What Parts of Elk Do You Use for Jerky? The Best Elk Meat for Jerky Explained

What Parts of Elk Do You Use for Jerky? The Best Elk Meat for Jerky Explained

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If you've ever ventured into the world of making your own elk jerky, you've likely faced that moment of hesitation staring at the butchered animal before you. What parts of elk do you use for jerky? Which cut will bring out that savory perfection? 

The sheer range of choices can be enough to transform the excitement of making jerky into a stress-filled ordeal. We've all been there - staring, pondering, second-guessing. But, because we’ve spent more than a century perfecting our jerky-making technique, you can rely on us to guide you through this process.

From top round to flank, we’ll cover the best elk meat for jerky below. You’ll even learn how to cut elk meat for jerky to maximize your meat and make the most of this fun, rewarding, delicious experience. 

And remember - if you ever decide you’d rather just buy from the best, our selection of elk jerky for sale is second to none at Mahogany Smoked Meats. That being said, let’s start this conversation by looking at why choosing the best elk meat for jerky making can’t be overlooked.

Why Choosing the Best Elk Meat for Jerky is a Critical Part of the Process

Just as with the best cut for beef jerky, you need the best elk meat for jerky to fully appreciate the unique flavor and tender delight of this jerky type. We’ll take a look at the intricate manner in which the cut of meat affects the end product below.

The Symphony of Cuts

Just as an orchestra has different instruments, each elk has varied cuts, and each one sings a unique tune. Here's why:

  • Texture & Tenderness: Different cuts have distinct textures. While some are inherently tender, like the loin, others, such as the shank, offer more resistance or chew. Your preferred jerky bite - whether it's a soft chew or a meatier tug - will largely be influenced by the cut you choose.
  • Flavor Depth: Every cut has its own intrinsic flavor. The backstrap might be milder and sweeter, while the flank, closer to the bone, may offer a deeper, gamier taste. Selecting the right cut lets you dictate the primary flavor note of your jerky, even before marinades come into play.
  • Grain Direction & Marinade Absorption: The direction of the meat grain in different cuts impacts how they absorb marinades. Some cuts, with their open fibers, act like sponges, soaking up flavors, while others provide a more even, subtle absorption.
  • Fat Distribution: Contrary to popular belief, fat isn't the enemy of jerky. In the right proportions, it can be a flavor enhancer. Different cuts have varied fat distributions, which can either elevate your jerky's taste or compromise its shelf life.

The Relationship Between Meat Quality and End Flavor

Beyond choosing the right part of elk for your jerky-making process, it’s important that the meat itself is of the utmost quality. The saying “you are what you eat” isn't exclusive to humans. It applies to animals as well. 

Elk that have grazed on quality pastures, roamed free, and lived without undue stress yield meat that's not only healthier but profoundly richer in taste. This natural, untainted flavor of the elk meat becomes the backbone of your jerky's final taste profile.

But meat quality doesn't stop at the elk's lifestyle. The age of the animal, and how the meat is butchered, processed, and even stored play pivotal roles. 

Aging the meat appropriately, for instance, allows enzymes to break down complex proteins, enhancing its flavor and tenderness. And when this high-quality meat meets the right marinade or smoking technique, the synergy creates an unparalleled taste experience.

All that being said, let’s get into what brought you here today: what parts of elk do you use for jerky?

So, What Parts of Elk Do You Use for Jerky?

As you now know, the art of crafting the perfect elk jerky hinges on selecting the best cuts of meat. The right cut means the difference between a good jerky and an exceptional one. 

But with a creature as majestic and as large as the elk, where do you start? What parts of elk do you use for jerky?

Knowing which part to use can be a game-changer for those committed to producing top-notch jerky. Below, we’ll delve into the top 5 cuts coveted by jerky enthusiasts and explain why they stand out.

Top Round

The top round cut from the hind leg is renowned for its lean profile. It provides a perfect balance of tenderness and chewiness. Its minimal fat content ensures that the flavors of the marinade shine through, while its dense texture guarantees a satisfying bite every time.


This abdominal cut, while leaner than most, boasts a pronounced grain which gives the jerky an enhanced chewiness. Flank guarantees a jerky that's both flavorsome and memorable. This makes it a favorite for many due to its distinct texture.


Sirloin is taken from the mid-rear of the elk and offers a mix of tenderness and flavor. This cut, with its slight marbling, imparts a richer taste to the jerky. Sirloin-based jerky can encapsulate a multitude of flavors when smoked, making each bite a savory revelation.

Eye of Round

The eye of round is another cut from the hind leg. It is similar to the top round but is more cylindrical in shape. It’s lean and devoid of tough connective tissues. This ensures that the jerky produced is uniformly tender and absorbs marinades exceptionally well.

Bottom Round

Located adjacent to the top round, the bottom round is lean but a tad tougher. It offers a more robust chew, making it ideal for those who prefer their jerky to have a bit more resilience. 

Despite its firmer texture, when cured and smoked appropriately, it can deliver a jerky experience that's both flavorful and enduring.

Why Some Parts Are Preferred Over Others

The ideal jerky cut is typically lean, which is why certain parts of the elk are more sought after. Cuts with less fat are less prone to rancidity, giving the jerky a longer shelf life. Moreover, leaner cuts absorb marinades more uniformly and dry evenly, ensuring consistent flavor and texture.

However, there's also the matter of texture preference. As mentioned, cuts like the bottom round, with more connective tissue, offer a different chew experience, which can be enticing for those looking for a tougher bite.

The Value of Fat Content in Elk Jerky

While lean cuts are the gold standard for jerky, dismissing the role of fat entirely would be an oversight. Fat is flavor. When those little marblings of fat melt during the drying process, they infuse the surrounding meat with a richer taste. 

However, this is a double-edged sword. Too much fat can reduce the jerky's shelf life and result in an overly greasy product. 

Thus, striking a balance is crucial. It's about having just enough fat to enhance the flavor, but not so much that it compromises the jerky's texture and longevity.

How to Cut Elk Meat for Jerky: Tips for Making the Most of Your Meat

Now that you know the best elk meat for jerky, how do you actually go about separating it from the animal? 

If you’re not feeling confident in how to cut elk meat for jerky, you can always outsource the work to a local butcher. This will cost you a pretty penny but saves you a ton of hassle and headaches. 

However, we’ll guide you through how to cut elk meat for jerky below if you’re willing to try something new and give it a shot! It starts with understanding the grain…

Understanding the Grain: How to Slice for Best Texture

Elk meat, like all meats, has a distinct grain - lines that run through the meat representing the muscle fibers. This grain plays a significant role in the texture and feel of your jerky. There are two ways to go about this: cutting with or against the grain. There are pros and cons to each.

If you prefer your jerky to have a more tender bite that breaks apart easily in your mouth, you'll want to slice against the grain. This method severs the muscle fibers, making the jerky easier to chew.

On the other hand, those who cherish a chewier, more rugged texture should consider slicing with the grain. This keeps the muscle fibers long, lending your jerky that traditional, fibrous feel.

Thickness Matters: Finding the Perfect Slice

The thickness of your slices can make or break your jerky experience. Again, this comes down to personal preference:

  • Thin Slices (1/8 to 1/4 inch): These dry faster and offer a crispier outcome. While they are wonderful for a quick snack, they might not capture the full depth of flavors from your marinade.
  • Thicker Slices (1/4 to 1/2 inch): These are juicier and offer a more profound flavor profile. However, they take longer to dry and require more attention during the dehydration process to ensure they're dried thoroughly.

Remember, consistency is crucial. Uneven slices will dry at different rates, leading to some pieces being over-dehydrated while others remain underdone. 

So while it is entirely up to you whether you go with thick or thin slices, just be sure you’re uniform in your slicing process to ensure all slices are relatively the same. 

Marinating Your Cuts: Enhancing the Natural Elk Flavor

Once you've mastered the cut, it's time to marinate. Elk meat, with its natural, gamey flavor, is a delight on its own. 

However, marination can elevate it to sublime levels. This is where the real fun begins, as you can get creative with your elk jerky recipe. Below, we’ll offer some advice on how to go about this:

  • Preparation: Before marinating, ensure your elk slices are devoid of any excess moisture. Pat them dry with a kitchen towel. This aids in the marinade adhering better to the meat.
  • Time: While a quick dip in the marinade can impart some flavor, for a rich, deep infusion, let your elk slices marinate for at least 12 hours. If you can extend that to 24 hours, even better.
  • Balancing Flavors: Elk meat has a distinct taste. Your marinade should complement, not overpower, this flavor. Simple ingredients like soy sauce, garlic, a touch of brown sugar, and pepper can work wonders. However, feel free to experiment and find what works best for you.

More Advice on Making Your Own Jerky From Elk

Crafting the perfect elk jerky involves a mix of intuition, experimentation, and expertise. For those embarking on this delicious journey, here are some pivotal pieces of advice to guide you:

  • Start Simple: Begin with foundational ingredients like soy sauce, Worcestershire, garlic, onion powder, and black pepper. Let the elk's distinctive flavor be the star, complemented by these seasonings.
  • Experiment and Iterate: Making jerky is as much an art as it is a science. Feel free to mix and match herbs, spices, and sauces until you hit your flavor sweet spot.
  • Add a Sweet Kick: A hint of honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup can add depth and balance to the savory profile of elk meat.
  • Spice It Up (If That's Your Thing): For a touch of heat, consider red pepper flakes or cayenne. But always ensure it complements, not overpowers, the elk's natural taste.
  • Choose the Right Drying Method: From smokers to ovens, each drying method imparts a unique flavor and texture to your jerky. Choose based on your desired outcome and available tools.
  • Understand Drying Times: These can vary depending on factors like slice thickness and the chosen drying method. Regular checks are essential to ensure optimal moisture removal without making the jerky too dry.
  • Post-Drying Rest: After the drying phase, allow your jerky to cool at room temperature. This final step solidifies flavors and texture, ensuring a delightful eating experience.

You can learn more about making elk jerky in our blog, as we have resources on the best wood for smoking elk jerky, storing elk jerky in the freezer, how to actually go about making the jerky, and more. 

However, if you want some inspiration as you try new recipes, you can pick up some of the most delicious elk jerky the world has to offer right here at Mahogany Smoked Meats.

Treat Yourself to the Most Delicious Elk Jerky Online at Mahogany Smoked Meats!

There's an art to making elk jerky, an art we've honed and perfected over the years. At Mahogany Smoked Meats, we're passionate about delivering the kind of elk jerky that makes taste buds dance.

We don’t just have a premium selection of elk jerky waiting for you to try it, either. Our entire range of premium jerky online is worth exploring - from the classics like beef jerky for sale to other exotic varieties like buffalo jerky for sale, wild boar jerky for sale, fish jerky for sale

Ethically sourced, expertly seasoned, and smoked to perfection, our jerky is a testament to our dedication to excellence. And we can’t wait to hear what you think of it.

Whether you choose the best beef jerky online or gain inspiration from our tantalizing elk jerky varieties, we’re confident that our jerky will exceed your expectations. There is only one way to find out, though - try out smoked meats today.

Final Thoughts on the Best Elk Meat for Jerky

Choosing the best elk meat for jerky is a journey into the heart of flavor, texture, and tradition. So, what parts of elk do you use for jerky? From top round to sirloin, bottom round, flank, and more, there are many options. 

If you have a whole elk to work with, though, try a few and see which you prefer for future iterations! As you embark on your own jerky-making adventures, remember the importance of starting with quality cuts and applying the best techniques. 

But for those moments when you'd rather sit back and enjoy the fruits of another's labor, know that Mahogany Smoked Meats is always here, ready to offer you a bite of perfection. Get the best-tasting, healthiest jerky online at Mahogany Smoked Meats today.