Saturday, January 1, 2011

Homemade Beef Jerky

During the holidays Jim and I spend a lot of time on the road between his family and mine. One of my favorite road trip foods has become beef jerky. It’s delicious for one, and it’s a low fat food packed with protein to help stave off trips through the tempting drive thru. One thing that kills me is the price of beef jerky! While traveling on 290 between Austin and Houston we stopped for gas and I went in the store to find some local jerky. There wasn’t a price on it, but I assumed it was around $5-6 which is what I usually pay for a small bag of peppered jerky. The clerk was ringing up our purchases and asked, “Do you know how much this is?” Jim and I replied, “no, how much?” and he answered, “It’s $14 and most people freak out when they see me ring it up. Do you still want it?” “uh, no!” we replied in unison.

I settled for Doritos and an ice tea at the time, but was determined to figure out why beef jerky has to be so expensive! Jim bought me a food dehydrator in November for my birthday and this seemed the perfect time to try my hand at homemade beef jerky.

You can make beef jerky from any kind of meat, even ground meat. After some research online I found that flank steak is the most preferred type of meat for jerky. If you are a hunter, this is prime time for venison meat. I’ve had venison jerky and it’s awesome too!

It was difficult to choose our first recipes to start with but I settled on three initial recipes for our jerky. After starting this project I have hundreds of ideas floating around my head, I can’t wait to keep experimenting. The options for marinades and flavors are limitless. Here is where Jim and I began...

Honey BBQ Flavor
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 mashed garlic clove
1 teaspoon chili powder

This marinade comes from The Food Addicts and actually has to simmer on the stove for about 5 minutes to let the butter melt and flavors incorporate, then pull off heat to cool slightly. Then you can add 1 lb or 1.5 lbs of meat strips to this mixture. This is Jim's favorite flavor because it's sweet and has a nice BBQ taste. Marinade overnight.

Peppered Jerky
This recipe makes enough peppery marinade for about 3 pounds of meat. To me, it is your standard jerky flavor and comes from Fabulous Foods. I found it wonderfully smokey and just a tad spicy. You can of course make this as spicy as you desire by adjusting the level of tabasco in the marinade.

2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2-3 teaspoons Tabasco sauce

Add all the above ingredients to a zip top bag, add the meat strips and marinade overnight.

After I laid the strips in the food dehydrator I cracked black pepper on top of each one.

Mandy’s Spicy Jerky

1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 cup soy sauce
2 minced garlic cloves
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon Thai sauce
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce

Because I march to the beat of my own drum I had to create my own flavor and so I took inspiration from the spicy Asian cooking I've been doing and came up with the above recipe for Spicy Jerky. Combine the above ingredients in a zip top bag with the beef strips and marinade overnight.

A few things I learned about making homemade beef jerky:
  • If you buy a beef round, partially freeze it before slicing. This will help you get thin strips.
  • Strips should be ¼ inch or thinner.
  • Slice the meat first before marinating.
  • Slice against the grain to make it easier to bite off and chew.
I purchased the flank steak that had already been tenderized, so it was almost thin enough.

I simply rolled it a little thinner.

Cut the meat into strips that fit your dehydrator so nothing overlaps.
  • Marinade the meat overnight at a minimum so the flavors really soak into the meat.
  • To aid in the drying process, use paper towels to absorb the excess marinade before placing in dehydrator.
Halfway through the drying process, blot the jerky with paper towels to absorb any oil that forms on the suffice. Ours didn’t have very much at all.

I also swapped the trays from top to bottom half way through the drying time just to make sure all the jerky was drying evenly.
  • Drying times are going to vary based on the moisture in the air, your altitude, the temperature you use. I would suggest checking every two hours. Ours took 5.5 hours to complete. You don’t want to dehydrate it so much that it becomes brittle like a cracker.
  • Store for up to two weeks in an air tight container or zip top bag. Putting it in the fridge may extend the life of your jerky for an extra week.

Making Beef Jerky in the Oven

You can also make jerky in the oven, there are lots of blogs that talk about how to do this. When ready for dehydration, place on a foil-lined sheet with no overlap. Cook in the oven at 175 for three hours and then turn over strips. Cook for another 2-3 hours. The timing all depends on the heat in your oven. It’s ready when it’s dry and has the texture of leather but not so dry that it’s brittle and snaps.

Now that I know how EASY and INEXPENSIVE it is to make your own beef jerky, those $14 bags can stick it. I will plan on making my own large batch of jerky from now on, and for less than $10.


  1. You've totally inspired me - def going to try this, maybe this weekend!

  2. Go for it Julie, it's a wonderful low fat, high protein snack to have on hand when you need to munch!

  3. Which one was your favorite?? I bet these jerkys would go perfect with those pickles- which we all LOVE by the way!!

  4. MamaB, My favorite was the peppered jerky and the spicy was a close second. The honey BBQ was good but the marinade made the meat grainy and I didn't care for the sweet flavor.

  5. I tried it in the oven, but the recipe I looked up for cook time/temp def led me astray (250 for 4 hours)... after 3 hrs they were burnt to a crisp!!! Sad bc the marinade smelled soooo good! Oh well, maybe I'll give it another try sometime on a lower temp. :)

  6. My hubby LOVES (like as in is obsessed with) beef jerky and he is gonna love me for making it for him.
    I mean, I think he loved me before since he did put a ring on it and all, but he is gonna love me even more.

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  7. I've always wanted to make this myself. Now that I know how I'll be starting to make it. Thanks to your post.

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