Make Your Own Beef Jerky
If you’re like me, you are a prolific snacker. That is, you always have something within reach to chew on and eat in between meals. Some days I crave salty, some days I crave sweet, others I want crunchy and other times I don’t care as long as it tastes good. Well, as a Magazine Writer, I often get the opportunity to serve dual purposes with my work and sometimes this means making my belly happy. The story comes first but along the way I get to kill two birds with one stone and eventually my hunger is taken care of too. Such was the case with my most recent article for a particular print magazine featuring the Fiddleback Forge Bush Hermit. During the course of testing, I described how I used the blade for processing a London broil steak into strips for jerky. The article came out great but there was much more to tell. Since this magazine wanted me to focus on the blade, I couldn’t share the process of making the jerky. It is a skill the the prepper, hunter, outdoorsman and foodie should know so I’ll take the opportunity to use the Fiddleback Forge Blog to explain how to now.
Step 1: Ingredients and Tools
Beef Jerky is made with...well..beef and for this blog, London Broil was the cut of choice. For all practical purposes, everything from hamburger to sirloin can be used as long as it is cut thin. Avoid overly fatty meats as the fat can become rancid so trim away as much as you can. In terms of seasoning, there are countless recipes available online that create some salty concoction to marinate the meat in. I prefer a combination of worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, black pepper, onion powder, red pepper flakes, garlic powder and brown sugar. The exact recipe is a secret. You can experiment with various recipes and find the one that is the most appealing to you. Last but not least, you need a means to dehydrate your jerky. This can be a tripod in camp covered in tarps with a smoky fire underneath to the Excalibur at-home food dehydrator that I own. I know what you’re thinking, I can’t make jerky because I don’t have time to build a campfire and I don’t own a food dehydrator. Don’t fret. You can still use your oven racks and low heat (175 degrees).
Step 2:Cut to Size
After you’ve gathered all the ingredients you need, take the London Broil and put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes to an hour. This will make the meat slightly firmer and easier to slice. Using your favorite Fiddleback Forge blade (preferably one with a good belly like the Bush Hermit), slice the steak in strips approximately ? inch to ¼” thick. Keep the butt of your handle up and focus on using the belly of the blade to cut all the way down to the cutting board. Try to make one consistent cut the entire length of the London Broil of equal thickness. You can cut either with the grain or against the grain and you should experiment with both to determine your liking. Once you have your London Broil cut to size, you have the option to tenderize it with a mallet although you don’t need to.
Step 3: Marinate
With all your strips of beef cut to size, you next place it in a small bowl or plastic bag with your preferred marinade. Some jerky aficionados will even place their strips and marinade in a vacuum sealer forcing all the air out and flavoring into the meat. I’ve tried bowl, bag, and vacuum sealer and really can’t taste much of a difference. Most of the time, I just place my jerky strips into a bowl, cover it with the marinade, and place a layer of Saran Wrap over the top of the meat directly in contact with it to keep the air off of it. Just make sure you have enough marinade to completely cover your strips with whatever method you use. From 12 hours to 24, just let your jerky marinate and don’t disrupt it. Making your own jerky is all about patience.
Step 4: Dehydrate
After you have let your jerky absorb the marinade, it’s time for the magic to happen. Place strips on your drying racks or oven grates with enough room on all sides to allow for sufficient airflow. You want to set your food dehydrator to 145 degrees. Most ovens can’t be heated to lower temperatures than their dials indicate so it will be necessary to finagle with venting the door. Even still, you’ll find the oven will finish the jerky quicker than the dehydrator since the temperature will likely be higher. As someone who transitioned from oven drying to food-dehydrator, I can say you’ll want a dedicated machine if you really get into this process. A dedicated machine is worry free. There is something about leaving an oven on that just doesn’t sit well with me. After you have your oven or dehydrator set, you need to tell yourself you will not try to sample the jerky early. Monitor it and make sure you don’t overly dry it but don’t play with your jerky before it’s ready.
Step 5: Enjoy
Think of what commercially available jerky feels like. It bends and cracks. It shouldn’t snap in half when it’s ready unless you enjoy leather. Once you are satisfied with the texture of your jerky, let it cool for an hour, wipe away any excess “fat sweating”, and store it in an air-tight container. If you have a vacuum packer, you can pre-package your jerky into individual servings or you can consider the whole batch a serving. Jerky, properly made, will store in air-tight jars or zip-locks for up to 2 weeks and much longer (close to 2 months) in vacuum packaging. In my case, no matter what I make only lasts about 72 hours though. Not because I made it incorrectly or because I stored it improperly but rather because I’m a snacker and this jerky just tastes too damn good to stop eating it before it’s all gone.