Jerky is becoming increasingly popular in today’s market. Several years ago when people thought of jerky, the first thing that came to mind were the cheap packaged tubes of processed meat. They were fatty, salty, and low quality. Recently, jerky has been trending as a health food and is slowly getting rid of its bad reputation. It’s possible to find jerky of all types now; exotic ones such as alligator or ostrich, and even meatless types.
As with most health foods, beef jerky does not avoid the higher prices. Making it homemade keeps costs down without sacrificing quality. Also, despite popular belief that a dehydrator needs to be purchased, there is no need for fancy equipment—simply use an oven set at the lowest temperature and make delicious, beef jerky without spending health food store prices.
The first step to making homemade jerky is to mix together a marinade. There are many types of marinades that will work well, but this particular recipe is for honey teriyaki. Whisk together a half cup of soy sauce, a heaping tablespoon of honey, a half teaspoon of garlic powder, and a teaspoon or more of hot sauce, depending on level of spiciness desired. Unlike marinades used for grilling or baking, no oil is used—the addition fat makes it more difficult for the meat to dehydrate.
Next, choose a one to two pound lean steak—sirloin, top round, eye round, or London broil will all work well. There should not be too much excess fat on these cuts of meat, but if there is any still visible be sure to trim it off. Then, slice against the grain (pictured) and make slices less than a quarter inch thick.
Once all of the steak is sliced, place the marinade and the beef slices in a sealable plastic bag and refrigerate for at least one hour, up to overnight.
After the beef is done marinating, place on paper towels and dry off any excess moisture leftover. Discard any remaining marinade, then preheat the oven to the lowest possible temperature it can go. Make sure it is at least above 140°F in order to kill off any potential bacterial growth.
Meanwhile, remove one of the wire racks from the oven or use a metal cooling rack. If concerned about the beef sticking, it can be very lightly oiled. Then, evenly space out the strips of marinated beef onto the wires.
When oven has heated, place the rack with the beef on one of the top spots. Then, place a baking sheet lined with foil on the rack below it to catch the drippings.
Keep the oven door open an inch or two in order to help with heat circulation. Be sure to use something wooden or metal—plastic will melt! Allow beef to dehydrate anywhere from one to four hours, depending on the type of meat being used.
Once beef has reached a dry and leathery texture, it is ready to be taken out of the oven, cooled and kept at room temperature, then enjoyed!