Beef  Jerky blog
[This will be the last of my archival posts as I get my notes together from the Italy trip and try to catch up on 5000 emails I ignored while traveling the hillsides of Tuscany and the flatlands of Emilia-Romagna.  I chose this one because I recently made some compulsively good jerky using a recipe from Adam Sappington, of Portland's Country Cat Dinner House and Bar.  Instead of the below seasonings, he uses tons of brown sugar, celery seed, onion and garlic powder—awesome.  Please feel free to improvise.  One key issue for me now: find hand raised beef.  Supermarket beef just doesn't cut it for me when its dry cured, mainly I think because you're simply concentrating the bad quality.]

Among the most easy and satisfying preservation techniques is beef jerky: cut strips of lean beef (the less expensive the cut the better), salt and season them, let them cure for a day in the fridge, then spread them out on a rack to dry. When my daughter asked me to buy some at the store, I made the above instead.

I love the fact that it’s a useful form of preservation.  A friend I met in a wooden boat yard was formerly a cowboy who worked the land from Texas to Canada, tending and protecting cattle, birthing calves over huge expanses of territory, often alone for long stretches.  He says he jerked, or dried, meat whenever he killed anything, such as deer.  When his food ran out, he’d butcher one of the cattle.  That would leave him if he was alone or even traveling with several others, too much meat.  Robert would cut the meat in thin strips, salt it if he had salt, keep it in a shady cool spot during the day (it would become rancid in the sun), then hang it at night.  If he was on the move, he said, jerky was important because you could carry a lot of it easily, it weighed so much less than fresh meat.

For this reason, jerky remains a great item to make for long camping trips.  This same method works well with venison. Typically, lean meat was used, which dried more thoroughly and thus lasted longer, since even preserved fat can become rancid.  The round is about as bland and tasteless a cut as you can find, but through curing, seasoning and drying you can transform it into something superlative and useful.

The following recipe is adapted from Charcuterie.  We’d begun with soy as one of the seasonings.  Brian changed it to chipotles in adobo.  Because I had some chipotles ground in the spice mill, I used that. The technique is infinitely variable. Season it with flavors you love.

Chiptole Beef Jerky

2-1/2 pounds/1 kilogram beef, eye of the round or lean round, all fat trimmed away
3/4 ounces/20 grams kosher salt (about 1-1/2 tablespoons)
1 3/4 teaspoon/10 milliliters garlic powder
1 3/4    teaspoon/10 milliliters onion powder
2-4 teaspoons ground chipotles

Cut the beef into thin strips about a 1/8th-inch/1/4 centimeter thick and an inch wide (length is not critical).  Combine the remaining ingredients and toss to coat evenly.  Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.  Place strips on a rack over a pan so that all sides dry.  Dry the beef at 90 degrees F./32 degrees C. for 16-20 hours.  If your oven does not go to 90 deg., try the lowest setting with the door propped open, checking every so often.  Depending on the climate and conditions where you live, the beef may dry well at room temperature.  The beef should be dry to the touch, dark, and very stiff.  If completely dried and stored in an airtight container this beef jerky will keep for several months or longer at room temperatur.

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18 Wonderful responses to “Charcuterie at Home: Beef Jerky”

  • Coco @ Opera Girl Cooks

    Sounds great! I tried some spicy Thai beef jerky at a farmers’ market a few months back, and have been meaning to recreate it. I am almost positive my oven doesn’t go as low as 90F, but hopefully 100F will work okay.

  • laura

    Re: catching up on 5000 emails. From Seth Godin: “Cory [Doctorow] gets more email than you and me combined: When you go on vacation, set up an autoreply that says, ‘I’m on vacation until x/x/2010. When I get back, I’m going to delete all the email that arrived while I was gone, so if this note is important, please send it to me again after that date.’”

    :)

    Can’t wait to see what you picked up in Italy.

  • Vivian

    I loved this when you first posted it and still do. Agree with you on the beef. How it is raised makes an incredible difference in the flavor.

  • Blake @ salt, teak & fog

    Mmm, jerky. Growing up, we’d spend summers roughing it up in Montana, where my Dad would always hunt some deer. We’d return home to Southern California with the best souvenir: a few huge paper grocery bags full of peppery, salty deer jerky, made by a local guy. Back home, we’d snag a few pieces out of the kitchen closet each afternoon. All the neighborhood kids would beg for some.

    Maybe it’s time to try my hand at it — looks dead simple and delicious.

    • Charlotte

      I was just going to post how here in MT, most jerky is game — antelope is particularly delicious. There are always odd bits of the animal left, and well, you CAN’T throw them out …

  • Gael

    I never made beef jerky before but now that I know that the temperature is 90F I know I can easily wait for the summer to do this.

    I used to live in Houston and I know that the temperature is easily attainable however it is also extremely humid there. Is there a problem if it’s done in a humid environment?

    • jaybee

      I made jerky using this recipe a few months ago and it was spectacular … the day or two after I made it. I stored it in a couple airtight containers and, to my disappointment, whatever fat remained in it quickly started to turn rancid. I’m assuming I should have refrigerated it, but tips on storage would be appreciated.

    • ruhlman

      i store in plastic at room temp. should keep indefinitely if dried properly.

  • Sean

    Amazing! After a long road trip with truly sub-par jerky I had to try to make my own. Unfortunately the old hot box only goes down to 170 so this might be tricky. I imagine the 90 degree HUMID days we get in DC won’t cut it.

    On another note, can you do this with pork?

    • BrianV

      Try your local flea market on any Sunday, you should be able to pick up a used stackable tray type electric dehydrator for less than ten bucks. Shine it up and your ready for anything from jerky to cinnamon apple chips in the fall as well as drying your garden herbs.

  • phageghost

    I made about 45 pounds of grass-fed buffalo jerky last summer, mostly to turn into pemmican. Used a cheap home-made jerky dehydrator based on these plans. Keeping the temperature low makes a fantastic improvement over store-bought stuff, which by law has to be cooked at 150 F, rather than simply dried.

    Based on my experience with that method:

    1. Be dilligent in trimming off any fat from the outside of the roast. If you use a lean cut to begin with (I used top round and eye of round), that should prevent any spoilage due to rancid fat.

    2. Slice across the grain unless you really like chewing.

    3. Blood dripping off the slices when you first hang them makes a big mess; you’re left with puddles of dried blood at the bottom, which isn’t too bad since it’s a sheet of aluminum foil, but they get all over the light bulb and base as well. In one case the heat shock shattered the light bulb. Maybe pre-curing them in the fridge, as Michael suggested, would minimize this?

    Sean, if you can find a really lean cut of pork, maybe. Give it a try!

  • Casey Angelova

    I personally hate beef jerky, but when I tell you why you will understand. I have a younger brother and when we were young, he would consume copious amounts of jerky then feel the need to burp and blow it in my direction or directly at me. So, the smell just puts me off.

    Moving on, I feel attempting this recipe might be a cathartic exercise.

  • clappy

    another good option is to use wood skewers and put the meat slices on the skewers, then drape the skewers across your top oven rack so that the meat pieces hang in between the wires on the rack. i’ve had great success with this method at about 140 degrees for only 3-4 hours.

  • Michelle@TastyThailand

    If I got that much jerky, I’d think I’d died and gone to heaven. Here in Bangkok, you can get pretty much anything, but beef jerky doesn’t seem to be one of them – at least not any I actually like the taste of.