Just say the words beef jerky and most people conjure up the idea of a dry tasteless piece of meat, packaged in plastic and thrown in a backpack for hikers. After all, why would anyone really want to eat this unless nothing else was available, right? But the truth of the matter is beef jerky has been made by mankind for centuries, and much of it was much tastier than what you will see at your local gas station or corner market.
In fact, when we were first settling this country, drying and salting meat into jerky was the best way to ensure you had meat that was safe to eat all year. Refrigeration may have made this less of a problem, but jerking meat is still the best way to make it portable. But if you want it to taste better than the crap you see at the local gas station, here are a few secrets ways to make your own that is worth the extra work.
While it is still quite possible to make beef jerky the old fashion way, drying it in the sun, who wants to wait that long? Some folks like to make it in the oven, and with an ability to control the temperature it is a good deal better than laying it out in the sun. But to truly get a tasty homemade jerky, using a smoker is the best route to take.
If you make sure that you use a good cut of beef, let’s say a sirloin top roast sliced thin, you will get a better end product. The secret to making it in the smoker is to smoke it at a low temperature for a long time. In fact, the lower the temperature and the longer the smoke, the better it will turn out. So, grab that smoker and try it out this weekend.
Prepare It First
So much of any kind of cooking is in the preparation and beef jerky is no exception. To start with, make sure that the cut you choose works well for this kind of jerky. You will want a dry lean cut that has little fat, as the fat can become somewhat rancid over time, and that is a taste you never want associated with your jerky. If you can get venison, it makes a really flavorful jerky.
Freezing the meat will make slicing it thinly easier to do. When you are slicing it up, remember to stick to the grain of the meat and make sure you create nice long even strips of meat. The thinner the meat the faster it will dry, so keep that in mind. Make sure that whatever marinades you use they do not have oils in them, as these will turn rancid with the drying process just as any fat would.
Keep It Simple
When setting up your oven or smoker for the jerky, remember that the goal is to do this in a simple way. Keep the temperatures low, around 140 degrees and make sure that the jerky is always in some kind of moving air. When it is ready, allow it to cool completely and preferably on a rack.
When it is time to store it away, always choose a light airtight container and put the jerky in a cool and dark place. You can begin to see from this why our pioneers would put their beef jerky in the cellar when they were done. If you don’t have a cellar, just remember to keep it out of the heat and the light.