Beef Jerky in a Smoker

Sweet and chewy, this recipe for beef jerky could not be easier. The first time I tried to make beef jerky I used a Little Chief smoker. I found a brine recipe, soaked it for about 8 to 12 hours, then set out to smoke the jerky for 6 to 8 hours. There were several things I disliked about this recipe. First, it did not taste good which is the primary reason. Second, it was actually too dry. Third, the residue it left behind in my smoker made the fish I smoked after, taste a little funny. It was at this moment that I dedicated my new smoker to only smoking fish. Someday, I will share my smoked salmon recipe with you as well. It is out of this world delicious.

Beef strips ready for marinating.

How To Make Beef Jerky in a Dehydrator

Making beef jerky is so easy in a dehydrator. Just place the meat on the racks, put them in the dehydrator and set it to around 160 degrees F. My dehydrator has a setting for dehydrating meat that puts it at 160.

Several years later that I acquired a dehydrator. It was then that I rediscovered beef jerky as I ordered a  jerky making kit to go along with the dehydrator. I had heard dehydrating was a great way to make jerky and I wanted to try it. This kit uses ground beef to make the jerky which was a great option for keeping it on the cheap. The jerky that came out of that was good, however, I wanted something a little better than ground beef so I came up with this recipe.

As for choosing a dehydrator, I have to say I do like my Nesco Snackmaster Pro. This machine is reasonably priced and has worked great for the last 5 or 6 years that I have had it. Probably my only complaint about this machine is that it is round and fitting long strips of jerky in a round dehydrator is not the most efficient use of space. When this machine finally gives up the ghost, I will consider getting a square machine for that reason. But honestly the Nesco Snackmaster Pro is such a great machine, I may just stick with it. Another thing to consider is the ease of cleaning the. While I love my Nesco, the racks are too big to fit in my dishwasher so they must be hand cleaned. You may want to make sure you can put the racks in your dishwasher when you choose your dehydrator. Amazon has a ton of nice dehydrators at reasonable prices and many have excellent reviews as well.

Marinating beef for beef jerky.

 How To Make Beef Jerky in an Oven

If you are not ready to spend money on a dehydrator or a smoker, you can make jerky in your oven. The key is to make sure your oven temperature will go down to as low as 170 degrees F. My Nesco only goes as high as 160 degrees F. This leads me to believe that you should go lower that 170 degrees. The reason being you are not trying to cook the meet as much as to dry it out with just a small amount of heat. So ovens are not ideal if the temp is too high. To make jerky in an oven, place your meat on baking racks and then on cookie sheets to catch any grease from the meat. Place it in the oven for about 2 hours checking to see if the meat is at the appropriate doneness.

Any way you choose to do beef jerky, you won’t be disappointed. Fresh beef jerky is so much better than anything you can buy in a store. Making your own beef jerky is also a lot of fun and cheaper than anything you can buy in a store as well.

Beef jerky, marinated and ready for dehydrating.

The Best Cuts Of Beef For Jerky

Regardless of which method used for making beef jerky, you must choose a cut of meat to make it with. A general rule is to use a cut that isn’t too fatty. The fat can go rancid in beef jerky so it is best to trim it off. Good cuts of beef to use include flank, round steak, and lean ground beef (you will need a jerky kit for ground beef). The second general rule is to use a cheaper cut. Since the meat will be marinated and dried out, use an expensive cut is kind of a waste. Some popular cuts of beef include flank, rump roasts, brisket flats, or round. I like to use round the best, it is pretty low in fat and fairly inexpensive.

How To Cut Meat For Beef Jerky

Before you even start to slice, be sure to trim off any excess fat. Next, place the meat in the freezer for about 30 minutes or more before you cut it. This makes the meat slightly frozen and easy to cut. When the meat is slightly frozen it is easier to get smaller slices and the cut is more uniform. It also helps to prevent you from slicing your fingers when making the cut. As always, a sharp knife goes a long way for making the process safe and easy. Another thing you can do is ask your butcher or deli department if they can slice the meat for you. They often use professional slicing machines that make the process quick and easy. The strips shown in this recipe were cut by my friends at the local supermarket deli. I love how this jerky turned out!

Slicing Against the Grain or With

There is some speculation about whether it is better to cut the meat with or against the grain. So what is the grain of the meat? The grain of meat refers to the direction that the muscle fibers run within a piece of meat. The need to cut with or against the grain of the meat may depend on the cut of beef. Some say do not cut against the grain as it will make the jerky crumbly. Others prefer it that way in order to get a less chewy slice of meat. Personally, I have never paid much attention to it. Beef jerky is supposed to be chewy so I just cut the meat so that the strips are as thin as I can get them and as uniform as I can get them. However, for those who want a less chewy slice of jerky, it is said they you should slice against the grain.

Slices of marinated beef going into the dehydrator for beef jerky.

 

Delicious homemade beef jerky.

Dehydrated Beef Jerky

Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 8 hours
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 10 hours
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 514 kcal
Author: Barbara Tidwell

Beef jerky is a great snack for any outing. Since you don't need refrigeration, this snack goes anywhere. 

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Ingredients

  • 1 c Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 c Soy Sauce
  • 2 or 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 lb beef top round cut in thin strips

Instructions

  1. Freeze the meat for roughly 30 to 60 minutes before slicing. Freezing times depend on how thick the cut is. If using flank steak, freeze for shorter times than if using round roast.

  2. Slice the meat no more than a 1/4 inch thick. Try to keep the meat slices consistent so they dry at the same rate. This can be difficult to do when slicing free hand.

  3. Mix all the ingredients together except the meat. Whisk the ingredients until any dried ingredients are all dissolved.

  4. Place the meat in a zip lock bag or large bowl with a lid to seal it. Pour the ingredients over the meat and mix in until all the meat has been covered. Place in the refrigerator for about 8 hours. It can be left overnight as well.

  5. The next day, remove the strips from the marinade. Optionally you can take a paper towel and dry off the strips of meat. This step is not necessary but is done in some circles. Place the strips on the dehydrator trays so that the strips do not touch each other. This allows air movement during the drying process.

  6. Turn the dehydrator on and leave it for about 2 hours. After 2 hours check the meat for doneness. The meat should be dried out and slightly leathery. Some thicker pieces may require more time.

  7. Remove the meat from the dehydrator. You can store the meat in a plastic zip bag or any container on the counter for about 3 weeks. It will keep longer if refrigerated.

Nutrition Facts
Dehydrated Beef Jerky
Amount Per Serving
Calories 514 Calories from Fat 153
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 17g 26%
Saturated Fat 6g 30%
Cholesterol 176mg 59%
Sodium 4001mg 167%
Potassium 1198mg 34%
Total Carbohydrates 17g 6%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Sugars 7g
Protein 68g 136%
Vitamin A 8.8%
Vitamin C 10.8%
Calcium 9.9%
Iron 59.4%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.