Beef jerky— the ultimate man snack. What other snack can taste so delicious and still be packed with nutrients? And is low in calories? So before you go out and pay for overpriced, over-the-counter jerky … consider making some on your own. Here is a simple breakdown how.
A Man’s Guide to Beef Jerky:
1. Decide What Type of Jerky You Want to Make
The first question you need to ask yourself is what type of jerky do you want to make: whole muscle jerky, shelf jerky meat, ground jerky?
- Whole Muscle Jerky: Consists of whole muscle meat and is much more natural than jerky that you will find on the shelf. If you want to make whole muscle jerky, you will need to purchase (or hunt) your own whole muscle animal meat.
- Shelf Jerky: Has additives that help the product last longer while sitting in its packaging, waiting for someone to purchase it.
- Ground Jerky: While not necessarily as clean as whole muscle jerky, it still offers a lot of great natural ingredients that you won’t get over the counter.
2. Prepare Your Jerky Meat
After you decide the cut of meat which you are making your jerky from, you’ll want to trim all of the fat and less desirable parts. First, clean your meat and cut it into the thin strip shapes (the thickness you would typically see with over-the-counter jerky). The preference is completely up to you. Some men prefer smaller thin strips, while others like longer and thicker jerky. Again, the choice is up to you.
3. Decide on the Perfect Marinade
If this is your first time making jerky, I recommend keeping your marinade simple. Simply add flavors like salt, brown sugar and olive oil. Once you’ve mastered the technique and become more familiar with the process, you can experiment. Men have been known to use anything and everything from teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, soy sauce, ginger, or curry powder. You can even add light beer should you prefer. In reality, however you would cook a steak with your own secret recipe, the same can be done with jerky. How long you leave your jerky marinate is up to you. Some experts say that after 10 hours in the sauce, your jerky will be at its maximum flavor. Others believe that the longer the better. This truly comes down to preference and is something you can play around with.
4. Dry Your Jerky
Once you have flavored your meat and have it ready to cook, you can decide how you want to add the final touches to your jerky.
- Air Drying. Air drying your meat is a timeless tradition. As nostalgic as all this is, in reality, air-dried meat probably isn’t the best way to go. Just think about it. Would you eat hamburger meat that has been left out in the sun to dry all day? Probably not. Nonetheless, if you want to get in touch with your inner woodsman, simply leave your meat out for a few hours on a plate or hanging from a meat hanger.
- Food Dehydrators. Dehydrators offer the most thorough methods of cooking your jerky meat, and will also leave enough flavor it the meat that you can savor when you bite into it. Unfortunately, the problem with dehydrating can be the amount of time it takes. It normally takes four or five hours under constant monitoring. The last thing you want to do is overcook your jerky, which can happen if you leave it in for too long.
- Home Oven. Not only is your home oven large enough to cook all the jerky you could possible need, but it’s also strong enough to cook your jerky thoroughly and entirely. You can set your oven anywhere from 140° to 180°. The most common temperature, according to jerky aficionados, is 140°. To save yourself the pain of watching your jerky burn, I recommend setting your cooking device to 140°. The total cooking time is dependent on the thickness of the meat and the temperature of the oven. The jerky is done when it’s dry enough that you can rip off a piece easily, but before it snaps when you bend it.
After you cut, marinate, and cook your jerky, you’ll have as many strips as you can imagine. And while the whole process from start-to-finish can take as much as 24-hours; once you bite into that slice of freshly cooked jerky, you’ll soon realize it’ll be worth the wait.