Its easy to make your own tasty jerky, and you can customize it with a ton of different flavors.
You know what’s great about meat? Not only is it the core foundation for any decent meal, but it also serves as one of the best standalone snacks out there. In fact, jerky may actually be the king of all road trip comestibles. It’s not crumbly or messy, it’s chewy texture kinda gives you something to do while you’re flying down a boring stretch of highway (or stuck in a traffic jam for that matter), and its paleo/locarb/notvegan. Everyone wins.
Make jerky yourself at home
The stuff you buy in the grocery store tends to be laden with lots of preservatives and unpronounceable food chemicals, which I understand are a necessary evil in commercial applications, but jerky is actually super easy to make yourself at home, all you need is a decent dehydrator and to ensure that you get the meat to a temp that will kill off any bacteria.
Which cuts to use to make jerky
Jerky is traditionally made from exceptionally lean cuts, which dehydrate and keep much better than fattier ones. I’m serious about this one, y’all. I know we all usually look for the most marbled cuts when we’re taking steaks, briskets and things of that nature, but that’s not what you’re looking for here. Top, Bottom or Eye of Round all work really well for beef, and are usually really economical, too. Venison is also a great option, particularly with muscles from the deer ham. Whichever you choose, it should be cut into thin strips for jerky purposes.
There’s been a bit of a trend lately of boutique companies producing fancy “chef made” jerky. Some of them even use the most expensive muscle on the whole steer (the tenderloin) to do so, which is completely ridiculous for three reasons. First, jerky is supposed to be a reasonably economical endeavor, and a great use for cheaper cuts. Second, finding such uses for these cuts is more in line with “nose to tail” ethos of using the whole animal, instead of encouraging the worship of one single muscle which makes up a mere fraction of the carcass. And finally, the tenderloin, while unarguably tender, is one of the least flavorful muscles on the whole beast. On the other hand, the round is packed with beefy flavor. So all in all, it’s kind of a no brainer, isn’t it?
Making jerky safely
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.
Jerky flavor combinations
Whichever technique you choose, this methodology and recipe is the base building block for a plethora of jerkylicious flavor combinations. Just change up the spices and marinades and get experimenting. The method is still the same. Try Sriracha, black pepper, honey & soy and just about anything else that takes your fancy. But for now, kick things off with my recipe for Bloody Mary jerky below (which also makes a great garnish for an actual Bloody Mary!).