Beef jerky is the ultimate man snack. Not only does it feel manly to rip a piece of jerky apart with your bare teeth; but what other snack can taste so delicious and still be cram-packed with protein or other healthy natural ingredients? This tasty snack will give you enough energy to get through a meeting at work, or be light enough on the stomach before heading to the gym.
Before you go out and pay $2/pound for over the counter jerky, consider making some on your own. Not only will the taste be more fresh, as you can eat it just hours after you make it; but you can also assure the quality of the jerky knowing the ingredients that you put into it. Here is a breakdown of how to make homemade jerky for snacks and protein supplementation.
Jerky Categories – How to select the right jerky meat
The first thing you will want to consider when making your own jerky is what type you want to make. Whole muscle jerky consists of whole muscle meat and is much more natural than jerky that you will find on the shelf. Shelf jerky meat has additives that help the product last longer while sitting in its packaging, waiting for someone to purchase it. If you want to make whole muscle jerky, you will need to purchase (or hunt) your own whole muscle animal meat.
Ground jerky is another option. While not necessarily as clean as whole muscle jerky, it still offers a lot of great natural ingredients that you wont get over the counter. Ground jerky is typically grass fed ground beef that comes from venison, elk or bison.
Once you step up from a jerky novice and become a jerky master, you can also use different, more exotic, meats to make your own beef jerky brands. Snake jerky anyone?
Jerky Preparation – Marinate with your choice of seasoning
After you decide what cut of meat you want to make your jerky from, you’ll want to remove all of the fat and less desirable parts of the meat. Once you have cleaned your meat, cut it into the thin strip shapes that you would typically see with over the counter jerky.
For some, smaller thin strips are optimal when at work and looking to snack. For others, longer and thicker jerky is better to control portions and how much they are eating.
After you cut your meat comes the fun part. Now you get to marinate it in your choice of seasoning. Again, if this is your first time cooking jerky, keep it simple and add flavors like salt, brown sugar and olive oil. But once you become more familiar with the process, you can step up your jerky experience to a whole new level.
Some marinate options include teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, soy sauce, ginger, curry powder and more. Heck, if you want, you can even add a bit of light beer and add a real kick to your jerky strips. In reality, however you would cook a steak or hamburger with your own secret recipe, the same can be done with jerky.
One thing to keep in mind while marinating your jerky is how long you leave it in the sauce. Some people will tell you that after about 10-hours your jerky will be at its maximum flavor. Others believe that the longer the better, and will leave their jerky marinating for almost 24-hours.
This truly comes down to preference and is something you can play around with.
Dry Your Jerky – How to cook jerky
Once you have flavored your meat and have it ready to cook, you can decide how you want to add the final touches to your jerky.
1. Air Drying
Air drying your meat is honorable and a timeless tradition. Before there were stainless steel ovens and George Forman grills, men had to make their jerky by hanging it on a tree and hoping that a pesky squirrel didn’t come by and snatch your meat. And when you thought it was done, you’d hope you weren’t eating meat that wasn’t still chewy and less flavorful. As nostalgic as all this is, in reality, air-dried meat probably isn’t the best way to go.
I mean think about it. Would you eat hamburger meat or steak that has been left out in the sun to dry? Probably not. Nonetheless, if you want to get in touch with your inner woodsman, or hunter, or whatever it is you call it, you can leave your meat out for a few hours on a plate or hanging from a meat hanger.
One reason that people like to air dry their jerky is because it won’t result in overcooking or burning your meat. Unfortunately, sometimes air-drying can result in undercooking, which is never fun a few hours later when your stomach wonders what you just put inside it.
2. Food Dehydrators
Food dehydrators were made for drying foods like jerky. Dehydrators will offer one of the most thorough methods of cooking your jerky meat, and will also leave enough flavor it the meat that you can savor when you bite into it. One of the problems about dehydrating can be the amount of time it takes.
Chances are using a dehydrator will take a few hours (close to four or five) and you’ll need to keep an eye on it. The last thing you want to do is overcook and burn your jerky, which can happen if you leave it in for too long.
3. Home Oven
If you don’t have a dehydrator stored away in your kitchen cabinets, don’t fear. You can make jerky easily and conveniently in your oven. Not only is an oven large enough to cook a ton of jerky, but it’s also strong enough to cook your jerky thoroughly and entirely. Some things to keep in mind when using an oven is to put it on the lowest heat setting when cooking.
Anything higher will surely overcook and dry out the jerky, making it too chewy, or even too burnt, to eat. Another tip is to not use the broil setting of your oven, as this will just burn the top and not thoroughly cook your jerky.
If you use a dehydrator or home oven to cook your jerky, a common temperature to put it at is 140°. Some will say that jerky aficionados who have passed down recipes from generation to generation came to this realization after years and years of testing. Others will just say its logic and a good temperature. Either way, save yourself the pain of watching your jerky burn, by setting your cooking device to 140°
Well, there you have it. After you cut, marinate, and cook your jerky, you’ll have as many strips of protein packed snacks as you can imagine. Sure, the process could take as much as an entire day to do, but once you bite into that slice of freshly cooked homemade jerky, you’ll be happy you did it.
That, or you can go snap into that over the counter jerky and miss out on the experience all together.