Homemade beef jerky

What a surprise – beef jerky really doesn’t photograph well. So thank you dear instagram filters making shitty photos look still shitty but in a retro way.

Did you know you can make beef jerky at home? And it’s REALLY easy?? I just about fell off my chair when I found out. It’s one of those things I’d NEVER thought to try making.

I really love jerky, but it’s so expensive to buy. Here’s the truth though: it’s expensive to make at home as well – just not AS expensive. Turns out when you dehydrate meat, you don’t end up with much. Surprise number two!

Anyway, here’s how you make beef jerky at home, not a recipe as such, more a set of guidelines. I own a cheap dehydrator, but you can also use your oven on a low setting.

First you need to get some meat. It doesn’t have to be beef, but do try and buy a cut of meat that’s as free of fat and sinew as possible – this will make your life a thousand times easier when it comes to slicing it. Go for at least a kilo, remember you lose a lot of it in the drying process.

Thinly slice the meat. I like to pop it in the freezer for about an hour first, so it hardens up a bit. Try and slice it as thin as possible and cut off all visible fat. You can see in the photo above that I’m not very good at cutting big slices, but I’m okay with small bits of jerky.

Next, it needs to sit in a marinade overnight. I’ve tried out a range of marinades, but my favourite has been ¼ cup hoisin sauce, ¼ cup water, a teaspoon of salt, 2 crushed garlic cloves, and 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper. That’s about enough for a kilo of meat. You could do whatever you like though – soy sauce and honey is always good. Or maybe even a dry spice rub. Oooh the possibilities.

Next – lots of recipes online skip this step but I think it’s really important – cook the meat. The reason I cook it is because the dehydrator is the *perfect* environment for bacteria to multiply and go nuts. I’ve read that bringing the temperature of the meat up to 70°C will kill all the existing bacteria (see jerky & food safety fact sheet), but since I’m hardly going to stand there with a thermometer, I just cook it completely to be sure. I do this by steaming the meat, but if you have lots of marinade you could also boil it in the liquid.

Now that food poisoning concerns are taken care of, drain off any excess liquid, and place all the slices out in the dehydrator (or oven), turn it on and wait. Obviously space out the meat so they’re not draped over one another and hot air can circulate around each piece. How long it will take depends on how thin the slices are – mine have taken anywhere from 3-6 hours. I tend to eat lots as it’s drying to “test” whether it’s done or not. 😀

After it’s done and has cooled, keep it in the fridge – it should last a couple of weeks (longer in the freezer), though mine is normally eaten long before then. That’s it. Simple, right?