The way you cut the meat will change everything for a beef jerky recipe. It changes the most important aspects of jerky, which are tenderness, flavor and cooking requirements.
Making jerky is a stress-free process. Whether you’re making beef, pork, turkey or venison, each portion of the animal will have something unique to offer. We’re offering easy-to-apply information on how to make any cut of meat into award-winning jerky, at home!
Homemade beef jerky will start with the cut
The standard advice for cutting meat is to partially freeze it. 30 minutes in the freezer should do the trick.
Since meat is soft and pliable, it can be difficult to cut consistently. After a short time at cold temperatures, it’ll toughen up temporarily. This will give you much more control over the blade and allow you to make precise cuts without a meat slicer.
Before you start, find out which way the grain runs in the meat. Look closely, and you’ll see a texture pattern fine lines that run parallel to each other in the muscle fibers. These hold the meat together, making it tougher and harder to chew.
Cutting with your knife in the same direction as the ‘grain’ will produce tougher meat. Cutting in the opposite direction, or against the grain, will produce softer meat that’s easier to chew.
Cutting the beef jerky, from start to finish
The first step in cutting meat for jerky is to remove the fat portions. Although it might seem like a waste, it’ll spoil a lot faster once the meat is cooking, severely reducing the shelf life of your dry beef jerky.
We recommend starting with as lean of meat as possible, to get your money’s worth. Using a sharp knife, simply trim away as much of the fat as possible.
Next, decide on how thick to cut the meat. The standard approach for professionals is to make ¼” slices, because the thinner the meat is, the less time it’ll take to cook and dry.
Finally, decide whether you want your meat to be soft or chewy. Cut either with or against the grain, depending on your preference.
How thick to cut your beef jerky meat
If your portions of meat are cut at varying thickness, it can ruin an entire batch. You can get them to cook consistently, with the same amount of moisture and flavor. All you have to do is cut to as nearly identical thickness as possible.
This can be very difficult with just a knife. After partially freezing your meat, it’ll be much easier to work with, however we can’t recommend going any thinner than ¼” with this approach.
You can achieve 1/8”-thick cuts. Partially freeze, as mentioned previously, then run it through a professional meat slicer that has this option, which is typically used for sandwich meat and ham. You’ll be glad you went through the trouble, as the meat will marinade and cook more efficiently.
Beef jerky seasoning for a professional dehydrator
There are a plethora of beef jerky recipes out there. Some prefer to smoke their meat with a dry rub for that authentic smoky flavor, then transfer to a dehydrator to finish the job. Other recipes use marinades, meat drying boxes, and an endless list of other options.
We’ll use a meat dehydrator to keep things deliciously simple. The following recipe uses a classic, beef jerky marinade.
We like to desiccate the marinade, then grind it into a dry rub. This reduces the amount of moisture going into the dehydrator, which takes less time overall. Another option is to marinade for 12-24 hours, then dab it with paper towel, to reduce its dampness.
- Tomato puree
- Worcestershire sauce
- Garlic powder
- Onion Powder
- Red pepper powder
- Black pepper
- Pink Himalayan salt
- Smoked paprika
A home dehydrator is a wonderful tool for making delicious, large batches of jerky!