All of the recipes listed below vary in their methodologies and marinade flavors so there is no set truly “best” method. It’s all a matter of preference. That said, there are marinades that are considered better than others, some of which have been assembled here to give you the best possible beef jerky you can make at home.
The following beef jerky recipes are featured here: bison jerky, biltong, pastrami jerky, Cajun jerky, Chinese food jerky, and harissa beef jerky.
The following is a recipe that harkens back to the Native American origins of jerky. Although it is named “Bison Jerky,” you will actually begin with two pounds of top round beef that has been sliced to a thickness of 1/8 of an inch. The name only refers to the seasonings, not the meat.
First, mix in a large Ziploc bag the marinade essentials of: 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic and crushed red chili, 1 tablespoon of ground black pepper and sugar, 2 teaspoons of honey, 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke, and one and a half cups of Worcestershire sauce.
Place the meat strips inside the bag, shaking it thoroughly, and then place it into the fridge for a full day.
After 24 hours have passed, remove the bag from the fridge, remove the beef strips from the bag, and dry them down with a paper towel.
You can either use a food dehydrator or conventional oven for the drying.
For the oven, place the beef strips onto the oven racks and set the temperature to the lowest possible setting (between 170° F and 180° F). Dry the meat for between five and six hours.
When it has finished, store it in an airtight container. Place the container in the fridge for extra shelf life.
Biltong (South African Beef Jerky)
The beef jerky common to South Africa is a bit thicker than the North American variety and called “biltong.” Although this is an African recipe, the truth is it goes all to the way to the days of cowboys in the old west and emulates their jerky making methods.
Start with five pounds of round beef that has been cut into 1/8 of an inch slices.
This recipe uses a mixture of wet and dry marinade ingredients.
You’ll combine the wet marinade ingredients into a large bowl. They are: 1 pound of juiced carrots, half a pound of juiced celery, 1 and a half tablespoons of juiced ginger, 1 and a half tablespoons of diced garlic, 2/3 cup of Worcestershire sauce, and 18 ounces of soy sauce.
Then, blend together the following dry ingredients: 4 tablespoons of brown sugar, 2 and a half tablespoons of ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon of onion powder, ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper, ½ teaspoon of cumin, and ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper.
Once the wet and dry marinade ingredients have been prepared, you need to whisk them together and massage the resulting mixture into the meat strips. Then, either in a large bowl or a Ziploc bag, store the meat and marinade together in the fridge overnight for 10 to 12 hours.
Using a food dehydrator, set the machine to 150° F and dry the meat for six hours. Rotate the strips at regular intervals and remove them when they have reached your desired level of tenderness.
Another unique jerky recipe is flavored after the popular deli meat. The process of making pastrami is very similar to that of making beef jerky, so it is only fitting that the two should meet in flavorful harmony.
To begin, cut your three pounds of flank steak into thicker slices than other jerky recipes, between ¼ and ½ an inch thick.
Then, mix the following into a large Ziploc bag: half a cup of soy and Worcestershire sauces, ¼ cup of brown sugar, and ½ tablespoon of diced garlic.
Add the meat to the bag and store it in the fridge overnight.
The following day, remove the bag from the refrigerator and allow it to cool back to room temperature.
Next, preheat your oven to 180° F. Place a tray at the oven’s bottom rack and oil it down with cooking spray.
Remove the meat strips from the bag, making sure to dry them properly before placing them onto the racks. Place the beef strips next to one another, but with enough room between for air circulation. Before you place the tray into the oven, sprinkle over the beef with 2 tablespoons of both ground pepper and coriander seed.
When you place the tray full of beef into the oven, make sure to leave a crack open at the top so you don’t accidentally cook the meat. It will take between two to four hours for the beef to fully dry out, depending on your oven’s temperature and your meat’s thickness.
Many of the recipes on this list feature flavorings specific to a certain region. Cajun recipes, although largely understood by some food experts, are also quite popular in today’s kitchen for their unique blending of various cultural flavorings. It stands to reason, then, that beef jerky is a perfect place to add a Cajun flair.
This recipe asks for either five or ten pounds of top round beef, sliced into strips between 1/8 and ¼ of an inch thick.
You must first mix your marinade ingredients together in a large container, that include: 1 tablespoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, and powdered crab/shrimp boil, 3 cups of water, 1 cup of Worcestershire sauce, a half a cup of soy sauce, and ¼ cup of teriyaki sauce.
Place your beef strips together with the marinade, making sure that each piece is fully covered in the flavorings. Then refrigerate this mixture for one or two full days, minimum. For this recipe, the longer you keep the beef and marinade in the fridge, the better the flavors will absorb into the meat.
You can use either your food dehydrator or oven for this, but a dehydrator is recommended.
Remove the trays from your machine and carefully arrange the beef slices on it with room between each. As with any jerky recipe, take special attention so that you do not overlap the strips.
Next, dry the beef at 160° F for a few hours. Four to six hours is standard, but the length can vary depending on your dehydrator.
You should check on the beef as it dries and turn it over when you don’t notice any wet spots on the visible side of the strips.
Chinese Food Beef Jerky
Chinese food is a staple of the American diet. Second to only pizza as the favorite takeout dish in the United States, who would have ever thought to combine this much sought-after flavor pallet with that of beef jerky? The below recipe does just that.
It is highly recommended that you use a food dehydrator with a fan for this recipe. If you don’t have one, then you can use your oven set to its lowest possible temperature with the door cracked slightly ajar to prevent the beef from overcooking.
Begin with four pounds of top round beef that has been pre-sliced into 1/8 of an inch-thick strips and trimmed of all excess fat. The strips should also be cut again into one-inch long strips for optimal jerky.
Next, whisk together the following ingredients in a large bowl with a lid: 4 tablespoons of both minced ginger and garlic, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, four cups of soy sauce, and 1 cup of brown sugar.
Fully submerge your meat strips into the marinade mixture, cover the bowl, and place it into the fridge for 12 hours minimum.
Remove the meat from the bowl, making sure to dry each strip carefully, and place each onto either your dehydrator’s trays or onto baking sheets placed over your oven’s baking racks.
Sprinkle sesame seeds over the meat and place them into your dehydrator at 160° F for around three hours, or into your oven at 170° F for between 10 and 12 hours.
Another flavor of worldwide fame is “harissa,” a spicy paste local to North African kitchens. Although the spice is potent, it is also quite sweet, which is a perfect topping for beef jerky, where flavor mixtures are king.
This recipe is a little different than others that you will find here because there are no wet ingredients used in the marinade, only an assembly of spices meant to emulate the harissa goodness.
You will begin with two and a half pounds of eye of round or bottom round beef that has been pre-sliced into thin strips between ¼ and 1/8 of an inch thick.
To prepare your marinade, first assemble 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, and ½ teaspoon of caraway seeds into a pan that has been preheated over medium heat. Toast the seeds for a few minutes, only until they are toasted, not cooked (and definitely not burnt).
Once the seeds are toasted, grind them down and mix them into a bowl that contains: 2 tablespoons of salt, 1 tablespoon each of brown sugar, ancho chili powder, and smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, and ¼ teaspoon of cayenne.
Next, rub each beef strip through the spices, making sure to fully coat each of them with the flavorings. Place each strip on wire racks atop baking sheets and then insert the racks into the fridge for 12 hours. After removing the meat from the refrigerator, let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to warm off.
Set your oven to its lowest possible setting and place the racks into the oven. Make sure to prop open your oven door using a wooden spoon so that moisture can leave the oven to assist in drying the meat properly.
It should take the jerky between three and four hours to fully dry out. You should rotate the racks from top to bottom each hour. After two hours, you should flip over the beef strips.
Once they jerky is ready, you should let it set out for a few hours at room temperature.
You can store the finished product in Ziploc bags, either left in a cool room or in the refrigerator for optimal flavor retention.
Dr. Pepper Beef Jerky
Finally, here is an additional recipe to make homemade beef jerky using your electric smoker.
This recipe uses a unique marinade mixture using the popular soda Dr. Pepper.
You’ll first want to mix together the marinade flavors into a medium saucepan. You’ll need: 2 tablespoons of salt and black pepper, 1 teaspoon of garlic and onion powders, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, 2 slice jalapenos, and 2 cups of soda.
Turn on the heat to bring the marinade mixture to a boil. Once it starts to bubble, turn down the heat and let it simmer for around 10 to 15 minutes. You should reduce half of the marinade’s volume if done properly.
When the marinade is finished, you need to chill it thoroughly.
Afterwards, you’ll place your two to three pounds of eye of round beef that has been sliced into thin strips into a large Ziploc bag and pour the marinade mixture on top of them. Be sure to massage the meat so that the flavors get deep inside the strips. Place the bag inside the fridge and let it sit for 8-12 hours.
Once the meat has fully marinated, remove the bag from the fridge and preset your smoker to 170° F.
Remove each strip of beef from your Ziploc and lay them onto dry paper towels to remove the excess moisture. Lay your strips onto the smoker’s racks and smoke them for two to three hours. This process depends on how thin your beef is and can take upwards of four to five hours for thicker meat.
You should keep an eye on the jerky to make sure everything is drying evenly. You need firm meat that can be bent without snapping in two.
Afterwards, you should place the jerky into a gallon sized Ziploc while it is still hot. Don’t close the top of the bag, as this will cause moisture to build up inside and destroy the jerky you’ve worked so hard for.
If done right, you can consume the jerky for three to four days without refrigeration, and for up to two weeks if you store it in the fridge.