Beef jerky is a type of seasoned, dried meat enjoyed as a snack food across America. Find out how to make jerky using the basic beef jerky recipe below. Included are several variations for dried meats made around the world.
Many other kinds of meat besides beef can be dried. Popular choices include pork, lamb, goat, and game meat such as venison and elk. Salmon and turkey are also commonly dried as jerky snacks.
Safe Methods for Drying Meat
When drying meat for jerky, use a food dehydrator appliance, a smoker (charcoal barbecue or electric smoker appliance), or a standard electric or gas kitchen oven that can be set to 185°F.
To ensure a safe product for snacking, dry the meat until it’s at a safe internal temperature of 160°F. To achieve this, you must set the appliance temperature to a minimum of 185°F.
If you are unsure whether a safe temperature has been reached, after drying, heat the dried meat in a preheated 275°F oven for 10 minutes before cooling and storing.
Alternatively, you can fully cook the meat before drying. Either marinate, roast or grill the block of meat, then slice and dry the strips at 140°F to 160°F. Or, slice the meat into strips, simmer in a seasoned marinating liquid (water, soy sauce, beer, wine, etc.), and then dry.
If these methods for making a safe snack product are not used, dried meat should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer and used in recipes such as soup or stew that will fully cook the meat.
Some dried meat recipes from around the world include Machaca (Mexican shredded dry beef scrambled with eggs), Ropa vieja (Cuban beef stew), old-fashioned American Creamed Chipped Beef, Moroccan Khlii or Khlea (dried meat or gueddid preserved in fat, like a French confit), and Native American Pemmican (dried meat or fish combined with fat and/or dried berries, then re-dried for survival food).
Basic Beef Jerky Recipe
Makes 8 servings
This basic beef jerky recipe makes a lightly seasoned dried meat. Use it for beef, as well as almost any other meat, poultry, or fish. Ingredient variations listed after the basic recipe include flavor combinations from around the world.
To control flavor in the finished jerky, marinate the meat for a shorter or longer amount of time. For example, when trying a new recipe, remove and dry some meat strips after two, four, eight, and twelve hours of marinating to find the flavor concentration you prefer.
Ingredients for basic beef jerky
• 2 pounds lean beef (such as loin, round, or flank), trimmed of any visible fat
• ½ cup soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce (or a combination)
• 1 to 2 tablespoons liquid smoke (optional, especially if drying meat in a smoker)
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
• Find many flavor variations below in marinade recipes from around the world.
Directions for making jerky
1. To make slicing easier, freeze meat for 30 minutes, or just until firm. Cut meat into thin strips. For tender jerky, cut meat against the grain. For chewy jerky, cut meat with the grain. For traditional jerky, cut strips of meat four to six inches long, one to two inches wide, and ⅛ to ¼ inch thick.
2. Combine soy sauce, liquid smoke, salt, and pepper. Toss meat strips with marinade.
3. Cover and refrigerate meat trips several hours or overnight.
4. Preheat a food dehydrator, smoker, or oven to 185°F. (For alternatives, see the previous section “Methods for Drying Meat”.)
5. Remove meat strips from marinade and pat dry with clean towels. Place strips on drying trays or racks close together without touching.
6. Dry until the meat’s internal temperature is 160°F, about 4 or 6 hours, or meat cracks when bent but remains pliable and does not break. Note that drying time can vary widely depending on ambient temperature and humidity.
7. Remove jerky from drying trays. If there are any oil beads on the surface of the meat, pat dry with clean towels. Cool 30 minutes, or until no longer warm.
8. Store beef jerky in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Storage time is about 2-3 weeks, less if the meat is fatty, or you live in a warm or humid climate. For longer storage, vacuum-seal, refrigerate, or freeze dried meat.
Homemade turkey jerky
Jerky Recipe Variations
Learn how to make jerky from many other cultures around the world. Substitute any of the following jerky marinade recipes for the ingredients listed in the basic beef jerky recipe above.
Honey-Pepper Jerky Marinade Recipe
Stir together ½ cup soy or Worcestershire sauce (or a combination), 1 tablespoon liquid smoke, 2 tablespoons honey (or brown sugar), 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 2 teaspoon cracked black pepper. Good for beef, venison, lamb, or fish.
BBQ-style Jerky Marinade Recipe
Stir together ¼ cup red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons ketchup, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon liquid smoke, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 clove minced garlic, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. Good for beef, venison, lamb, or goat.
Thai-style Jerky Marinade Recipe
Stir together ½ cup soy sauce or fish sauce (or a combination), 4 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons palm or brown sugar, 2 tablespoons minced shallot or white onion, 2 tablespoons minced fresh gingerroot, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves with stem, and 2 teaspoons ground white pepper. Good for beef, poultry, or fish.
Char Siu–style Jerky marinade Recipe
Stir together ¼ cup rice wine or dry sherry (or a combination), 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground white pepper, ½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder, and ½ teaspoon sesame oil. Good for pork, poultry, or fish.
Indian-style Jerky (Sookha Hua Gosht) Marinade Recipe
Stir together ½ cup lemon juice, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon minced fresh gingerroot, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves, 1 teaspoon cayenne, and ½ teaspoon turmeric powder. Good for beef, lamb, or fish.
Moroccan style Jerky (Gueddid) Marinade Recipe
Stir together ½ cup white wine vinegar, 4 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons crushed coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon crushed cumin seeds, and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Good for beef or fish.
South African–style Jerky (Biltong) Marinade Recipe
Stir together ½ cup cider or malt vinegar, 2 tablespoons crushed coriander seeds, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, and ½ teaspoon cayenne or ground piri piri pepper. Good for beef, lamb, venison, or goat.
Mexican-style Jerky (Carne Seca) Marinade Recipe
Stir together ½ cup fresh lime juice, 2 teaspoon dried oregano, and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Good for beef, lamb, venison, or fish. Good for beef or pork.
Cuban style Jerky (Tasajo) Marinade Recipe
Stir together ½ cup sour orange juice (or half fresh orange and half fresh lime or grapefruit juice), 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons minced onion, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano. Good for beef, pork, or poultry.
Jamaican-style Jerky Marinade Recipe
Stir together ¼ cup Red Stripe or other pale lager beer, ¼ cup pineapple juice, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 4 cloves minced garlic, 4 minced green onions, 1 finely minced Habanero pepper (seeded or not, your choice!), 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon ground allspice, and a few gratings of fresh nutmeg. Good for pork, poultry or fish.
Use these recipes to find out how to make jerky in flavors enjoyed around the world.
Homemade salmon jerky
Carole Cancler is the author of The Home Preserving Bible. She has traveled to more than 20 countries on four continents to attend cooking schools and explore food markets. She studies the anthropology of food with a focus on how indigenous foods have traveled and been integrated into world cuisine. Read all of Carole's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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