Making your own jerky at home is easier than you think. Here’s how to do it:
If you’re into the whole noble ideal of nose-to-tail eating, which is using as much of the animal as possible, then you should be a jerky fan. Jerky is designed to use those lean cuts usually found in the hindquarter, that are usually a little tougher and definitely not conducive to cooking up as a rare steak. I used eye of round, but top and bottom round will work great too. Essentially, you can use any cut as long as it’s super lean (which is why venison lends itself to being such great jerky, too). It’s a fantastic way to ensure that even the less-awesome muscles are being used and enjoyed.
And if you’re only into jerky because it’s a great tasting meaty snack, that’s great too. It’s definitely a tasty treat and making your own can be more economical than buying it pre-made. Plus, with homemade you get to control the amount of preservatives and junk that’s added to it.
Equipment for making jerky
You can successfully make jerky using a smoker, but the easiest and most reliable way to create it is by using a food dehydrator. The advantage of a dehydrator is it’s true “set and forget’ nature, requiring only one flip of the switch to operate.
Being food safe while making jerky
The USDA recommends that to ensure any nasty bugs are killed off, you boil or heat the meat to 160f. Without doubt, it’s the most safe method. Problem is, doing that can give the meat kind of an unpleasant crumbly texture. My preferred method is simply to blast it in a preheated oven (275f) for ten minutes at the end of the dehydration process.
For storage, use regular zip-top baggies if you’re planning to eat within a week or so, otherwise you can vacuum seal batches of it and keep it in the freezer.
Alternative jerky flavors
Truly, jerky flavors are limited only by your imagination. I’ve seen jerk jerky, sriracha, honey soy, teriyaki, spicy chili… I’ve even done a bloody mary inspired version with venison. It’s all about what you add to the marinade. You can use the following recipe as a base and simply add extra ingredients from there, and have fun experimenting.
Top tips for making jerky
The instructions are really quite simple, but here are a few tips to ensure you have the best possible jerky results:
- use the freshest meat possible
- use lean cuts like top or eye of round
- pat the jerky dry from any marinade before dehydrating to accelerate the process
- freeze meat before slicing to make it easier to cut
- slice very thin pieces no more than 1/4 inch in thickness
- Cut with the grain of the meat – this results in long strands of chewy jerky