If you’ve checked the price of jerky in the store – especially organic or nitrite/nitrate-free jerky – then you know how expensive it can be. But you can still enjoy healthful jerky by making your own. What a great way to take advantage of a meat sale at your local store, or preserve the bounty from a hunter in your family. Even if you don’t have a dehydrator, you can make jerky at home. Some techniques are the same, and some differ. Here’s how to make jerky with and without a dehydrator.
Using a Dehydrator
When using a dehydrator, sources recommend drying about 3 pounds at a time. If you are using beef, the best cuts for jerky are pieces like London broil, flank steak, brisket, or skirt steak. The leaner the better.
First, marinating the beef is important. It provides flavor and tenderizes the meat. You can use any marinade you like, but a general one that helps produce that jerky flavor is this recipe:
* 3/4 cup soy sauce
* 3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
* 1/4 cup lemon juice
* 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 4 cloves minced garlic or 2 teaspoons garlic powder
Mix these ingredients together and slice the beef. Slice it as thinly as possible, removing any fat you find as you go. The strips of beef should be cut across the grain and should be 6 to 8 inches long.
Then mix the marinade and beef slices in a zip top plastic bag. Knead the bag to make sure the beef is all coated with marinade. Refrigerate overnight, turning the bag occasionally (if you get up for a midnight snack, for instance!). In the morning, remove the beef from the marinade, and prepare your dehydrator by oiling the racks lightly.
When placing the beef strips on the racks, make sure they don’t overlap. Leave a bit of space between the slices, too. Sources recommend turning the dehydrator to about 150 degrees, but if your dehydrator comes with instructions, follow those.
Once the jerky is dry and cool, store it in airtight containers. You can freeze it or store it in the refrigerator.
Without a Dehydrator
You can still dry meat without a dehydrator. The process is the same for slicing, marinating, and storing. But instead of putting the meat in a dehydrator, you can use your oven. A broiler pan is ideal, as the meat will need to be on a rack. You can just put the strips directly on the oven rack, but put a cookie sheet on the rack underneath in case the shrinking meat falls through.
Set your oven to 200 degrees F and bake the meat for about an hour. It may take up to 90 minutes to get the texture you want.