How To Make Beef Jerky

I was watching a documentary on Netflix the other day about how our species (homo sapiens) spread out over the globe.  One point made by the narrators was that the human brain was able to grow larger by the availability of high-energy (i.e., high-calorie) foods.  Meat, fats, and bone marrow was an essential part of man’s intellectual development.  I believe it still is.  If you want your body and mind to be operating at peak performance, I believe you should be consuming meat at least occasionally.

One of the most efficient and inexpensive ways of consuming meat is by preparing your own dried meat (jerky).  You may be surprised at how easy this is to do.  Once made, jerky can be used for almost any occasion:  taken to the field for hikes or hunts, for cooking at home, for taking to work in lunches, or for general snacking.  You do not need to buy expensive cuts of meat, and you do not have to spend a large amount of time in preparation.  And you will save yourself a large amount of money.

To convince yourself of this, go into any food store and see how expensive commercially-prepared jerky is.  Even worse, these commercial preparations are often packed with nitrates and nitrites that both ruin the flavor of the meat and can impair the health.

Step One: Getting the Meat

The first step is to go to the supermarket and get your meat.  Some writers say you should use sirloin or flank steak, but I am firmly against this idea.  You simply don’t need this quality of cut.  The whole idea here is to get ahead of the game:  to take the cheaper cuts and then to turn them into something edible and useful.  Any decent meat will do.  I suggest you try top round or eye round or London broil.  It doesn’t matter if these cuts are not known for their texture or quality.  Jerky is heavily seasoned anyway; the idea here is to get meat for meat’s sake.  Aim for long, thin strips of meat.

Wild game here also works wonderfully.  If you are a hunter or know someone who hunts, try to get your hands on some wild meat if you can.  Eating the freshest, most gamey meats available has a testosterone-elevating appeal that is impossible for words to describe.  It is something that rings deep chords in our primal psyches.  How much meat to you need?  That depends, of course.  For most purposes, a few pounds per batch will do well enough.  You can always make more later.

Step Two: Cutting

Cut the meat against the grain into long strips.  I think the ideal thickness is the same as what you would use when preparing stir-fried meat strips.  Try to remove as much fat as possible from the meat.  It should be against the grain so that when chewed, the eater does not have to contend with long, tough meat fibers in the mouth.  Slicing can be done more easily when the meat is semi-frozen.  Once this is done, put all the strips of sliced meat into a large bowl.

Step Three: Marinating

The next step is to marinate the meat.  This is going to be one of the most important steps, so put some thought into this.  My favorite marinade consists of a blend of the following ingredients:  teriyaki or soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, powdered onion, liquid smoke, and red pepper flake.  Some people like to add more spices but this is all going to come down to personal preference.  Some people like to use cloves, chili powder, cumin, nutmeg, oregano, or any number of other spices.  With salty marinades like soy sauce or teriyaki sauce, it’s best not to let the marinade process go more than 6 hours or so.  Any longer than this can make the meat too salty.

Step Four: Dehydrating

Remove the meat strips and gently pat dry with paper towels.  You will be salivating at this point, but control your urges.  There are some people who advocate that you should dry the meat using commercially-available dehydrators or even ovens.  I am not a fan of this method, and I’ll tell you why.  Ovens or dehydrators usually end up cooking the meat, rather than dehydrating it.  It just not the way jerky should be made.

When American Indians made pemmican or South Africans make traditional biltong, they would let the meat air dry, often for days.  One biltong recipe I read called for drying the meat in the open air for at least three days.  While this may not be easy for most people living in the city, the idea is a sound one:  the drying should be done free of artificial heat sources.

In the modern era, it is not practical for most people to hang meat out to dry for days.  But there is a better way, and it is something I learned from watching one of those cooking shows many years ago:  a large fan.  All you need to do is lay your marinated meat strips on a few cooling racks (used for cooling cookies or other baked goods).  Then place them in a place them near a fan in some part of the house, so that air is blowing over the meat continuously.  You will be surprised at just how fast the meat dries up.  Make sure you keep any household pets away from the meat.

Step Five: Storage

After a few hours of continuous air blowing, the meat should be ready.  You can store it in zip-top plastic bags, plastic containers, or even paper bags.  The key thing is to give the meat room to move around and to “breathe” so that it does not attract moisture.  The meat can then be use for nearly anything:

  • Take it on hikes.  There is nothing more satisfying than dried meat eaten with cold, weak tea as a field beverage.
  • Cut it into pieces with a kitchen shears and use it to cook with
  • Add to soups or stews
  • Take it to work at eat it for lunch

You get the idea.  Cheers.

Read More: 5 Reasons Why You Should Build Your Own House

81 thoughts on “How To Make Beef Jerky”

  1. Watch your salt, it is easy to get it too salty or not salty enough where it will go bad

      1. Have you tried making pemmican? The process of making pemmican is similar to beef jerky. You mash the dried meat into a powder, mix with boiled fat and create a solid bar or loaf. Apparently it can last 50 years or longer. Great survival food.

        1. Yeah, you can ad dried fruits but I think that will reduce the shelf life by quite a bit. In that case I think it’s only good for a couple of weeks. If you have only the powdered meat and the fat, it can last up to 50 years. I want to make it. Seems like it would be a cool experiment and good to have around if the shit hits the fan.

        2. I think you’re being sarcastic. I wouldn’t write an article about it unless I made it. I have no idea if it’s a common thing. I’ve never met anyone who’s made it. Sounds interesting though. Perhaps I’ll make some one of these days.

        3. You can check some survival/pepper forums or blogs for experiences and recipes on making pemmican. I got some methods on saved on hard drive, but no time to make it.

      2. Thanks Quintus. Does this work for meats other than beef? IE chicken, pork?

        1. Good question. I’ve heard that jerky make from turkey is very good, but never tried it. I know that people preserve the flesh of birds, fish, and all other kinds of game, but the procedure may vary according to the kind of meat involved.
          Be careful with poultry or pork to make sure you don’t get some kind of contamination. I wish I could be of more help, but this recipe here I can only vouch for with beef, not with any other kind of meat. Make sure you do your research before you try other kinds of meat.

    1. You can always cook it mongol style by laying the meat strips between your horse and saddle, and letting the friction bake it up nice as you ride.

      1. Isn’t that how the hamburger came about? I was reading a while back the short story of the hamburger and it came about.

  2. Don’t be scared of sodium nitrite. It’s more effective than salt alone in preserving meat, and it helps flavor, not hurts. I don’t know who was behind or what the motivation was for pushing the idea that nitrates and nitrites are bad for you, but there is nothing to be concerned about.

    1. Nitrates are naturally occurring. They’re in every vegetable on earth. No problems.
      Nitrites are added artifically. Better to avoid them, because they can form carcinogens when burned. If you like bacon, undercook it.

  3. Biltong is very delicious, better than beef jerky in my opinion. Also works well when you cut it and add it to stews.

  4. Off topic:
    Anybody here a rural 64-yr-old working-class GOP voter making under $30,000 a year? If so, might as well put a bullet in your head now, before you get sick.
    Trumpcare is going to raise your annual health insurance premium by almost THIRTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS in the next eight years.
    2026 rates, under current Obamacare plan: $1700 per year.
    2026 rates, under proposed Trumpcare plan: $14,600 per year.
    At least you got to wear a spiffy red MAGA hat! Make sure you’re buried with it when you die prematurely for lack of coverage.

        1. There is no such thing as “data”. It just a cultural marxist trick to make you think that their position is based upon “facts”.

        2. That’s a new one. The Congressional Budget Office is a cultural marxist trick.

        3. jammy you liberal fool – the CBO is only accurate up to 2 years out. after that – its a dartboard. the CBO estimated obama care to have to have 24 million people for 2016 and the actual was 10. They were over 50% off.

        4. Yes, CBO overestimated the number of people who would get govt-subsidized insurance, but it underestimated the number of people who would sign up for expanded Medicaid.
          They balanced out. CBO nailed the overall impact of the ACA pretty closely. It predicted the uninsured by 2016 to be 30 million; the actual number was 27.9 million. They predicted 89.0% of nonelderly would be covered by 2016. Centers for Disease Control says the real number is 89.7%.
          CBO predictions in general have been the most accurate out there — better than any administration, even better than the Federal Reserve, which is the gold standard (ba-dum).

          You still want to call me names?

        5. Too bad they didnt tell us the price would go up for anyone who made more than ten grand and my doctor would fire me.

    1. Where did you get that from?
      14 million would lose insurance by 2018, with the number risin to 24 million by 2026.
      The budget deficit would be reduced by $337 billion over 10 years.
      Premiums would rise by 15-20% in 2018-2019, however they would then decline by 10% than under current law by 2026.
      ***The 14 million will NOT lose insurance. These will be people that will forgo it, as in not having the gun to the head to buy insurance.
      Note: This comes from CBO, but who believes these clowns anymore?
      Unlike you, here’s the source.

      1. With population dynamics who can think the CBO can accurately predict what will occur in the next 5 years let alone the next 10 years. It is like thinking those who predicted we would run out of oil by 2000 in the 70’s were visionaries. They are just cranks. Like most of the left.

        1. Actually that is pretty much true. They are amateur bozos paid to keep the establishment in power.

        2. ….Jammy you liberal fool – the CBO is only accurate up to 2 years out. after that – its a dartboard. the CBO estimated obama care to have to have 24 million people for 2016 and the actual was 10. They were over 50% off.

    2. Jeez, you don’t stop, do you.
      Trump is the POTUS. You’ve got him for at least the next 4 years. I’m happy about it. You’re not. That’s life.

    3. At least we’re committed to giving Israel nearly $40 BILLION over the next decade . . .

      1. This is what happens when you elect a guy who lives in the same town as those Jews from Wall St. Jesus, even lovely Ivanka married a Jew and converted. I have a feeling that had something to do with sticking to Israel.
        And people wonder why I didn’t vote for either candidate. What a bunch of morons.

    4. Right from the same people that said “98% chance that Hillary will win the election” should be believed on healthcare…

      1. The day after the election I had this giddy feeling that at least the general population wasn’t going to take CNN, the AP, the BBC and their ilk seriously anymore, but no. And they say we’re the ones who irrationally cling to our guns and religion.

    5. So don’t buy health insurance ……. I haven’t had any health cover for 10 years.
      I’ve of the opinion that chronically sick people should die.

    6. My premiums tripled under Obamacare. Kind of hard to believe that they’ll increase even more under whatever Trump’s crew comes up with, especially with no references whatsoever. Wait, isn’t there not even a “Trumpcare” yet?

    7. Troll. I used to have great healthcare coverage for the sum of $250 a month (all employer paid) in 2012 by 2016 the real cost was $1,250 with my deductible going from $500 to $2000 and all my co-pays doubling or more (and now I pay 30% for the same employer coverage). Doubt it can get worse then an ER visit going from $100 to $500 in two years. Spend a few days in the hospital and it will cost you $750/day with a 5 day maximum. (Hint – they will kick you out at 5 days).

    8. Way to derail the thread right out of the gate over your own petty effeminate politics Jammy. But you can’t help yourself, Emotions Uber Alles, amirite?

      1. For future reference, when an opponent delivers data from the Congressional Budget Office as evidence for a claim, calling him “emotional” in response would cause you to lose the debate. It makes you look retarded.
        And I know you’re not retarded. Try to pretend that you’re a real debater. Respond with your own claim and evidence.

        1. .Jammy you liberal fool – the CBO is only accurate up to 2 years out. after that – its a dartboard. the CBO estimated obama care to have to have 24 million people for 2016 and the actual was 10. They were over 50% off. The CBO is a piece of liberal shit and so are you. The CBO can’t find its ass with both hands.

  5. Awesome article.
    Thanks for this.
    Want to try it myself, but I have a question.
    “After a few hours of continuous air blowing,”
    How many hours? 4, 6, 8?
    Should I expect the jerky to look like the kind I buy in the plastic bags? Is that when it is done?

    1. No, it won’t look exactly like the Jack-Links jerky in a bag.
      They use preservatives and such, so it won’t be exactly the same.
      But homemade Jerkey is waaay better.
      Especially Venison Jerkey.
      With regards to dehydrating, The amount of time you let it dry depends entirely on preference.
      My Dad likes his Jerky crunchy and completely devoid of moisture: 8+ hours
      I prefer ’em a little chewier/moist, so I tend to dehydrate for 5-6 hours.
      Really, you can eat Beef Raw; It won’t kill you. It might make you queasy, it might not taste good, etc. but it’s not like you’ll get trikinosis or salmonela, like from raw pig or raw chicken.
      With that in mind, you marinate the beef strips, you stick em in the dehydrator, and start the timer. Then try a sample piece every hour or so until you’re liking what you’re seeing.
      Between the dehydrating time and the infinite number of marinades you can make, Jerkey-cooking is more Creative Art than Exact Science.

  6. I also dry fruit, apple rings, mango, jackfruit and bananas.
    No need for marinade, they just get sliced and straight out on the drying rack in the sun.
    Two sunny days does it (bring the rack in at night) turn every few hours.

    1. Jackfruit.
      I had that on a business trip to Delhi 12 years ago.
      Tastes like Artichoke.

  7. Great Article. Working with meat is and will always be a masculine subject. It is also something of a tradition and can be passed down to children. We still cure our own bacon and ham in our family and make a Viking version of this from venison. All passed down from my dad.
    I’ve found “Mortons Tenderquick” to be my product of choice whether making salt brine cures or dry cure. Followed up by cold smoking with a slow burning semi rotten wood for best results. In Canada I use punky poplar or diamond willow.
    Just did some Lake Trout fillets and they were better than the expensive candy salmon you get in B.C.. Here’s a link to a very well detailed way of doing fish, I found it on a search but the results were fantastic and the guy does an awesome job of detailing the process.

  8. An Excalibur dehydrator works great. It’s tray loaded and the heating element is in the rear, not the bottom, so there’s no messy spillage on the motor and fan to worry about. It is ALSO temperature adjustable, meaning that you dry the meat at, say, 140 degrees with a fan also blowing, which does not heat up the internal temp to the 155 (I think?) that’s needed to actually cook it, plus it dries way faster.

  9. Except it tastes bloody terrible.
    But yeah if you’re into that sort of thing, doing it yourself is the way to go. 🙂

    1. It all depends on how you season it. Some can be nasty, some can be very tasty. If you don’t have a taste for salt though, I can see how it would be off putting.

      1. Good point. While I have a deep dislike for the more commercial brands like Jack Links because all the extra preservatives screw up the meat, I do love buying jerky from Love’s rest stops. Not too overwhelming with salt or other stuff.

  10. Great article Quintus, if you get around to making pemmican also,
    please make another post.
    It`s true that our (European) hunter-gatherer ancestors lived in a macro-fauna in Europe for approximately the last 50.000 thousand years or so. Hunting large and very fatty animals like the Mammut.
    Since our brains are mainly consisting of fat, it is reasonable to assume that this very high energy food has been vital in developing the intellectual capacity of Europeans.
    Having a high healthy fat intake, including saturated fat from healthy animals, coconut oil etc. is also protective against the metabolic syndrome and the diseases of western civilization.
    One should be careful with to much protein though, since it gives you higher igf-1 levels,(and m-tor) which in excess accelerates ageing and promotes cancer.

  11. Anyone try this? I am more of a “make sure its dead” type of eater but not sure about this one. any good?

      1. You’re welcome. Today in 1972, I saw the very first smartphone. It was very crude. Said it reminded me of a woman. Lights up when you plug it in, loaded with needless bullshit and only 10% of it is worth a damn.

  12. If the top picture is the final product I’d definitely try it. Its the whole “not cooking the meat” thing that has me on the fence.

  13. I made some jerky this weekend following this method. UN. FUCKING. REAL. So much money wasted on store bought! Never again! Thanks buddy!

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