As it is known today, jerky is generally synonymous with North America, though it derives from the Peruvian ‘Ch’arki’, which translates as “to burn meat”. Dating back thousands of years, the South American tribe of Quechua would hunt buffalo – the main source of meat at the time – which was boned, sliced into long strips and massaged with salt. The meat would then be dried under the sun before either being treated with slow smoke or dehydrated for at least two-to-three days. When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in South America, the native preserved dried meat products become popular with the Spaniards embracing the cooking method prized for its portability, eventually experimenting with new meats such as venison, deer, and other wild game animals. Today, beef jerky remains the most popular global option, though variants such as lamb, venison, bison, kangaroo, and salmon jerky are also readily available.
A particularly popular snack in Alaska, salmon jerky is at its best when made using a dehydrator, but can also be prepared at home using domestic ovens. Some producers also smoke the fish to bring out even bolder smoky flavours.
Healthy and filled with protein, this salmon jerky recipe sees the fish cut into strips, marinaded overnight in soy sauce, maple syrup, liquid smoke, hot sauce and lemon juice, then very slowly dried out. Once cool, it’s then stored in an airtight container and can last for up to 2-3 months if stored properly.
Salmon jerky cooking tips
When using salmon, sourcing sustainably caught fish is extremely important. But for salmon jerky, it’s also worth using wild salmon fillets as the resulting jerky will have far better flavour.
Although fat is where the flavour lies in so many things, it’s actually the enemy when making jerky as it can quickly turn rancid. Ideally use salmon fillets cut from the tail, rather than the belly.
Before preparing the salmon jerky, it’s also important to make sure the fish is pin boned. Your fishmonger should be able to do this for you, otherwise run your fingers over the flesh and feel for any sharp bones. Use clean pliers or tweezers to remove them.
If marinating for longer than the suggested time, leaving the skin intact will keep the salmon flesh together and prevent it from easily breaking apart.
- Dehydrator (recommended, but not essential)
- 500 g salmon fillet boneless and skin removed
- 100 ml light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp liquid smoke
- 1 tsp hot sauce of your choice
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Sea salt
- To begin, remove the skin from the salmon fillets if still intact and pin bone the fish. Place the salmon in the freezer for 20-30 minutes to make it easier to slice.
- Once chilled, use a sharp knife to slice the salmon into ¼ – ½-inch slices length-wise, then slice each length into roughly 3-inch pieces.
- In a bowl or ziplock bag, add the soy sauce, maple syrup, liquid smoke, hot sauce lemon juice, and a good pinch of both salt and pepper. Mix together and place the salmon pieces into this mixture, cover with cling-film or seal and place in the fridge for 8-12 hours.
- Once marinated, strain the salmon and pat dry with kitchen roll. Lay the salmon slices on dehydrator trays, making sure no pieces are touching, and dehydrate at 57C/135F for 4-6 hours dependent on your dehydrator. Once finished, the salmon jerky should be dry and slightly chewy, but not brittle.
- If using an oven to dehydrate your salmon jerky, heat the oven to its lowest setting. Prepare baking sheets by lining with foil, then topping with wire racks for the jerky to cook on. (If you only have one baking tray/wire rack, the jerky can be cooked in batches). Evenly lay the jerky out on wire racks, in a single layer, and place in the oven. Cook until dry and firm, yet slightly pliable. This can take anywhere from 1-4 hours depending on personal preference and the heat of your oven. After the first hour of cooking, check on the salmon every 30 minutes, turning occasionally.
- Leave to cool completely, then place in an airtight container or clean zip lock bag.
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