So you have to admit, you’ve got more than a bit of a thing for Beef Jerky. In fact, you’re a little bit obsessed with the stuff, and it is high protein after all so technically, it’s a good, healthy snacking option. However, let’s not beat around the bush here, some of the stuff on the shelves in the supermarket sure as hell ain’t no premium packed beef! Not if the heavy chemical flavoring and masses of added sodium content are anything to go by. While of course you could opt for one of the many “gourmet” brands that are cropping up all over the internet to fuel your current love for the jerky, imagine if you knew how to make your own beef jerky to wow your friends and family. Beats the usual hummus and carrot sticks your other half normally insists on serving up when your mates come over to watch the game and sink a few cold beers! You are of course going to need a killer beef jerky recipe, and nobody wants to give away their prized secret family jerky recipe. Lucky for you then that we’ve been doing endless hours of research, prepping and sampling and getting messy in the kitchen and we’re about to reveal just how to make the best homemade beef jerky around.
First up, don’t get intimidated and be put off before you’ve even started. Don’t worry about spending hours concerning yourself with dehydration techniques and researching what the best cuts of meat are to make your own jerky. Do, however, get yourself prepared and be ready for some good old-fashioned fun in the kitchen. It’s about to get a bit stick as you rustle up that magic marinade Raw meat and spices are going to be flying around, so best batten down the hatches and confine your poor pouch to another room otherwise he’s going to be tormented in a desperate bid to get his paws on your precious beef jerky.
It’s all about the preparation and by that we mean, getting your meat ready.
You need to select a lean cut of meat, and most of the favorite recipes will call for about 5lbs of the prime stuff. We’re big advocates of going to your local Butcher and buying Organic so get him to trim the fat (unless you have a super sharp knife and knife sharpener back at home) so your meat is already part prepped. Some of the most flavorsome cuts and best options for making beef jerky are brisket, top round and for a mouth-watering and exquisite gourmet style beef jerky, there is nothing more indulgent than a filet mignon! Save that for someone you really want to impress though and not for that lads night in.
Slicing your meat ready to make jerky is a bit of a two-stage process. Depending on how big your piece of meat it, you may need to section it into two halves and then go right ahead and with a very sharp knife cut it into long thin slices. Once you’ve prepared your slices, wrap them in cling film or transfer them directly into a freezer bag and place them into your freezer compartment. Don’t go away and forget about them entirely as you want to avoid hard freezing your beef. You just need it firm enough to make stage two of your slicing process that little bit easier to manage. Generally, one to two hours will suffice. Next up in the preparation stage, you’re going to slice your meat into strips of 1/8” to ¼” thick.
You’ve sliced your meat, now it’s time to get that delicious marinade prepared.
This stage is the fun, messy part but it’s also the bit where you get a chance to experiment and indulge your own taste buds. This is where it also helps to have a secret family beef jerky marinade up your sleeve! Don’t be tempted to throw all the spices in your kitchen into the pot. Start out simple keeping it spicy, savory and with a hint of sweetness, then as you advance your jerky skills, you can get more experimental, layering on different flavors to tickle those taste buds. We recommend you keep it reasonably classic to start out. Here are some of our suggestions below on the perfect elements to make that marinade.
For the liquid base; try something like apple cider, tamari sauce, Worcestershire sauce, teriyaki, soy or maybe even a blend with balsamic vinegar. A combination of a couple of these flavors will work well.
When it comes to seasonings and spices, our favorite is a heady concoction of garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper, some smoked pepper and for those of you that like a bit more power, a hearty pinch of cayenne and turmeric should hit the spot.
Don’t forget to add some sweetness to that savory flavor. Molasses, brown sugar or even honey will make a great addition to your marinade and elevate your homemade beef jerky to a whole new level.
Put that bad boy beef in the bath
By that we mean, it’s time for your meat to get immersed and coated in all that lovely liquid flavor. The best way of doing this is to pour your marinade all over your thinly cut beef strips into a large plastic bag and place it into the refrigerator. Preferably you should leave it bathing for at 24 hours so that the beautiful cuts of brisket or mignon fully luxuriate in all that rich, deep flavor but if you are running short on time, do make sure that you leave your meat to tenderize for a minimum of 4 hours.
Now it’s time to dry out that jerky and to make it perky!
Make sure that you have fully lined your oven as this is going to get messy. Crank up the temperature and get it preheated to about 160-180 degree Fahrenheit. Remove your racks from the oven and take them to a flat, clean surface then take out your strips of marinated homemade beef and carefully arrange them flat across the shelves. You definitely don’t want your dog in the room when you are undertaking this delicate part of the mission. Or for that matter a toddler running around your feet. You should take care to ensure that the slices of marinated meat aren’t crossing over each other and that there is plenty of space for hot air to circulate in, around and over your strips. Another method would be to skewer your pieces like you would a kebab and simply suspend these from your oven rack. You can be more economical with your space this way and prepare a large batch of homemade jerky in one sitting.
Your meat is now ready to be dehydrated.
Fill up your racks and get them back in the oven ready to cook. Most recipes call for you to leave your oven slightly ajar. The aim is to remove the excess moisture from your meat and not actually to cook your meat. If heat isn’t circulating correctly or you have the temperature up too high, you won’t get the results that you are looking to achieve. Depending upon the precision slicing of your strips of meat be prepared for the long haul! This process could take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours, and you are going to need to regularly monitor and turn your slices over to ensure your jerky is perfectly prepared.
Just how do you tell though when your jerky has actually become jerky?
You sample it of course! Select a good bit and try it for yourself. Your taste buds will tell you! If it’s easy to bend and tear then, it’s ready to remove. If it’s still a bit floppy leave it in a bit longer and if it’s cracked off in your hand already, too bad!
Leave it to cool for as long as you can manage before you’ve piled in and scoffed the lot!
This is the hardest part of the entire operation! Having the willpower to leave your jerky cooling on the side and continuing to let it dry out when you just want to get stuck in and go full caveman with a jerky chow down. If you can manage it though, leave your jerky to air cool then transfer it to an airtight container ready to nibble on when the fancy takes you. In case you are wondering how long you can store it for, well most homemade beef jerky will be good for up to six months but really, are you honestly worried about the expiration date? Chances are that your delicious, gourmet style, homemade jerky won’t even last to the weekend, let alone be still in the cupboard in a few months’ time. By then you will have moved on to experiment with who knows what? Deer jerky perhaps?