Want your family members to reach for a healthy and nutritious snack? Beef jerky is hard to beat, especially when you've made it yourself.
Preserving meat by drying into jerky is an activity practiced for generations, before refrigeration and canning became preferred preservation methods. People continue to make beef jerky today because it's a convenient and delicious snack. There are several key steps to follow to remove the moisture and fat from your favorite meat cut to create beef jerky.
First, select a lean cut of meat at the butcher shop or supermarket meat department, the leaner the better, something like sirloin or top round. Remove as much fat as possible from the meat because any traces left will make your jerky spoil more quickly. Then slice the meat into very thin strips less than an eighth of an inch thick. You can ask your butcher to do this, use a professional meat slicer, or freeze the meat for about 30 minutes prior to slicing.
Next, place your meat strips into a pan and marinate in a solution of apple cider vinegar and sea salt or a soy sauce marinade, placing your pan into the refrigerator for four to 24 hours until each piece is saturated. Remove the meat strips from the marinade and coat with seasonings such as ground peppercorn or sea salt.
Now comes the dehydrating process. In a dehydrator unit, spray the racks with non-stick cooking spray and arrange your meat slices so that air can circulate around them and they are not overlapping or touching. If you don't have a dehydrator, you can use your oven by preheating it to 150 degrees. Place your meat slices on a wire rack atop a cookie sheet and put inside your oven for a minimum of six hours.
Whether using a dehydrator or your oven, test your jerky after six hours. The jerky drying process takes between 6 to 12 hours, depending upon the thickness of your slices. Perfectly done jerky should be a nice burgundy or deep brown in color. It's a good idea to try a test piece by breaking into two to make sure the inside is not raw.
When your jerky is completely dried, you can store it in plastic bags in the refrigerator for no more than a week. If you want to store your jerky for longer, seal it inside a glass mason jar or vacuum seal in plastic. But since fresh jerky contains no preservatives, it's best to enjoy it as soon as possible.