How to Make Fish Jerky

Learn how to make jerky from fish, which is great for snacking as well as using in homemade soups and chowders.

| July/August 1982

  • Crappie
    Flavorful fish jerky starts with lean-fleshed swimmers such as crappie, bass, or pike. Fillet your catch by carefully cutting the meat from the bones.

  • Crappie

The next time you find yourself with a king-sized mess of fish, why not dry up a batch of seafood jerky? This old-time edible makes an inexpensive, nutritious snack all by itself — and can serve as an important ingredient in your homemade soups and chowders, too.

Like other dried foods, the tough and tasty strips are lightweight, compact and easy to keep. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you'll find that fish jerky is an ideal trail snack. Also — when properly processed and stored — the chewy morsels are a valuable survival food.

Best of all, you can easily produce the victuals right at home in a dehydrator, kitchen oven, or smokehouse, or with the help of a hot summer sun.

How to Make Fish Jerky at Home

Fish with a low fat content (bass, pike, and crappie, for example) are the best candidates for jerky. Oily species such as catfish should be avoided for this use, because they're more likely to become rancid.

Once your catch is in hand, the first step is to fillet and skin the finny critters.

When that's accomplished, cut the meat into convenient 1-by-6-by-as-thin-as-possible strips. (With very small fish — such as smelt — just clean out the innards and remove the heads. The small bones can be eaten.)

Then move on to the next step: seasoning your snacks. A little added flavor before drying will make the jerky even more toothsome and can also aid in its preservation. Just soak the strips for a few minutes in soy sauce and drain or blot off the excess moisture.

How to Dry Out Fish Jerky

As I noted above, fish can be dried in a number of ways. Smokehouses and cabinet dehydrators will, of course, do a fine job. But, lacking those contrivances, you'll probably find the oven most convenient. Simply place the fish (close together, but not touching) directly on the oven rack, or — if that grate's spaces are too wide — cover the rack with a nongalvanized mesh or screen (galvanized metal may give off toxic fumes). Wipe the metal surfaces with a thin coat of cooking oil to keep your fish from sticking, and put aluminum foil or cookie sheets down below to catch any drippings.

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