I absolutely love beef jerky. Not only that, but it can be very good for you. Unfortunately, my family has been eating only organic beef for over a decade now (since 1997… at some point, I will probably explain our reasons). While the “organic revolution” has been making great strides recently, organic beef jerky is not yet really widely available, especially in backwater Upstate NY where we live. Armed with an Excalibur Deluxe Food Dehydrator, I set out on the quest for beef jerky. This is the method I worked out after a few trial runs.
The most important part of the process and the one that will make or break your jerky is the marinade. Fortunately, it’s pretty difficult to mess up. I use a very simple recipe. For 5 lbs meat, you’ll need:
- 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce (thick or thin doesn’t matter)
- 5 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper (or more to taste)
- 1 medium onion, sliced into rings
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
The Excalibur Deluxe Dehydrator comfortable fits 10 lbs of meat at a time. Alternately, you can replace the Worcestershire sauce with soy sauce, but make sure you cut back on the salt! Mix the ingredients together in a bowl.
Now to prepare the meat. The best cut to use is a round roast, which is usually the leanest. However, a chuck roast, sirloin or tenderloin work well too. You want the meat to be as lean as possible. Some marbling is ok, but you want to avoid too much of it. The picture on the right (borrowed from Wikipedia) shows a steak cut from a round roast. As you can see, there is virtually no fat.
Begin slicing the meat. It helps to put it in the freezer for about an hour before doing so, but if you have a good eye (or lots of practice), it’s not necessary.Â I usually cut the meat by placing it on the cutting board and slicing horizontally through it from the bottom up. Use whatever works for you. The slices should be about 1/4″ thick. As you slice, place the pieces in the marinading bowl.
When you’re done, mix well to make sure that all the meat is coated in the marinade. Then cover the bowl with foil, saran wrap or simply a plate and place the meat in the fridge overnight.
In the morning (or afternoon, or evening… whenever you get to it), prepare the dehydrator by laying down some aluminum foil to line the bottom and collect drips. Then, start loading the trays with meat. It’s kind of like a game of juicy Tetris, except you want to leave a sufficient gap between the slices. Slide the trays into the dehydrator and turn it up to 155 F. Now go find something productive to do for 5 or 6 hours.
At the end of about 5 – 6 hours, the beef jerky should still be flexible, but you should be able to see cracks on the surface when you bend it, as in the photo to the right. If it’s not yet reached that point after 6 hours, you can usually place it in a bowl in the fridge to dehydrate the rest of the way.
How long will jerky keep? I’ve never had the chance to find out. My family can go through 8-pounds’-of-meat worth in 2 weeks.