For most of human history the only way to preserve meat was to dry it into jerky. While new methods of meat preservation have now been developed (freezing, chemicals, and so on) many people still enjoy the flavor and convenience of jerky, which, in the U.S., is most commonly made from beef. Because moisture and fat must be removed from the meat, it can also be a healthy source of protein. Follow these steps and make your own!
- 1meat. Choosing a lean cut like sirloin, top round, or eye round will save time later.
- 3Marinate the meat in a solution of olive oil and vinegar sea salt, or according to a recipe of your preference. Place in the refrigerator for 10 - 24 hours to allow the meat absorb the flavor. This step is optional; the additional moisture can make dehydration take longer and the resulting jerky may be stickier. [You can also mix with soy sauce or soy sauce powder and paprika for a teriyaki taste] Brown sugar is a great addition.
- 5Dehydrate the meat. Leave enough room between pieces to allow air to flow around the meat. Avoid letting the meat separate if possible.
- In an oven, set the temperature to 165 degrees F (70 degrees C), any less may cause early spoilage as it not hot enough to kill bacteria in the meat, and will only incubate the bacteria already present in the meat, and allow it to preheat. (Heat is not intended to cook your jerky; gentle heat aids in the dehydration process by causing the moisture to evaporate.) Place your prepared meat on a wire rack.
- If you wish to store your jerky for longer, use glass mason jars. Plastic bags tend to accumulate moisture which encourages the growth of bacteria. In jars, jerky can be kept for months.
- Be swift. The meat should be dried as quickly as possible, to limit bacterial growth. Cutting the meat into thin slices dramatically shortens drying time. Placing the meat in a freezer for an hour or two before cutting will make it easier to cut thinly.
- Do not allow the jerky to become too dry or it will become hard and unpleasant. It should be the consistency of rubber.
- Traditionally, jerky was smoked or salted to preserve and flavor the meat at the same time.
- Ideally, the jerky should be vacuum sealed in plastic with a pouch of oxygen absorber in order to retard spoilage, but this is not practical in most home situations.
- For a vegetarian version of this, try using seitan (wheat protein) or marinated tofu.
- Use liquid smoke and you will have the best jerky you have ever had. Only use a few drops, as it's very strongly flavored.
- Try a soy sauce based marinade. Some excellent flavoring agents include Adobo seasoning, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, powdered ginger, sesame oil, cajun seasoning
- When drying in an oven, keep the door open a few inches with a couple of wooden spoons. This help the drying process and helps prevent the jerky scalding before it is dry.
- You can also buy home jerky making kits if you are unsure of the whole process.
- Use 3/4 cup of soy sauce, 3.5 oz of liquid smoke, and 1/2 cup of brewed coffee for your marinade.
- This is not commercial jerky and therefore does not contain preservatives. Please take proper precautions to preserve your jerky (i.e. refrigerate or freeze) and consume it promptly.
- Sun drying can lead to spoilage, and you will have a difficult time keeping the insects away.