How to Make Delicious Beef Jerky at Home
In order to write this post, I had to overcome some things:
- I thought there is no way I can make beef jerky at home without special equipment. My experience with homemade beef jerky is through my father. He makes amazing smoked and cured meats including jerky, pepperoni, sausage, kielbasa, smoked salmon and more. He makes his in a huge commercial freezer he has converted into a smoke house. Could I make it at home successfully with just an oven?
- I honestly don’t love beef jerky. I am used to the commercial bags of beef jerky that have cloying sweetness or strange flavors created with artificial flavorings and leave an awful after taste in the mouth. I also am used to having to gnaw at it to be able to get it down, which for this girl with TMJ, isn’t a pleasant experience. Could I make a beef jerky that I liked?
- The time factor. I have to admit, although I am a chef, I am an impatient cook! My recipes are quick, fast, easy and definitely not complicated. I was convinced that homemade jerky would entail far too many steps for me to be able to want to make it very often. Could I make a beef jerky that was easy and didn’t require hours of my time to make?
Well I’m happy to report that I absolutely overcame all of my obstacles and made a beef jerky that I really enjoy! I used ground beef so it is nice and tender, I made it at home, no special equipment necessary and it was really easy! I used simple ingredients, which I prefer. A little bit of honey for sweetness, all natural Tamari for that classic flavor, a little liquid smoke to get the smoky-factor and black pepper for a subtle spice. You can add whatever dried spices you enjoy.
The icing on the cake was that I was able to make jerky with grass-fed, humanely raised beef, which is important to me. I purchase my beef from a Seattle area neighborhood butcher shop. Plus the homemade jerky costs a heck of a lot less than buying it at the store, even when using the highest quality meat and flavorings!
- 2 lb ground meat – Use grass-fed ground beef or venison. Get as lean as possible, fat will go rancid in the dried jerky.
- 1 cup low-sodium Tamari soy sauce (you could substitute Braggs aminos if you wish)
- 2 Tb fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tsp liquid smoke (all natural variety)
- 2 Tb honey (you can leave this out if you wish)
- Mix the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 150-170 degrees, as low as it will go. Lightly oil two rimmed baking sheets.
- Divide the meat mixture among the baking sheets. Using a rolling pin, roll the meat evenly until it is about ¼ inch thick. Then use your hands if necessary to patch any holes and even out the edges into a nice rectangle.
- Use a knife to score the jerky into strips.
- Place the jerky in the oven on two racks. Close the oven, but use something to prop it open just a little bit to keep the air circulating. I used a meat cleaver and it worked perfect.
- Set a timer for 10 hours. Your meat may not go that long, but just so you don’t forget it! Rotate the racks after about 4 hours. After 6 hours, flip the pieces over carefully then put back into the oven. Check your meat after 10 hours. If it is fully dried out, it’s ready to cool. If not let it go a little longer.
- Cool and pack into airtight containers and enjoy!
Let’s be honest – jerky isn’t pretty. That’s okay, it tastes great! Your beef jerky can last up to 3 months in an air tight container stored in a dry, dark and cool cupboard – if you don't eat it all first!
Here is some information on grass-fed beef vs. commercial beef from Beth Gilliam, head butcher at Bill the Butcher – Laurelhurst shop:
“Choosing grass-fed beef vs. commercial is better for the health of the animal, of us as the consumers, and for the environment. The first issue that most people think about is the health benefits. The short of it being grass-fed beef has more good fats and less bad fats than commercial beef.
Cows are ruminants and meant to eat grass. When they are forced to eat other things, they become sickly easily. Additionally when they’re packed into pens in a commercial feeding operation, this promotes unhealthiness. Because of this, the animals are constantly fed or injected with antibiotics to keep them healthy enough to make it to slaughter. These cattle are given more antibiotics than they can process and pass some through waste.
The commercial feeding operations are so large and densely packed that they can create manure lagoons, and have run-off that will contaminate waterways. The abundance of manure alone is bad for these waterways, but the antibiotics make things worse. Our practices of overuse of antibiotics in commercial cattle raising and in our current medical systems are creating the huge potential for so-called “super bugs”, antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Onto the easier part, taste. Grass-fed beef typically has a stronger beefy flavor. This is mostly due to the fact that the cattle is older than commercial cattle. Being grass-fed, eating what they’re supposed to, the cattle doesn’t put on weight as fast as eating grains and other junk food. Commercial cattle is usually slaughtered around 12-13 months, grass-fed cattle 20-24 months. Personally I’ve found that I’m satisfied with less meat eating higher quality, due to nutrient density and flavor.”
This jerky is perfect for packing up for an afternoon hike, tossing into snack packs for school, or keeping in the car in case you need some sustenance while you’re sitting in traffic. Beth from Bill the Butcher says she would “load up my back pack and head out to the Hoh rainforest on the Washington peninsula and go foraging for chanterelles.” I’m looking forward to packing this up for a long float down the river before the summer is over. What adventures do you take your jerky on?
Chef Kirsten Helle is a personal chef, nutrition consultant, lifestyle and weight management specialist. She is the CEO of Mesa de Vida…Table of Life. Mesa de Vida was voted the top 5 food blogs in Seattle this past year on the Evening Magazine Best of polls. Kirsten shares hundreds of recipes and more about her 100 lb weight loss and information to help you create a healthy family legacy as well!