Tom’s Beef Jerky

jerky to oven Today’s Food Friday entry is a bit of a mixed bag results wise. My son and I both enjoy good beef jerky, so I enlisted him to help make some at home. To that end, Penny and I made our first mistake. As the raw material, we purchased 2 pounds of sirloin steak or $16 worth of meat. Why was this a mistake? We could have selected a less expensive cut of meat and obtained equally good–maybe better–jerky. After all, why would you take a juicy cut of meat only to dry it out?

jerky sliceWe tossed the meat into the freezer to harden it up. This was not a mistake as it sliced beautifully on the slicer’s thinnest setting. Tom thought we did not slice it thinly enough, but I’m inclined to go a bit thicker next time.

jerky_ingredThe marinade we used combined a host of ingredients, all of which could be plucked out of our cupboards. I’m going to save the recipe for that marinade for a more successful batch of jerky. Instead I’d prefer to focus on what went wrong here.

We tossed the sliced meat into a zip-lock bag with the marinade and deposited that bag into the refrigerator for 24 hours. That 24 hours wound up being 36 hours. I’m not sure if that was a mistake or not. Regardless, it is what we did.

With the meat dripping in spicy goodness, we spread it out onto baking trays and placed it into the oven. It was important to have the oven set high enough to dry the meat but not so high that the meat actually cooked. The proper temperature range is 180 to 200 degrees. We opened the oven door slightly so that the moisture could escape. At least I think that is why we did it. Happily, it was a cool day when we made our jerky so that the heat from the open oven didn’t overwhelm the house.

Tom estimated that it would take 4 hours to dry the meat. He wound up taking it out at about 3.5 hours, yielding jerky that reminded me of crunchy bacon. I wasn’t thrilled.

That’s not to say that the jerky tasted bad. It was fine, but there wasn’t much chew left in this super-dry stuff. That’s part of my reasoning for slicing thicker next time. We dumped the entire product in a gallon bag. A couple of days later, I noticed that the bag was nearly empty. Clearly, Tom did not find the resulting product inedible.

We wound up with 13.3 ounces of jerky. Purchase cheap jerky–there really isn’t such a thing, I’ve found–and you’ll pay a good $25 for it. At roughly $18 in cost, our jerky was reasonably cost effective, but a cheaper cut of meat will, I think, not only save us money but produce a better end result.

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