Are you a beef jerky aficionado? Do you love smokey taste of perfectly dried meat? If you do, then you have probably wonder how to make beef jerky at home.
Learning how to make beef jerky at home is easy! It is also a much more affordable alternative than purchasing high-end beef jerky from stores and online. Keep reading below for a comprehensive, step-by-step guide on how to make beef jerky.
What Is Beef Jerky?
In order to know how to make beef jerky, you first have to know what beef jerky is. To start, let's learn about the term “jerky.” Jerky refers to a style of lean meat that is cut into strips and then dried. It is important to note that there are many different types of meat, seasonings, cuts, and drying styles used to create jerky.
One thing that remains consistent among meat jerkies is that before the meat is prepared, excess fats are removed from the strips. All meat jerkies feature salt as the main ingredient due to the fact that it aids in the drying process. You can expect jerkies to have a wide range of flavors. Some beef jerkies can be spicy whereas others can be sweet and savory.
Ingredients & Equipment
Before you start learning how to make beef jerky, you will need to ensure you have the proper ingredients and equipment. Any regular cut of meat will not do, and it’s best to ensure you have the seasoning you want before you begin. There’s nothing more annoying than starting a step-by-step guide, getting halfway through it, and realizing you have to make a mad dash to the store to get the final ingredients. Keep reading to ensure your jerky making process is as seamless as possible.
If you want to learn how to make beef jerky, chances are you have had a piece of beef jerky that you’ve loved and are trying to emulate. After all, they say imitation is the best form of flattery. Think about the flavors that present themselves within the jerky you enjoy. Is the flavor smokey? Tangy? Spicy? Try to pinpoint which flavors you enjoy and can try for yourself!
We recommend that when you head to the store to pick up your beef jerky ingredients that you get at least 3 pounds of meat. Opt for meats such as flank steaks, sirloins, and filets for the best flavor. Additional options for cuts of meat to use for jerky include:
Looking to enhance the taste of your jerky? A homemade marinade is an easy and affordable way to spice things up. Learning how to make beef jerky comes with the preference of flavor. For a Cajun flavor try using olive oil, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. If you’d rather have a teriyaki spin, use soy sauce, honey, and a touch of rice vinegar.
Our favorite homemade marinade is a beef jerky classic. All you need is Worcestershire sauce and olive oil. Mix a half of a cup of each together and, place your meat in a sealable bag, pour in the sauce and shake it up. You’ll have everyone begging for the recipe once they try your homemade beef jerky!
If you are committed to making a homemade marinade, then you may as well make a homemade seasoning or rub. Making your own seasoning is incredibly easy, and the best part is, you can tweak it and customize it to your liking. Adding a seasoning after a marinade is the best way to gain the most natural flavor!
Our favorite seasoning recipe for beef jerky consists of garlic powder, pepper, and ginger. Your goal is to have roughly four full tbsps of seasonings to dust over your meat. Additional seasoning options are as follows:
The equipment needed to make beef jerky is rather significant due to the fact that most experts recommend a dehydrator. A dehydrator is a machine that is used to dehydrate the moisture out of foods. Dehydrators can be used for many different types of food and even fruits!
There are many dehydrators on the market today that feature a wide variety of price points and features. We have seen dehydrators available anywhere from around $30 all the way up to $300. It is possible to make beef jerky in a conventional oven; however, it will be a much longer process and has the tendency to burn or dry out too quickly.
How to Make Beef Jerky
The first step to learning how to make beef jerky is to prepare your meat. Depending on the cut of meat you are using, you will want to trim any excess pieces of fat. Make sure you are using a very sharp knife to avoid cutting away any pieces of meat with the fat. Cutting away any fat on your piece of meat will help it retain its freshness for longer.
Having trouble cutting your meat? Don’t worry; you can go ahead and freeze the meat for a couple of hours if you want an easier time cutting. Freezing your meat after removing the fat makes it easier to cut into even strips for the next step.
The next step is to cut your meat. The idea is to cut, uniform strips roughly 1/4th of an inch in size. Again, using a sharp knife will help ensure you have an easier time cutting through the meat. If you want your jerky to have a chewier texture, opt for cutting with the grain of the meat rather than against it.
Believe it or not, they make devices specifically for slicing strips fo jerky. If you are planning to make a lot of jerky, finding a dedicated jerky slicer may be the best option for you. It is also a great choice if you plan to make consistent, large, batches.
Marinate and Season
The third step to learning how to make beef jerky is to marinate and season your strips of meat. Pour your marinade into a plastic, sealable, bag and place your meat inside. Shake the bag until you have thoroughly coated the strips of meat. Next, all you need to do is pour your seasoning into the bag and shake again. This is the fastest and easiest way to coat your beef jerky evenly.
The next step to ensuring flavorful beef jerky is to place that bag full of your marinated and seasoned strips into the refrigerator. You will want your bag to sit, cooling, for at least six total hours. Our recommendation is that you allow the meat to sit for a full 24 hours to maximize the flavors.
Take your meat strips out of the bag and place them on a cookie sheet. It’s finally time to start actively dehydrating your meat. We recommend cooking your beef jerky at a temperature of 160 °F if you are using a dehydrator.
Make sure that your pieces of jerky are adequately spread out on the pan. You’ll want at least 1/16th of an inch of space between each strip so that they don’t overlap. On average, you can expect your jerky to need anywhere from three to eight hours of drying time.
Tip: Pat Dry
If you are concerned that you put too much marinade on your meat, you can actually pat some of the excesses off with a clean paper towel. Dab each side of the meat to ensure nothing is soaking in sauce. Making sure that the meat doesn’t have excess marinade on will help make the drying time much quicker.
Cool and Enjoy
The final step to learning how to make beef jerky is to simply remove it from the dehydrator or oven and let it cool. You will need to allow your beef jerky to cool for approximately one to three hours before you can dig in.
To properly store your beef jerky, we suggest a placing it in an airtight container. If your jerky still feels moist, opt for a paper bag for the first day or two. Keep checking the moisture levels throughout the first few days if you want your jerky to last as long as possible.
Now that you know how to make your own beef jerky at home, you can enjoy delicious, dried meats anytime you want. Don’t be afraid to switch up the ingredients and drying times to get the best possible outcome. If you don’t want to make your own homemade rubs or marinades, there are a ton of resources online available to help inspire and push you in the right direction.
There is no wrong way to marinate or season your jerky so feel free to experiment with many different combinations. If you know any meat eaters, beef jerky makes a great gift during the Holiday season. Have fun and don’t forget to share with your friends!
Featured Image: Flickr