Beef jerky is an excellent snack that’s loaded with flavour. It is a great protein source, curbing cravings, making you feel full, and helps build muscle. In addition, a pack of jerky is lightweight and versatile. Most of all, it is not highly perishable, so you can tote it in your handbag, eat it in the gym as a post-workout snack, put it in kids’ lunches, and take it on camping trips.
If you truly want the healthiest jerky, making it at home is your best bet. With this approach, you can select the best ingredients. Let us show you how to make beef jerky in your kitchen!
Choosing the Best Ingredients
To achieve the best tasting jerky, the key is to start with the best lean beef with little fat and use other premium raw materials. Most jerky enthusiasts prefer the top side cut sliced very thinly against the grain. Beginning with a good foundation will yield the best results, so don’t scrimp on your beef jerky base materials.
For the most basic beef jerky recipe, you will need the following ingredients for every 1 kilo of thinly cut meat:
- 180ml soy sauce: This contains salt for flavour, improves texture and gives the beef a nice dark colour.
- 35ml apple cider vinegar: Acids are essential for food safety since they inhibit the growth of microbes. This ingredient will not just add a distinct taste but help ensure your jerky is safe for consumption.
- 35ml water: You only need a small amount of water to ensure your beef is well-submerged in the marinade.
- 2 grams ground black pepper: This is a classic ingredient that gives a hit of spice.
- 2 Tablespoons of Fresh Chilli Paste: This can be adjusted to your liking
- 50ml Honey: This will add some sweetness to balance the salt in the soy sauce.
Marinade in the fridge for 24 hours. Once you get the hang of this original recipe, you can play around with different add-ons. The fun part about making jerky is you can let your creative juices flow. Build up the base recipe by adding paprika, teriyaki sauce, garlic powder, Pinot Noir, rosemary, etc. The sky is the limit to your imagination!
Vital Food Safety Notes
To ensure your jerky stays safe for consumption, follow food safety preparation protocols. Remember, raw meat contains pathogens, so you must handle it correctly. Never mix raw meat with cooked meat. And always begin by washing your hands and cleaning the food preparation area.
As a general rule, follow this:
- Don’t expose meat to room temperature for more than 2 hours at a time.
- Never return meat that’s been sitting for 2 hours back into the fridge but cook it immediately.
- If the meat has been out for 4 hours at room temperature, discard it.
Remember, your jerky must be dehydrated thoroughly to kill any bacteria. It also has to be very dry to ensure shelf stability. As a general rule, your beef is dry enough if it is 33% of its original weight. For example, 3kg of meat will be reduced to 1kg.
You can prep your beef and slice against the grain 6 to 10 mm thickness for even dehydration. Alternatively, ask your butcher to slice it for you. You may pay more per kilo, but it will save time and effort. After marinating the beef, you can cook it via the dehydrator method or the oven method.
- Dehydrator: Set the dehydrator to 70C. Lay down the beef slices, ensuring there’s no overlap on the trays. The approximate cooking time is 8-10hours. Be sure to turn the trays around for even drying.
- Oven: Line the bottom of your oven with aluminium foil to catch drips. Lay the beef over your oven grill racks. This will ensure the beef dries and air circulates. Set the oven to 60C and dry for 3-4 hours.
** It is important to remember everyone’s oven does cook differently so be sure to keep an eye on the jerky should time need to be adjusted **
Once done, cool the jerky completely before packing. Storing it hot in a container will create condensation and moisture. Proper storage in a dry and sealed container will allow it to last.
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