Yummy, right? Except I dare you to find some at the store that isn’t absolutely LOADED with a crazy amount of all sorts of chemicals and nasties. Sugar, Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Soy Sauce, Monosodium Glutamate, Fermented Soy Beans, Maltodextrin, Hydrolized Corn Gluten (REALLY?), Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Erythorbate, these are some of the ingredients that are commonly listed on packages of beef jerky.
I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll pass…
I know you can find good quality, all natural jerky out there, but it isn’t that easy a task, especially not in my part of the world, apparently.
Plus, when you do find it, it really doesn’t come cheap…
So I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my very own meaty snack. Good news is, it’s not complicated at all. The process does require a little bit of time and yes, it is a lot more work than simply ripping open a package of the ready made stuff…
But biting into a piece of chewy jerky that YOU just made in your very own kitchen, especially when it’s still slightly warm, has something so satisfying and so rewarding about it, I can’t even explain it. It feels like you just performed some kind of inexplicable magic trick!
You’re like: WHOA DUDE! THIS IS JERKY! I MEAN REAL JERKY, MAN, AND I, ME, MOI, MADE THIS!
And the look on your friends face when you offer them a piece and tell them you made it? Priceless!
Let’s take a look at how it’s done, or at least how I did it, shall we?
Start with a beautiful piece of lean beef and remove all traces of visible fat from that meat.
I chose to use brisket, but you could also use loin, sirloin, top round, flank or any other lean cut. Always keep in mind when making jerky that fat will go rancid on you rather quickly so you want to use the leanest cut of meat possible.
The leaner the meat, the longer your jerky will keep for.
Once you have removed as much of the visible fat as you can, send your piece (or pieces) of meat for a quick trip to the freezer, say 60 to 90 minutes. You don’t want your meat to be frozen solid, you just want it to start to form ice crystals. It should be really firm but you should still be able to pierce it with the point of a sharp knife.
Freezing the meat like that will make it a lot easier for you to cut it into long, thin strips.
Of course, you could also ask your butcher to cut the meat for you. That would save you the hassle!
Slice the meat in long thin strips, going with or against the grain depending on your preference. Jerky sliced against the grain tends to be easier to chew and breaks more easily into pieces whereas jerky that is sliced with the grain will be a lot chewier and somewhat leathery.
You can also go on a diagonal, which is pretty much what I chose to do. Not quite with, not quite against…
Place your strips of meat in a re-sealable plastic bag then pour the marinade right in. Mix everything around until all the meat is completely covered, then place that in the refrigerator and let it marinate overnight.
When you are ready to dry your meat, remove the strips from the marinade and place them directly on your oven racks.
No need to pat them dry really, just let the strips drip a little bit as you remove them. If you have smaller pieces that will not fit on the racks without falling right through the cracks, arrange them on a cooling rack and place that rack right over the oven rack.
You can even stack it right on top of an oven rack that already has meat on it: simply have it rest on a few shot glasses or egg cups or other suitable small objects. I used a few wooden sticks that happened to be sitting there and appeared to be just the right size for the job. Don’t worry about your spacers burning or breaking, we’re not going to turn the heat all that high.
Place your racks back in the oven and let the meat dry for about 3 hours, then flip it over and give it another 3 hours or so.
Total cooking time depends a lot on the size and thickness of your strips.
Your jerky will be done when it’s dry enough that you can rip off a piece easily but not so dry that it’ll snap if you bend it.
Leave the jerky out to cool for a couple of hours, up to 24, then transfer to an airtight container or sealed plastic bag where it will keep unrefrigerated for 4 to 6 months – but I dare you to keep it that long!
I made that batch shortly before Christmas and it’s already gone! In fact, I just ate the last piece today.
I almost shed a tear. Man that jerky was good. Scratch that. That jerky was perfect! I want some more…
I’m starting to think I may have to invest in a good dehydrator!