Beef jerky is a tasty treat that is very easy to make at home – it is also low in fat and inexpensive. This is a great alternative for a healthier snack for children too. To make beef jerky, either a dehydrator or oven will be needed for beginners. These two methods are very simple. A simple food dehydrator may be purchased at a discount or department store for less than $100; more high-tech models will usually cost more. For those who wish to skip this investment, the oven is the best choice. In this article, both drying methods will be discussed.
To make beef jerky, there are several necessary ingredients that must be purchased. Leaner roast cuts or steak cuts of beef may be chosen at the store. Keep in mind that the more tender the meat, the more tender the jerky will be also. Roast is usually more dense and may be tougher. People who are concerned about brittle teeth or difficulty chewing should select a higher-quality steak cut. After choosing the desired cut of meat, ask the butcher or meat counter attendant to slice it in thin strips for jerky. This will bypass the hassle and risks of trying to slice it at home. To make one batch of beef jerky, about one pound of beef will be required.
Seasonings will also need to be selected. Depending on each person’s individual preferences, there are several different types to choose from. Marinades may also be used. Teriyaki, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, peppercorn and Italian marinades are popular choices. Liquid smoke, garlic and onion may also be used for a more traditional flavor. Another important ingredient that must be purchased is preservative salt or regular salt. Some stores sell a special type of salt for dehydrating jerky. Without salt, the jerky will spoil quickly; when it is used, it will extend the shelf life of jerky for several months. Jerky may also be made in large batches and placed in the freezer for later use. Whether freezing, refrigerating or leaving it on a shelf, jerky must always contain salt or preservative salt.
After purchasing the jerky, prepare a salt mixture to soak it in first. Use 2 quarts of water and 2 cups of pickling salt or table salt. Soak the meat for about 8 hours. Next, prepare a flavor marinade. The more oil in a marinade, the more tender the jerky will be. It is best to avoid putting excessive amounts in though. Italian dressing serves as a good marinade for a tender and soft jerky result. If the meat strips are thicker, they will also be more tender as a general rule. Place the desired marinade mixture in a bowl with a lid. Rinse the meat strips off under cold water and place them in the mixture, then massaged the mixture into the meat for about 10 minutes. Allow them to sit in the refrigerator for about 5 or 6 hours. Avoid using mixtures with citrus juice, as this tends to “cook” the meat through a chemical process, making it tougher.
To dehydrate the jerky in a food dehydrator, spray the racks with cooking spray and set the temperature to 140. Place the meat strips on the racks and allow it to stay there for 8-16 hours, depending on the thickness. Jerky is done when it darkens considerably and is still pliable. Avoid over-drying the jerky, as this will result in a brittle texture. When using the oven to dry jerky, find a raised rack that will sit on top of a pan or cookie sheet. Most ovens have a low setting between 180 and 200 degrees. Preheat the oven, then place the jerky strips on the greased rack. Leave the strips in the oven for 6-12 hours, or until they are done. For best results and optimal freshness, store the jerky in the refrigerator or freezer.