I make beef Jerky a few times a year. We love it while camping and we love it for skiing. There is just something about it that gives you a little extra energy. I tell myself, if I can make it to the top, my Jerky prize is waiting! It is silly, but the salt in it helps with dehydration, the protein in the meat and the sugar gives extra energy, and the garlic keeps the Mosquitos away (okay, not really, but if one person in your group is eating it, everyone should!).
Here is how I was taught to make it by my dad. This is the recipe I grew up with and it tastes like the outdoors to me.
I start off by going to Gardner’s Meat Market here in Portland and getting my jerky meat. They have the beef already sliced and the 2lb packs of meat are in their freezer. You can get your meat from any butcher and they should be able to slice it up for you. I let everything defrost at home before we get started. This recipe is using about 6-6.5 lbs, because that is roughly what my smoker holds.
After the big thaw happens, I rinse off the meat and pat it dry.
I then mix together a combination of granulated sugar, brown sugar and sea salt. I have adjusted the recipe a bit from my dad’s here with my ratio and adding brown sugar into the mix. I like the difference in sweetness it creates.
I like to use about a cup of granulated sugar, 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar, and 3/4 to one cup of sea salt. I taste the mixture and it should be sweet and salty. If you think it needs a little more of something, add it. This is not an extract science and it changes with every batch for us. Once everything is mixed together it should look like the picture below.
I have the pieces of meat laid out on towels and start by sprinkling the sugar/salt mixture over the meat.
I then start placing the meat in a glass baking dish, seasoned side down. I like having these high sides for when “juices” are released from the meat. It won’t spill over, making a huge mess in the fridge. I lay things long ways on one level, then switch to width wise on the next level, and continuing to alternate between levels so moisture can get out. As I place the seasoned side down, I sprinkle more of the sugar/salt mixture over the top (the unseasoned side). And keep layering until I run out of meat.
When I am done with the seasoning portion, I put the dish in the fridge to sit for 24-28 hours. As juices are release I use a baster to suck the juices up and discard. I put a kitchen towel that has been rolled up in the back of the fridge to raise the back of the dish up so the juices are forced to the front. You want the meat to dry out quite a bit.
After the 24 hour fridge time, I take everything out and give the meat a good rinsing. I want to get any residual sugar/salt seasoning off. I then dry the meat with towels again and cut the big pieces into smaller pieces that are more our style. We like smaller pieces so they are quick snacks and will fit easily in our pockets. It also cooks faster in the smoker if the pieces are small. I use a pair of kitchen shears to cut the meat. It goes quickly that way.
Once I have my small pieces, I season one side with granulated garlic (my favorite is in the picture below) and coarsely ground black pepper.
I sprinkle the spices over the top of the meat.
After seasoning the meat with the garlic and pepper, I hang the meat on the rack from the smoker. Bits that are too small to hang over one of the bars are laid flat either on the very bottom rack or if there is room on the top rack. You don’t want pieces to overlap or they will cook unevenly.
When the rack is full or I have used all of the meat, I head outside to my smoker. We have a covered patio, so I am able to use the smoker even when we are smack in the middle of our 9-month rainy season!
For my jerky, I really like using cherry wood for the smoking. I like the slightly sweeter flavor the wood gives the meat. I have use hickory before and that is a fine substitute, but the flavor will change.
I fill up my wood pan and check it every 3-4 hours, adding more wood chips as it burns.
Smoking times are going to vary due to several things. It always take my jerky far longer to finish when it is raining. Humidity plays a huge factor in the “done-ness”. You want to make sure the meat is cooked through, or it won’t keep and you will have to keep it in the fridge.
This batch in these pictures was done on a 73 degree day, where it was sunny. I put it in around 12:45pm, and pulled it out around 2:00am (a good 14 hours). My timing was not ideal, but it was what our days schedule allowed.
The meat will shrink up quite a bit, and the 6.5lbs of meat was able to fit in a gallon sized zipper bag for storage.
Give it a try and tell me what you think. Did you make adjustment you think I would like? Share them in the comments!