Then a friend sold me an extra dehydrator that he had on hand and that all changed. The ease of loading trays instead of hanging on tooth picks alone made it all worth it.
Another thing that a lot of people complain about is slicing the meat. most guides recommend slicing the meat as thinly as possible to allow for quick drying. I thought I has this issue solved by having a neighborhood butcher do the slicing for me. That didn't last to long as he tired of having to clean his slicer just for a couple of pounds of meat.
Again, the dehydrator made all the difference. That part was so easy that I just kept plugging away figuring out the other steps.
This is what I figured out so far.
Let's get started!
Step 1: Ingredients and Supplies
A few of my taste guidelines for the spices and marinade. It needs to be fairly spicy, easy, and quick.
I tried dry rubs because of the ease, but that never seemed to impart the flavors that I was looking for, and I didn't really care for plain dried meat. That pretty much leave some kind of marinade.
1/2 c. Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 c. Soy Sauce
3/4 tsp. Garlic Powder
3/4 tsp. Onion Powder
1/2+ tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Freshly ground Black Pepper
1+ tsp. Chili Pepper Paste ( I used homemade)
Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and warm to just below a simmer. The idea is to heat it enough so that the ingredients dissolve and the flavors combine.
Let cool completely.
A dehydrator. (I bought mine used from a friend for $20.00.)
A vacuum sealer.
Step 2: The Meat
A lot of people think the worst part of making jerky is trying to slice the meat. we read l lot about slicing the meat paper thin and that is very difficult to do even with a slicer. Our local butcher sliced the meat for me a few times and even that didn't come out consistent.
After a few batches I realized that paper this was not what I was looking for. Commercial jerky is not all that thinly sliced, and I like the consistency of that jerky.
My solution was a thicker slice. I tried cutting some by hand and it was a lot easier than the paper thin stuff, but still a lot of work. Being the tool freak that I am, and also just lazy, I decided to go to the local thrift store and find myself a electric knife($6.00), brought it home, plugged it in, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The meat should be chilled, but need not be partially frozen.
Trim as much fat as possible from the meat even if you have to cut the meat into a few large pieces to get to the fat. I don't worry if a little meat stays with the fat, the dog gets his treats too.
After trimming, I slice the meat about 3/16" thick. This takes a little longer to dry, but the finished product is a lot chewier which is what I like.
With the electric knife it took about three minutes to slice almost 2 pounds of meat.
Step 3: Marinading the Meat
- Dip meat in marinade.
- Put meat into dish.
- Pour leftover marinade over meat. Try to make sure that all of the meat is covered.
- Vacuum seal dish.
Of course the vacuum dish isn't needed, but since I had one on hand, I used it, What I did before I got the vacuum dish was simply put the meat into a plastic bag with the marinade, squeeze out as much air as I could, and twist tie the bag closed. Put the bag in a bowl to catch any leaks. Then into the fridge overnight. This probably works as well as the vacuum dish, but the vacuum dish gives me the option of a quick marinade if I want.
Step 4: Load the Dehydrator
Make sure the pieces don't overlap. They can barely touch since they shrink as they dry, but if they are really packed in they will stick together.
Once each tray is loaded grind a little black pepper onto each piece. How much is up to you.
I don't worry about draining the excess marinade off of the meat as I am trying for as much flavor as possible.
After all of the meat is loaded, toss the left over marinade. Never try to re-use.
The doggie treats go onto the top tray so as to keep the marinade from dripping onto them.
Set the dehydrator to its highest temperature. Mine is 145 degrees. Meat needs to be dehydrated at a higher temperature that fruits and vegetables.
Step 5: Time to Eat!!
I check the progress after several hours to make sure that there is on excess fat building up on the meat. If there is, just blot if off with a paper towel.
Once the meat starts turning into real jerky we have to decide when it's done. This comes with experience. I've had batches come out so dry that they almost powdered. Some people say that it's done when you can bend it without breaking. Well, if you miss this point of drying its too late. One way that I check it is to tear a piece open. If there is any redness at all keep it going. I like the jerky dry to the point that it the color is like a dark maroon. The color will be almost as dark as the outside, but not quite. (I couldn't get a picture that showed the color very well.)
One guideline is that you're not comfortable with it, keep it going for a while longer. After a few batches you will figure out when the jerky is the way you like it.
After waiting several hours and salivating like Pavlov's dog every time you open the dehydrator to check the meat, it's time to turn off the dehydrator and unload the trays. Nothing fancy here. Just let the jerky cool before bagging it up as it could sweat a little if bagged up while still warm.
Try not to eat it all before it even cools. It is really good while it's still warm.