In our quest to make dry curing more approachable 2 words came to mind, Carne Seca. This Mexican dry cured meat is an absolute must for anyone who wants to start their journey in the wide world of dry curing meats. It’s easy, incredibly delicious, and the best part is that it’s also fast. This can be made in just under 1 day.
Let’s break this dry cured meat down into it’s simplest forms.
Preparing the Meat
Choosing the right cut of meat is extremely important when making Mexican Carne Seca. I would recommend using top round, eye of round, or bottom round as they are great lean cuts to use and are very flavorful. What ever cut you choose, just make sure it’s on the leaner side.
While we are on the topic of meat preparation I do want to add that you can change the protein in this recipe to use game meat (buffalo, venison, elk), duck, goose, and even pork. Just follow the recipe below and it should turn out great!
You’ll want to trim your meat of any fat, silver skin, and basically anything that’s not just meat. For carne seca we are looking for very lean. Once your meat has bee clean up it’s time to slice.
When it comes to slicing the meat you are going to want to slice your meat against the grain and VERY thin. I’m talking 2mm – 3mm (1/8 inch) thin. Having a razor sharp knife and keeping your meat partially frozen really helps during this step. If you are in the mood for adding some hardware to your kitchen operation a small/semi commercial meat slicer is perfect for this job. I like this unit from Beswood. It’s a 10 inch slicer that’s moderately priced and perfect for the hobbyist. This slicer has a strong enough motor to cut through semi frozen meats and will tackle any and all dry cured meats that you throw at it.
Curing the Meat
What I really love about making carne seca is the simplicity of it. It’s just meat and salt. Of course you can get wild if you want to make your very own signature version of this Mexican dry cured meat (cumin, oregano, chipotle powder), but most often it’s only meat and salt.
Salt does several things in this recipe. The first and most important function of salt in this recipe is to help draw out moisture and prepare the meat for drying. The second is flavor. Salt really helps bring out those beefy notes.
Drying the meat
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to drying your meat for carne seca. My grandfather (in Monterrey, MX) would simply hand his salt cured meat on clothes lines, protected with a mosquito netting. This was all done on the roof of his inner city home in the hot, dry Mexican weather.
This method of drying (while being the cheapest option) can be a bit tricky depending on where you live. You might have to take it in at night to keep the high humidity of the evening and morning from rehydrating your meat as it hangs. Also, I would suggest half way through the drying process to remove the partially dried meat from the clothes lines and flip it over so that the underside of the meat can dry evenly.
Another way to dry your meat (as I demonstrate in my video) is to use a biltong box. This box is a simple construction that draws fresh air in from the bottom, where a light heats up that air and vents it out towards the top of the box. This design allows whatever is in the box to slowly dry. I’ve used my biltong box to make biltong (obviously), carne seca, lap cheung, droëwors, and various other forms of charcuterie.
One thing you need to know about using a biltong box to make carne seca is that you will be greatly limited on space. I can only dry about 1.5 pounds of raw meat in mine, so for me it’s not a very convenient option which brings me to a third more convenient option for making this Mexican meat treasure.
A dehydrator. This method is a lot more efficient, as dehydrators are able to heat at low temperatures with a constant fan blowing against the food. This allows you to dry the meat in a more precisely controlled environment which tends to produce a better product. I also like that the meat lays flat on the trays which ensures that the meat dries evenly.
Using a dehydrator also gives you lots of space to dry your meat. Dehydrators come with several shelves (depending on the model that you have) and you can stack these shelve vertically, drastically increasing the amount of carne seca you can make at one time. 7 years ago we bought 2 dehydrators and we still use them to this day. We use a 5 tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator and a 9 tray Excalibur dehydrator. They are both well built and a worthy investment.
Enjoy the video and the recipe where I take you through the entire process of makin beef jerky. If you have any questions let me know..