The act of preserving meat for later use is nothing new even though the methods for doing so have changed over the years. Humans have been preserving meat for centuries by transforming it into jerky, and jerky is an excellent way to make meat suitable for long-term storage. Meat provides essential protein that our bodies need for fuel.
In the United States, the most common meat used for jerky is beef, but there are a variety of other meats that can be used including turkey, caribou, salmon, deer or elk. There are two ways to make homemade beef jerky, one that involves using a dehydrator and one without.
To make beef jerky with a dehydrator:
- Prepare the meat – Choose a lean cut of meat like top round or flank steak. Remove all noticeable fat from the meat and slice the meat into small strips, no more than 1/4” or 1/8” thick. Freezing the meat can make it easier to slice, or a butcher could slice it for you.
- Marinate the meat – Combine the meat with a recipe of your preferred spices and seasonings. Beginners can get started with a simple marinade of salt, pepper, water, and vinegar. Refrigerate the meat for up to 24 hours so that it absorbs the flavors.
- Dehydrate the Meat – Spray the racks of your dehydrator with non-stick cooking spray and place the meat strips on the rack. Keep an eye on the meat as the process of removing the moisture from it varies anywhere from two to six hours. Check it after two hours and then every 30 minutes until it is not raw inside. The jerky will turn a deep brown color.
- Store the Meat – When done, let the jerky air dry. It can then be kept it an airtight container in the refrigerator. For long-term storage, beef jerky can be vacuum sealed in plastic with an added pouch of oxygen absorber to prevent spoilage.
To make beef jerky without a dehydrator, follow the same steps to prepare and marinate the meat. Turn your oven to 165 degrees and place the meat strips directly on a wire rack. Be sure to place a saucepan or catch plate underneath to capture any marinade dripping off the meat. Cook the meat for one to two hours. Check it after 90 minutes and then every 30 minutes after. When it is finished, you can dry and store the jerky.