Jerky is a delicious and convenient way to preserve meat, and it can even be done at home, even though you may be accustomed to purchasing it in plastic bags at the store. It is most commonly made from beef, but can be made from nearly any meat. It is especially popular to go hunting and then turn the meat into jerky, but of course you can make beef jerky from store-bought beef. Here's how to make beef jerky:
Ingredients and supplies:
- Lean cut of beef (sirloin, top round, eye round, etc)
- Beef marinade and seasonings (any, your choice)
- Food dehydrator or oven
- Wire racks and baking sheets (if using oven method)
- Trim and slice the meat. Remove any noticeable fat from the beef. Any fat left on the meat will make the beef jerky spoil faster, since the fat does not dry. Once the fat has been trimmed, slice the meat into thin strips, about 1 1/2" wide. These should be less than 1/8" thick. The thinner the slices, the easier it will be to dry the meat. If you go to a good butcher, they may even do this step for free if you ask. Freezing for 30 minutes can make the meat easier to slice. You can cut against or with the grain; some find that cutting against the grain makes the finished beef jerky easier to chew.
- Season the meat. Use any beef marinade. Pour the marinade into a bowl, place the meat in the bowl, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let the meat absorb the flavor. When done, coat the meat in seasonings of your choice.
- Prepare to dehydrate the meat. When dehydrating the meat, leave room between each piece to allow for air flow. Do not lay the pieces of beef so that they are touching each other. If you're using an oven, set the temperature to 150 degrees. Place the meat on a wire rack over a cookie sheet. The heat is not meant to cook the meat, but to aid in dehydrating the beef.
- Wait. Making beef jerky requires patience. Depending on the temperature, humidity levels, and thickness of the meat, there is no set time for making beef jerky. It usually takes anywhere between 6 and 12 hours. Check it regularly.
- Check for doneness. The jerky should turn deep brown or burgundy. If you're not sure if it's done, cut a slice open to make sure it is not raw in the middle. The jerky should be brittle enough to splinter when you bend it in half.
- Store the finished beef jerky. Once you have made beef jerky, store in plastic bags in the refrigerator or freezer. It should be eaten within 1 week if refrigerated, or six months if frozen. Unlike commercially available jerky, homemade beef jerky does not contain any preservatives.
Beef jerky is a healthy source of protein, and a convenient snack to take with you while you're on the go. You can experiment with different seasonings and marinades to change the taste of the finished beef jerky.