My husband, Dennis is addicted to Jerky. He will get a big package to take to work, and by the end of his 8 hour shift, he has consumed the whole bag without any guilt to the calories, costs or consumption of who knows what that is in the packaged stuff.
Lucky for me (or maybe not so lucky), he also loves my homemade jerky. It is so time consuming that I don’t do it as often as he would like. Also, to be honest, even though I save quite a bit making my own, it is still very expensive to make.
The typical ratio of meat to finished jerky is 2:1. So for the 3.48 lbs of raw meat that I had to make into jerky, I can expect a yield of about 1.7 lbs of dried meat. This varies, so I might only get 1 lb or could even get up to 2 lbs.
The Cut of Meat
Most people who make jerky will suggest using steak. I understand the point as it is easier to get more uniform size pieces, and it is easier to tell the fat content of a steak than a roast. I always use roast because I can get a pretty lean roast for 2.49-2.99 a pound all the time.
The most important thing to remember is to get lean meat. The roast I used for this was a little more marbled than I would normally use. If you have any bigger sections of fat, you want to remove it. Fat won’t preserve like the meat and can make your jerky rancid. This jerky won’t last more than a couple of days, is heavily salted and I will store it in the refrigerator due to the fat just to be safe.
Using a roast presents a few other challenges that a steak would not as well. Most importantly is that the grain of a roast often changes throughout the cut, while the steak is more consistent.
There are different people who swear to cut your jerky one way or another, across the grain, with the grain, or diagonal to the grain. Personally, I like variety, so I do a little of each (though to be honest, a diagonal cut is usually by necessity rather than intent). My husband prefers his jerky to be cut across the grain because it is easier to chew. He has a partial plate and this cut falls apart more. When the cut is with the grain, you have longer, chewier strings of jerky.
Regardless of how you cut, try to not to cut thicker than a 1/4 inch so that the marinade can soak through the whole piece well.
Here is where you will start the curing/drying of your meat and add flavor. Salt draws liquid from meat, and salt also kills bacteria so your marinade will typically be quite salty. I actually prefer to make jerky with coconut aminos, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and chili powder. It is a simple flavor mix and sticks to the eating habits that Aleesha and I are trying to stick to. This option is Paleo friendly too.
Dennis likes his with Worcester sauce, soy sauce, salt (because the soy isn’t salty enough!!) pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Soy sauce and worcester sauce are much cheaper than coconut aminos too, so if you don’t care about soy etc… in your diet, this is probably the way to go.
I don’t like the flavor of liquid smoke, so I don’t add it. If I want a smoked flavor, I will start the jerky in the smoker (about 2-3 hours) and then finish in the dehydrator. Since we got 11 inches of snow Sunday night, I really didn’t want to dig out the smoker, so we will do without this time. If you like liquid smoke, you can add it to your marinade.
Let marinade about 24 hours. You really want the salt and stuff to soak through the whole cut of meat. Remember, that salt is part of the preservation/drying process. I made some of each. Dennis batch was bigger and I needed to marinade it in a large bowl rather than a baggie. I used a plate to weight the meat down so it stayed beneath the liquid. The meat in the baggie was covered, but I did flip the bag over when ever I was in the fridge.
*Note* I don’t usually add rubs, but you can if you want. I did put some Lawery’s season salt on one tray of meat because Dennis wanted to try that, but there are tons of recipes out there for rubs that go on right before drying.
You can dry your meat in a food dehydrator, a smoker, the oven and I have even seen people sun dry it. I don’t like the texture of jerky dried in only the smoker, so I will sometimes start it in the smoker to get a smoked flavor and finish it in my dehydrator. I have never used the oven or sun dried, but they are options.
My dehydrator is old and honestly, I would make stuff more if I invested in a new one. Dennis and I have been together since 1994 and his mom had this dehydrator before we met and gave it to me when we bought our first house in 1995. It works well, but it is hard to store and a royal pain to clean!
What ever you use, place your meat in single layers and follow the instructions for your dehydrator or smoker, or cook in oven on low heat 200 degrees until dry. (You would have to google the sundry process–sorry, that sort of creeps me out).
The finished product
Well, Alee and I loved the coconut amino jerky, but since we are avoiding processed sugar, I left out the sugar and so Dennis said this batch was not his favorite. He will eat it, but he likes some brown sugar added to his marinade and I didn’t do it. He needs to eat healthier too though, so my next batch I might try some honey or maybe molasses to give that hint of sweet.
Happy Jerky Making!