Beef Jerky blog
 
Among the most easy and satisfying preservation techniques is beef jerky: cut strips of lean beef (the less expensive the cut the better), salt and season them, let them cure for a day in the fridge, then spread them out on a rack to dry. When my daughter asked me to buy some at the store, I made the above instead.

I love the fact that it's a useful form of preservation.  A friend I met in a wooden boat yard was formerly a cowboy who worked the land from Texas to Canada, tending and protecting cattle, birthing calves over huge expanses of territory, often alone for long stretches.  He says he jerked, or dried, meat whenever he killed anything, such as deer.  When his food ran out, he’d butcher one of the cattle.  That would leave him if he was alone or even traveling with several others, too much meat.  Robert would cut the meat in thin strips, salt it if he had salt, keep it in a shady cool spot during the day (it would become rancid in the sun), then hang it at night.  If he was on the move, he said, jerky was important because you could carry a lot of it easily, it weighed so much less than fresh meat.

For this reason, jerky remains a great item to make for long camping trips.  This same method works well with venison. Typically, lean meat was used, which dried more thoroughly and thus lasted longer, since even preserved fat can become rancid.  The round is about as bland and tasteless a cut as you can find, but through curing, seasoning and drying you can transform it into something superlative and useful.

The following recipe is adapted from Charcuterie.  We'd begun with soy as one of the seasonings.  Brian changed it to chipotles in adobo.  Because I had some chipotles ground in the spice mill, I used that. The technique is infinitely variable. Season it with flavors you love.

Chiptole Beef Jerky 
  

2-1/2 pounds/1 kilogram beef, eye of the round or lean round, all fat trimmed away
3/4 ounces/20 grams kosher salt (about 1-1/2 tablespoons)
1 3/4 teaspoon/10 milliliters garlic powder
1 3/4    teaspoon/10 milliliters onion powder
2-4 teaspoons ground chipotles
   
Cut the beef into thin strips about a 1/8th-inch/1/4 centimeter thick and an inch wide (length is not critical).  Combine the remaining ingredients and toss to coat evenly.  Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.  Place strips on a rack over a pan so that all sides dry.  Dry the beef at 90 degrees F./32 degrees C. for 16-20 hours.  If your oven does not go to 90 deg., try the lowest setting with the door propped open, checking every so often.  Depending on the climate and conditions where you live, the beef may dry well at room temperature.  The beef should be dry to the touch, dark, and very stiff.  If completely dried and stored in an airtight container this beef jerky will keep for several months or longer at room temperatur.

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45 Wonderful responses to “Charcuterie at Home: Beef Jerky”

  • club penguin

    I own Charcuterie and was thinking this would be an item on my list soon. Do you have a preference as to whether the meat should be sliced with or against the grain of the meat?

  • Beef Jerky

    Great photo!

    A couple of tips:

    Slightly freeze the meat for 30 mins to an hour. This will make the meat easier to cut/slice up.

    Or…

    Have your butcher cut it up for you when you purchase it. You’d be surprised at how much of the work they will do for you!

  • luis

    Well, the dehydration process was a success. The flavors became more concentrated in the food and the temperature of the column crept up all day towards the original reading of 160 deg sans any veggies or meats. Very powerful method of preparing ready to eat snacks and emergency food. This I like very very much. Veggies that are not in use and normally would be tossed in time can now be prepared in this wonderful method. Do I need to refrigerate a dried food and vacuum packed to boot? Anybody? My guess is not!.
    The dried apple chips taste delicious, the dried sausage(precooked) tastes out of this world and the dried zuchinni needs a little something something….but it’s great too.
    The foodsaver has a vacum marinator which I can use to impart flavor to foods prior to tossing them in the dehydrator. Man the variations and permutations with this new toy are wide open. Useful and Fun!.

  • Mike

    I have made this jerky about 4 times now. Pretty similar recipe but add a little more heat to it by grinding up dried chipotle, pasilla, ancho peppers. I have done it by cutting it cross grain, slightly wider, thinner etc. and each time its spectacular. I really don’t think it matters wich way you slice the meat to begin with. With a variation each piece is slightly different. I also did the same basic recipe with Salmon and it turned out just as good. I didn’t let it marinate for as long as the beef though…only about 8 hours instead of 24. Luckily my Kitchenaid has a “bread proof” setting which gives me 100 degrees which seems to work perfectly!!!!

  • luis

    Michael, just loaded the Ronco up with zuchinni, apples and Kielbasa… just what I hand on hand. The temp in the column dropped to 100 deg which is expected but.. perhaps the moist load will cool the stack down to ~ 90 to a 100 deg and that would make sense… and jive with your number. Time will tell now. Either way it’s a gas to dry stuff up like our ancenstors…etc… cheers.

  • luis

    Michael, I went to Target today and couldn’t resist a Ronco Dehydrator. I am a sucker for a new technique I guess.
    So, I have my Taylor analog on it for a couple of hrs now and it seems she will do 160 F in the middle of the stack. One the one hand I am conforted by the temperature which is set to thwart rampaging bacteria from getting too confortable and on the other hand you called for 90 degrees if I read you right.
    So basically I am off drying stuff and playing around with more food… but on the other hand I am wondering about your 90 deg reference?
    Confused here in Sofl… as usual….I find it hard to believe your honking gas fired oven does 90 deg?. Any way if it wasn’t for your blog I wouldn’t be playing around with jerky or dehydrated food…. so thanks for the intro. Another lesson taught and another patch of learning chasing it…. Comment if you like.

  • Jeff

    I do a lot of jerky. Last batch was two 3-4 pound arm roasts.

    Lasted 2 weeks.

    Something I did on this last batch that I’m going to work on refining was to slice the meat thin (1/16″) across the grain, leaving me with round or oval pieces. Marinated them for 30 minutes or so and tossed them in the dehydrator. After 18 hours, they were dried, but with a supple texture like fruit leather.

    In fact, you could quite easily bite into it and tear it with your teeth without the usual ‘tough as shoe leather’ feeling. I’m not sure if it was the thickness or the way I sliced it, or what… but it was waaaay awesome.

  • Metaxa

    Pemmican.

    Take your jerky and pound it to dust, mix with fine chopped then pounded dried berries (blueberries, cranberries, whatever you have on hand…dried tho) and enough beef lard to be able to shape it. Some batches that will be 20% lard, some it will approach 50%.
    I lay (spread) mine out on a large sheet of metal plate and sandwich it with another metal plate and weigh the whole down with cinder blocks. Slice into servings with a pizza wheel.
    Different every time due to always changing ingredients but delicious every time.

    With a bit of bread or a cracker you have three of your food groups right there. Four if you count the lard.

  • kboler

    The son loves it.

    While my oven won’t set below 170 degrees, just turning the interior oven light on kept it at about 95 degrees.

  • jerry

    I AM FROM CHINA, BUT I LIKE THE WESTEN FOOD. THIS FOOD LOOKS VERY NICE, BUT I THINK IT IS DIFFICULT FOR ME. IN CHINA, IT SI POPULAR TO EAT PORK AND NOT BEEF.

    BUT THANKS, MAYBE I WILL TRY.

  • Chris Huck

    My wife did the prep following the recipe exactly then put it into our Kitchenaid oven on “proofing” mode which is 100 degrees.

    I watched it from about 19-22 hours and finally – perfection! Great recipe.

    Will do over and over again!

  • Brad West

    Now for the Jerky, I have built probably 15 different smokers in my life, from Block buildings to a little wooden box with a hot plate. I have never bought on, probably spent more building some of them than I could have bought them for.

    Here you have again got me stoked I have smoked beef, venison, elk, my favorite of all time is salmon jerky, did allot of that when we lived on the Dungeness river in Washington
    Thanks
    Brad West ~ onomoney

  • Elizabeth

    Given how difficult it can be to have great dried, cured meat at home, this intrigues me greatly. And the photo is positively lovely.

  • luis

    Natalie…here is a hint: When you think you are crossing that line… You are.
    Here are tha ratios:
    4 servings of fruits and vegetables
    to
    3 servings of Protein
    to
    2 servings of whole grains
    to
    1 serving of naugthy stuff….
    ref… biggest loser show food pyramid reference.
    When it comes to protein I am pretty sure they mean you to choose from animal, vegetal and low fat dairy. So from the looks of it they want you to do animal protein One out every three days.
    Hey I am learning new stuff every day too….and this plan is just starting to take root with me.

  • Russ H

    I love beef jerky and have been making it for a while now… glad to see it finally getting it’s due!

  • luis

    I don’t think I have anything that will do 90F for 20hrs. Not my slow cooker..not my oven…and not my induction top. Worst of all I don’t have the right equipment to measure it. All my temp probes require immersing in a liquid or probing into a meat. I recall there is some drying plastic tower out there that sits on the counter and dries stuff up.
    Just when I think I have it covered… Rhulman …always Michael Rhulman shows me something new…. I am all for preserving food and keeping it alive. Trying new things….Well Swell….As we contemplate retirement… a little farm somewhere might be our next stop. Growing, canning, drying, baking, grilling… anything, any technique is another quiver in our bow.

  • Maddux

    Love the photo – clever food styling as well. It’s a bundle o’ jerky! I had no idea making jerky was this simple. I’m going to make it with my kids. Thank you

  • Jacqueline

    One of the ways my mom tortured us as kids: when we begged for candy bars, she’d reach into her purse and pull out beef jerky. We were, of course, mortified. Now I see she was simply ahead of her time. And right. Again.

  • Kurt

    I live in Minneapolis; as the air dries my skin to the point of crumbling, I am sure it’d be perfect for jerky (I tried making it in the humid summers of Houston, but that didn’t work – and I think I let the sun get to it, bad results).

    I’m not too sure of its utility, but I remember seeing the Good Eats on jerky and Alton managed to jerry-rig quite a contraption: take one of those big square floor fans that seem to be useful only to dry up floors on a sloppy winter day, put an AC filter over it, layer meat, another filter, keep layering as needed. Turn on fan overnight. Jerky.

  • Paul Kobulnicky

    To get the proper amount of heat, put a 100 watt lightbulb in the oven (in a socket and plugged-in of course) , turn it on and close the door.

  • Blue Mountains Chef

    I’ve been making jerky for well over a decade, one of my all-time faves with a cold beer.

    Another good method of drying is to place the strips in a fruit dryer (can pick them up at Wal-Mart, etc), leave on overnight or at least twelve hours on the low setting.

    Gently dessicates the meat without the risk of evaporating the marinade.

  • Vivian

    The bouquet of homemade beef jerky would have been the perfect valentine for my husband. I will have to do this for him sometime soon.

  • IHOP

    You had me at the photo!

    I had no idea that making jerky was a) so easy, or b) so cheap. Even my broke ass, with my tiny shared kitchen, can give this one a go… and so I think I shall! Although I think there might be some black pepper going in as well. Either way, good times.

    (And beautiful photo from Donna… dried meat should never look that sexy!)

  • Laura

    God I haven’t had beef jerky since I was a kid! You’ve inspired me…I’ve been working my way through Charcuterie and have been loving it.

  • Richard

    I’ve made this jerky recipe multiple times, and it turns out great every single time. I think next time I’m going to add some fresh ground black pepper to it to give it some of that peppery goodness I’ve come to expect from jerky. It’s also a great snack for those of us on a diet that need some protein to make it through the day.

  • Tags

    -
    That jerky looks pretty feisty. Are you sure you didn’t get that meat from a wildcat?

  • Charlotte

    We have a terrific local butcher here in town, and his kids play in the soccer league. Guess what soccer snacks are when Matt’s kids play — jerky! The kids adore it and it makes us all feel very wild west.

  • Patrick R

    I’ve made this several times now since I received a copy of Charcuterie at Christmas. I’ve done things a little differently each time for the sake of experimentation. A simple eye round turned out the best results, although flank steak had a chewier texture (if that’s your thing).

    As for people asking about the grain, I tried both ways and it’s definitely better to cut the strips with the grain. It still tastes fine cut across the grain, obviously, but it’s more brittle and breaks apart. The long strands make it more jerky-like and nicer to rip into.

  • mike

    the cowboy mentioned in the original post got me remembering the time i was working at a euro/mostly russian place here in PA– they would use a cured/dried meat called Basturma- which is essentially jerky– but with a flavorful spice “paste” on the outside in their greek salad–

    the old man who was the father of the owners told me that –traditionally — basturma was prepped, and then put under the saddle of a horse and was kept there while riding to tenderize the product–

    anyone ever use/hear of basturma?

  • ntsc

    I’ve made the pepperone in Charcuterie twice now, and will be starting 10 lbs next week.

    Lots of dry cure in the next few weeks as soon as the fermenting agent gets here.

    My wife gave me a copy of that book a couple of years ago and I’ve done a lot from it. Essentially we don’t buy this stuff anymore.

    The time I met him he was very encouraging. He met about 10 of us, talked and ate the lunch we had spent the morning preparing. He did want to know why we all came to Cleveland, well why not?

  • Tim Elmore

    I just want to thank you for all the great recipes from Charcuterie. I haven’t made it to the dried meats yet. Still working on brines and curing right now. But I did get a nice propane smoker yesterday so I guess smoking is next on my list.

  • Andy Coan

    The chipotle idea is lovely, yes. I’m assuming, too, you;d be cutting across the grain, right?

    I’ve also wondered if I could dry jerky in the summer here in Georgia without the oven…what do you reckon would be a ‘safe’ humidity range? Or any tips to keep a drier place for air-drying?

    And of course the photo of this lovely beef bouquet is stellar!

  • dadekian

    I love beef jerky, so much so that was I actually interviewed for the Wall Street Journal on the subject (I can’t believe it’s still online: http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB107542433520816064-email,00.html ) I keep meaning to make the Charcuterie recipe as I was always drawn to the idea of using chipotle instead of the usual soy sauce. Thanks as always for the writings!

  • Natalie Sztern

    let me clarify, i do not mean overly salted, what i intended to spew was meat that is cured and preserved like charcuterie, is high in its sodium content. So what recommendation would a chef offer as to how much cured food one should digest in say, a week’s worth of days…

  • Natalie Sztern

    Are u not afraid of all the high sodium content for your kids? I, save for the cured salmon, am always leery of overly salted meats including our beloved smoked meat. The long term effect cannot be good….what say u?

  • Allison

    Wow, that looks really great! Too easy to pass up.

    Any chance you could come up with a pepperoni recipe for your next book or blog post?

  • Allison

    Oops … just found it in your Charcuterie book! Never mind.

  • Mary

    Thanks for the post! I own Charcuterie and was thinking this would be an item on my list soon. Do you have a preference as to whether the meat should be sliced with or against the grain of the meat?