Homemade Beef Jerky
In our house we have an addiction to homemade beef jerky. You know, the real stuff, not the ground beef strips, but the real sliced, marinated meat that’s dried till your teeth feel like they are going to pull right out of your head when you take a bite. Yup, that’s the stuff. Over the years I’ve probably had more requests for that recipe than any other. I’ve always answered with the same response, “sorry it’s an old family secret recipe and I can’t share it”. Most people respect this and the subject is dropped, except this time. This time it’s my daughter that’s asked for the recipe, no reason not to share it with her right? I mean she’s family…..and so the truth comes out. I don’t have a recipe. In fact I don’t think I’ve made it the same way twice in the last 20+ years.
What I can share with you are some tips I’ve learned from 20+ years of experience.
I like to use chuck roast, but you can use any beef cut, venison, bison, etc… . I use chuck because it’s a cheaper cut and has good flavor. You can thin slice it at home if you prefer, but most grocery butchers will slice it to order. Get it sliced very thin, thicker than lunch meat and thinner than thin sliced steak. When you get home go over each piece with a small knife and remove any large sections of fat (marbled fat gives great flavor but large sections of fat don’t dry well). Also be on the lookout for areas of meat that are thicker than others. Sometimes when the meat is sliced edges don’t get cut at the same thickness and when the meat is too thick it can take a long time to dehydrate, leaving the rest of that piece brittle and crunchy instead of jerky like.
I confessed earlier that I don’t have a recipe and that’s true, but there are a few tricks to making a good jerky marinade. First remember unlike other marinades, never to add oils, they delay the meat from drying! I always used dried ingredients rather than fresh. For example I used dried, powdered garlic rather than fresh minced. The base of my marinade usually starts with soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic and pepper. From there I just throw in a pinch of this and a fistful of that.
I used to marinade the meat in a bowl and turn the meat every 12 hours or so to ensure that each piece was well coated, since then I’ve learned of the wonders of ziplock bags. Now I pour the marinade in the ziplock, toss in the meat and just ‘massage’ the bag every now and then. Simple!
There are no hard and fast rules for how long it takes to dehydrate the meat. It will depend on the thickness of the meat, the weather, the type of dehydrator etc….. I check mine twice a day and do the ‘flex test’, meaning I pick it up and try bending it to see if it still has some flex to it or if it starts to crack rather than flex. You want it to be right at the cracking stage. It helps to flip them over after 16 hours or so also, remember to always add fresh meat from the bottom trays rather than the top. You don’t want the raw meat dripping down on the almost dehydrated and finished pieces of jerky. Finally, even thought this is dried meat, I don’t consider this shelf stable. I leave mine on the counter and have never gotten sick…..but it also has never lasted more than a few days. 🙂 Good luck and enjoy!