Four steps to perfect homemade jerky

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Making jerky is easier than you might think. All you need is a chunk of meat, a dehydrator and a solid marinade.

If you take your animal to a processor, then stop. Consider butchering it yourself. Cutting up your own animal is kind of fun once you’ve done it a few times. Don’t be scared—after all, it’s already dead. If you do use a processor, ask them to leave big cuts from the rear quarter (like top round) whole so you can use it for jerky later.

Step One - Choose Your Cut of Meat

I like to use front shoulders and even rear-quarter meat to make jerky. We don’t eat a lot of stews or roasts in my house, but we eat plenty of jerky. Some might frown at this, but I like to use the top round cut to make jerky. It’s a nice rectangular chunk of meat off of the hindquarter. It’s a great cut for steaks, too, but we like jerky. Plus, the top round is lean and easy to slice, which makes for picture-perfect jerky. Be sure to trim off the silver skin, tendons and any fat. For easier slicing, you can throw it in the freezer for about 30 minutes once thawed.

Step Two - Slice

Slice it into quarter-inch pieces against the grain. Again, slice against the grain. If you slice with the grain, you’ll be gnawing on one piece for days.

Step Three - The Marinade

If you want jerky to taste like something other than just dried meat, you’re going to need a marinade. I’ve tried a number of different concoctions and landed on a favorite. It’s called Doc’s Best Beef Jerky found below. To try and lower the salt content, I’ve deviated from the recipe. Please, don’t be like me. That wasn’t a good batch. Just follow this recipe for every two pounds of fresh meat. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and make sure it mostly dissolves before adding it to the meat.

  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon meat tenderizer
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

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Dump your meat into the bowl and mix it up again, being sure to coat all those choice slices of goodness. Then place in the fridge overnight to allow the meat to soak up the marinade.

Step Four - Dry

There are plenty of dehydrator options on the market, and I swear by my MEAT dehydrator. For a little over $100 you can buy the six-rack version. Pictured here is the 10-rack, and you’ll be able to fit a good 10 pounds of jerky in there. Set the temperature to 158. Drying time will vary, but I start off at around four or five hours.

Unless you like crispy jerky chips, you don’t want to overdry jerky. To keep jerky reasonably pliable and more edible, check on your batch occasionally as it dries. If it’s a little squishy when you pinch it, then it’s likely done. Try a sample and see what you think.

This batch of 2.2 pounds of fresh meat produced a quarter-pound of jerky. Feel free to vacuum seal it and toss it in the freezer. Better yet, just eat it.

Extra

Don’t overdry it. Slice against the grain. Experiment with different marinades and cuts of meat. Don’t just make jerky—dehydrate fruit, meals, whatever you want.