How to Make Beef Jerky

Hannah Cordes lives in Seattle and the Methow Valley with her husband and two college-aged sons. She is the owner of a kitchen store named Aspen Grove.  She was the chef at Hillel UW for six years and these days she can’t resist a DIY project in her kitchen. Hannah prepares fresh, seasonal food for her family and friends and writes about it on her blog, Blue Kale Road. Her happiest place is around her family table crowded with guests. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

homemade-beef-jerky

As a young girl, I desperately wanted to live in a sod house on the prairie and have my own little cow to milk. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series impacted me deeply, and while today my house is made of wood (thankfully) rather than sod, I can at least happily collect eggs from our chickens. The story of Laura’s childhood helped shape how I think about food. Visions of maple candy, green pumpkin pie and Ma’s vanity cakes fascinated me, as did the process of actually making food. Theirs was truly local, unprocessed food; they grew, hunted and traded for each ingredient.

Although I eat a vegetarian diet more often than not, beef jerky is something that deeply appeals to me and satisfies my inner pioneer. Making beef jerky brings Pa Ingalls and his smokehouse right into my kitchen. It connects me to a time-honored process of preserving food which is deeply rewarding and evokes simpler times.

While I don’t want to return to pioneer life, I do try to incorporate some of those values into my modern-day cooking. October Unprocessed inspires me to think about every ingredient I cook with and to ask myself if it can be made in my (or Ma’s) home kitchen. Even though I make much from scratch, it’s eye-opening to realize that not all of the ingredients I use always qualify. I’m enjoying using whole ingredients and the process of “unprocessing” and the push to stretch and grow in my tiny kitchen (I’m sure Ma pulled out drawers on which to balance cutting boards, too).

When my husband first mentioned homemade beef jerky years ago, it didn’t take much research to realize it was something I could easily do. With each batch I made, I tweaked the marinade a bit or learned something new, such as freezing the brisket for a short time makes thin slicing with a knife much easier. I must say, it’s been a fun experience! I first marinate the beef slices in a mix of maple syrup, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Store bought Worcestershire lists high fructose corn syrup – definitely does not qualify as unprocessed – so I started making homemade Worcestershire sauce, as well.

Lacking a smokehouse in the backyard, I instead use wooden toothpicks to suspend the strips of beef from an oven rack and a low oven temperature to dry it. The amount of time varies, depending upon how thin your slices are and how dry or chewy you prefer your jerky.

This is pure, unprocessed, delicious meat without any MSG, hidden ingredients or weird sounding additives (no packaging either). I have two teenagers who come home ravenous after school and a jar of beef jerky makes an ideal snack. As I watch my sons munching away, I think the Ingalls family would be proud!
drying-homemade-beef-jerky

Beef Jerky
Author: 
Recipe Type: Snack
 
Makes 1¼ pounds
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds organic, pasture-raised beef brisket
  • ½ cup Worcestershire sauce (preferably homemade)
  • ½ cup organic, unpasteurized soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Wooden toothpicks
Instructions
  1. Pop the brisket in the freezer for about 30 - 45 minutes; this will make slicing it easier. Whisk together the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, maple syrup, black pepper and garlic and set aside.
  2. Remove the brisket from the freezer. Slicing with the grain, slice the beef into strips as thin as possible (I try for ⅛-1/4 inch slices). Place all the beef slices in a ziploc bag and pour the marinade over. Seal the bag and squish and move the strips around to evenly coat the beef. Place the beef in the fridge and marinate for 24 hours.
  3. Take both of your oven racks out of the oven. Set one rack aside and place the other over your kitchen sink. Line the bottom of the oven with foil (to catch drips) and preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  4. Drain the marinade from the bag. Take a beef strip and stick a wooden toothpick through it near the top (typically ¼ inch from the top). The toothpick is used to suspend the beef strip as it hangs from the wires of the oven rack. Place the beef strip between two wires of the oven rack so the beef strip is suspended and hanging into the sink. Repeat with remaining strips. The beef strips can be hung close to one another, but should not touch one another. The entire batch should fill a standard oven rack.
  5. Open the oven door and carefully slide your filled rack onto the top rung of the oven. Close the door and let the beef cook for 3 hours. At this point, begin checking/tasting the beef to see if it is to your liking. This will depend upon how thin your slices are and how chewy vs. dry you prefer your jerky. I usually let it cook for 3 - 3½ hours, but have cooked it as long as 4 hours.
  6. Remove the jerky from the oven and store in jars or other sealed containers. Store the jerky in the fridge or a cool area for easy snacking.

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31 Comments on "How to Make Beef Jerky"

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Charles B
Guest
Charles B
October 12, 2012 7:39 am

I love homemade jerky but haven’t made any since I switched to local, pastured beef. I see I’ll have to fix that. But first, I must try making the Worcestershire sauce. Thanks for sharing both recipes!

Beth (OMG! Yummy)
Guest
October 12, 2012 7:55 am

This is great Hannah – a wonderful story and an even better recipe! Glad to see you posting as part of October Unprocessed!

DURTY 1
Guest
DURTY 1
October 12, 2012 8:49 am

Nice recipe, but I think 200 is much to hot. I like my jerky raw (under 109 degrees). Try this without turning the oven on at all for 24-48 hours. Or get a dehydrator!

Allyson
Guest
October 12, 2012 9:26 am

I can’t afford that much meat right now (organic meat is sooooo expensive so October Unprocessed is pretty much October Vegetarian for me), but I will be making this the next time I have some income to spare.

Karen
Guest
Karen
October 12, 2012 11:53 am

YUM! Looking forward to making this. Thanks so much for sharing.

Mikaela Cowles
Guest
October 15, 2012 8:05 am

These look great, but do you need to soak the toothpicks to keep them from burning?

The Wimpy Vegetarian
Guest
October 15, 2012 10:07 am

OMG I love this!!! I’m mostly vegetarian too, as you know, but this looks like something I need to make. My husband would thank me forever! And I love the Little House on the Prairie article too – I so agree. And this would make great holiday gifts 🙂

Brigitte
Guest
Brigitte
October 16, 2012 11:50 am

Where do I get your recipe for homemade worcestershire sauce? I’m all for homemade anything and I really enjoy/use a lot “W” sauce. Thank you so much, and also for your jerky recipe.

Andrew
Admin
October 16, 2012 11:54 am
Brigitte
Guest
Brigitte
October 16, 2012 11:57 am

Many thanx Andrew .. gonna check it out right now!

Nami | Just One Cookbook
Guest
October 18, 2012 1:15 am

Hi Andrew! It’s nice to meet you! I came from Hannah’s site. My husband loves beef jerky and I’d like to challenge myself making homemade version! Thanks for the recipe Hannah, and I enjoyed your great guest post.

Brigitte
Guest
Brigitte
October 18, 2012 9:13 am

Okiedokie now .. have tried 2x making homemade jerky. My marinade was very delicious; both times I marinated the meat for over 12 hours. The first time I “dried” in the oven on lowest setting overnight .. in the morning it was SO dry I crumbled it and threw it out. The second time (must be the oven!) I “dried” for four hours and it was past the edge .. ate it all but still too dry and dark and crumbly. So, gonna try again cuz I really enjoy jerky. However .. I’ve been using flank steak and darn, it surely is expensive. Thus far I don’t believe I’ve saved a penny making it myself .. although I prefer to .. just my creativity.

Brigitte
Guest
Brigitte
October 18, 2012 10:39 am

Oh boy .. a new friend! Thank you so much Hannah! I will let you know!

Brigitte
Guest
Brigitte
October 18, 2012 10:41 am

By the way .. any advice as to a good but less expensive cut of meat???

Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship
Guest
October 28, 2012 6:19 pm

Brigitte,
I’m jumping in, but I wanted to share that I make beef jerky from ground meat, which is of course less expensive, and it’s so much easier to chew!

I dry it in the dehydrator or the oven at 200F on trays, 1/4-inch thick, takes about 4-8 hours depending. I just incorporate spices into them mix rather than marinate.

And Hannah, I’m so excited to see your homemade W. sauce! I’ve just been skipping it in recipes because of the nasty ingredients, but now I have options…

🙂 Katie
🙂 Katie

Brigitte
Guest
Brigitte
October 18, 2012 11:36 am

Thank you Hannah .. I appreciate you!

Mary
Guest
Mary
October 19, 2012 10:18 am

My mom made beef jerky once in a while when I was growing up. I love Worcestershire sauce on it! She had the butcher cut a piece of lean brisket into thin strips — it was much easier (and more uniform) than if she had cut it herself. She used drying racks (basically fine mesh racks) that fit into her convection oven to dry/cook the jerky. The jerky would stick a little bit, but once it started to cook we would loosen the pieces and flip them over.

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