How to Make Your Own Beef Jerky

GAS STATION BEEF JERKY HAS NOTHING ON THIS

Have you ever stocked up on snacks for a road trip?

There are certain things you just have to have on a road trip. Chips. Candy – not just chocolate, but the stuff that won’t melt while you’ve got the windows down and the music blaring.

And then, because you obviously also need a little protein: beef jerky.

Sure, you can pick up a pack of beef jerky at the gas station or convenience store. That is, if you feel like paying a premium price for that teeny-tiny portion of preservative-filled beef strips.

Or, you can experience true bliss by making your own tender and smoky beef jerky at home. Sure, it takes a little time, but you can get these delectable pieces of deliciousness ready while you’re packing the car, and it’s oh so worth it.

Choosing Your Meat

The meat itself is the star of the show, so it’s important to pick the perfect cut. The goal is to find a cut with minimal fat marbling.

Yes, that’s right: unlike when you’re grilling the perfect steak, the key to delicious beef jerky is less fat.

Aim for high quality leaner meat such as flank steak, eye of round, or top sirloin.

Pro tip: For easier chewing, try cutting the strips against the grain after the meat has been in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This will make cutting easier so the strips hold together and the meat will be more tender to bite once cooked.

The strips should be cut thinly; around ¼-inch thick is perfect. Two pounds of meat should translate to around 50 bits of jerky, give or take. This snack lasts about a week and a half in the fridge so don’t be shy about going a bit overboard (we won’t judge you – it’s delicious).

Preparing Your Meat

Getting the meat tender and infusing it with flavours is the trick to all-star jerky. Marinating is the process of soaking meat so it absorbs the flavours into the flesh itself. Most people want a smoky, peppery sweetness to their jerky. Some dare to add real fiery spices. Everyone is looking for something different. Try these different flavour profiles, or mix and match:

  • Sweet – try brown sugar or maple syrup, both pair well with savoury flavours and take to the meat really well.
  • Savoury – soy sauce, Worcestershire, liquid smoke, pickling salt, dry mustard powder, rice wine vinegar, and garlic powder play nicely with other flavours and each other.
  • Spicy – red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, black peppercorns (lots), sriracha, or ginger can help to add a little bite to your bite!

Combining these profiles will give you a well-balanced jerky with a barbeque-y feel.

Pro tip: Marinating is the most important factor in making umami jerky so do not skip this part! Mix your flavour concoction up in a Ziploc bag and shake the meat strips in with the solution. Place in your fridge for 6-24 hours – the longer the better.

Drying Your Meat

Once the meat strips have marinated for a good long while, it’s finally time to cook them. This can be done with a dehydrator, a smoker, or an oven. If you don’t have a fancy machine, that’s perfectly fine because your oven is going to rock it!

Preheat your oven to 170° F.

Set a cooling rack on top of a foil lined baking sheet (to catch drips).

Line the rack with your strips and add some additional seasoning (red pepper flakes, pepper, garlic, etc).

Slide those babies in and start your monitoring after the first hour or two. You’ll be checking for your desired firmness.

Flip them about every two hours and don’t be surprised if it takes anywhere from 2-6 hours to get them where you want them.

Pro tip: to test if your jerky is done, take a piece out of your oven or dehydrator and let cool to room temperature. Your jerky should be dry and firm but still somewhat pliable.

If it’s not quite where you want it, keep it in the oven and repeat the same steps in about half an hour. If it feels done, pull your jerky out of the oven, but let another piece cool and test it again, just to be sure. And then maybe one more time after that. And then you can tell everyone that your homemade beef jerky is finished and let them give it a try.

Although, maybe you should eat another test piece first. You know, just to be sure.

Perfect beef jerky starts with the perfect cut of beef. 

If you’re drooling over the thought of homemade jerky, get started with the best beef, like these delicious top sirloin steaks.