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Beef Jerky at Home Made Easy!
Beef jerky is a long time favorite of mine, but the cost was starting to get to me. I started researching how to make it and made batch after batch until I got it right.
What Type of Meat Should I Use?
Jerky can be made from virtually any type of meat, a few examples would be:
· Flank steak
Personally, I like to use sirloin tip roast, but any meat you choose will do just fine. Feel free to experiment with different types of meat and find what works best for you. But remember: just because a certain cut of meat is more expensive, it doesn’t mean it will make better jerky.
Also, when purchasing your meat, it is important to figure out how much jerky that you would like to make. In general, 4 lbs of raw meat will make 1 lb of jerky.
This is where a meat slicer would come in handy. But if you don’t have one, just ask your butcher to slice the meat for you. Some butcher shops charge for this, but most don’t. If they do charge for it, it’s definitely worth the price.
If you’re going to slice the meat yourself, the most important step is to remove as much excess fat from the meat as possible. Otherwise, the fat will turn rancid, and you will ruin all of your hard work.
If your butcher sliced the meat, but did not remove the fat, don’t worry about it. You can always trim the slices when you get it home.
You may also decide to cut the meat yourself the old fashion way: with a knife. I’m not saying it’s not possible to do this but I wouldn’t recommend it. The reason for this is because you wont end up with a consistent thickness, which is important when we start the drying process. But lets say you want to do it anyway (if you want to be stubborn). It’s a good idea to partially freeze your meat before hand to make slicing easier.
With the Grain, or Against the Grain?
Now, for those of you who don’t already know, all meat has a grain, just like a piece of wood. Cutting with the grain or against it will make a big difference in the texture of the final jerky product.
Basically there are two options:
1. If you cut the meat with the grain you will have a chewier or tougher jerky.
2. If you cut against the grain will be just the opposite, less chewy and less tough.
However, the choice is yours.
Try cutting some with the grain and some against to see what you like better.
Remember this is your jerky; make it the way you want.
What About Thickness?
The thickness of the cuts will vary how long it takes to dry, how much flavor it absorbs, and how chewy it is. Again this is mostly up to you. I like to make my cuts between a 1/8” and a 1/4”. I wouldn’t advise going any thicker then 1/4” because it just takes too long to dry, and, in my opinion, the end result is not very good.
But once again, it’s up to you. You could make the cuts thinner that suggested if you like. But beware: slicing too thin can cause the jerky will become brittle, and it will want to crumble.
Before you marinate the meat, make sure the marinade has been refrigerated for at least a couple of hours. You need the meat to stay cold, and adding warm marinade to the meat can ruin the whole process.
At this point, simply take a zip top bag or shallow bowl, and add the meat and marinate.
· If your using a zip top bag, try to force out as much air as possible and seal it. Then shake and squeeze the bag with your hand to help distribute the marinade all over the meat. Remember, you want even coverage on the meat.
· If you are using a bowl, place meat and marinade in bowl, and use your hands to move things around for even coverage. Make sure the bowl you use will allow the meat to be completely submerged in the marinade. This is important.
Time to place the meat in the fridge overnight.
After 12 hours you’ll want to mix up the meat again to help with the even coverage thing we talked about earlier. You’ll want the meat to marinate for at least 24 hours; this will give you the best flavor.
Drying Your Meat
Well it’s been 24 hours, and you are ready to get started!
You could dry out your meat in a couple of different ways: a dehydrator, smoker or an oven. Be careful if you decide to use a smoker. Since the marinade may already have smoke flavor added, it is possible to “over smoke” your jerky. If you’re using your dehydrator just follow the instructions that come with it.
If you’re using your oven, which is the way I like to do it, here’s how:
1. Remove meat from marinate and allow it to drain.
2. Blot the meat with paper towels to remove excess marinade.
3. Place a piece of foil on the bottom of the oven to catch the drippings.
4. Place the meat on an oven grate, and make sure to leave space between the pieces.
5. Place oven grate on the top rack of oven and prop the door open with a wooden spoon. This is to allow the moisture to escape.
6. Set oven to bake on the lowest temperature possible. Try to get it around 160 degrees. If you can’t get the temperature that low, don’t worry. Your jerky will be fine. Just sit back and wait. (This is the really hard part).
Soon, you’ll begin to smell the aroma of really good jerky.
When Will I Know if it’s Done?
Now it could take 2 hours to finish or 5 hours; it just depends on how thick your cuts have been made.
So how do I tell if my jerky is done? It’s simple really: the meat should be very dark in color, almost black, and it should feel leathery, not mushy.
After a couple of hours, check on the jerky by pulling out a piece and try to pull it apart, like when you open up a Slim Jim. The meat should not have any moisture, and when you tear the meat it should create white strands and be dark all the way through. If all you see are white strands, that’s a good sign.
Now that your jerky is done, allow it to sit at room temperature for a couple of hours so you don’t create condensation when you store it. To store (if there is any left), place in a zip top bag, and keep it in the fridge.
Here is a recipe that is sure to impress even the pickiest of palates! What’s even better? You don’t have to use this marinate for jerky alone! It also makes a great grilling sauce, or it can be used on burgers, steaks, chicken, pork or potatoes. I’ve tried this, and, I have to say, they always come out great !
Remember, don’t be scared, and always feel free to experiment!!
Original Beef Jerky
Note: Recipe for 3lbs of meat
· 1 cup Worcestershire Sauce
· 1 cup Soy Sauce
· Black Pepper (coarse is best) 3 tsp
· Garlic Powder (not a salt mix!) 4 tsp
· Onion Powder (not a salt mix!) 4 tsp
· Liquid Smoke 1 tsp
· A-1 Steak Sauce 3 tbsp