Yeshiva Week: How To Make The Best Beef Jerky (Plus Storing Tips)
In my house, if someone says beef jerky, everyone comes running. I don’t make this savory treat so often, but when I do, I try to make sure it comes out of the dehydrator when no one is around. Then I quickly hide it and put it away until I’m ready to serve it.
Why make your own jerky instead of buying it, you may ask? I’ll tell you why. Making your own beef jerky allows you to try new flavors, cut the meat how you want, and pick at it while you are packing it away. I, for instance, always try to create new marinades, and depending on what I’m using it for I also cut the meat differently. I can cut it in long strips or even in smaller rectangles so it can look perfect for any occasion.
Choosing Your Meat for Homemade Beef Jerky:
A very important part of making beef jerky is what meat you use. I know some butcher shops offer a package of meat called beef jerky meat. Even though it is already sliced, I feel like it is a waste of money to buy. If you buy a London broil and slice it yourself, not only do you have control of your slices but you get way more meat for your money. You don’t need the flat London broil; the regular classic cut is perfect for making jerky. I would even share a little secret with you – you can use imported meat. It might be a bit chewier, but my siblings usually can’t even tell the difference.
How to Slice Your Beef for the Best Jerky:
I cut my meat by placing it on the cutting board and, first, trimming off the excess fat. Once that’s done, I slice the meat against the grain into extremely thin slices. If the slices aren’t so thin, don’t panic; you can just take a mallet and pound them thin. Once that’s done, using kitchen shears, I cut each slice into a few strips. I make each piece one inch wide by three inches long. You can also use a knife to cut the slices into strips, but I just feel like a pair of kitchen shears gives you a better grip.
Best Marinades for Beef Jerky:
Okay now that we are done with the “beef,” let’s talk marinades. I know they sell bottled marinades that are good, but there is nothing like homemade. My favorite flavors are Asian based. I love soy, teriyaki, chilis, and anything that falls under that category. Usually, when I make jerky, I make two flavors: spicy Asian and garlic teriyaki. These are family favorites. I can also recommend a beer-based marinade that gets your meat super tender and a spectacular Italian inspired marinade for delicious variety.
An important thing to remember when making jerky is that you must marinade the meat long enough, at least six hours. The longer it sits, the more tender the meat will get and the more flavor it will have.
Two Ways to Dehydrate Your Beef
How to Make Beef Jerky – Dehydrator Method:
One of the best investments I made was buying a dehydrator. I was worried at first that it would be hard to clean and store. It actually cleans easily and, yes, it is a big piece, but I store it in the box it came in. Making jerky in a dehydrator makes the process so easy. I put the meat in and set the timer and go to sleep. When I get up the next morning, I have finished jerky and ooops, there goes my morning coffee, now I’m fleishigs.
Here’s How to Do It:
1) Remove meat from marinade and discard the excess.
2) Place the meat in single layers on the dehydrator tray/racks. Don’t overcrowd each tray/rack.
3) Place into the dehydrator and set the temperature to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and the timer to six hours.
4) Dehydrate for a full six hours or a bit less depending on your preference.
5) Remove from machine and allow to cool fully before packing away.
How to Make Beef Jerky – Oven Method:
Okay, I know most of you don’t own a dehydrator and are not planning on buying one. Don’t fret, you can still make your own jerky the old-fashioned way. Let me present to you something called the oven. By setting the heat on low and putting your meat on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet you have a very similar effect to the dehydrator. So don’t worry, you can still make this savory treat.
Here’s How to Do It:
1) Preheat oven to 175 degrees Fahrenheit and line a metal baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2) Remove the meat from marinade and discard the excess. Lay the strips of meat in a single layer on a wire rack.
3) Place the wire rack with the meat on the lined baking sheet. Place in the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for four hours or until dried. Check after three hours to determine how much time is still needed.
4) Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before packing away.
1) To determine if your beef jerky is ready to your liking (I prefer mine a bit less dried out – you might like yours extremely dry), you can test a piece by cracking it in half. Check if the inside is fully cooked through and a bit hard to rip in half.
2) There is no need to pat the meat dry before placing it in the oven/dehydrator.
3) When filling up the racks/trays, place them on top of a piece of parchment so the excess marinade doesn’t get all over your countertop. Then once you are done loading it up, throw it all away.
How to Store Beef Jerky:
One of the most common questions people ask me is. Menachem, how do you pack and store your beef jerky? The truth is, you don’t. Most times in my house it doesn’t even make it past this point. But if by some miracle you have some jerky to store away, here is some ways to store it. You can vacuum pack it or place it in a ziptop bag and suck out the air. Placing it in an airtight container is also a great way to put it away.
Jerky does have a shelf life of two weeks, but I like to place mine in the fridge to maximize freshness. It can last in the fridge from anytime between one to two months. But I doubt it would last that long before someone eats it.