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HOW TO: Great beef jerky.

56604 Views 43 Replies 32 Participants Last post by  44 Guy
I've been making beef jerky for about 6 yrs now. In that time I have experimented with different marinade recipes, types of meat, cooking times, etc.

The following recipe is for a dehydrator, but you can also dry jerky strips in an oven, at the lowest temperature (usually 160° - 170°). Keep the door open ajar, like you are broiling, to create the convective looping.

But homemade jerky is SO much better in an actual dehydrator.

Below is a list of essential methods / ingredients to make really good beef jerky, based on my own findings and preferences:

CUT of BEEF: shoulder-- either London broil steaks or a full roast, sliced.
I find shoulder to be far better tasting than top round, the other London broil cut, and it is usually cheaper. I actually prefer the taste of shoulder to basically any other cut of beef (for jerky). It has just the right amount of fat in it (remember, you don't want too much fat in your meat and you want NONE in the marinade.) And it is frequently about the cheapest meat there is. It's perfect!

CUTTING METHOD: across the grain, not with the grain. Shoulder is pretty tender and flavorful. Cutting across the grain means cutting along the length of the steak. I usually cut the steak in half so that the pieces are not too long, then cut in the direction so that if the steak was whole, it would be a lengthwise cut across the whole steak. Cutting with the grain will give you a crumbly type of jerky.

I like my strips about 3/16" of an inch thick. That's less than a quarter inch think.

MARINADE: I play around with different marinades all the time. They really are all pretty good. Marinade is actually the least important element to the jerky process. You just got to have your basics: salt, sweet, acid....but NO fat or oil.

I like Kikkoman Lite soy sauce; honey, maple syrup, or molasses (brown sugar is fine, too); maybe a little sherry or marsala; and, now this is REALLY, REALLY secret ingredient. Balsamic vinegar. LOTS of balsamic vinegar. It is the most essential part of any jerky marinade...and very few people know about it. Balsamic vinegar makes any red meat taste that much more delicious...especially when played against salt and sweet. The only seasoning I add to the liquid is LOTS of garlic powder (but that can always be added later, too). I usually add some water to my mixture, to lessen the saltiness/soyness of the marinade, even with lite soy sauce. Stir very well.

Soak beef strips overnight, about 12-14 hrs. Pull out a handful or two, and place on paper towels. Place on dryer rack or screen. Place them close together. They can be touching, but don't scrunch them together.

Sprinkle the beef strips with your favorite dry rub or dry seasonings. I love crushed pepper, garlic powder and especially the two following ingredients: ginger powder and chipotle. I like to make a batch of jerky that is half chipotle and half ginger, with some or all of the other seasonings mentioned.

But those two are the two main dominant flavors for a jerky profile, and you should not mix them together (unless you know what you are doing :D:).

Hint: when enjoying jerky the night it was made, the ginger flavor is amazing. When eating the jerky in the days following, chipotle is king.

DRYING TIME: Here's the difficult part. It all depends on what type of dryer you have. I have the excellent (but very inexpensive) Excalibur dehydrators. I can thoroughly dry my jerky, at full temp of 155°, and at the above thickness, in about 6.5 to 7 hrs. But all of the models out there vary, I believe.

To test, you want to be able to break the strip in a pliable manner, and have it hold together. If it breaks completely in two, you dried too long (but don't panic-- it will still be yummy).

Store in a paper bag. And it will continue to dry even a little bit more, the paper wicking the moisture and some fat away. If you overdried, then store jerky in a plastic bag.

Enjoy with good friends and good beer.

And don't forget to keep a healthy stock in a ziploc bag (even in the back of the fridge), or just make a ton of it, and store in vacuum sealed bags, for when the poop hits the oscillator.

What you need to know: when the above jerky recipe comes straight out of the dryer, it is simply heavenly. It also makes your house smell awesome, while helping to heat it!!
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thank you for your knowledge and recipes.

A dehydrator is on a list of things I need. As well as a Vacuum sealer and canning equipment.

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Just in time -- I have a small dehydrator on the way and a roast in the freezer! Thanks!
I have tried venison, yes. I like it, but not as well as beef. If you are doing venison, I recommend soaking the meat strips in milk for 24 hrs prior to soaking them in the marinade, to get the gaminess out.
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I have been making jerky for my family for years. Believe it or not I just tried balsamic vinegar for the first time last month and the batch came out great. I used many of same ingredients I put in my homemade teriyaki sauce but next time I'll bypass the oil. That was a mistake but I do like the idea of a bit of water to dilute the marinade.

Is a dryer required? I'd rather keep my electricity usage at a minimum. how about salt?
I'd rather keep my electricity usage at a minimum.
No problem. However, you still have to use electricity. But you don't have to use heat.

Place your jerky strips on a new furnace filter sitting on top of a box fan. The fan will dry off the jerky through the filter and the filter will sop up the juices. Problem is, you'll have to replace the filter every time. I don't know if that's cheaper than running the fan or oven for a few hours; even the oven doesn't use much:

(low heat) 900W @ 12hrs run time = 10.8 kWh
10.8 X $0.15 = $1.62 (That's pretty cheap!)
Even at $0.20 that is still only $2.16 to run.

Probably cheaper than filters. Of course, if you have ratchet chargers for exceeding peak demand then you don't want to be running an oven with other high wattage appliances running.

Using salt would be curing the meat. You want to be really careful about doing that. I'd stay away from salting something as the exclusive means of curing it.
I made my first batch of tuna jerky this weekend GreenMountainMan. It came out really good. A bit salty, I think tuna absorbs the marinade much more than beef so more vinegar or water next time. Overall, it was a successful experiment that I hope to refine as I keep trying different ideas.
i recently discovered the ONLY jerky recipe book! it actually has pictures in it and they explain is so well how to do it!
i think if youre looking for some good recipes you should check out " Jerky Bible" its on amazon and is only $4.99 as an eBOOK.
it really is great take a look and enjoy :)
getting a dehydrator tomorrow - thanks for this post

how long will beef jerky last?
can i store it in mylar and an o2 absorber and make it last 20 years?
whats the ratio of fresh meat to finished product? if you use say 10 lbs of london broil or roast, how many ounces of beef jerky do you get?
i recently discovered the ONLY jerky recipe book! it actually has pictures in it and they explain is so well how to do it!
i think if youre looking for some good recipes you should check out " Jerky Bible" its on amazon and is only $4.99 as an eBOOK.
it really is great take a look and enjoy :)
1 post and named "Lovebeef." Let me guess, you wrote the book?
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1 post and named "Lovebeef." Let me guess, you wrote the book?

could be alias for OP also. if i knew that much about making beef jerky i might think about writing an e-book too.
If it's good info, it's good info. I was reading this post this morning thinking about how much I would like to make some beef jerky. I went to Goodwill this at lunch time and they wheeled out a cart with an almost new 6 level dehydrator right in front of me. It had to be fate! I picked it up for $9.50.

I think I'll be making some jerky this weekend!
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could be alias for OP also. if i knew that much about making beef jerky i might think about writing an e-book too.
I'd have no trouble with that as long as he's honest about it. But "i recently discovered the ONLY jerky recipe book!" is not. That's like saying "I *discovered* this website with great prices" and sending them to your website.
A nice recipe and method, but I have a question about food safety.

There are a few things absent that might protect your meat a little and help it last longer.

Salt - reduces moisture and kills bacteria

Smoke - reacts with phenols protects meat and adds flavour

Sodium Nitrite (curing salt) - protects meat from botulism

Heat - with the door open a little, ALL the meat might not reach 160º(the temp that kills bacteria)

Packaging - if you seal your meat after and keep the air out it will last longer.

Keep it clean - keep it safe

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