Beef jerky is one of the best snacks to take on a hike, or just share with family and friends, because it’s tasty and packed with protein. But, commercial beef jerky is high in sodium, expensive, and comes in small packages. However, if you take matters into your hands, you’ll be able to eat amazing jerky when you want and how much you want while saving lots of money. First, you need to get a dehydrator.
Why Use a Dehydrator?
Since the beginning of time, people have been drying food. We’ve been doing it out of necessity mostly, but also for the awesome taste. And, for long, we could only do it with the help of the sun.
Nowadays, the process is much more convenient. Thanks to the advent of the dehydrator, you can make succulent beef jerky in your own kitchen. Moreover, you can use a top rated dehydrator for jerky not just to make delicious beef jerky, but you can also use it to make deer jerky and salmon jerky. Some other reasons to use a dehydrator include:
- Cost-efficiency – a quality dehydrator doesn’t just give your better tasting but less expensive jerky, but it also uses less electricity than the oven;
- Healthier – When drying your own food, you won’t lose any nutrients in the process;
- It’s easy!
How to Make Beef Jerky with a Dehydrator in 7 Simple Steps
Choose the Meat
For starters, you need a lean cut of beef. You can go with Sirloin Tip, Top Round, Bottom Round, Eye of Round, Flank Steak, etc. For this recipe, you’ll need 2 pounds of lean beef. There are more ways you can make beef jerky, but for now, we’ll stick to the Rig Hand Beef Jerky recipe as it’s one of the most popular and simplest beef jerky recipes.
Trim the Fat
Once you have prepared the beef, it’s time to slice it. Since we want to make it as healthy and tasty as we can, cut off the fat cap and other visible fat. You can extend the shelf life of your jerky if you remove as much fat as possible. Fat makes the beef spoil faster.
Freeze it and Slice It
Put the meat in the freezer for two hours. It’s important not to let it sit for too long in the freezer. We don’t need it to be fully frozen, just hard to the touch. This way, you’ll get uniform slices.
For a more chewier jerky, slice the meat along the grain. If you want an easier chew, slice the beef against the grain. The slices should be ¼ inch to ⅛ inch thick.
If you don’t want to do this manually, you can get a jerky slicer. It allows you to skip the freezing stage as well. If you plan to make jerky often, buying a slicer is the more cost-efficient solution.
Make the Marinade
To make the marinade, you need:
- ¼ cup of soy sauce
- ¼ cup of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon of pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon of black pepper
- 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke (don’t add if you’re using a smoker)
- 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
Once you have all the ingredients, the next step is simple—mix them well. Pro tip: use a ziplock bag instead of a bowl to mix them, it’s much easier. You don’t need to use a blender as there are no whole peppers.
Add the beef to the marinade. Make sure to mix it all around and spread it evenly. For the best results, marinate the strips in your fridge for 24 hours. The longer the wait, the better the flavor! But, If you don’t want to wait that long, know that 6 hours is minimum.
Don’t marinate the strips at room temperature. We don’t want the meat to spoil. Make sure your refrigerator is cool enough.
To speed up the dehydration process, remove any excess marinade once you take the meat out of the fridge. Make sure you drain and pat dry the strips well. You can use paper towels for that. After you’re done, place the strips on clean paper towels as well.
Dry The Jerky
It’s time to bring out the dehydrator. Turn up the temperature to 165°. Let it run for 3 hours. After that, bring the temperature down to 145° and let it run for 1 more hour. Do know that this is more of a rule of thumb.
It’s very important to preheat the strips in an oven to 160° before you put them in the dehydrator. By doing so, you’ll kill all the bacteria that could potentially harm you. These are the official USDA recommendations.
Test the Jerky
When learning how to make beef jerky with a dehydrator, it’s also important to learn how to test the jerky. Since the 3+1 hour is a rule of thumb, you’ll need to keep checking if the jerky is done. So, before you take everything out, take one piece first and let it cool for 5 minutes.
After that, bend the piece in half. It shouldn’t break and crack, but it needs to be pliable like leather. If it breaks and cracks, it means you’ve dehydrated it for too long. It doesn’t mean it was all for nothing, but the taste just won’t be as good. You should be able to see white fibers in the beef.
If you think it’s not done, dry it for one more hour. When using a dehydrator, in most cases, it takes 4 to 6 hours for the jerky to dry. But, just to be safe, you can start testing at the 3-hour mark. And, as another precautionary measure, after you’re done drying it, put the jerky in the oven for 10 minutes at 250°. This isn’t a must, but in case any stubborn bacteria have survived, this will kill it.
Store the Jerky
Let the jerky cool for a couple of hours before you store it. Then, put it in an airtight ziplock bag or container. The container shouldn’t be much bigger than the jerky. To prevent the jerky from spoiling too fast, you need to remove as much oxygen as you can.
If you want to keep unwanted odors from flavoring the jerky, you can use a glass container. You can also add food-grade oxygen absorbers to the container. You should be able to find them at the grocery store or order some online.
If you’re using a bag, make sure to vacuum seal it. Vacuum sealers are cheap and will help you preserve your jerky. You can store it at room temperature if you plan on eating it soon. But, if it’s particularly hot in your home, it’s best to put in in the refrigerator. Jerky can keep for a couple of weeks at room temperature. But, by storing it in the freezer or fridge, you’ll make sure the flavor lasts longer.
If the packaging is airtight and stored in the fridge, the jerky can last up to two months. If you store it in your freezer, it will last up to six months. But, freezing it will affect the flavor. Because of that, it’s best to make smaller quantities and eat the jerky within two months.