How to Make Beef Jerky

Hannah Cordes lives in Seattle with her husband, two teenage sons, dogs, and chickens. She has been cooking her whole life and was the chef at Hillel UW for six years. 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 and Twitter.

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
Recipe Type: Snack
Makes 1¼ pounds
  • 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
  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 Responses to How to Make Beef Jerky

  1. Mary October 19, 2012 at 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.

    • Hannah October 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

      Great idea to have the butcher slice the meat! You would have very even slices then. Thanks for the tip – I’ll keep that in mind next time!

  2. Brigitte October 18, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    Thank you Hannah .. I appreciate you!

  3. Brigitte October 18, 2012 at 10:41 am #

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

    • Hannah October 18, 2012 at 11:16 am #

      I prefer to use a lean cut of brisket – not sure if that’s any less expensive than flank, though. I’ve tried some cuts of steak that were cheaper but higher in fat, and in the end the drying process didn’t go well and the jerky just wasn’t very good. I would recommend a lean cut, so hopefully you spot something that looks good.

    • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship October 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

      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

      • Hannah October 29, 2012 at 10:18 am #

        Thanks for your ground meat suggestion, Katie! I would love to try that jerky option. One more reason I need to get a dehydrator! I hope you enjoy the Worcestershire sauce.

  4. Brigitte October 18, 2012 at 10:39 am #

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

  5. Brigitte October 18, 2012 at 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.

    • Hannah October 18, 2012 at 9:56 am #

      Hi Brigitte – what a shame! Hopefully a shorter drying time in the oven will do the trick. I’ve dried mine for up to 5-6 hours and it, too, turned into a crumbly, brittle heap. We salvaged what we could, but it’s disappointing. I’ve had success drying for 3 hours, so perhaps you could start checking at 2 1/2 hours since ovens vary. I hope you try it again! Let me know how it goes. 🙂

  6. Nami | Just One Cookbook October 18, 2012 at 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.

    • Hannah October 18, 2012 at 9:52 am #

      Thank you, Nami! I do hope your husband enjoys the jerky. It’s a fun project (my boys are great at helping with the toothpick part) and very rewarding to have a batch to nibble on. Please let me know if you have any questions.

  7. Brigitte October 16, 2012 at 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.

  8. The Wimpy Vegetarian October 15, 2012 at 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 🙂

    • Hannah October 15, 2012 at 11:05 am #

      Thank you so much, Susan! And I do hear lots of “thank yous” when we have a stash on hand! Love your idea for holiday gifts, too. I’m starting to make a list of homemade ideas for this year.

  9. Mikaela Cowles October 15, 2012 at 8:05 am #

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

    • Hannah October 15, 2012 at 8:28 am #

      Hi Mikaela – no need to soak the toothpicks. The heat is quite low, so they don’t burn at all.

  10. Karen October 12, 2012 at 11:53 am #

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

    • Hannah October 13, 2012 at 10:15 am #

      My pleasure, Karen! I hope you like it. 🙂

  11. Allyson October 12, 2012 at 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.

    • Hannah October 13, 2012 at 10:13 am #

      Yes, it’s pretty expensive. I read somewhere that we should pay twice as much for meat and eat half as much, and that has really stuck with me. Fortunately the beef jerky lasts a long time as we nibble at it! I do hope you enjoy it.

      • Kira October 5, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

        It took me YEARS of buying organic produce and dairy before I finally started buying organic grass-fed meat, which I now realize was completely backwards. Learning to eat less meat definitely helped the transition though!

  12. DURTY 1 October 12, 2012 at 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!

    • Hannah October 13, 2012 at 9:48 am #

      Thanks for sharing this method – I’m not familiar with it. Do you turn the oven light on for a little warmth or keep the oven cold? If my kitchen is cold, I put our kombucha jars in the oven at night with the oven light on to keep warm. And yes, a dehydrator for the jerky would be a terrific option!

  13. Beth (OMG! Yummy) October 12, 2012 at 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!

    • Hannah October 13, 2012 at 9:36 am #

      Thank you so much, Beth! I’m happy to be part of October Unprocessed. I appreciate all the great tips and creative recipes I’m discovering. Lots of fun!

  14. Charles B October 12, 2012 at 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!

    • Hannah October 13, 2012 at 9:30 am #

      My pleasure, Charles! I hope you enjoy the beef jerky – there’s nothing like homemade. And I think you’ll be hooked on the Worcestershire sauce, too! I just used it as a glaze on salmon and it was terrific.

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