How to Make Beef Jerky
Beef jerky has long been a favourite, and its popularity doesn’t show any signs of waning. It is tasty, and lasts a very long time – if you can stop yourself from eating it all immediately! Fortunately, it is so easy to make, and will taste as good, and possibly better than any store bought product you may find.
The popularity of beef jerky is often tempered by the high cost of buying it, whether from the local deli, or in packages from grocery or convenience stores. Some producers add various preservatives and other ingredients that may not be attractive to many consumers. Fortunately, there is an easy way to make your own beef jerky, at a tiny fraction of the cost of buying it, and without the additional preservatives and other additives.
There are various methods to make beef jerky, and we will present the 3 most common – air dried/dehydrated, smoked and slow cooked. Each of these vary only in the final step of drying/smoking, or cooking the meat, and the preparation and recipe is the same for all. The great thing about how to make beef jerky is that you have total flexibility in exactly how you spice and flavour your jerky.
- 3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon honey, or more to taste
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 pounds beef top round, thinly sliced
- Any additional spices or liquid smoke if you like
The first step of marinating and preparing the meat is the same for all techniques, regardless of whether you will air dry, bake, smoke, or use a dehydrator.
- Slice the beef into thin slices – these can be as thick, or as thin as you prefer, though generally you want them to be fairly thin in order for the jerky to be the correct texture and thickness to eat easily. Be sure to remove as much of the fat as possible, as this will help the meat to last longer after preparing. The fat is the portion of the meat that will go off more quickly, so removing it will give you a longer lasting jerky.
- Take all of the ingredients and combine them in a glass bowl, which will be big enough to hold all the meat once it is added – give the ingredients a thorough mix to ensure a consistent marinade – adding liquid smoke to your marinate will provide the smoked flavour that many people enjoy. You can add a tablespoon of liquid smoke if you like, especially if you will only be baking or drying your meat without the use of a smoker.
- Add the meat to the marinade, ensuring all the meat is covered and well coated in the marinade.
- At this point you can transfer the meat and the marinade into a ziplock bag for easier placement, or you can cover it in the bowl, and let sit in a refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours, though overnight or up to 12 hours is a better choice. This will ensure the meat is completely saturated and well flavored.
- After marinating for the chosen period of time, remove the meat from the marinate, and place on paper towel to remove excess liquid, so they are dry.
- Prior to placing on the racks for the next step, you can sprinkle additional salt, pepper or other flavourings on top for added flavour.
- Preheat your oven to a very low setting – the lower the better, as a longer cooking time will ensure a more consistent dry jerky – 175 degrees F (80 degrees C) is a good setting.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack over the foil.
- Arrange beef slices in a single layer on the prepared wire rack on the baking sheet, ensuring that all the marinade has been dried off with the paper towel.
- Bake beef in the oven until dry and leathery, 3 to 4 hours. For a drier and more crispy jerky, feel free to cook the meat for a longer period of time – from 6 to 8 hours. Check it from time to time so you canenjoy it in exactly the way you like it. There is not “exact” timing here, it is largely dependent on how you like your jerky.
- Cut with scissors into bite-size pieces.
Smoking & Dehydrating Method:
Every smoker or dehydrator will have specific instructions regarding the way it should be used. By making use of the marinated technique above, simply follow your standard instructions for smoking and dehydrating your meat. One great product for dehydrating you may look into is from Magic Mill, and their multi-rack dehydrator, or Masterbuilt’s fantastic 800W smoker, both of which will do great jobs in helping you get the most out of your jerky.
Air drying can be done without a dehydrator, but will take a longer period of time, and some find the technique unsavoury, as it is not a closed system, and the meat is exposed to the open air.
To do this, simply hang the meat on a rack, preferably in a clean area, with a drip tray underneath (an oven rack can be used for this), and place a fan near to ensure consistent drying air blowing over the meat (this will also help to keep insects away). Keep this running for 24 to 48 hours, checking the meat regularly to determine the correct “dryness” that you are looking for. This method can be more of a health concern for some, so careful handling and a very clean environment is best for this. Some people prefer to hang their meat in a custom made box, with screen sides, to provide protection from any insects. It is a great and traditional technique for making jerky, and also tastes delicious.
Another interesting option to consider, is a similar form of dried meat, which is very popular known as Biltong. Check out our article on making Biltong, and you’ll be amazed and delighted at another delicious dried/preserved meat favourite!
Here is Mark Lowry’s video on making Beef Jerky – which is an easy great oven technique:
Let us know how it worked out! This is a delicious favourite for many, and we are excited to hear your results! The techniques and processes to make beef jerky are not complicated, and we look forward to hearing about your results.
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