Who doesn’t love jerky? Beef, elk, venison, moose, or alligator makes no difference to me. Just give me that tender, dried, seasoned beef snack.
Let’s be honest. Jerky isn’t cheap. Some decent jerky can run you upwards of $40 – $45 bucks a pound… OUCH! Making it at home is the way to go.
There are several different ways you can make jerky at home. You can use your home oven, but often home ovens get a little too hot. Leaving your oven door ajar is one way to help keep the temp on the low side. If drying your meat in your oven sounds too fussy you can always use a smoker. I often use an electric smokin-it smoker that holds low temps with ease. With a smoker you can not only dry your meat but you have the added bonus of adding a nice smoky flavor.
If you don’t have a smoker you can always use a dehydrator. Dehydrators are great because they can keep very low temps and remove moisture effectively. This makes them very versatile in a kitchen. They can proof bread, ferment all sorts of stuff, make fruit leathers, and of course jerky. There are many models and styles to choose from but we’ve always trusted Excalibur dehydrators as I’ve had nothing but great results with their product.
Finally if you don’t have a dehydrator, a smoker, and don’t want to use your oven you can always go old school! Sun dried jerky. This method is straight forward. Hang your jerky on a wire rack in the blazing sun. You want to make sure that it’s not an overcast day. As soon as the outside temps reach 95F -100F you’ll want to leave the jerky out for 6-7 hours till its dried but pliable. Covering the jerky in some cheese cloth will help protect it against insects.
Choosing your cut of meat is important as well. Top round or bottom round are great cuts to use as they are lean, and very flavorful. What ever cut you choose just make sure it’s lean with little to no marbling. Fat will make your jerky spoil. When you slice your meat be sure to slice against the grain (this will give you a more tender chew). The thickness of your sliced meat is also important. Slices that are cut 1/4 inch thick by 3/4 inch wide tend to produce great jerky with a nice bite. You can play with the thickness to go a little thicker or thinner to your liking.
Once you’ve sliced your beef it’s time to season it. I like the seasonings from The Sausage Maker. They offer 12 or so flavors and each pack makes between 20-30 pounds of jerky. I tried 5 flavors in the video you see below and they were all tasty. Personally the BBQ and the Teryiaki were rocking!!
To Cure or Not to Cure? That is the question.
Should you use instacure #1 in your beef jerky? There’s no real easy answer to this question so I’ll just share my thoughts on the matter and let you decide. InstaCure #1 is a combination of salt and nitrite. When added to meat it protects it against harmful bacteria. InstaCure #1 is especially useful when meat is being cooked, dried, smoked, or stored at low temps (above 40f and below 150f) or in environments where oxygen is depleted (like a smoker). It’s in these environments that bacteria tend to thrive. The addition of InstaCure #1 prohibits these bacteria from growing. In addition to keeping your meat safe it also extends your shelf life outside of refrigeration. Uncured meat needs to be kept in the refrigerator and will generally last several months while cured meat can be kept outside of refrigeration and can last up to a year. I have to say that InstaCure #1 is not necessary to make good jerky but it is highly recommended. If you don’t use InstaCure #1 take the appropriate measure to ensure that you are producing a safe product to eat.
Whether or not you choose to use cure #1 in your jerky recipe the seasoning kits from The Sausage Maker have a pack of instacure #1 free of charge with every flavor.
Once we mixed our seasonings with the meat we placed it all in a zip lock bag. I massaged the meat every few hours to distribute the marinade evenly and let it rest in the fridge overnight.
The next day the meat had absorbed all the water I added and all that was left to do was dry it. At 145F in my dehydrator I dried the meat for about 5 hours till it was dry but pliable. Jerky complete!!
Enjoy the video where I take you through the entire process. If you have any questions let me know..
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