Make Your Own Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is one of the best snacks for the trail, especially with the number of options out now, but sometimes it’s too expensive for a trip to the backcountry or the number of additives is startling. Here’s how you can make your beef jerky (or any other meat) at home to cut costs and know what you are eating down to the salt!

I like my beef snacks like I like my humor, dry, a little spicy and hopefully grass-fed.

If you’ve never tried making this at home before, I think you’re going to be pretty surprised just how easy it is. Let’s go ahead and get started with what’s basically a simple two-step process. We’re going to marinate and then dehydrate.

First up, we’re going to make our top secret marinade and by top secret, of course, I mean, this is what pretty much what everyone uses. We will start off with a whole bunch of Worcestershire sauce. Nailed it. Then, we’ll also add an equal amount of soy sauce. Those two things make up the majority of this mixture, but of course, we’re going to need some additional flavorings and seasonings, so we’re also going to add a bunch of freshly ground black pepper, and some smoked paprika.

A lot of people like to use liquid smoke in beef jerky, but I don’t. I’m not a big fan of that flavor. I’m going to go with the Paprika, which is going to give a more subtle smokiness, but I really like what that does to the appearance when this is dried. Some smoked paprika, and then we’ll also heat things up a little bit within some Cayenne and then just for good measure, I’ll also add in some red chili flakes. I’m using Aleppo, but any red chili flake will do. Then I’m also going to add a little bit of garlic powder, as well as some onion powder. I said powder, not salt. That is just pure dried and ground and garlic and onion.

Then, last but not least, we do need a little bit of sweet to balance the salt and heat. I’m going to add a little bit of honey. Some people like white sugar, some people use brown sugar, molasses, things like that, but I’m a honey guy. Then, we’ll take a whist and we’ll mix that thoroughly and that is it for the marinade. That’s what I’m going to put in mine.

Obviously, if you feel like adding more exotic seasonings, spices, and tears go for it. You’re the boss of how quirky to make your jerky. But this is what I’m going with. Once that stuff’s mixed up, we’ll just set it aside while we prepare our beef, which by the way is already done because we had the butcher do it for us. Don’t try to be a hero and cut this yourself. Go to the butcher and tell them you want a couple of pounds of thinly sliced top round.

While you can make beef jerky out of just about any cut, for me this one works the best, it’s relatively lean but does have a little bit of marbling to it. It’s also very affordable and because of the shape of the muscle, the butcher’s going to be able to do nice, wide, thin slices for you. I’m going with top round and of course, on the blog post, I will give you very specific specifications. Then, what we want to do is marinate our beef in that mixture for at least three hours.

I do like to dump the beef in one piece at a time so I know every piece is going to be coated, because if you just dump this all in at once, the beef can get knotted up and folded up and you might get a section or two that aren’t getting soaked as much as the others. I do like to make sure each piece gets an even dunking because the whole thing gets wrapped and popped in the fridge. By the way, conventional wisdom is to marinate this much longer, like overnight or 24 hours. But I don’t think that’s necessary. I actually prefer my beef jerky with only a three or four hour marinade, which is another things we’re going to talk about on the post.

I actually did an experiment, a three-hour marinaded batch versus a 24 hour marinaded batch and the results were fascinating. Check that out and obviously if you want to save space, you can transfer this to a zip top bag, but I had room.

I’m just going to leave it in the bowl, like I said, for just three hours, at which point, we’re going to transfer that onto some paper towels because before we dehydrate this in the oven, we want to remove as much of that excess moisture as possible. Place it down on some paper towel and then, put some over the top and press down, removing as much of that excess marinade as possible. Then once we’ve dried off our beef as best we can, we will transfer that onto a baking rack, set over a sheet pan and you’re going to want to arrange these to you can get on as many as you can without them overlapping.

Now, the edges can touch. They just can’t be on top of each other. Just move stuff around until it fits, like a jigsaw puzzle or a jerk-saw puzzle if you prefer. By the way, I’m only doing one pan at this point. Like I just mentioned, I did want to experiment with letting the rest marinate overnight. But anyway, we’re going to pan those up at which point we will place that in a 100 and 75 degree oven for about three or four hours or until your beef is completely dry.

During that time, one quick tip. Maybe once or twice an hour, if you can remember, just walk by the oven and open the door and air it out a little bit. That’s going to let some of that moisture escape from the oven and get some nice, fresher, dryer air in there. Like I said, we’ll cook that at 175 for about 3 or 4 hours until it’s completely dry and looks like this. It should really look like leather. Not that new shiny, 50 shades leather. We’re talking old shoe leather. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t like the liquid smoke. I prefer the smoked paprika for that subtle flavor and I think it gives that surface a really gorgeous appearance.

Not only is this going to feel and taste good, it should look pretty good too. Of course, once your beef jerky is completely dry, it’s ready to cut up and eat. I’m going to borrow a technique that I learned from my good friend whom I’ve never met, Al Brown, who I saw used scissors to cut this up. I thought, that’s a good idea. We’ll cut ours into some bite-sized pieces and that really was some delicious beef jerky. Just far superior in taste and texture to anything you’re going to get in the supermarket.

Once we have that all cut up, you can just keep it in some kind of airtight container, so I’m going to use one of this latch top jars for a slightly fancier and a more hipster friendly presentation and no, you don’t have to refrigerate this because of the salt content and the fact that it’s dry, this stuff should be very shelf stable.

I know it’s still a ways away but my wife, Michelle, commented on what a great Father’s day gift this could make. In fact, let’s take a quick poll of all the Dads out there. What would you rather get for Father’s day? A tie or a big jar of this. Yup, that’s what we thought.

But anyway, that’s it. Homemade Beef Jerky, virtually identical to what you would get at a convenience store, except it has 27 less ingredients. All right? I really do hope you give this a try. Head over to foodwishes.com for all the ingredient amounts and more information as usual. As always, enjoy.

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