27 Jun

I bought a dehydrator two years ago and have barely used it. I’ve been meaning to make Jerky for. eva. but just never got around to it.  Aside from a visit to the Johnstown Flood Museum (*nerd alert*) making jerky had the honor of being the oldest resident of my bucket list. No longer. This weekend we finally jerked some meat.

Starting this project required research! I had a number of questions including: What cut of cow should I use? What are my marinade options? How long do I marinate it? How long to I dehydrate it? Should I use the smoker instead? Could I use the smoker instead? And so on. So I consulted the googles and a few cook books and found out there are as many ways to make jerky as there are jerks.

I came up with some basic recipes for dehydrator beef jerky, smoker beef jerky and salmon jerky (and a few more from a cookbook) and quickly wandered off down my own path.

First, let’s talk meat.

So there are a ton of different recommendations, and being a recovering vegetarian I really didn’t have an opinion. I asked Rob and he suggested top round or maybe flank steak.  With his two suggestions and the 27 I got from the interwebs I arrived at the meat counter completely flummoxed.  I asked the butchers at the Waterfront (is it a Market District?) Giant Eagle. Awesome bunch of folks they came out from behind the counter to help me pick.  We settled on this “beef round sirloin tip.” I asked them to cut it, hoping it would go on the deli slicer, but they did it by hand for me. Which was incredibly nice, but it didn’t get thin enough, I think.  Next time I’ll freeze it and cut it myself–though DO NOT do that if you don’t have a good knife.

Next for the marinade.  Again, found a lot of riffs on the theme, but the basic marinade seems to be:

  • Soy Sauce
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Garlic powder (next time I will probably use real)
  • Onion powder
  • something hot (I went with cayenne, but might do hot sauce next time)

Then you could veer off and go terriyaki with some sweetness, add liquid smoke (which I did) or really whatever you can think of. We visited the Beef Jerky Outlet in Gatlinburg TN last summer which boasts over 200 varieties. Along with the sweet cherry bourbon and the bloody mary varieties, their product list might help inspire you if you need some ideas!

But we started simple this time. Loosely following several recipes I approximated amounts and adjusted to taste my ingredients in a plastic freezer bag and threw in my beef.

Suggested marinate times ranged from 30 minutes to 24 hours. Though I figured somewhere in the middle would work, I experimented and took some out after about an hour to see what the result would be.   Honestly it was fine and my meat, done in several batches, marinated 1 hour, 6 hours and 16 hours showed little difference.  The dehydrating time however is less flexible.

One recipe called for dehydrating for 3 hours. I cannot imagine that works unless you have paper thin meat.  While some small thin pieces were close to done after 4 or 5 hours we ended up drying it over 12 hours at 160 degrees. I checked it regularly, finding that the timing works fine as an approximation rather than exact science. I took it out when it seemed like the texture and consistency I was looking for. I am sure I could have taken the beef out a little earlier, or left it in longer.

Results: Its. All. Gone.  In one day.  Between Riley and Robby they demolished two pounds worth of beef, jerked (obviously it would be lighter, but I can’t guess as to how much lighter)  in 12 hours.  It was good.  Really good. It was a HUGE hit. Easy, not overly time consuming (other than the wait) we will be making this again.  Next time I might ration it, and I need to find discount meat (if there is such a thing).  It went so fast I didn’t get a picture of the finished product.  The view at the left is almost done, but I think that is still several hours out from done.

Ok, so you know me, I tend to go full throttle when I get an idea in my head. So as you see above, I figured since I was making beef jerky, I might as well throw in some salmon too.

Salmon loves Asian flavors and takes terryaki like a dream so I marinated the salmon in soy sauce, garlic, sugar, molasses, powdered ginger and crystallized ginger.  Similar to the beef, some was in the marinade a few hours, some over night and again it didn’t seem to make much difference. I loved the crystallized ginger chunks as they really stood out against the soy sauce and salmon.  A lot of the other flavors get lost against the saltiness. I also froze the salmon to make it easier to cut, so I was able to slice 1/4 inch segments easily.

Results:  The texture of the dried salmon is different. Almost crunchy. Not sure if that is normal because I’ve never had salmon jerky before.  Cut too thin, the salmon also fell apart so we ended up with little pieces. I’d cut it thicker in the future. The taste is wonderful–if you like salmon. The drying process seems to have enhanced that distinct flavor salmon has and testers who were iffy about salmon did NOT like this.  Then there was my daughter who said (in her most exuberant and articulate 11 year old way) “eh…oh…OOOOOHHHHH!”  So if you like salmon, this is great!


You can do it in the oven, but this little beauty sits on the counter rather innocuously using less power and kicking off less heat (though it did heat up the kitchen some).  Obviously you shouldn’t necessarily run out and buy one, but I’m a kitchen gadget fanatic. (Ice cream maker is next!)  Up to this point I’ve used it mostly for herbs but I think that is about to change.


2 Responses to “Jerky!”

  1. Emily Brungo June 28, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    I’m jealous.

    Here’s a tip to get cheaper meat–check out the store circulars each week. I know that at my Safeway at least once a month they have BOGO meat. I have gotten big London Broils for free that way and then I just freeze them.

    Do you have a recommended oven method since I don’t have a dehydrator?

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