Thursday, June 20, 2013

Homemade Beef Jerky: How to Make It and Why You Should - A Guest Post by Bridget Sandorford

Lately I've been thinking about jerky & smoked meats.  In the good old days people made jerky to preserve meat for long trips.  Pioneers & drovers lived on the stuff, because it was a good source of energy that wouldn't spoil.  We have to gulp down the jerky we buy today though, because it molds within a few days after opening it.

I was writing about the issue, but having a hard time of it, since I'm not expert enough in smoking meats to include a recipe for homemade jerky that would be safe to store for long periods.  Fortunately, freelance blog and culinary writer, Bridget Sandorford wrote to me asking if there was a topic she could write about for my blog.

Talk about perfect timing.

Bridget Sandorford is a freelance blog and culinary writer, where recently she’s been researching culinary schools in Kansas City. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, painting and working on her first cookbook.
Homemade Beef Jerky: How to Make It and Why You Should
It is important to include plenty of quality protein in your diet. Yet most of us don’t have the time to sit down and eat a steak or to whip up a grilled chicken breast in the middle of our busy work days. Nor do we have the time to cook a full breakfast of eggs or sausage in the morning. Finding quality sources of ready-to-eat protein is a great way to help us meet our protein needs despite our busy schedules.

However, many commercially available products contain unhealthy ingredients that can contribute to our risk of serious health problems and even disease. For example, deli lunch meats have preservatives, additives and artificial colors. Hot dogs and other cured meats like pepperoni have cancer-causing nitrates.

Beef jerky is a great choice for protein-on-the-go, but commercially available options have a lot of those same additives – and they often spoil a few days after they are opened. Traditionally, beef jerky and other smoked meats were created to preserve meats for long trips or to store food in case of shortage. Now they provide healthy snacks for busy people.

Here are a few tips for how you can make our own beef jerky that is free of all toxic ingredients and that you can store for later use:

Choose a Quality Cut of Meat
Good jerky can’t be made from just any type of meat. You have to choose a quality, lean cut such as a sirloin or top round. Make sure to remove any visible fat from the cut. The meat doesn’t have to be beef. Jerky can be made of any type of meat, and some great versions have been made from bison, ostrich, deer, and even turkey.

Marinate Your Meat
The marinade that you choose will have the most impact on the final product. Here’s where you can have fun and try out different spices and flavorings. Explore different recipes or experiment in your kitchen until you find one that you like best.

Consider trying out one of these recipes:
Let your meat marinate for anywhere from 4 to 24 hours. Typically, the longer you allow it to marinate, the more full the flavor will be.

Make Your Jerky
The easiest way to make your jerky is to put it in a dehydrator and to follow the instructions for use. However, if you can’t or don’t want to buy a dehydrator, you can just use your oven.

The right temperature will vary depending on your altitude, the power of your oven, and other factors. However, 200 degrees F is an average starting point for jerky. The key is to dry out the meat, not to cook it, so the oven has to be set to a very low temperature.

Cooking times will also vary according to the same factors. However, typical times range from 45 to 90 minutes. The longer you cook it, the more tough and chewy it will be. The lower your temperatures, the long it will take to cure. Some recipes call for jerky to cure for up to 6 hours or more.

Store your jerky in airtight bags or jars, and put it in the refrigerator or freezer to help it keep longer. Your jerky should be able to last two weeks or more if stored correctly. Then you’ll have a ready supply of healthy, lean protein that you can eat for a snack or as an addition to a meal.

What are some of your favorite recipes for making your own beef jerky? Share your recipes and your best tips in the comments!


  1. I've never made beef jerky before, but after reading your post, I think I'm destined to this Summer. Plus this just made me think of the Simpsons episode where Homer shares his secret jerky stash and recipe with Bart, then a raccoon breaks in and steals the motherload lol So yea, definitely making beef jerky ;)

    1. I made beef jerky last night. It was marinated and cooked to 160 degrees before dehydrating for 8 hours. I left it in the dehydrator overnight to cool. Is it okay to eat?

    2. According to the USDA, "Illnesses due to Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 from homemade jerky raise questions about the safety of traditional drying methods for making beef and venison jerky. The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline's current recommendation for making jerky safely is to heat meat to 160 °F and poultry to 165 °F before the dehydrating process. This step assures that any bacteria present will be destroyed by wet heat." As long as you nailed this step, and there are NO signs of mold, you should be fine.