Homemade Beef Jerky

jerky shooter kit

Even though the pioneers of old didn't know it, jerky made from lean fresh meat is low in cholesterol, low in fat and very high in protein, making jerky a wholesome and nutritious snack. Jerky is an excellent energy food when hiking, skiing, biking, or anytime you want a light snack.

Why pay eight to sixteen dollars per pound for beef jerky when you can make it for just pennies more than the cost of ground beef. We have the best beef jerky seasonings you will find anywhere. Making fresh jerky is fun and economical. The packaged and bulk jerky products sold in stores and at shows are related to real fresh jerky but, they tend to be over processed, over salted and in most cases stale. Fresh jerky is much softer, has more meat flavor, and provides more nutrition.

Jerky Making Basics

Since fresh jerky is best, we recommend that you make your jerky in one or two pound batches being sure to weigh meat and measure seasoning and cure mix exactly as the recipe describes. After cooking, store finished jerky in the refrigerator.

Please read all instructions carefully. Meat is cured by the use of sodium nitrite. Meat must be weighed and seasoning must be measured exactly. Never use more jerky seasoning and cure mix than a recipe calls for. However, feel free to add and adjust any other spices, herbs or flavorings to suit your own taste.

Selecting Meat for Jerky

Jerky can be made from lean beef, chicken or turkey breast, and wild game. Quality meat means quality jerky but you don't have to pay a high price. Watch the sales at your local supermarket and take advantage of them. One local store here regularly runs a buy one get one free promotion on rump roast or flank steak. That's half price and there is no reason not to freeze the meat for making jerky at a later date. By the way, if your freezer is like ours, you'll probably find a piece of beef or chicken in there that's lost its eye appeal but is still fine to eat. It will make great jerky! Lean ground beef like ground round will make good jerky and, using our Jerky Gun, it can be a lot of fun for kids!

Beef flank steak is your best buy. There is no waste at all because flank steak is all lean, pure red meat with consistent straight grain making it easy to prepare.

Chicken and turkey breast meat are also perfect for making even lower fat, healthier jerky snacks. Pork should never be used for jerky. The pork version of jerky is bacon which requires a different blend of cure and spices as well as completely different processing. See our recipe for maple ccured smoked bacon.

Wild game like deer and rabbit are well suited to jerky making if the meat has been promptly and properly processed. The curing process used to make jerky will greatly reduce the gamy flavor of wild meats. Prepare deer and rabbit as described for beef. Game birds should be treated like chicken.

The Basic Jerky Making Tools are:

A sharp, 6 to 8 inch knife called a boning knife or slicer

A large clean cutting board

A set of standard measuring spoons

A dinner fork and mixing bowl

A heavy duty food grade zip lock bag

A box of unpainted large wooden tooth picks

An optional kitchen scale

Collect all your utensils and wash everything including your hands. Give yourself plenty of work space and have no other food products in the area.

The Jerky Making Process

Jerky meat needs to be cut with the grain. If you slice the meat across the grain as you would when carving a roast, your jerky will crumble and fall apart when cooked. Beef and deer jerky strips should be about 1/4 inch thick and 1 inch wide. Jerky made from poultry needs to be 3/8 inch thick. Most meat carving knives have a flat sided handle which is 1/4 inch thick on each side of the blade. The handle can act as a guide for cutting the perfect thickness.

Lay the meat out flat on the cutting board with the grain running up and down. Lay your knife flat on the cutting board at the bottom of the meat with the edge facing away from you.

Lightly hold the meat in place with one hand and slice the meat while keeping the knife handle flat on the cutting board. Take your time and cut slowly with even strokes. Never cut with your hand in front of the knife. If holding the meat while you cut it seams a little scary, use a coffee cup on top of the meat. Cut all the way through.

Separate the two pieces of meat and repeat the cutting process with the top section if necessary. If the top piece is less than 1/8 inch to thick, do not cut again. If the meat is to thin, it will not cure and cook evenly. Lay the meat out on the board again with the grain running top to bottom. Cut each piece in half and then in half again until you have strips about 1 inch wide. If the strips are very long you should cut them in half across the grain of the meat. The strips need to be short enough so that they will leave a space at least 4 to 5 inches from the bottom of your oven when they are hung for cooking. Try to keep the pieces uniform in size so they cook evenly.

Weigh the meat to determine how much seasoning and cure mix is needed. This is critical. Using to much seasoning and cure mix will ruin your jerky. Use no more than the amount recommend on the seasoning package. If you do not have a kitchen scale, remember to have the butcher write the weight of the meat on the package when you buy it. If you have any doubt, using a little less is best.

Use a fork to fluff up the seasoning and cure mix. Measure out the correct amount of seasoning and cure mix by filling the measuring spoon and leveling it off with a straight edge. If your recipe calls for additional spices place the mix in to a bowl or small measuring cup and then add the other spices. Any spice combination you wish to try will work. Place the seasoned meat in a large zip lock bag and store in the refrigerator over night. The meat will begin to cure and turn very dark red.

Cooking Beef Jerky

Your jerky must be cooked. You can do this in the oven, dehydrator, grill or smoker. The cooking/curing process is done slowly at low heat. Over cooking and over smoking will give an off taste and make your jerky tuff and hard to chew.

Oven: Remove all cooking racks from the oven. Place a large cookie sheet in the bottom of the oven and pre heat oven to 200 degrees. Use tooth picks to provide supports for hanging the jerky on an oven rack. Place rack in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Sample the jerky for extent of doneness after 1 hour.

Dehydrator: Follow instructions for preparing meat supplied with the dehydrator.

Smoker and Grill: Cook at 200 degrees for 1 hour with indirect heat. If your grill cannot be held at this low temperature, cook for smoke flavor for about 20 minutes and then finish in the oven.

Remove the jerky from the oven and immediately pat it dry with paper towels. Place the hot jerky into zip lock bags or a glass jar and allow it to cool. This will enhance the flavor. Store finished Jerky for up to one week in the refrigerator.

Freezing finished jerky will make it dry and tough.