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Traeger Smoked Chicken Jerky

We’re all familiar with beef and turkey jerky, but chicken jerky is far less common. While it’s difficult to fill the shoes of beef jerky in terms of chewiness, chicken is great for making extra lean jerky and very budget friendly. And making Traeger jerky produces an awesome smoky flavor that’s hard to replicate with only dehydrated jerky.

That said, I’ll also show you how to make chicken jerky without a smoker by using the dehydrator function of an air fryer. Keep reading to learn all about jerky marinades, how to make jerky on a Traeger, and how to make it without a smoker.

smoked chicken jerky on a plate

Marinade for Chicken Jerky

You can go so many different directions for jerky marinades, but I kept it simple with only three ingredients:

  • Bachan’s Japanese Barbecue Sauce – The same sauce from our BBQ chicken fried rice recipe, this stuff is amazing. It provides salty, umami, and sweet flavors all at once.
  • Sriracha – You could substitute this for chili garlic sauce or other chili pastes like gochujang, sambal oelek, or harissa. Think: spicy, fermented, aromatic (garlic/ginger), etc.
  • Rice Vinegar – Acidity to tenderize. Read our Traeger fajitas post for more marinade science.

Most marinades for jerky include soy sauce for its glutamic acid content and salty, umami flavor. You’ll also find other components like Worcestershire sauce, honey, vinegars, salt, black pepper, and other dried spices and herbs.

slices of chicken breast in a marinade

More jerky marinade ideas:

  • This turkey jerky recipe uses brown sugar for sweetness, liquid smoke, and curing salt. Will from Jerkyholic is a great resource for all things jerky, by the way.
  • Jerk turkey jerky made scotch bonnets and a beaucoup of spices.
  • This Traeger turkey jerky uses chili garlic sauce and lime juice in addition to curing salt.

Jerky without Curing Salt?

My recipe doesn’t call for curing salt because it includes notes for heating the jerky to a food safe temperature of 165ºF and consuming within a 2-week window. If you’d like to extend the shelf life, adding a curing salt is a great idea to ensure all bacteria is removed during the jerky making process.

How to Make Traeger Chicken Jerky

A pound of jerky on the Traeger Pro 575 should take around two and a half to three hours at 200ºF. Match the type of wood pellets to your marinade for best results.

sliced and marinated chicken breast on a Traeger grill

You can smoke more jerky at one time on larger Traeger grills. Using a second rack in the smaller 575 model is also another way you could create space for larger batches of jerky.

How to Make Jerky in an Instant Vortex Pro Air Fryer

I referenced the Instant Pot’s recipe for ultimate beef jerky in the Vortex Pro for time and temperature recommendations, and they were on the money. Three hours, switching the racks halfway through cooking, at 160ºF using the dehydrate function made perfect chicken jerky.

finished chicken jerky on a rack of the instant vortex pro

Making jerky in an air fryer is a great hack, in my opinion. Clean up is much easier than the grill, and you can easily switch from the dehydrate function to the bake function at the end to take the jerky to a food safety recommended internal temperature of 165ºF.

One downside of using the air fryer method is the lack of true smoke flavor. If you’re comfortable with the ingredients, consider adding something like liquid smoke to your marinade to mimic the smoky flavor.

Instant Vortex Pro air fryer chicken jerky

And that’s a wrap. I’ve included notes and additional resources about safe jerky storage in the recipe card’s notes section below. If you have any other questions, I’ll do my best to help out in the comments. I hope you enjoy your chicken jerky!

homemade chicken jerky on a plate

Homemade Chicken Jerky

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Marinate: 8 hours
Total Time: 11 hours 15 minutes

Sweet and spicy chicken jerky two ways—smoked on a Traeger grill and dehydrated in the Instant Vortex Pro air fryer.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, frozen for 30-60 minutes or thawed from frozen for 60 minutes
  • 1/4 cup (76g) Bachan's Japanese Barbecue Sauce (or a 3:1 mix of BBQ sauce and soy sauce)
  • 2 Tablespoons (30g) Sriracha
  • 1 Tablespoon (15g) Rice Vinegar

Instructions

  1. Slice the chicken lengthwise into 1/8" to 1/4" slices, aiming for a consistent thickness. Trim and discard any excess fat and connective tissue.
  2. Mix the marinade ingredients together and toss with the chicken in a resealable bag or bowl you can tightly cover. Marinate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.
  3. When ready to cook, strain the chicken and discard any excess marinade.

For Traeger Smoked Jerky

  1. Preheat the Traeger to 200ºF before adding the chicken slices directly to the grill grates. Leave enough space between pieces for adequate air flow.
  2. Smoke for 2.5 to 3 hours or until the jerky bends without any moisture seeping out or breaking/snapping. It should have a dry and leathery appearance and you should see white fibers when tearing the jerky apart.

For Instant Vortex Pro Jerky

  1. Add the chicken to the trays/baskets and set the dehydrator function to 160ºF for 3 hours.
  2. Switch the trays halfway through cooking and use the same cues as above for telling when the jerky is done. See the notes below for a post-treatment method and food safety best practices.

Notes

Food Safety Notes

If you'd like to ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF, you can place the finished jerky in a 250ºF to 275ºF oven for 5-10 minutes. Keep a close eye and check with a food thermometer often to avoid burning the jerky.

You can also steam or bake the chicken in its marinade to an internal temperature of 165ºF before smoking or drying.

More safe jerky drying best practices.

Storage Notes

Let the chicken jerky fully cool to room temperature and press between paper towels to remove any excess moisture before packaging for storage. Store in an airtight container or vacuum sealed container.

"Properly dried and treated (pre-heating or post-heating) jerky can safely be stored for up to two weeks at room temperature or three to six months in the refrigerator. For highest food quality, store in a cool and dry location." - Ohio State University Extension

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 110Total Fat: .5gCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 18g

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