Home-made beef jerky?
April 24, 2005 6:44 PM   Subscribe

I love beef jerky, but it is so very extremely expensive...

Why is it so expensive? Is it at all possible or feasible for one to make one's own beef jerky? Would it be any good, and how would I go about doing it? Thanks!
posted by ac to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Why, of course, it's the Ronco Food Dehydrator!
posted by fionab at 6:46 PM on April 24, 2005

I have never made it myself, but a friend used to, using a dehydrator, and it was excellent.
posted by Nothing at 6:47 PM on April 24, 2005

1) It's expensive because beef is expensive and then you take away 75% of the weight of it. You can probably buy jerky cheaper than you can make it just because you won't find a cheap enough steak at the supermarket. Find a good online bulk seller and stock up.
2) Fortune Jerky's Hot Fruit-flavored Chinese Beef Jerky is amazingly good ... and your lips go numb if you eat too much at once. However, their other hot jerkies are inedibly fiery, and their other non-hot jerkies are pretty bland.
posted by boaz at 7:17 PM on April 24, 2005

Here's a super-cheap recipe, as long as you value your money more than your time:

First, get a pound or 2 of steak and cut it into thin strips. Make a marinade of worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt, pepper (and whatever else; get really experimentative)*, and soak the meat overnight in the fridge.

Then, lay it out on a rack in your oven and put the heat on at about 200 degrees (F). Let it sit there all day, testing it every couple of hours to see if it's "jerky" enough. A guy I know used to make venison jerky this way and I loved it when I was a kid; haven't had it in years.

* to get the real jerky flavor, I would either 1) add some "liquid smoke" to the marinade or 2) preferably smoke the meat for the first couple of hours before you bake it all day. But I assume if you don't want to buy a dehydrator, that you're not going to want to buy a smoker.

On preview, boaz is right: if you consider steak to be expensive, there's really no way to get inexpensive jerky.
posted by rkent at 7:23 PM on April 24, 2005 [1 favorite]

Homemade beef jerky is pretty easy, if a little time consuming. A good cut of meat will cost you some, but not nearly as much as pre-made. Make however much will fit in the dehydrator at once. Here are some simple steps:

1) Get a food dehydrator. You can use an oven (as noted) but if you do it often a dehydrator comes in handy.

2) Buy a good cut of meat. You're looking for something about an inch thick with very little fat (no marbling). This will be cheaper, which is nice. Go to a butcher if you can

3) Freeze the meat for an hour or so (optional), just to make it easier to cut thin strips. Cut strips about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.

4) Marinate in whatever you like overnight. Soy, steak sauces, etc. Experiment.

5) Lay meat in strips on dehydrator racks and wait 8 hours or so. Remove pieces as they look done and move any pieces that aren't getting good airflow.

6) Enjoy!
posted by true at 7:26 PM on April 24, 2005

If you have access to the meat, homemade venison jerky is hard to beat.
posted by mischief at 7:29 PM on April 24, 2005

My mom used to make it in a food dehydrator and it was great. The recipe was about 4 lines long, just sliced beef brisket, spices, salt, liquid smoke... The dehydrator was not an expensive thing, either, maybe $50. Try it, I'm sure you'll like it.

Of course, if you're going to open the floodgates of cheap beef jerky you should really think carefully about the impact on your diet. In a way, it's good that it's so expensive.
posted by scarabic at 7:36 PM on April 24, 2005

I made some jerky along the lines of rkent's recipe and it was heaven. It is more expensive (I can't remember the cut I used, probably an arm roast or something), but it was a fun afternoon and it turned out really good.
posted by greasy_skillet at 7:53 PM on April 24, 2005

You don't need a food dehydrator. Made some before winter camping this year, process is simple.

1. Get brisket, have the butcher cut it into strips (tell him you're making jerkey) and have him cut it against the grain. Or do it yourself if you're so inclined.

2. Marinade the meat for 24 hours (we used soy sauce and oyster sauce)

3. In your oven take out the bottom rack and move the top rack to the highest level possible.

4. Stick toothpicks through one end of the strip, and then hang the strip between the grills of the rack with the toothpick over and across the grill, repeat for all strips.

NOTE: Before you do this put foil on the bottom of the oven, as it WILL DRIP!

5. I can't recall specific cooking instructions (check the web) but it was something like 400f for 1.5hrs and then 200f for 3 hours.

posted by furtive at 8:22 PM on April 24, 2005

Try vegetarian jerky, as a tasty and cheap alternative.
posted by ori at 9:16 PM on April 24, 2005

In South Africa its called biltong. Its insanely normal food here, everyone sells it in quantity, recipes use it ground up. The fun part is, its commonly available in ostrich and springbok as well as beef. Likely enough other types are around too, but those are what I see all the time.
posted by Goofyy at 12:53 AM on April 25, 2005

You can make lekker biltong in a biltong box - a simple wooden box heated by a lightbulb. I don't see any reason why you couldn't use it to make jerky as well - marinate as above then dry in the box.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:39 AM on April 25, 2005

I've done similar recipes to the above. If you want to keep the cost down a little bit, you can use beef stew or kabob meat. With a shrap paring knife, cut the cube in a spiral to turn it into a strip. Aim for 1/8 to 1/4" thick.

By the by, you can make your own fruit roll-ups in a similar way. Puree fresh, clean fruit, strain out seeds if you used berries and mix in about 1T of sugar and 1 t lemon juice for every cup of fruit puree. Pour it out onto plastic wrap spread in a sheet pan or cookie sheet. Put into an oven at the lowest setting with the door cracked open and let it dry out. Roll it up (with the plastic) and freeze it (lasts for months, in theory, in practice it's delicious.
posted by plinth at 6:14 AM on April 25, 2005

Beef Jerky used to not be so expensive but the whole Atkins craze drobe prices up as more. You pay $6 for what used to cost $4 a few years ago. There's no way to get it "cheap" but you may consider buying it online and in bulk. There's greater upfront costs but over a period of 2-3 months you end up paying much less than and getting better quality than the stuff you buy at 7-11.
posted by nixerman at 6:34 AM on April 25, 2005

I've never tried it, but just wanted to pipe in that several markets in Chinatown here in NYC (and I assume elsewhere) carry packages of thinly sliced meat (for things like pho and shabu-shabu). Sounds like it ought to work for jerky.

Also, yes! Chinese hot/sweet jerky is taaaaaaaasty!
posted by mkultra at 6:41 AM on April 25, 2005

I've made many batches (both beef and venison), and can confirm most of what's said above. It's important to get the leanest meat you can. Any bit of fat will get nasty and gristly and go rancid. Cut across the grain so the finished product will be chewable. Experiment with the marinade, but go very easy on the salt (or soy sauce or worcestershire) as the drying process will concentrate whatever flavor you add. Liquid smoke is good, but, again, a little goes a long way. I use a food dehydrator, and the whole process takes about 24 hours. I tend to make mine very dry, almost crunchy, though.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:08 AM on April 25, 2005

3) Freeze the meat for an hour or so (optional), just to make it easier to cut thin strips. Cut strips about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.
You can have the store butcher do it; it's free making it cheaper.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:26 AM on April 25, 2005

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