January 10, 2023

An Experiment in Making Jerky

Last month, I showed you my first experiment in off-grid meat preservation, making pemmican. That was definitely successful, so next, I wanted to try making jerky. 

Jerky and pemmican are both dehydrated meat products. What's the difference between the two? Jerky is mostly thought of as a snack food, while pemmican is thought of as a survival food. Jerky highly seasoned and dried until it's pliable. Pemmican is not seasoned and dried until crisp, so it can be powdered for the next step.

For my jerky experiment, I started with 1.62 pounds beef bottom roast from my local not-a-chain grocery store. They have really good meat prices, and I found this roast "reduced for quick sale" for $3.99 a pound. I got started on the jerky that afternoon.

There are probably hundreds of recipes for jerky. Many of them call for jerky seasoning mixes. Most of the other ingredient lists include soy sauce and often Worcestershire sauce. Sweetener is optional and may be sugar or honey. The seasonings and spices vary a bit, so I used what I had. Commonly called for ingredients that I didn't have were soy sauce, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, and liquid smoke. I did have Bragg's liquid aminos, so I used that in place of soy sauce. I jotted down the ingredients and amounts, so I'll know what to adjust if I do it again!

  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup liquid aminos
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Marination time recommendations in the recipes varied from 3 to 24 hours. 

I marinated this batch for about 7 hours, drained it well, and put it in the dehydrator. It took about 8 hours to become slightly pliable and thoroughly dry.

Beef jerky

Then came the taste test. I'd never eaten jerky before and found it flavorful but chewy. Dan said it tasted just like the stuff from the store and declared the recipe perfect! (It's not often I get something right on the first try!)

To store, I packed it into a wide mouth quart canning jar and vacuum sealed it.

So this experiment is declared a success! Who else makes jerky? I'd love your recipes!


Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, I love jerky but the store prices make it virtually nothing but a special treat. It really is just as easy to make at home - and far less expensive. Like you, I find the cheapest cut of meat I can find.

I like your "use what you have" practice. I typically use 1/2 cup of soy sauce and 1/2 of Worcestershire sauce. I have used a bit of sugar but never thought of using honey.

SmartAlex said...

We make jerky from ground venison although we have used ground beef also. We have an extruder that we can use for either strips or slim jims. I haven't done the sliced muscle version in ages. We start from a seasoning packet, usually Hickory flavored. We add Worcestershire, liquid smoke, and Montreal seasoning. Honestly, I can't tell a lot of difference unless we get too zealous with the Montreal because that has quite a bit of salt in it. The guys can expound on the subtleties of 4 tbsp of Worcestershire vs 2 tbsp for hours. I'm not a huge fan of smoke taste so that's how I judge it. The less Liquid Smoke the better. And although I don't particularly care for it I always taste it so I know what it is I'm trying to achieve. I think I would like flavors with honey or teriyaki etc a lot more.

Rich said...

I've made jerky out of a lean cut of beef like a rump roast or deer meat and I like it cut across the grain. I've tried using a dehydrator but prefer using a convection oven set at a slightly higher temperature (about 160-180?) for about 4-6 hours.

The last few times I've made some deer jerky I've used a ready-made marinade from Head Country BBQ, an Oklahoma-based company that might not be readily available everywhere. I just salt my meat with some Cajun salt, splash on a little marinade (I don't like to overpower the meat with too much marinade), and let it sit overnight.

Nancy In Boise said...

I've actually been thinking about doing that! I have a beef roast in my freezer that I'd like to process for storage that's not frozen. Thanks for the recipe!

Leigh said...

TB, happily, those cheap cuts are also often quite lean, which is perfect for jerky. I'm guessing substitutions are endless. The important thing is to like the end result!

Alex, I didn't realize you could use ground meat and make a slim jim kind of snack. That's good to know! I'm guessing you use the leanest ground meat you can manage? I'm not sure about the smoke flavoring either. Dan smokes our meat when he grills it, and it's subtle. Thanks for the recipe!

Rich, you make me wish I had a convection oven, although I've figured out that if I dehydrate my meat strips overnight in the kitchen, it helps keep the chill out! I'm not familiar with the company you mention, but I confess I haven't been really looking, either. Might be a great way to experiment with various flavors.

Nancy, it's really easy and a great way to preserve meat! Saves freezer space, and I'm thinking it could probably be rehydrated and used for a beef stew or stir-fry.

Ed said...

Jerky is my snack food of choice when on long road trips. I like that I can sort of gnaw on it which keeps my mouth occupied and keeps me alert. But I haven't made jerky in a lot of years. I guess because I don't crave or eat it while at home, only while driving on vacations and right before a vacation is when I have the least amount of time to make jerky.

If my mom were still around, I would call her for her turkey jerky recipe though as I really liked that one.

Leigh said...

Ed, I remember you mentioned the turkey jerky earlier and was hoping you'd have the recipe! I'm guessing any kind of lean meat can be used.

Annie in Ocala said...

I've made jerky from a lot of different meats. And flavorings. Found that red meats really just salt an pepper is my liking, or plain. And did like the Worcestershire/soy/aminos on white meats to wake up the bland. For me simple is good.

SmartAlex said...

Yes, using ground you have to have an extruder gun. You use a flat attachment to make the ribbons and a tube attachment and casing for a slim jim. The slim jim seasoning is different as well. When using store bought ground beef you would want 90% (which is usually special order) otherwise you get a lot of drippings in your dehydrator. The venison we use is personally cut by our hunter friend and he puts no filler in it at all so it is very very lean.

Leigh said...

Annie, I have to agree with simple. It will be fun to experiment!

Interesting, Alex, thanks so much for the details. Sounds like it would be another good alternative. I have a meat grinder, so it's possible I could grind my own. I'll have to an extruder gun.

Granny Sue said...

My husband loves to make jerky for all the grandchildren. He doesn't have a recipe, just wings it and it is always delicious. He uses venison.His marinade has Worchestershire sauce, soy sauce, red pepper, a little brown sugar, barbecue sauce. He marinates for 24 hours.

Leigh said...

Granny Sue, thank you! You husband must have the knack! Barbecue sauce sounds like a tasty addition to the marinade.

Ed said...

I forgot to come back for your reply. I actually have looked for it but haven't found it. Since it isn't in her recipe box or her folder of recipe clippings, I suspect it was in one of about 100 recipe books she had. If I ever do find it, I will share it but I'm guessing it would be easier for me to just google a recipe and modify it with experimentation like what you do.

Donna Schoonover said...

I have made jerky and pemmican (some detailed at https://schoonover-farm.com/2022/02/21/farming-cooking-and-other-stuff-during-the-winter-olympics/). But the most interesting and successful was from ground beef using this recipe https://www.allergyfreealaska.com/ground-beef-jerky/

Leigh said...

Ed, where we keep recipes almost becomes a puzzle in itself. All of my family favorites are spread out over numerous cookbooks and recipe cards. But it's fun to experiment and I hope you give it a go someday. :)

Donna, thanks for the links! Very interesting about the ground beef jerky. I definitely need to try it some day.

Fundy Blue said...

You did a great job of making jerky, Leigh! I've never made jerky and probably never will, because I find it really hard to chew. I had pemmican during the time I lived Up North when I was a child.

Leigh said...

I agree jerky is hard to chew! Dan likes it though. I'm thinking about trying to re-hydrate some for beef stew some time.