This basic jerky recipe uses a marinade that makes a lightly seasoned dried beef jerky with pepper and smoke. Use it for making beef jerky, as well as venison and other game meats. Cook dried meat to a safe internal temperature of 160°F to ensure a safe snack product. If you wish to use lower heat to make jerky, be sure to use an appropriate treatment such as high salt concentration, nitrites, or pasteurization. Recipe variations below include teriyaki, Thai, and Mexican style beef jerky, as well as Native American Pemmican.
Basic Beef or Venison Jerky
Makes about 1/2 pound jerky; a serving size is 1 to 2 ounces
1⁄2 cup kosher salt OR 1⁄4 cup table salt
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
2 qt. water
3 TB. liquid smoke
1⁄2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 lb. lean meat from the loin, flank, or round
- In a large bowl, mix together kosher salt or table salt and granulated sugar. Heat 1 quart water to boiling, and pour over salt mixture. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve completely. Add 1 quart cold water, smoke, and ground black pepper. Refrigerate brine until completely chilled.
- Trim 2 pounds lean beef or venison steak or roast of all visible fat (fat becomes rancid quickly during storage). Freeze meat for 30 minutes to firm the meat and make it easier for easier slicing. For tender jerky, cut against the grain; for chewy dried meat, cut with the grain. For fast, safe drying, cut meat in strips 1 to 6 inches wide, and no more than 1⁄4 inch thick.
- Place strips of meat in a marinating container. Pour cold brine over meat, cover, and refrigerate 1 to 8 hours.
- Preheat an oven or food dehydrator to 185°F. Remove meat strips from marinade and drain on clean, absorbent towels. Place meat on drying trays. Dry until internal temperature is 160°F or when meat cracks when bent but does not break.
- Remove meat strips from drying trays. Remove any oil beads by patting jerky with towels. Cool 30 minutes, or until no longer warm. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Traditional Pemmican: one of the original “superfoods,” pemmican is a nutritious survival and trail food dating back hundreds of years. This traditional preparation comes from the North American Cree tribe, who made it from dried meat, such as buffalo or elk. Grind 2 cups (4 oz.) shredded beef jerky into a powder (use a large mortar and pestle, a food processor, or a blender). Heat 1/2 cup tallow, lard, or clarified butter over medium heat until completely melted. Pour melted fat over meat powder. Add optional ¼ tsp. salt and ¼ cup honey, or to taste. Stir until fat congeals, mixture is well coated, sticks together, and is smooth. Spread mixture about 1⁄2 inch thick on a parchment or waxed paper lined baking sheet. Allow to cool. When mixture is firm, cut into small bars. Wrap bars in aluminum foil or waxed paper. Store in an airtight container. If kept cool (40°F to 70°F), pemmican can be stored for several years. It may also be frozen. Be sure to store in the refrigerator if the temperature rises above 70°F.
For Teriyaki Beef Jerky, make a marinade using 1⁄3 cup soy sauce, 11⁄2 teaspoons onion powder, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, and 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper. Marinate 1 hour. Dry as directed for Basic Beef Jerky.
For Thai-Style Beef Jerky, make a marinade using 1 2⁄3 cup table salt or pickling salt, 1⁄3 cup soy sauce or fish sauce, 16 cloves minced garlic, 1 cup finely minced shallot or green onion, 2 TB. minced fresh ginger, 2 TB. palm sugar or brown sugar, 2 TB. chopped fresh cilantro leaves with stems (optional), and 2 tsp. freshly ground white pepper. Marinate 1 hour. Dry as directed for Basic Beef Jerky.
For Mexican-Style Dried Beef (Carne Seca), use 1- pound piece of beef and slice 1⁄8 inch thick, using the accordion method. Slice thin (1⁄8 inch) with the grain, cut across the block of meat and stop 1⁄8 inch from end, turn 180°, slice in the opposite direction, stop 1⁄8 inch from end, turn, and continue to slice entire block into one long piece 1⁄8 inch thick. Mix together 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, 1-1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, and 1-1⁄2 teaspoons table or pickling salt. Rub marinade evenly on all sides of meat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 days. Dry as directed for Basic Beef Jerky.
Dried beef jerky makes great trail and snack food. Make jerky from other meats such as venison (deer or antelope), elk, and buffalo. For best results, use lean meat trimmed of all visible fat, a jerky marinade to season the meat, and a drying temperature of 185°F to prepare safe beef jerky.