One of the easiest ways to make homemade beef jerky involves a dehydrator.
There are many excellent dehydrators on the market and all of them assist in the drying of the meat and removing its moisture for stellar jerky made in your kitchen.
Regardless of the model you have (or choose), the process begins with a lean piece of meat. Whether you decide to use flank steak, sirloin tip, top round, bottom round, or eye of round is up to you, the point is to choose a cut that has as little fat as you can get. For jerky enthusiasts who own a jerky gun, ground meat is possible.
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Starting with two pounds of beef is a good idea so that you get enough jerky in the end to enjoy (a little less than a pound’s worth) but not too much should you want to experiment for your first time.
Your first step is removing fat from the meat. You should cut off the fat cap and then trim down all fat that you can see.
Next, you need to place the meat inside your freezer for one to two hours. This allows you to cut the meat into nearly identical slices.
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Your meat should be hard after its time in the freezer, but not fully frozen. Then, you have to slice the meat into slices of either 1/8 or ¼ of an inch thick. If you want jerky that is chewier, then simply slice the meat along the grains.
If you have a jerky slicer, then you can ignore the freezing step mentioned above.
When the meat is ready, it is time to prepare to the marinade. You can choose any marinade type you want for the flavor you are looking for.
Although the marinades will differ depending on your flavor of choice, there are three key ingredients to any jerky marinade that will rarely (if ever) change. These are: salt, pepper, and vinegar.
Salt is crucial for the jerky’s unique salty taste, sure, but also because it enhances the flavor of the beef. Pepper is essential because jerky has a distinct spiciness to it. The vinegar is important for securing high volumes of flavor onto the meat for the final, rich beef jerky.
You must then mix the beef with the marinade and place the mixture in a container such as a Ziploc bag or Tupperware bowl. Make sure each strip of beef is completely covered in the marinade before you store the container in the fridge. You can marinate the beef anywhere from six hours to an entire day, but the magic number hovers closer to 16 to 18 hours.
Once you’ve marinated the meat, you should dry the strips down and clean them of any excess marinade. This will help the beef dehydrate faster.
Then, it is time to place the beef inside the dehydrator. When placing the beef, make sure that none of the strips are touching one another and that there is enough space between them for proper air circulation and complete drying.
Most dehydrators have various temperature settings, with 160° F (71° C) the highest setting on the dial. Turn the dial to its max setting of 160° and let the beef dry inside for four to five hours. The actual length will vary depending on the type of meat you used and how thin (or thick) your slices are.
Although the dehydrator is taking care of the legwork, you should still check your jerky on a regular basis to make sure the beef doesn’t over dry. You will be able to understand when the jerky is finished when you notice that the beef strips are bent but not broken.
Once the strips are dry, you must let them remain on the rack for a few hours to allow proper cooling.
And there you have it! Your beef jerky is finished, and you can begin enjoying.
It is unlikely that you’ll eat all of the jerky strips at once. You can store the finished product in glass jars, Ziploc bags, or anything that ensures air control. The homemade beef jerky will remain eatable for around a week, or upwards of ten days.
"You might be a redneck if you think that beef jerky and moon pies are two of the major food groups."
-- Jeff Foxworthy