Tips on Making Home Made Beef Jerky

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Homemade beef jerky is one of the most satisfying and delicious foods. It never seems to last long enough, homemade jerky gets gobbled up by everyone in the house. Making your own jerky has some distinct benefits, like avoiding all the preservatives and chemicals that go into store-bought beef jerky. Another perk is the ability to customize your own recipe and make your favorite jerky. Like it sweet and tangy? Outrageously spicy? Extra-garlicky? The flavor is all up to you. You don’t even need a dehydrator or any special equipment, and you can probably make a delicious marinade out of spices and condiments you already have.

Pick your meat carefully, fat won’t dry properly and will instead become rancid and icky. Brisket is a good cut, or anything else you can find that is very lean. Watch the price, though. There’s a reason store-bought jerky is so expensive, meat shrinks a lot as it dries. Three pounds of meat will dry into about a pound of jerky. Avid jerky-makers often watch stores for sales and buy up all the good meat when the price drops. Start with small batches while you perfect your recipe, and then move up from there.

One of the hardest parts of making beef jerky is getting the meat sliced thin enough to dry properly. The meat counter at your local grocery store can sometimes slice the meat up for you; you’re shooting for slices about an eighth of an inch thick. If this isn’t an option, try freezing your meat. Defrost it just enough to cut, and use a very sharp knife. Nearly-frozen meat is much easier to cut than defrosted meat. Trim all the fat off while you slice the meat.

Now that you’ve got the meat sliced up, it’s time to prepare your marinade. In order to be truly flavorful, your jerky will need to soak in this marinade refrigerator for at least a day. You will need enough marinade to cover all the meat fully when the bag or bowl is sitting in the refrigerator. There are many different marinade recipes out there, but the amount of ingredients is not that important. More important is the proportion that you use each ingredient, so consider ahead of time which flavors you would like to be the strongest. Make sure you perfect your marinade before you add it to the meat, you don’t want to be sampling it for flavor once it has raw meat swimming in it.
Some common marinade bases include Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and teriyaki sauce. Brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and liquid smoke are popular flavors to add. Some people like to use molasses or corn syrup in their marinade, while others use apple cider vinegar or grated ginger root. Those who like their jerky spicy may add chili powder, cayenne pepper, crushed dried chili peppers, or even jalapeno slices. It’s your jerky, add whatever flavors you enjoy.

If you are using a dehydrator, lay the meat out on the trays and be sure to rotate the trays a few times so everything dries evenly. Many people just use the oven to make beef jerky. You’ll be laying the meat directly onto the oven racks, so be sure to cover the bottom of the oven with some foil to catch the drippings. Set the oven to 180 degrees and prop the door open, you want to dry the meat without really cooking it. You may want to rotate the slices around, flip them over, or do whatever else is required to dry the meat evenly. It’s done when it breaks instead of bends, usually about 6 hours later. If it’s really crispy, it’s overdone.

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