Friday, November 30, 2012

How to make your own homemade beef jerky

Making jerky at home can be surprisingly uncomplicated with this easy recipe that can be personalized to suit your own tastes.  When you make your own jerky it also means that you will not have unknown ingredients or added preservatives or nitrates involved and it is virtually carb free making it acceptable even for the Atkins Diet.  Whatever flavor you prefer, whether spicy, sweet, smoky or just plain bizarre you can tweak the recipe to fit what you are in the mood to eat.

Making your own jerky can also save you a bundle of cash.  If you’ve seen the price that jerky is going for in the stores, even on sale it can run $15. – $20. per pound.  Many of the spices you will use are probably already in your spice cabinet – especially since you’ll gear your recipe toward flavors you prefer.

For you hunters out there, of course you can substitute your favorite game to replace the beef.  Deer jerky is very popular as well as turkey, chicken, pork or even lamb.  For those die hard redneck fans that just want to be different you can of course use squirrel, raccoon, possum, goat, etc. – just don’t use the road kill, too many unknowns with that!  But for the non-meat eaters that will still consider fish you can use salmon, tuna or other non-flakey seafood will be best.

The Meat
For this post though I’ll focus on beef jerky.  First you want to choose your beef.  The cut you use needs to be lean to make the best beef jerky with as little fat as possible.  If you purchase beef that is already lean they you won’t squander money or time cutting the fat off that you’ve purchased.  The reason for lean beef is that the fat tends to go rancid at room temperature.  Fresh, good quality meat makes good quality beef jerky.  The beef should be fresh, dark red with no age discolorations.  Organic, grass-fed meat can offer better-quality flavor to the more mass produced “industrial” meat creating a healthier, more savory jerky.  Grass-fed is inclined to be leaner meat – important for good jerky.  Organic meat is free of growth hormones and preservatives so again a healthier beef jerky than you will ever purchase.

The following are all good choices and will come down to personal choice.

Flank steak is lean and makes outstanding beef jerky.  It has a reasonably consistent grain making it easy to slice thinly to make strips that can be dried easily.

Round steak, brisket and rump roast work well also.  Just be sure to trim the gristle before slicing it for jerky. 

London Broil (top round) is another good choice for beef jerky.  It is usually available in cuts that are 1” – 2” thick which makes cutting thin strips for beef jerky the ideal size.

If you freeze the meat for a short time then it will be easier to slice thinly.  Do not freeze it until it is frozen solid just until ice crystals form and the meat can still be pierced easily with the point of a knife.  To make jerky that isn’t hard to chew, slice it across the grain no more than ¼” thick and don’t over dry it.  Normal jerky lovers should slice with the grain giving the jerky the normal slightly tougher chew.

It is also important to have a sharp knife.  I am a firm believer that every kitchen should have at least a couple top quality knives like J.A. Henkels.  You will pay more for it but it will last you a life time.

The Marinade
The marinade and seasonings give the jerky the specific taste you’re looking for.  It’s a great idea to use spices you already own since that tends to be the flavors you enjoy the most.

Here are three recipes that I like for different reasons.  But all are very good.  I didn’t use liquid smoke in any of these however for that smoked flavor just add 1 – 2 teaspoons of your favorite smoke flavor.

Soy and Spice
2½ lbs. London Broil
¾ cup Soy Sauce
¾ cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 TBLS Onion Powder
1 TBLS Garlic Powder
1 tsp Chili Powder
2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
1 TBLS Honey
¼ tsp Lemon Juice
1 tsp Kosher Sauce

1 ¼ lbs. London Broil
½ cup Barbeque Sauce (use your favorite)
½ cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 TBLS Onion Powder
1 TBLS Honey
1 tsp Kosher Salt

Spice Teriyaki
¾ cup Teriyaki Marinade
¼ cup Soy Sauce
1 TBLS Garlic Powder
1 TBLS Honey
2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
1 tsp Kosher Salt

Using your favorite marinade, combine the ingredients and mix well.  Once the meat is thinly sliced place the meat and the marinade in a large Ziploc bag ensuring that marinade comes into contact with all the meat slices.  Please in the refrigerator for 4 – 24 hours (depending on how much flavor you want to impart into the jerky).  I did this in the evening and let it sit overnight.

The Making (aka:  Cooking, but making starts with an ‘M’ and keeps that theme going which seemed important enough to me to write all this mess.)

I’ll list a few options for drying the jerky and you can choose the one that is most suited to what you have available at the house.

Use the oven and keep from buying an expensive dehydrator as well as from digging out your 20 year old box fan.  The oven is meant to dry the meat into jerky, not cook it, so a low heat is necessary.  You also want to drain and dab dry the meat to remove excess moisture.  This will help reduce the cooking time.

Place the beef strips right on an oven rack (you may want to ensure that the rack is clean first) and place a baking plan or aluminum foil underneath to catch the drips.  A few pieces may fall off the rack as they shrink so it’s not a bad idea to have something to catch them also.  I used aluminum foil on the lower rack which caught all the drips and a couple pieces of jerky.

Preheat the oven to 200°F after you’ve placed the pan or foil at the bottom of the oven or the lower rack.  Place the meat on the rack and allow to dry over the next 45 – 90 minutes depending on how thick the slices are cut.  You want a nice dry texture but do not want to overcook the jerky.

With so many dehydrators out there you will want to use the directions for you specific dehydrator to dry the meat.  Be sure to drain and dab the meat prior to placing in the dehydrator and to leave space between the pieces of meat to allow air circulation.

Box Fan (no, seriously!)
Before you do this method you want to make sure you have a clean box fan, a couple of bungee cords and four new clean disposable cotton based air filters.  Place the meat (drained and dabbed dry to remove the excess moisture) in the valleys of three of the filters leaving a little space between each piece for air circulation.  Keep one filter back that is clean.  Stack the filters on top of each other with the clean filter on top.  Place the box fan on top and secure the fan and filters together using the two bungee cords.  Arrange so that air circulates through the stack of filters and the meat.  Set a timer for 8 hours and check then and every hour after until the meat is dry and chewy.  This is a bit of a prolonged method so be sure that the fan/filter jerky set up is in an animal free zone but also not in the middle of your kitchen.

You now have your very own jerky!  Revel in the jerky, the savings, your personalized flavor and the fact that you DIY (DID IT YOURSELF!).


  1. Wow, great article, I really appreciate your thought process and having it explained properly, thank you!

    Beef jerky

  2. I have got to try this! :) I love beef jerky, but never tried to make it before!

    Grace Crawford (Website Link to Beef Jerky from

  3. Grace, let me know what you think especially if you try any other variations.


  4. buy a meat slicer and slice meat half frozen.