Traditionally when making jerky, the meat was cut into strips, rubbed with salt, then it was smoked/dried until the desired consistency was reached. Modern jerky is usually marinated to give it a better flavour and texture, then dried or smoked under low heat, usually around 70°C (or 160°F). Jerky produced in this way has a lot more flavour, and a more pliable texture.
There are a number of different techniques to smoke/dry the meat, including using a smoker or dehydrator – but, as most of us have access to an oven, that’s the way we’ll go for this method.
- First, you’ll need about a kilo of lean beef. It’s important to trim all the fat from the steak, as fat does not dry and it will become rancid. Weigh your meat after trimming. If the recipe requires one kilo of meat, buy extra when shopping so you’ll have enough once trimmed. Otherwise, you’ll have very salty jerky! Traditionally, this drying process would include adding salt to stop bacteria forming on the meat before enough moisture has been removed. In this method the salt is used in a seasoned spiced rub or liquid, as a marinade, then the meat is dried with a low heat.
- Once you have trimmed the meat, put it in a zip-lock bag and place it in the freezer for one to two hours – this will firm it up and make it easier to cut into thin strips.
- Make the marinade. An important part of this process is liquid smoke. Rather than going through the process of smoking the meat, liquid smoke is used with the marinade. Liquid smoke is widely available where you can obtain herbs/spices/seasonings – supermarkets, gourmet spice outlets, and from barbeque suppliers. Basically, the marinade will consist of a mix of flavours including: something salty, spicy and sweet (the sweetness brings out the savoury flavours).
- It is tempting to mix as many flavours as you can for the marinade, but you are better off starting with a basic marinade, then adjusting it next time, according to taste. So, for a kilo of meat a basic marinade could include the following:
2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt of your choice
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
Some olive oil, and a dash of sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey or brown sugar
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- Remove the meat from the freezer and cut it into thin strips about 1/2cm wide (or around 1/4inch). Place the meat and the marinade ingredients in a large zip-lock bag, and mix together well. Place the bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 6 hours. (The longer the meat stays in the marinade, the more the flavour will be absorbed, and the more tender the meat will be.)
- Remove the oven racks, and line the bottom of the oven with aluminium foil to catch the drips, and to make cleaning up easier! Then set the oven to 70°C (160°F). The heat is not intended to cook your jerky: gentle heat helps with the drying process by causing the moisture to evaporate. Any less heat is not enough to kill bacteria in the meat, and will only incubate the bacteria already present in the meat. Arrange the oven racks over paper towels on a work surface.
- Remove the meat from the refrigerator. Remove it from the marinade, drain off any excess liquid, and pat dry on paper towels. Arrange the meat strips side by side across the racks, making sure the strips are not touching, and leaving enough space between them for air to circulate around each strip.
- When the racks are filled with the meat strips, place them in the oven, ideally with the door left open slightly. You can place something (maybe a rolled up ball of aluminium foil) in the space to hold the door open just enough. The goal is dehydration, so you need to ensure that the warmed air is moving and circulating in order to dry the meat. (If the oven is too hot, or there is no circulating air, the meat will cook instead of drying – not the outcome you’re after.)
- Cook until completely dry. This can take anywhere around 6 – 8 hours, depending on the thickness of the strips. Turn strips over about halfway through, so both sides will dry evenly. You will need to be keep an eye on the oven. After about 6 hours remove a strip and bend it. If it’s too dry, it will crack and break off. If it’s easy to bend and tear off a bite, it is ready! If it’s not yet ready, give it another hour or so, and try again. As you can see, it will take practice to determine whether it’s ready or not.
- When your jerky is done, remove from the oven and cool completely before storing. Jerky can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 2 or 3 months (if it hasn’t all disappeared by then!).
You can continue to experiment with different marinades for an unlimited variety of flavours – OR you can place an order from Branxton Beef Jerky, where it’s already done for you! At Branxton Beef Jerky, our quality jerky is oven cooked and traditionally smoked – not dehydrated like others – and combined with our secret special sauces and marinades, which gives our beef jerky its superior taste and texture.
Navigate through our website to discover our variety of flavours, and complete your details on our Contact page – or ring us on (02) 4938 1435, and one of our qualified team will get back to you asap.