As cured meat lovers, we may agree that we cannot go for too long without beef jerky. However, what may surely divide us are our preferences for jerky taste. Some like it sweet. Others want it spicy. Many prefer it smoked, and a few just want it to be plain and salty.
One thing's for sure - our ideas of what the ideal jerky should taste like rarely converge. For this reason, and many more, knowing how to make your own homemade beef jerky is crucial. And, if you don't know how to prepare it, then check out these simple ways to prepare beef jerky! Spoiler alert: it’s easier than you might expect.
What You Need to Make Beef Jerky
Before you run to the butcher’s shop to buy meat, you should make sure that you have everything you need at home for your homemade beef jerky recipe. Curing beef to make jerky is fun and may produce amazing results. However, you cannot do it with certain elements, such as:
- An oven or a dehydrator
- Large ziplock bags
- A refrigerator or a freezer
- Ingredients for a marinade
- A sharp knife and a cutting board
These are the essential things you will need to make a homemade beef jerky recipe. Check your kitchen and pantry, and if all the items on the list are there, you have most of the costs already covered. Now, all you need is the meat.
What Meat is best for Jerky?
If this is your first time curing beef, you should know how to choose the best meat for jerky. Essentially, there are not many options. So, you have to choose from:
- Top Round
- Bottom Round
Also known as silverside in some places, this part of the beef provides lean meat. Also, it is full of flavor, so your jerky will taste extra tasty.
Some people like to make jerky out of sirloin tip. However, this cut is not as lean and more difficult to chew. Furthermore, it is generally more expensive than the top or bottom round.
Lastly, some choose to transform flank steak into jerky. This cut has a layer of fat that makes it delicious when you fry or grill it. Unfortunately, when making jerky, you will have to trim the fat part. As a result, you will make less dry meat than you would from the same quantity of bottom or top round.
Generally, two pounds of fresh beef should turn into about one pound of beef jerky after drying. Keep this in mind when buying the meat for your beef jerky recipe.
How to Make Beef Jerky at Home
Now that you know the type of meat for jerky you want, head down to the butcher's shop. On the way, you might want to buy the ingredients for the beef jerky marinade, if you don't have them at home already. Here's the full list:
- 2 pounds of lean beef (Top or bottom round)
- 1/2 cup of soy sauce (use low sodium soy if you desire)
- 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons of coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon seasoned curing salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Red pepper flake or brown sugar for flavor
Once you ticked every item on the list, run back home and prepare the meat for curing. Once you get there, place the meat in the freezer for one or two hours. This way, it will be easier to cut. Meanwhile, prepare the marinade.
Jerky Marinade Recipe
Keeping the meat in a marinade before drying it will enhance the flavors. This step is vital to the success of homemade beef jerky. Here’s how to prepare it:
- In a large bowl, whisk the soy sauce together with the Worcestershire sauce.
- Add the onion powder and the garlic powder and continue mixing.
- Pour the curing salt little by little while whisking to help it dissolve.
- Do not put all the salt at once, and taste it frequently to prevent it from becoming too pungent.
- Lastly, grind fresh black pepper and whisk thoroughly.
- If you are looking for a kick, try adding some red pepper flakes (add more red pepper flakes if you really like spicy foods)
- If you like beef jerky sweet, try brown sugar instead of the above.
Leave the marinade to sit at room temperature. There’s no need to refrigerate it.
How to Prepare Homemade Beef Jerky
Take the meat out of the freezer. Use a sharp knife to slice the meat into 1/8-inch thick strips with or against the grain. The slices may look very thick now. However, they will shrink significantly while curing.
Some people make the rookie mistake of heating the oven at this point. However, this step is unnecessary. For now, the meat has to stay in the marinade, which will enhance its flavors. Also, the beef is still frozen.
So, toss the meat slices into a large ziplock bag and pour over the marinade. Close the bag and mix well to ensure that the tasty liquid reaches all the strips. Marinate in the refrigerator anytime between one or and two days. This way, the meat will have time to absorb all the different flavors in the brine.
Oven vs. Dehydrator for Homemade Jerky
At this point, you have to choose how to make homemade beef jerky. Essentially, there are two ways. You either use a dehydrator or an oven. Both are equally effective in transforming raw flesh into delicious cured meat.
If you want to only cook beef jerky on your own every now and then, you can stick to your conventional oven. The good part is that you don't need to make extra investments. The downside is that the meat may not cook even all the time. Also, the meat will drizzle plenty of its juice, which may see you cleaning up the oven more than enjoying the results.
If you plan to make homemade beef jerky often, you should consider buying a dehydrator. These simple but effective devices are easy to use and rarely messy. Furthermore, they ensure that the jerky cooks evenly on all sides.
How to Make Beef Jerky in the Oven
- Preheat the oven to 175°F.
- Take two oven trays and line them with aluminum foil each.
- Next, place a sheet of baking paper over them.
- This way, the trays will be easier to clean when you finish.
- Place a wire rack over each tray
- Take the meat out of the marinade and slice the meat in thin portions on the wire racks in a single layer.
- Place the two oven racks in the centermost positions in the oven.
- Bake the meat for between three and four hours or until the meat is dry.
- Take the meat out of the oven and leave it to cool down at room temperature.
How to Make Beef Jerky in the Dehydrator
- Take the meat out of the marinade and place them on the dehydrator trays in a single layer.
- Follow the dehydrator’s exact instructions for cooking beef jerky.
Usually, it takes up to eight hours on medium heat. However, cooking times differ depending on the dehydrator brand or the thickness of the meat. But, always make sure the beef jerky is fully cooked so it is safe to eat.
Regardless of the method you use for drying meat, always transfer the beef jerky to airtight containers once it cools down. You can place it in ziplock bags or airtight glass jars. At room temperature, the jerky should last for about a week. In the fridge, it will be edible for up to a month. Despite popular opinion, beef jerky is easy to make!
Not up for making jerky yourself? Check out our jerky options in the marketplace!