Introduction: Homemade Beef Jerky

Picture of Homemade Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is one of those savory delicious snacks that's easy to make at home and, when you win an excellent food dehydrator from Instructables' Gardening Contest, there's no excuse not to! Not only is homemade beef jerky a delicious snack, it's about as "paleo" as you can get and it can be made to your liking to hit a number of dietary needs (gluten-free/dairy-free/non-GMO/etc.). Couple that with how portable and shelf-stable it is, you have a perfect snack for hiking, biking, camping, lunch, or the beach.

Step 1: Ingredients & Equipment

Picture of Ingredients & Equipment

Ingredients:

  • Beef, top round or any other cheaper non-fatty type works best
  • 1 cup Soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Molasses
  • 2 tsp Liquid smoke
  • 2 tsp Black pepper
  • 2 tsp Garlic powder
  • 2 tsp Onion powder
  • 2 tsp Red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp Ghost pepper salt
  • 1 tsp Cayenne pepper

This recipe makes enough marinade for about 2.5 pounds or a little over 1 kg.

Equipment:

  • A food dehydrator like this one from Nesco
  • A sharp knife
  • A large glass or ceramic bowl
  • A cutting board
  • Paper towels

Step 2: Cutting the Beef

Picture of Cutting the Beef

Start the process the day before you want your finished jerky. Throw your beef in the freezer for a couple hours or, if frozen, remove from the freezer for about an hour (this will all depend on how much you have). Since thin slices of beef are ideal for jerky, having the beef partially frozen makes it easier to cut consistently thin pieces.

Once the beef is thawed on the outside but still slightly frozen on the inside, put it on a well-washed cutting board and pat it dry with a paper towel. Trim as much of the fat off as possible then slice the beef into ⅛" to ¼" (3-6mm) slices. Cutting with the grain with a really sharp (not serrated) knife works best. Here I'm using a top round steak, you may use any cut of meat you like but remember that meat with a high fat content will become rancid faster, which makes this company's filet mignon jerky practical yet decadent!

Step 3: Marinating

Picture of Marinating

In this instructable I'm using a marinade (wet method) to flavor the jerky. There are other methods you can chose, such as a dry rub, however I enjoy the flavor the marinade brings to the beef.

Wash your hands and bowl well then start by adding all of your ingredients (minus the beef) in your large bowl. Separate the beef slices well, since they tend to re-freeze together when in a pile, and add the beef to the bowl a few slices at a time followed by mixing by hand. Ensure all of your beef is coated well.

If you have more meat than marinade, simply prepare another bowl with marinade and repeat the steps above. It's easier to work in smaller batches than a large unmanageable pile that might risk an uneven marination of the beef.

Cover and put the bowl in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 12 hours. For best results, mix the contents once or twice during this period.

Step 4: Dehydrating

Picture of Dehydrating

The next day (anywhere from 12-24 hours later) remove the bowl from the refrigerator and wash and dry your dehydrator racks as the manufacturer recommends. If you do not have a dehydrator, wash the metal grates of your oven well and line the bottom of the oven with foil.

Remove the strips of beef from the marinade and arrange on the racks in one layer without overlapping, allowing for a little bit of air flow around each piece. When removing the strips of beef from the marinade, allow them to drip-dry, you want some marinade to coat the beef strip but not too much. Assemble your dehydrator and set at 160°F (~70°C).

Revisit your dehydrator every hour to check the progress and to dab away any fat that is collecting on the top of your strips. With my dehydrator, the process took about 5 hours, this will vary depending upon how thick your strips are and the model of your dehydrator.

If you do not have a dehydrator, this can be done in your oven by setting it as close to 160°F as possible and laying the beefs strips across the oven's metal grates. Prop the door of the oven open slightly with a wooden spoon to allow for the warm, moist air to circulate out. Please be aware that gas ovens pose the risk of carbon monoxide/dioxide poisoning when propped open, so if you go this route make sure you have plenty of ventilation.

Step 5: Storage

Picture of Storage

Your jerky is ready when you are able to tear the strips along the grain, they should be pliable but not soft and fairly stiff but not brittle. At this point, turn your dehydrator off and store your jerky in a clean and dry container lined with a paper towel and a loose fitting lid. Jerky is shelf stable for about 2 weeks at room temperature and one month in the refrigerator.

Congratulations, you have now made some super simple, spicy and delicious jerky at home! I encourage you to try tweaking the recipe to your liking. Substitute in dried peppers, hot sauce, smoked salts, different herbs... the combinations are endless. Just remember to keep any added fats to an absolute minimum and if you decide to use anything but beef, cook the meat to the USDA recommended internal temperatures first before dehydrating (including game meats).

Comments

EKTHYLORD (author)2016-02-27

*thinks of adding cayenne* :) I like spicy

Do it! Or you can make your own, Make Fresh Chili Powder.

jmargot (author)2015-05-07

You have to try South African Biltong fist

tammycntn (author)jmargot2016-02-20

Love Biltong. The first time I made it; I strung a clothes line in my basement and set out a couple for box fans to circulate the air and waalaa Biltong in about 24 hrs (give or take a bit of time depending on the size of your strips of beef). PS remember to line your floor with cardboard to catch the drippings.

zymurgeneticist (author)jmargot2015-05-12

I just looked it up jmargot, interesting in that it's dried prior to slicing, looks delicious though!

Tactical man220 (author)2016-02-12

looks great I am going to try it

also are those salts and flake things spicy

ps I love beef Jerkey

chunnygoat (author)2015-06-21

I am doing this tonight so I can have jerky tomorrow. Thanks for the ingredients here's a pic

Great job chunnygoat! That dehydrator has been wonderful for me!

chunnygoat (author)chunnygoat2015-06-21

I also just bought a nesco dehydrator from Amazon. For about $40 it will be here tomorrow

gcanders (author)2015-06-07

I made this just today. Your recipe is great. It was my first go at jerky, and a consistent size of the cuts is so very important. Some of my thinner pieces turned out a bit too brittle and overdone, while the thick pieces, which were close to 1/4" turned out awesome. Regardless of the sizes, though, your recipe tastes wonderful. Thanks.

zymurgeneticist (author)gcanders2015-09-02

Thanks for the post gcanders! I'm glad you enjoyed the whole process and most importantly the jerky!

barking_spider (author)2015-05-17

I built myself drying racks by getting a sheet of diamond lath, expanded metal for concrete, and cutting into pieces that fit my large cookie-sheet-like pan. It cuts fairly easily with some metal shears, but watch those sharp edges! Youch! Some 3/4" X 3/4" strips keep the meshes apart. I do all of my drying in the oven, set on lowest temp with the door propped open. Here in S. Florida, there's no way I could air-dry it! I used Ruhlman's recipe from "Charcuterie", which is mostly dry- makes much less mess than a wet marinade.

Now that's some dedicated diy jerky barking_spider, thanks for sharing!

hflorman (author)2015-05-19

This is a winner. You have my vote.

zymurgeneticist (author)hflorman2015-05-21

Thanks hflorman!

randallbs (author)2015-05-12

I just made a batch and it's in the fridge marinating. I am going to use the in-oven method as I don't have a dehydrator. I will follow up here tomorrow night after my jerky is done and let you know how it turned out.

That's great randallbs, I can't wait to hear how it turns out!

Okay, here is the final product. This was very easy and fun to make. I followed the recipe here, and boy is this jerky HOT! I wasn't prepared for how spicy this is. I really do like it... as long as I have a big glass of cold milk at the ready. Thanks, zymurgeneticist, for a fun and (albeit hot) yummy instructable!

That's great randallbs, good job! Maybe the hotness of the jerky will make it so you don't eat it all in one sitting as I know I am tempted to do!!!

Alexkrama (author)2015-05-09

Thanks !

You're welcome!

ccronkhite (author)2015-05-08

I've made jerky in the past and often have trouble with it being brittle and crunchy. Could this be caused by staying in the dehydrator too long?

I had the same problem one of my first times ccronkhite, it was definitely due to leaving it in too long.

ccronkhite (author)2015-05-08

I'm not sure how this affects the final product of jerky but I do know that with grilling, BBQing and roasting, the right marinade can tenderize the meat as well. When I grill or roast, I like to marinade with salt, vinegar and what ever seasonings I want to use. The acidity of the vinegar helps to tenderize the meat. Although, salt helps the meat absorb more liquid and helps to keep the meat from becoming dry when grilling so maybe salting the meat after the marinade might be better for dehydrating. I would think that having the salt on the outside would help pull moisture out. Anyone know from experience?

FlorinJ (author)ccronkhite2015-05-10

:-) I don't know about salt - I don't like to salt meat when grilling, since it tends to make the meat chewier. But try wine instead of vinegar - it has the same tenderizing properties, but also adds flavor.

kiltedtxn (author)2015-05-07

I cut across the grain of the meat. If you cut with the grain you end up with long, stringy, and very chewy Jerky. I also do not use a dehydrator, I use a box fan on high with the meat between aluminum window screen and air filters bungeed to the fan, via the Alton Brown Good Eats episode.

woodNfish (author)kiltedtxn2015-05-08

If you notice in the picture, the author is cutting across the grain too.

Nice kiltedtxn! Sounds like a serious DIY method!

I prefer the chewy jerky, not only do I enjoy the act of tearing it off as I bite, I also find it holds up better while I hike around with it. Thanks for highlighting this though, sometimes there's something to be said about a nice tender cross-cut piece!

Making jerky via the fan method normally takes 24-72hours depending on temperature and humidity.

Piacenza (author)2015-05-07

Wow, that looks fantastic! I don't have a dehydrator, and made my first batch with my oven. In August. Won't do that again.

Bowtie41 (author)Piacenza2015-05-07

Piacenza,.I have to ask why not the oven,just due to the heat in the house,or some other issue,as I don't have a dehydrator,but was going to try the oven method?Thank You!

Piacenza (author)Bowtie412015-05-07

@zymurgeneticist - hah, it's spring here too - I picked the ONE day the weather gets above 62 to try that. Was tasty, though!

@Bowtie41 - yes exactly - it was sweltering in the house, even with all the windows open during the 10 hours it took to dry out. Would have been much better to do overnight!

zymurgeneticist (author)Piacenza2015-05-07

Hot oven in the heat of summer, I can see why you wouldn't!!!

Good thing it's still spring for those of us in the Northern hemisphere looking to use the oven method!

KEVINBULLARD (author)2015-05-07

I use a big ass ziplock bag (gallon?) and stuff all the meat in there with the marinade and then throw in the fridge. This has worked better for me vs the bowl approach.

Sounds like a great alternative, thanks KEVINBULLARD!

odellkevin (author)2015-05-07

Some grocery store meat departments will slice the roast for you. Just pick out the beef roast you want and ask if they'll "slice it for jerky". Some will, some won't. I've been making this for years in my oven. My marinade is similar, but includes a healthy dose of Worcestershire.

Thanks for the tip odellkevin!

KEVINBULLARD (author)odellkevin2015-05-07

If you have Moore's Marinade, give that a whirl vs Worchester Sauce. Not their teriyaki or anything - but the plain jane Moore's Marinade. Yum Yum!

professorbootyxxx (author)2015-05-07

This is fantastic and explained well (sounds awesomely easy!). You say to cut with the grain of the meat, but the photos look like you're cutting against the grain. Am I looking at that wrong? Thanks!

Thanks professorbootyxxx! The striations of the meat at that section were a little askew, with some parallel and some at an angle. As kiltedtxn pointed out, you can cut it any which way you want. With the grain is more chewy (which I like) and against is easier to tear. Either way is delicious!

Perfect. That's excellent to know. Great instructable.

econjack (author)2015-05-07

If you don't have a dehydrator, I simply put wooden toothpicks into one end of each strip and suspend the strips from the racks in the oven. I put a foil-lined cookie sheet below the strips to catch any liquid or fat that falls off. I set the oven to about 200 to 220 degrees, leaving the over door ajar slightly. It takes about 4 hours to dry, perhaps longer if you are doing a big batch. It works well, can process a lot of jerky at once, and saves the cost of a dehydrator if you don't have one.

zymurgeneticist (author)econjack2015-05-07

Thanks for the tips econjack!

phepner (author)2015-05-07

Very nice. Your instructions say cut "with" the grain but your picture looks like "across" the grain?

zymurgeneticist (author)phepner2015-05-07

Thanks phepner! I answered a similar comment below, I attempted to align the cuts/meat so that most of my cuts were with the grain. Any which way you cut it (no pun intended) you'll end up with some delicious jerky!

PaleHorseRider (author)2015-05-07

I am doing this next time I kill a deer.

It will be turned into jerky...

Deer jerky is my favorite, it's perfect! Good luck PaleHorseRider!

jdgreen (author)2015-05-06

Nice! I smoke my jerky in a Big Green Egg for up to 10 hours at 150 F over hickory chips.

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Bio: Avid homebrewer, guerrilla geneticist and constant crafter. I am always elbow deep in at least three projects while dreaming up another. Currently I'm exploring ... More »
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