Beef Jerky for Beginners!

Matt and I love making beef jerky. It’s an especially great snack for our weekend getaways, both for the car ride and while we are away. We’ve been making it for years together, but he was actually making it long before we even met (and that was nearly nine years ago)! It is a little time consuming to make one batch start to finish, but it’s totally worth it. It’s even better if you can prep for two batches at once (three if you are feeling really ambitious!). I’m really happy with a new recipe we tried, so I wanted to share that, too.

First, it’s best if you have a food dehydrator. That is the one that we have (just the newer model), and it’s held up for 10+ years at this point… seriously. Zero issues. They are actually not too expensive, and you can use it for more than just jerky (e.g., fruits, herbs, etc,). It’s definitely a great buy.

Next, you’ll need the meat. You want to get roasts with a minimal amount of marbling (fat). Lean cuts of meat are key. We usually stick to Eye of Round, Top Round and Bottom Round cuts. I highly recommend grabbing some from Costco if you are a member, but you can find these cuts at any grocery store. The first thing we do is put the meat in the freezer. The beef is much easier to cut if it’s about halfway frozen. You want the meat hard but still able to be cut through without straining yourself too much (or breaking your knife!). When the meat it ready to be cut, you want it slice it into large pieces about an eighth of an inch thick (1/8″).

Once your jerky is cut, it’s time to marinate it! There are SO many great jerky marinade recipes. Here’s a few we use, including a new one we tried for the first time. Note that all of these are based on marinating about three pounds of meat and the longer you marinate the meat, the stronger the flavor. Sometimes we only let it sit for a few hours and sometimes overnight. It just depends on our schedule.

Recipe #1 (Sweet & Spicy)

  • One bottle of Soyaki sauce (Trader Joe’s has a great one)
  • 1 – 2 tbsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt

Mix, coat meat and let sit in the refrigerator. This is one of our favorites and is a frequent go-to.

Recipe #2 (Smoky & Savory)

  • 1/2 c. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/4 c. Soy Sauce (low sodium)
  • 1/4 c. Liquid Smoke (typically found near BBQ and hot sauces at the grocery store)
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 – 2 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional, if you like some heat)

Mix, coat meat and let sit in the refrigerator. We love using liquid smoke in our jerky recipes. It adds such great flavor!

Recipe #3 – NEW!

  • 2 cans of Dr. Pepper
  • 1 jalapeño sliced (2 jalapeños if you really like heat!)
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 tbsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. of kosher salt

Mix ingredients in a pan over medium heat. Simmer and reduce for about twenty minutes. Pour over and coat meat. Let sit in the refrigerator. We just tried this recipe for the first time, and we are really happy with it! It’s another great sweet and spicy one.

When you are ready, lay your jerky out on the trays without overlapping. You want to leave some room for air to circulate throughout the dehydrator, so don’t squeeze in too many pieces too closely together. Put your dehydrator on high and let cook. If you cut your jerky about 1/8″ thick, I would start checking it after about four hours. If you like your jerky dryer, like me, leave it in longer. We usually leave our jerky in for about four hours and then let it sit in the dehydrate (off) overnight. It will continue to dry out a bit more. Of course, cooking times will vary based on how thick the meat is cut, how much is laid out on the trays and your texture preference. It’s best to keep checking as, after a certain point, it’s easy to dry out the meat too much.

Now, eat and enjoy!!

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