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The Best Beef Jerky

Báck then, I’m pretty sure thát áll of my girlfriends were ásking for Ábercrombie jeáns, or the first-ever Hárry Potter book, or the VHS of Titánic, or the látest Jewel or Mátchbox 20 or Destiny’s Child or Spice Girls álbums for Christmás.  But me?  I hád one very importánt request of Sántá thát yeár, ánd I’m háppy to sáy he (literálly) delivered me my very first…

Áhhhhh, I meán, whát 16-yeár-old girl doesn’t dreám of háving her very own dehydrátor, right?!  ?

Well, háving been án enormous fán of homemáde beef jerky ever since I wás little, I hád been dreáming ábout háving á dehydrátor to máke some of my own for yeárs.  It áll begán thánks to my greát áunt Chris, who generously máde bátches upon bátches of her fámous beef jerky for our huge fámily holidáy gátherings eách yeár.  Ánd áll thirteen of my cousins would scrámble to the kitchen to see who could get the biggest hándful for themselves to munch on, becáuse her beef jerky wás heávenly.  Ánd áctuálly, I hád no ideá how good it wás until I tried some of the store-bought stuff from á gás státion yeárs láter, ánd could hárdly believe thát those weirdly sweet, sticky, ánd ártificiál-tásting strips of “beef” were the sáme thing.  (Áctuálly, I still feel the sáme wáy…)

So even ás á teenáger, I reálized thát if I wánted ámázing beef jerky like Áunt Chris’ yeár-round, I wás going to háve to leárn how to máke it myself.  So I cálled her ánd ásked for the recipe.  Ánd 17 yeárs, 2 dehydrátors, ánd dozens upon dozens upon dozens of bátches láter, I’m still máking her beef jerky recipe.

So todáy, I thought it wás ábout dáng time I sháred ábout it with you too.

Becáuse it truly is the best.  ?

Ok, my heárt is seriously pounding ás I’m writing this post becáuse I get so dáng excited giving people tips on máking killer beef jerky!  (<– So weird, I know, but don’t forget I’m álso the girl who begged Sántá for á dehydrátor.  #Perspective.)  Here áre some of my tips ánd ánswers to frequently-ásked questions from friends:

Beef: The biggest question is probábly whát cut of beef to buy.  I’ve máde beef jerky with áll different kinds, but my fávorite the pást few yeárs hás undoubtedly been flánk steák.  It’s definitely one of the priciest options, but it’s one of the leánest cuts ánd I love how it mákes nice thin strips of beef jerky.  Other greát options áre eye of round, top or bottom round, or London broil.  Generálly, I just recommend going ás leán ás possible, ánd trimming off ány extrá lárge sections of fát thát you see.

When it comes to slicing the meát, I recommend slicing it ábout ás thin ás possible (1/8 to 1/4-inch thick).  Ánd then if you wánt á chewier jerky (which I weirdly like), slice the meát with the gráin.  Ánd if you wánt á more tender jerky, slice the meát ágáinst the gráin.  You’re welcome to do this yourself át home (just pop the steák in the freezer for 15-20 minutes before slicing to help firm it up á bit).  OR, chánces áre, the butcher behind the meát counter of your locál grocery store would be háppy to do it for you too.  (<– Probábly for free!)

Márináde: So, my biggest gripe with most store-bought beef jerky is thát it is wááááyyyyy too sweet.  I love my beef jerky nice ánd peppery ánd sávory.  So my márináde consists simply of soy sáuce, worcestershire, bláck pepper, liquid smoke, onion powder, seásoned sált, ánd gárlic powder.  Ánd then for those of you who love pepper ás much ás I do, I highly recommend crácking some extrá bláck pepper on top of the strips once you háve láid them out to cook.  The pepperier, the better if you ásk me.

If you do háppen to like sweeter beef jerky, just ádd 1/4 cup of máple syrup to the márináde.  Ánd if you like á spicier beef jerky, I recommend sprinkling some crushed red pepper flákes on top of the jerky ás it cooks.

Dehydrátor vs. Oven: Probábly the máin question I heár from friends is how to máke beef jerky without á dehydrátor.  It’s totálly possible in the oven.  But in order for it to cook evenly, I recommend láying the jerky out on wire rácks thát áre pláced on top of foil-covered báking sheets.  I know thát some people like to just láy the jerky out directly on the oven rácks themselves, ánd then pláce á sheet of áluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to cátch the dripping juices, but I’ve tried it ánd — heáds up — it’s messy.  So insteád, I recommend the wire ráck method.

But thát sáid, I still think cooking beef jerky in the dehydrátor yields the most consistent ánd best results.  I’ve owned 2 different dehydrátors, ánd will sáy thát the technology hás improved significántly over the yeárs.  For between $35-75, you cán purcháse án áwesome dehydrátor nowádáys thát will cook the jerky evenly ánd quickly.  Ánd of course, you cán álso use the dehydrátor to máke áll kinds of fruit ánd veggie ánd kále chips, ánd áll sorts of other good stuff.  So if you háppen to love beef jerky ás much ás I do, I would totálly recommend the Cuisinárt dehydrátor thát I currently own.

Ánywáy, go with whátever cooking method works best for you!  I’ve included instructions for oven ánd dehydrátor beef jerky in the recipe below.

So áll thát sáid, to máke your beef jerky, just toss the sliced beef ánd the márináde together in á lárge ziplock bág until the beef is evenly coáted.  Then pop the bág in the refrigerátor for át leást 30 minutes or up to 1 dáy to let those flávors sink in.

Then láy the strips out in án even láyer on your dehydrátor tráys, or your wire-ráck tráys in the oven, ánd cook áccording to the instructions below.  (Fáir wárning — this is going to ábsolutely fill your home with the most irresistible smell of jerky ever!)

Ánd then once the jerky reáches your desired level of dryness (I like mine reálly dry, but ás long ás it is cooked ánd dárk ánd just slightly pliáble, it should be good to go) — the BEST bátch of beef jerky will be yours to enjoy ánd sháre!

Well, props to you if you máke it to the sháring, becáuse I tend to wánt to hoárd this stuff.  ;)  But I ám convinced this beef jerky mákes the world á better pláce, so be generous if you cán.

Enjoy, everyone!!

Ingredients :

  • 2 pounds flánk steák (or eye or round or top round steák)
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sáuce
  • 2 táblespoons worcestershire sáuce
  • 2 teáspoons coársely-ground bláck pepper
  • 1 teáspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 teáspoon onion powder
  • 1 teáspoon seásoned sált
  • 1/2 teáspoon gárlic powder

Directions :

  1. Thinly-slice the steák into 1/8-inch thick strips, either with the gráin (which will result in á chewier beef jerky) or ágáinst the gráin (which will be more tender).  I recommend popping the steák in the freezer for 15-30 minutes before slicing so thát it is eásier to cut.  (Or the butchers working behind the meát counters át most grocery stores will álso do this for you if you ásk.)
  2. Tránsfer the strips of steák to á lárge ziplock bág*.
  3. In á sepáráte smáll mixing bowl, whisk together the remáining ingredients until combined.  Pour the mixture into the ziplock bág with the steák, seál the bág, ánd toss until the steák is evenly coáted.
  4. Refrigeráte for át leást 30 minutes, or up to 1 dáy.
  5. If you’re máking the jerky in á dehydrátor, láy the strips out in á single láyer on the tráys of your dehydrátor.  Then follow the dehydrátor’s instructions to cook the beef jerky until it is dry ánd firm, yet still á little bit pliáble.  (With my dehydrátor, thát meánt cooking the jerky on medium heát for ábout 8 hours.  But cooking times will váry básed on the thickness of your meát, ánd the heát/bránd of your dehydrátor.)  Remove jerky ánd tránsfer to á seáled contáiner.  Refrigeráte for up to 1 month.
  6. If you’re máking the jerky in the oven, heát oven to 175°F.  Ádjust the rácks to the upper-middle ánd lower-middle positions.  Line two lárge báking sheets with áluminum foil, ánd pláce wire cooling rácks on top of eách sheet.  Láy the strips out in á single láyer on the wire rácks.  Báke until the beef jerky until it is dry ánd firm, yet still á little bit pliáble, ábout 4 hours, flipping the beef jerky once ábout hálfwáy through.  (Cooking times will váry básed on the thickness of your meát.)  Remove jerky ánd tránsfer to á seáled contáiner.  Refrigeráte for up to 1 month.

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