How Do You Make Beef Jerky

Jerky is made by drying beef, elk, buffalo, or other meats. Preserving meat is easy. Marinating or seasoning before drying makes jerky tasty.

Jerky is dried meat or fish. Drying food isn't something new to our day. It is possibly the oldest way of preserving food. Jerky dates back to the earliest civilizations. Explorers, trappers, hunters, Indian tribes, and settlers in this country used jerky in the early years of our country. It is still used today by people from all walks of life from country hikers to city bikers. The word jerky comes from the Spanish word "charqui" (dried meat), which itself comes from an Incan word.

Jerky is most commonly made from beef, but can also be made from elk, buffalo, moose, caribou, fish, or deer (venison). In early days, it was usually dried over a small fire after being soaked in brine, which is a mixture of salt and water. Hickory wood was preferred to help keep insects away and for flavoring of the meat. Making jerky when windy was a plus because it helped keep the flies away from the meat.

Although jerky can still be made in this way, techniques have become more sophisticated in our day. Even with new techniques the basic method is still the same. Drying food is accomplished by removing moisture from the food by temperature increases and flowing air. The control of both the temperature and the airflow is very important. If the humidity is too high and the temperature is too low, the jerky will dry too slowly and it could spoil. If the temperature is too high, the jerky will cook too fast, harden on the outside but underneath not be dry, and once again, it could spoil.

Jerky is easily made. Three common methods are drying in a dehydrator, in the sun, or in on oven. The most convenient is oven drying. Make jerky by removing the fat and muscle from cheap cut of mean. Cut the meat into strips that are ½ inch thick and 1 inch wide. Cut along the grain and not across it. The meat can be seasoned with many different seasonings. Soaking in soy sauce or teriyaki sauce is a favorite. A mixture of salt, pepper, oregano, marjoram, basil and thyme is tasty. Many seasonings work well. It is a personal preference. Dry seasoning mixtures need to be pounded into the meat for best results. Many people enjoy jerky with a lot of pepper. You will need to experiment to find your favorites.

Preheat your oven to 120 degrees. After the meat is seasoned, spread the meat evenly on wire racks in the oven. Try not to have the meat pieces touch each other. You can use metal racks other than the oven racks with a cookie sheet underneath to make cleanup much faster. Also a nonstick spray lightly sprayed on the racks makes for easier cleanup. Leave the oven door open slightly to permit moisture to escape. Jerky takes about 10 hours. It is done when it is flexible and able to bend, but is shriveled up and very dark. As jerky cools, it will get more stiff and brittle so you don't want to over dry. Most commonly jerky is eaten dry but it can also be reconstituted in soups and stews. A rule of thumb is 4 pounds of meat for every one pound of jerky. When circumstances are right, leaving jerky in the oven overnight is productive. Caution should be given if you have children or pets.

Enjoy your homemade jerky! It stores well and is a great source of protein.

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