Beef jerky is dried meat that’s meant to last for extended periods of time. And because it’s easy to make, beef jerky requires only a few ingredients and a heat source – typically an outdoor fire.
Because beef jerky is made from strips of beef, in an uncooked state it looks like raw meat, which is generally a light red or even pink.
These beef strips vary in thickness but are generally between 1/8th to 1/4th of an inch thick. Their look will depend on the cut of beef used, but leaner cuts are optimal as fat is not ideal for both making and preserving jerky.
Before you cook the beef, you’ll likely cover it in both salt and a marinade. As such, the meat will have seasoning sprinkled across it. This is what gives the jerky its taste as the more of the meat that’s covered, the more delicious it becomes.
Once you’ve cooked the jerky, it will be completely dried out. This means it will be appear darker in texture and hardened.
Cooked jerky looks like a rubbery and/or darkened steak.
The color of jerky depends on the cut of beef, how it was cooked, and the flavoring (think spices) used in your marinade. Cooked beef jerky should maintain a reddish hue albeit much darker. Some jerky may be closer to blackish-red, while other types lean towards purple.
Finally, beef jerky made in your own kitchen will often be sprinkled with extra flavoring. This can be specks of sesame seeds, dark spots from cayenne pepper, or bright spots from the onion and garlic powder.
Most jerky recipes use combinations of dark sauces so you should expect them to color your meat. This will depend on how much sauce you use, how much of your beef you cover, and how well you mix your marinade.
Note that although jerky is definitely dried meat that gets darker in the process, it should not get too dark. If it’s black you probably cooked your jerky for too long and will be much too dry to be eatable.