Roasts were on sale this weekend at Publix, so I decided to dry some beef jerky.
I used to make the stuff all the time. One summer when I was in college and living in a fraternity house, some friends and I turned another person’s room into our jerky factory. The guy was from New Hampshire, so there was no threat of him dropping by for the weekend and finding out his room and all of his possessions had taken on the sweet perfume of marinaded beef. As you might expect, we were pretty poor at the time. We used to buy cheap meat from the Vet school (yes, really) and use it to make all sorts of beef jerky variations. We called it “meatcandy.” Now that I’m older and writing this down, I realize how strange that sounds. But come one, it was college…
Once you know how to make beef jerky, it’s hard to justify paying $6 for a few ounces of the preservative-laden stuff at the grocery store. Here’s all you need to make a batch of spicy and a batch of sweet beef jerky:
- 1 large (or 2 small) London broil (about 3 lbs)
- Spicy Marinade
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper
1 tbsp liquid smoke
- Sweet Marinade
1/3 cup of the spicy marinade mixture above
1/2 cup bottled Teriyaki sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 tsp ground ginger
- If you have a food dehydrator, then use that. If not, an oven works just as well.
It’s best to ask the butcher to cut the meat 1/8″ thick on his slicer. That way everything is the same thickness and will dry at the same rate. But if the butcher’s not around, you can cut it at home. Just toss the roasts in the freezer until they’re half-frozen. That’ll make it easier to get a consistent thickness:
Once the meat is sliced, mix your marinades and pour them into large ziplock bags. Divide the meat between the two bags and marinate them in the refrigerator for a few hours:
Next, carefully arrange the meat on your dehydrator. As you pull a slice out of the marinade mixture, shake it over the sink to let the excess moisture drip off. When you arrange them on the dryer trays, make sure they don’t touch. Tip: When the spicy-marinaded beef is laid out for dryng, sprinkle the pieces with lots of coarsely ground black pepper for some added kick:
Follow your machine’s directions, and make sure you shuffle the trays throughout the drying process.
(If you’re using your oven, the process is a little trickier. First, cover the entire lower rack with foil. And remember to lay a large piece of foil on the oven door whenever it’s open. These will act as makeshift drip pans and reduce your clean-up time. Next, coat the grates of the upper rack with non-stick cooking spray and place it in the second-lowest position. Lay the strips of meat across the oven rack, spacing out the strips. Set the oven on the lowest temperature, which is usually between 175° and 200°. Use a wooden spoon handle to keep the oven door cracked during the cooking process. This will ensure that the coils/gas stay hot.)
Check on the beef regularly, as some pieces will finish drying before others. Take them off when they’re dried but still a little pliable. They’ll dry out a little more after you remove them from the heat. You don’t want them to be too flexible, but you don’t want them to be so brittle they break when you bend them. Somewhere in between is the right dryness:
Lay the finished jerky on some paper towels and pat them dry. They’ll be a little oily from the fat and the marinade. Next, put them in labeled ziplock bags. The thicker pieces will steam and add a little hydration back into the over-dried pieces. After 20 minutes or so, open the bag and let all the moisture escape.
Finally, enjoy your massive amount of cheap beef jerky.
Feel free to play around with the marinade mixture. Other good ingredients include crushed red pepper, orange juice, duck sauce, sesame seeds and wasabi paste.