want some inspiration for jerky flavors from some of the best makers in the country? Bojerky offers a premium subscription box and will send monthly packages of artisan-crafted, American-made jerky that you can compare to your homemade. bojerky.com
A Brief History Of Jerky
The first jerky was believed to be made by a South American tribe called the Quechua, who were part of the vast Incan empire.
It can seem unbelievable that our ancestors used to venture out on cross-country treks without ever stopping for beef jerky and a Big Gulp, but jerky is a food that's only a few hundred years old in the western world. Sure, people had been curing meats for storage for centuries, but that involved packing cumbersome slabs of meat, not carrying around a compact snack that was ideal for travel.
The first jerky was believed to be made by a South American tribe called the Quechua, who were part of the vast Incan empire. Made from either llama or alpaca, they called their new invention "ch'arki," which roughly translates to "burned meat."
When the Spanish Conquistadors came along starting in the 16th century C.E., they quickly recognized the value of this foodstuff, and it would end up being just one of many things they would take from the natives.
Meanwhile, just one continent north, the Cree Indians had created their own version of jerky, called "pemmican." They used buffalo, elk, or deer, and their recipe involved drying out strips of meat, and then mixing it with melted fat and dried fruit.
Once settlers started pouring into North America and Manifest Destiny was declared, jerky became even more popular. Explorers and traders would load up on the stuff before venturing into new areas where the availability of food was unknown, and miners, cowboys, and other people whose jobs took them far away from civilization would be sure to have large stores of jerky on hand.
After WWI, the Army began to include jerky in military rations, as well. In fact, they even experimented with ways to add caffeine to the meat in order to keep soldiers awake and alert, a practice that would later be borrowed by truck drivers.
Today, jerky is a convenience store staple, and it's enjoyed by hunters, road trip enthusiasts, and Paleo diet proponents alike. Indeed, there's likely a wider variety of jerky available today than ever before, so you could reasonably declare that we're living in a Jerky Renaissance.
Reasons To Make Your Own Jerky
With hundreds of different types of jerky available — and more being released all the time — you may think it's ridiculous to make your own jerky. However, there are several advantages to going DIY with your favorite snack.
Be sure to invite us over — just not on habanero sewer rat day.
The first is that making it yourself allows you to dictate what goes in it. Most commercially-available jerky is packed with sugar, sodium, and a whole host of chemicals, so by making it yourself, you can add whatever natural ingredients you like, keeping the flavor but ditching the empty calories.
Another obvious reason is because store-bought jerky is expensive. You can quickly find yourself needing to take out a second mortgage if you buy more than one bag at a time, but good luck pacing yourself. When you make it at home, however, you can create it in bulk, cutting down on costs while also providing yourself with enough jerky to feed a small army.
If you've always wanted to experiment with different flavors, but can only find boring old teriyaki at your local gas station, doing it yourself gives you free rein in the kitchen. You can mix up both the meat and the spices, so go wild! Cajun alligator? Sure, why not! Sweet and sour yak? Sounds good! Habanero sewer rat? Maybe step out of the kitchen for awhile!
The only downside, of course, is that you have to handle the clean-up afterwards. Luckily, making jerky is a relatively hassle-free process, so there should be a minimal mess unless you're really going crazy in the kitchen. It's also safer and easier to make than a lot of exotic dishes, so there's little chance of you screwing it up.
Once you start making it yourself, don't be surprised if you get hooked and start whipping up new batches every weekend. Be sure to invite us over — just not on habanero sewer rat day.
Jerky: Healthy Or Not?
Certainly, jerky is better for you than snacking on potato chips or candy bars, but is it really good for you?
A big part of the answer depends, of course, on what kind of jerky you're eating. If it's super-processed "sticks" that may or may not have any actual meat in it, than no, you should skip it. All you're getting there is a wheelbarrow-full of nitrates, not to mention sugar and salt.
That said, though, you could definitely do worse than chowing down on dried meat when the hunger bug strikes.
Fortunately, there are plenty of natural alternatives out there, including the homemade variety. Now, that doesn't mean you should switch to an all-jerky diet, but you'll at least be able to enjoy your favorite snack without sabotaging your diet.
On the sunny side of the ledger, jerky is chock-full of protein, so it's denser than other snacks. This means you should be able to limit your intake without starving to death (notice we said "should"). It will also give you more energy throughout the day, while being a smart choice for weightlifters and other exercise enthusiasts. After all, if it gives you a slight respite from yet another protein shake, then it's worth every penny.
Jerky's packed with zinc and iron, which can help heal your body and boost your immune system, so it's a great snack for people who are too on-the-go to eat or rest as often as they should. It won't raise your insulin levels, either, which is why it's such a popular choice for many low-carb diets.
At the end of the day, a healthy diet shouldn't rely too heavily on any one food, even if it is as delicious as jerky. That said, though, you could definitely do worse than chowing down on dried meat when the hunger bug strikes.