Introduction: Milk Crate Jerky Maker
Everyone loves jerky. Not everyone can afford it.
Here's how to make your own with what you've got handy.
Here are the true facts about safety etc:
The three basics are:
Soak the meat with tasty stuff like salt, pepper, vinegar, barbecue sauce that bacteria don't like.
Slice the meat thin so it dries well.
Heat the meat over 160 degrees while it's still wet for long enough to kill some bacteria.
Dry the hell out of it at lower temps for longer, once it's getting dry the critters go dormant and you won't kill them anyway.
Eat it really soon. Of course you will. The pioneers probably waited til it had mold on it.
The bottom milk crate has a 40 watt lightbulb in a fixture that keeps it away from the plastic.
A little fan scavenged from an old PC blows on it and makes the air circulate nicely.
The t-shirts wrapped around the bottom edge regulate airflow coming in.
A closed-cell foam sleeping pad is wrapped around the two crates for insulation.
Strips of bicycle innertube wrapped around that hold it in place.
A foam gasket sits on top of the crate to slow the airflow.
Step 1: Get Your Jerk On
Get a lot of meat.
Cut most of the fat off it.
Cut it into thin strips similar in dimensions to bacon.
Poke sticks through one end so it hangs down into the upper crate and airflow goes all around each strip.
I used steel rods as skewers, whatever you have is good.
Step 2: Now Wait
Here's the device with the lid on.
Experimentation showed that this was the right size lid hole for good drying.
A foam plug with a thermometer through it goes into this hole for the initial wet heat phase.
The USDA jerky site has all the info on what that needs to be.
Here it is again:
If you live somewhere with sunlight or if you don't want so much hot plastic around your food,
there are lots of designs out there for fancier devices that do the same thing.
Step 3: The Great Tower of Meat
I've got a lot of friends, so the box was always half empty before the jerky was hard.
So I stacked up more milkcrates to make more use of those 40 watts and the passage of time.
It takes about 4 lbs of lean meat to make a pound of jerky.
If you live in Argentina or some such place with lots of meat and sunlight, howabout exporting it here
in the form of tasty dried jerky? It'll save shipping costs.
Step 4: Skylight Jerky
I sliced up a mess of meat, mixed it into some marinade, and hung it on an old oven rack.
Corwin and Emily made pizza (from "found" dough. another story.) and the oven was still hot, so I threw it in there for the wet heat phase. If you knew the cow really well and are sure there's nothing in the meat that will make you sick you can skip this step.
I'd already let the meat drip on some cardboard for a bit, but it still made a minor mess in the oven. I'll clean it up later. Really.
After a decent interval I put the rack up in the skylight as seen here. A few days later when I came back it was all ugly and delicious. Woohoo! Traditional solar powered jerky!