Making beef jerky with a dehydrator is the best method for making jerky, but it’s not the only one. If you have an oven at home, you can still make great jerky on your own. It may be just as good—provided that you do things right. Here’s how you can make beef jerky without a dehydrator.
Choose Your Meat
Your options are limitless as there is no best meat for jerky—they can all taste great! But, while you don’t need to waste your money on porterhouse or filet mignon, it’s best to go with a well-raised, grass-fed piece of steak.
Also, if you want your jerky to have a longer shelf life, you should use lean meat. Do know that fatty jerky is easier to chew and tastes awesome, but it also goes rancid faster. Here are some commonly used beef cuts for making jerky:
- Skirt steak
- Sirloin tip
- Bottom round
- Top round
- Flank steak
- Eye of round
Trim the Fat
Before you start slicing the meat, you need to cut off any visible fat, as well as the fat cap. You’d want to trim off any excess fat as beef fat doesn’t render. This way, you’ll get healthier jerky with a longer shelf life. The more fat on your jerky, the faster it spoils.
Freeze the Beef
After you get rid of the fat cap, place the beef in a ziplock bag and put it in the freezer for a couple of hours. This will make the meat firmer, so you’ll have an easy time slicing it.
But, be careful—you don’t want it to sit in the freezer for too long. You just want to make it is hard to the touch, not freeze it. If it freezes, you won’t be able to get even slices.
Slice the Beef
If freezing the jerky is too much of a hassle, you can always get a jerky slicer. Aim for ¼” to ⅛” slices. Slice the beef along the grain if you prefer a chewier jerky. Slice it against the grain if you want an easier chew.
Marinate the Beef
You can’t just throw the jerky in the oven if you want it to taste really good. To bring out the flavor of the meat, you need a proper marinade. And, to make a marinade, you need:
- 1 tablespoon of pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon of black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke
- ¼ cup of Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup of soy sauce
Make sure to mix all of these ingredients well. It’s much easier to do it with a ziplock back. Since there are no whole peppers, you needn’t use a blender. When you’re done mixing the ingredients, add the strips to the marinate.
The longer you marinate the beef, the better it will taste. While the meat is marinating, make sure to cover the strips and put them in the fridge. The meat should sit there between 12 and 24 hours.
And, you’d want to make sure the temperature in your fridge is cool enough. If the environment is not cool enough, the meat will spoil. When the time is up, drain and pat dry the beef. Remove any excess marinade. You can use paper towels to soak it up.
Throw the Strips in the Oven
Even though you’re not making jerky with a dehydrator [our list of best dehydrators for making jerky], you still want to replicate the effects of a dehydrator as much as you can. To avoid dripping, use aluminum foil to cover the bottom rack of your oven.
Without a layer of protection in place, it will make a mess. You can either use toothpicks to hang the jerky or you can lay the strips across the rack. But, don’t put the rack back inside the oven yet. First, preheat the oven to 300°.
Once you reach the right temperature, put the strips in the oven and let them bake for 10 minutes. This will heat the strips to 165°. According to the official USDA recommendations, this step is necessary in order to kill any harmful bacteria.
Turn your oven down to 160° after 10 minutes. If it won’t go that low, you’ll need to prop the door open a bit to let the moisture escape.
Now, how long the process will take depends on the thickness of the strips. Generally, it takes between 3 to 8 hours. You can start checking the jerky every once in a while after the 3-hour mark.
Take a piece out first and let it cool for a couple of minutes. If it cracks and bends, it’s done. But, if it breaks in half, it’s overdone. Even if it breaks, it will still be edible, but it won’t be as tasty as it could be. After you’re done drying the jerky, turn up the oven to 250° and put the jerky in for 10 minutes. This will kill any bacteria that might’ve survived.
Store the Jerky
Before you store the jerky, you need to let it cool for a few hours. You can place it in an airtight container or ziplock bag. You need to remove as much air as you can, so the container shouldn’t be much bigger than the jerky.
You can use a glass container if you want to prevent unwanted odors from affecting the jerky. It may be a good idea to use food-grade oxygen absorbers when storing the jerky. In case you use a ziplock bag, you should vacuum seal it.
If you pan on eating the whole batch soon, you can store the jerky at room temperature. However, it’s always better to store it in the fridge—especially if your house is particularly hot.
At room temperature, the jerky should be able to keep for a few weeks. It will last up to two months if you store in the fridge. It can last up to 6 months in the freezer. However, it’s best to avoid freezing it as it can affect the flavor.