The key to steak jerky is the cut and flavor. You can use just about any beef jerky marinade, and this article will teach out how to make tender, homemade jerky from scratch.
A meat dehydrator is recommended for drying beef. You can prepare your beef jerky recipe with perfect consistency, at the right temperature, with the right yield, and take a lot of work out of the process. Let’s explore how.
How to prepare your jerky meat
To start making steak jerky, select your cut. Whether it’s tenderloin, t-bone, new York strip or ribeye, choose the right kind of meat for your budget, and your taste buds. A flank steak is often used for gourmet beef jerky, and although it’s very tasty, it will likely be more expensive.
The less fat on your homemade jerky, the better. Whether you’re using deer, pork, turkey meat or beef, any fat will spoil quickly, even when dehydrated, and go rancid over time. If required, trim it off with a knife.
Thin beef jerky, cut at least ¼ inch to 1/8 inches thick, will cook faster. If your jerky brawn requires trimming, cut against the grain of the meat, to break up its muscle fibers. This will result in more succulent, easy to chew jerky.
There are a lot of options for jerky brine. A peppered beef jerky might use black pepper, garlic, onion, brown sugar and water. Turn it into some of the hottest beef jerky by adding chili, jalapeno, habanero, green, red or cherry peppers.
You can further tenderize your steak jerky by using an acidic agent. In many recipes, alcohol can be used in your dry beef jerky, by adding wine, beer or whiskey to your beef jerky marinade. You could also use a tomato puree, apple cider vinegar, grapefruit juice or lime slices for their citrus acidity, although they will impact flavor.
Coarse salt is also used often in beef jerky seasoning recipes. For a low sodium beef jerky, you can skip the curing process (using salt to extract moisture content for longer shelf life). The strategies in this and other sections of this article will help you do that.
How to make your beef jerky at home
After your jerky meat has been tenderized and flavored in its marinade for about 24 hours, take it out and place it on dehydrator trays.
Using a jerky dehydrator will allow you to get the perfect temperature (160-165 degrees). Some food dehydrators for jerky use about 500-750 watts of power, and models with 1000 watts of power should achieve a perfect 165 degrees.
Your dehydrated beef should cook for about 4 hours. Test its internal temperature, as a minimum of 160 degrees is required for safe consumption. For bulk beef jerky, your operation may take a couple of hours longer, so check in every half hour or so to perfect your timing.
Using a beef jerky dehydrator that features an automatic timer will make your life easier. You can set it for your recipe, and rest assured that you’ll get a set-and-forget operation without the risk of over drying.
How to enjoy fresh beef jerky all of the time
Storage is a critical component of homemade jerky, and especially for natural beef jerky. When placed in an airtight container, such as a vacuum-sealed bag or jar, it can last for 1-4 weeks in a cool, dry place, like your pantry.
Beef jerky brands will often use cured meat that uses nitrates to extend shelf life. If you’ve purchased your meat from a butcher, this is likely the case, as well. Another strategy for long-term storage is to add oxygen absorbers to your jerky container.
You can freeze your steak jerky for up to 6 months, as well. Aside from curing your own beef jerky, this is typically your last measure of control over shelf life, with the exception of drying time. A dry beef jerky will be tougher to eat, but will last longer, due to lower moisture content (and less bacteria).
Using a meat dehydrator for jerky gives you convenience and options that you can’t get out of your oven!