Making Your Own Beef Jerky at Home
If you’ve had the pleasure of beef jerky touching your taste buds and developed an addiction to it, no one will blame you. There is something very tasty about this treat and it has much more nutritional value than many think.
Of course, beef jerky products that are heavily processed and manufactured in mass production (generally found in supermarkets and bottle shops) are of lower quality and not as healthy in any way. But if you buy products that are made from 100% good quality beef and locally sourced ingredients, you are guaranteed to get a product that is delicious and nutritious (in small amounts as part of a balanced diet).
Another option to get really good and healthy beef jerky is to make your own. Again, the key to this is buying beef that is locally grown and sourced from an ethical and reliable farmer. The better the beef is, the better your beef jerky will taste. It is as simple as that!
Now, how exactly do you go about making your own beef jerky. It is simpler than you might think and won’t take nearly as long as you’re imagining. In fact, the amount of time and money you put into making beef jerky will have long standing benefits – one batch of beef jerky can last up to a month or more! That is a good investment for your fridge.
Obviously the most important element of a good beef jerky is the beef. This is the starting point and you do want to get it just right. So look out for 100% good quality Australian beef from your local butcher.
Next, decide how you’re going to slice the meat. Cutting it against the grain will give you a more tender jerky slice. If you slice with the grain, you will yield more chewier jerky which some people can prefer. Either way, make sure you slice the meat nice and thin. Remember, you want it in slices that you can easily bite into a devour. To manually soften the jerky you can use a handheld meat tenderizer. This will assist with the meat absorbing the marinade.
Another good tip is to stick the meat in the freezer for a good 30 minutes before you start slicing. This basically just helps the meat to become more firm and it is much easier to cut by hand or using a meat slicer. You can also your local butcher to freeze it before you complete the transaction for it.
As for the type of meat you by, a classic favourite for beef jerky is the flank steak. It may be pricy, but remember this is a long term investment for quality. Other rounds, such as top or bottom or eye, are also good options.
As for the sauce, you will need to decide if you are going to make it yourself or by one from the store. Sometimes, the ones from the supermarket can have excess sweetness and additives. If you prefer to make your own, it will be healthier. There are many recipes online for beef jerky marinade recipes. BBQ Rubs can also make good bases for your beef jerky recipes.
The starting ingredients for most recipes include soy sauce, worchestire sauce, black pepper, and onion powder. Some popular additives are garlic, chili flakes, teriyaki sauce, or maple syrup for sweetness.
Using a dehydrator or an oven
There are two ways to turn the meat into what is known as jerky. The term jerky originated from ancient South American tribes, the Quechua people, who used to sun dry or fire dry the meat of alpacas or llamas. So this is the same thing you are going to, just using an oven or a dehydrator.
Both methods yield good results so it is really a personal preference what you use. Some people don’t access to a jerky dehydrator for whatever reason, so there is nothing wrong with using an oven for convenience.
Using an oven, you should place the beef strips over a wire rack. Before doing so, put aluminium foil on the racks for the sake of saving a lot of mess later. This will catch any of the meat juice dripping and it doesn’t interfere with the cooking process. You want to cook the meat at about 70-80 degrees celsius, but this will depend on how hot your oven is and how quickly it heats up. Tip: use a meat thermometer for an accurate reading. Then, bake the beef until it is dry and firm, but still a little bit pliable.
As for a dehydrator, it is important to work within the settings of your individual machine. Dehydrators generally get more consistent results as it cooks the meat very evenly and quickly. Generally, the cooking instructions will be for a medium heat at about 8 hours in time. Of course, times will vary depending on the brand and on how thick you cut the meat. The thicker the meat, the more time it will need. If you prefer you can also use a smoker (requires a bit more control to maintain a low temp) or a gas bbq (much easier to set and forget).
Storing the jerky
Whichever method you used, the dehydrator or the oven, you will have plenty of jerky to last a long time. Store it in an airtight container after it has cooled. It can keep in the refrigerator for up to a month (or less if you eat it all!).