In the Spring of 2010 I inherited a dehydrated from my granddad that dated back to perhaps the early 1990’s. For the first three- four months I had the dehydrator, it just sat on my shelf collecting dust. The want and thought of making beef jerky crossed my mind several times, I just never got around to it.
When I started dating Jake and he found out I had said dehydrator, the dust was brushed off and we set out to make our first batch of beef jerky. And oh boy, was it terrible. I guess I should re-phrase and stated that I thought it was terrible and Jake thought it was okay. I can tell you exactly what our downfall was. Using ground beef. I am not sure why I allowed for this to happen, but I did. Our second mistake was using a pre-made mix from a local sportings good store. Two combinations that were just awful.
After this disaster I was determined to perfect the best beef jerky out there and took to the internet to do some research. There are literally thousands of beef jerky recipes out there and so many different types that it became overwhelming. Over the past year, Jake and I have made several batches and have learned a few things along the way that have helped us come up with an amazing marinade and perfect our beef jerky. Here are some of the tips I have learned and will stick by every time we make a batch of jerky.
1. Beef only. Never again will I use ground beef. The texture and taste just wasn’t there for me. Since our first attempt, Jake and I have tested other types of meat including flat iron and round tip. Jake and I both agree that the best cut of meat for us is bottom round roast. It doesn’t have too much fat and the cut provides you with a good width of jerky slices.
2. Finding the perfect marinade. Jake and I prefer our beef jerky on the spicy side. We tested out a couple of recipes and played around with different spices and both agree that Alton Brown’s marinade from the Food Network was perfect and exactly what we were looking for.
3. Having a good dehydrator. The first one we used was functional, however created a lot more work on our part. The dehydrator didn’t have the greatest fan system and so we would have to rotate the trays every hour. Also if the meat wasn’t cut the same size, some pieces would be done a lot sooner than others.
Jake and I have been fantasizing about purchasing a new dehydrator for the past year so that our semi-perfected beef jerky would come to its full potential. Jake did some research online and a couple of weeks ago we were able to purchase a dehydrator that would work well for our needs.
4. Cutting the meat to perfection. The key to cutting beef jerky is to have the meat chill in the freezer for a couple of hours prior to cutting it. The meat becomes firmer and a lot easier to slice through. Having a sharp knife is also very important here. There is nothing like trying to slice super thin slices of meat with a dull blade. Trust me on this one. 🙂
5. Marinating time. Jake and I played around with marinading the meat for 6 hours to 12 hours and most recently to 16 hours. The longer you allow the meat to soak in the flavors, the more potent the flavors will become in the meat. Jake and I agree that for our beef jerky the best approach is to allow the meat to soak in the marinade over night and through the next day.
6. Texture of jerky. With our first dehydrator, timing was awful. We never knew how long the meat would take to dry out and sometimes we would have a batch that was full of undercooked and overcooked pieces. Our new dehydrator left the guess work out and it only took 3 1/2 hours for all of the pieces of jerky to be to that perfect stage of chewy and crispy at the same time.
I don’t have a magic time of when the jerky is done. You want to look for the slices to be dried all the way through and a little pliable, being sure not to let it dry out until it is hard and looks like it is going to crack.
With those steps, here is the jerky we made.
Slightly adapted from Alton Brown
- 2 1/2 pounds bottom round roast
- 1 cup of worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon of honey
- 2 teaspoons fresh cracked ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons granulated toasted onion
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (more if you like it super spicy)
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients (except for meat) and stir until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
Take chilled meat out of freezer and place on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, trim off excess fat on meat. Thinly slice the meat being sure to go with the grain of the meat. You want to slice the meat a little thicker than paper thin. If the meat becomes too pliable during cutting, dont’ be afraid to place it back in the freezer for another 20 minutes to firm it back up.
Once done slicing all of the meat, place the meat slices in the marinade, being sure to coat all the meat. Place bowl in the refrigerator for up to 16 hours. During this time I usually turn the meat over in the marinade at least two times while in the fridge.
Once the meat is done marinating, take out slice by slice being sure to allow excess marinade to drip off the meat and lay flat on dehydrator racks. Once all of the meat is on the racks, turn it on and let the dehydrator do its magic. It will be important for you to go back and check your meat every hour or so until you have a good feel for how long it will take. (Sorry no pictures, Jake did this step while I was at work and forget to get the pictures!)
When the meat is done dehydrating, take it off the racks and lay flat on paper towels to allow any excess oil soak up.
Store the beef jerky in an airtight container for up to 2-3 months. But I am telling you, this beef jerky is SO delicious that it won’t make it that long. This last batch only lasted us 2 days!
Have fun with making this snack and get creative with your marinade, playing around with different seasonings and elements of spicy flavors.
Do you like beef jerky? Do you prefer it on the spicy side or just full of amazing flavors?