Best Homemade Beef Jerky
August 3, 2013 12:03 PM   Subscribe

So, I had a little bit of funds last week and bought a food dehydrator (which will mostly be used to make dog treats) and an entire eye round roast on a whim. I'd dearly love to learn how to make amazing beef jerky, since it's one of the human treats I love, spend too much money on, and making it without nitrates/MSG etc. would be wonderful. I've been googling recipes for hours without finding information I really trust.

What I have on hand, aside from a new still-in-the-box dehydrator and five pounds of beef eye round:

Soy sauce
Teriyaki sauce
Tabasco jalapeno and smoked chipotle sauces
Rooster sauce
Maple syrup
Raw sugar
Mango juice
Apple cider vinegar
Red wine
Good beer

Black and white pepper
Sea salt
Red pepper flakes
Toasted sesame oil
Smoked paprika
Fresh ginger
Fresh rosemary
Fresh thyme
Montreal steak seasoning

I do not have coconut aminos, liquid smoke or onion powder in the house and prefer not to head to the store unless really necessary. This jerky does not need to be full-on paleo or gluten-free. I'd like to try two different spice mixes/flavor batches. I'm leaning toward one being a maple and rosemary marinade -- what other ingredients should I include in that mix?

Opening up to ideas for the second flavor marinade. Ginger teriyaki? Honey red pepper?

What are your avenues to success making beef jerky? Tips? I like jerky to be agood chew, so I should cut with the grain? Favorite recipes? Marinating times? I'm obviously clueless even though I've had recent kitchen successes with other foodstuffs.

Help? And then tell me to get up off the couch and do it?
posted by vers to Food & Drink (3 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've made a lot of jerky with my dehydrator recently. I tend to go mostly with dark soy sauce as a base for the marinade; it adds enough salt and a bit of umami to the jerky without dominating the flavour, so it's a good all-purpose base.

At the moment I'm keeping it simple. I often just buy ready-made spice blends (on the basis that it's easier to leave the trial and error of getting the spices in balance to someone else). Thai seven-spice and cajun mixes have both worked really well. For a kilo (two pounds) of beef I use something like half a dozen tablespoons of soy and three or four teaspoons of the dry spice mix. Marinate for about a day in a plastic tub, mixing it with clean hands every few hours before returning it to the refrigerator. I've heard people say that they wash the marinade off before they dry the jerky. I'd probably only consider that if the marinade was very strong, had been sitting a long time, or was really sticky. Some ingredients are better sprinkled over the wet meat once it's in the dryer trays (i.e. chilli flakes, herbs, black pepper etc.)

I don't think there would be much benefit in adding fresh seasonings such as garlic or ginger - it's all going to get dried anyway. I may be wrong.

I wouldn't use sesame oil. Beef for jerky should be as close to 100% fat-free as possible. Adding any oil is going to give you greasy jerky that won't store as well. I'd certainly use toasted sesame seeds though.

The best jerky I've had was seasoned with a mix of cracked coriander seeds and red chilli flakes. Second place goes to teryaki with sesame seeds.

Rosemary is an excellent idea; how about combining it with fennel seeds? - that's a popular combination in Italian cuisine. I bet it would work well on jerky.

Thickness of the slice is more important that direction, although for a chewy jerky I think you want to slice with the grain. At first I made my jerky with very thin slices, but that tends to give you a very brittle result (although the translucent dried meat is quite attractive). Going for something like 3mm (a bit less than 1/8") will give you a jerky that's thick enough to be quite flexible and chewy. I dry mine at about 70C/160F for several hours, restacking the trays in a different order every hour or so. I consider the jerky to be 'done; when (a) folding the strip of jerky causes it to crack slightly, and (b) the thickest part of the meat no longer has any 'give' in it, and (c) I can no longer resist eating it.
posted by pipeski at 12:47 PM on August 3, 2013

Best answer: I make a good amount of jerky.

I have cut both with the grain and against it. Cutting with the grain is much chewier, obviously.

General tips would be to make sure that the meat is as lean as possible. Fat will go rancid, which is also why you want to avoid oil as pipeski already mentioned. I generally recommend a soy sauce base for the marinade because the salt will protect against bacteria growth. So, maybe soy sauce, maple, and rosemary?

I would recommend going to a place like this and seeing what recipes struck your fancy and use ingredients you have on hand. At some point, I do think that you are going to need liquid smoke if you want to keep making jerky.

I generally marinate overnight to give it at least a good six hours. I wouldn't go much more than that because you do not want to overmarinate the meat, either.

If you really want something good, make some salmon jerky sometime. (but you have to eat it fast because of the fat content)
posted by Tanizaki at 1:42 PM on August 3, 2013

Best answer: This is the basic marinade I use for beef jerky. I like that it seasons the meat without necessarily flavoring it. People think that they are just tasting dried beef.

I mix the marinade in large ziplock bags and marinade the sliced meat in it for a day before putting in the dehydrator. Everything is to taste, though the soy is the base:

Soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Liquid smoke
Garlic powder
Cayenne pepper
Brown sugar
Dry mustard
posted by Gilbert at 8:09 AM on August 4, 2013

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