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.
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Step 1: Ingredients & Equipment
- 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.
- 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
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
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
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
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).