Beef jerk piece being dipped into a sauce

How to Make Beef Jerky: Your Guide to Homemade Beef Jerky

Are you considering stepping into the mysterious unknown and making your own beef jerky?

Meat aficionados like yourself have seen all the dupes. You can cook a steak better than any fancy restaurant can. Your smoked brisket is tastier than what you can find at the best barbecue joints. 

And now, it’s time to expand your horizons and make your own beef jerky.

Is Homemade Beef Jerky Worth It? Is It Healthy?

We know these are relative questions. However, if you have the counter, fridge and freezer space to start your at-home jerky station, you might be all set to make beef jerky at home. 

Depending on the extra ingredients you use, you can keep your beef jerky a healthy snack. For those sticking to the keto diet, beef jerky is the perfect high-protein, low-carb food. Beef jerky can be easily gluten-free — as long as you don’t add ingredients containing gluten.

Plus, people with diabetes can safely munch on beef jerky and know they’re receiving the protein and potassium needed for their diets. And for anyone looking to lose weight, beef jerky is high in protein and low in fat, carbs and sugar. It’s truly the perfect snack that packs an energizing protein punch and won’t result in sugar crashes. Protein helps you feel full for longer, which means you won’t be tempted to reach for a cookie to get you through your busy days.

If your health isn’t driving your snacking choices, then you can get pretty wild with additional flavors. We pride ourselves on providing healthy beef jerky, but we’re also prepared for folks with a sweet tooth who may peruse our site.

[Related: Two of Our Featured Beef Jerky Flavors for Gym Junkies]

Choose the Best Cut for Homemade Beef Jerky

Fair warning — the beef jerky process is a long one. But that’ll make each bite of your very own homemade jerky that much better!

The best meat for beef jerky may not be what you imagine. Some people get into the homemade beef jerky game thinking they can use whatever’s cheapest at the grocery store. Of course, others assume they should purchase the highest-quality steak that they are accustomed to ordering from their favorite restaurant. 

Toss those assumptions aside. Let’s focus on what’s best for making beef jerky!

Overall, you want to use quality cuts of lean meat for your beef jerky. It’s not about keeping it low-fat, either. It’s about cutting out unnecessary and tedious legwork and getting the best results. After all, it’s a lengthy process, and you want to love your homemade beef jerky.

Check out one of our previous blogs, What Is the Best Meat to Make Beef Jerky, for tips on choosing the best cut of meat for your homemade beef jerky.

Get the Jerky Process Started

Now that you know how to pick out the right cut of meat, it’s time to talk about actually turning it into beef jerky.

First, trim off any visible fat. Then, wrap the beef in plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for an hour or two. Next, remove the plastic wrap and cut the beef into uniform strips. Make sure to cut against the grain for ⅛ʺ to ¼ʺ strips. From there, begin marinating the meat.

If you’re using any chunky ingredients like peppers, toss them in a blender so all pieces are roughly equal in size. Depending on the flavor you’re aiming for, you’ll combine all marinade ingredients into either a bowl or a zip-seal bag and stir well. 

Now, add the meat to the marinade, and make sure each piece is evenly coated. Place the marinating meat in the refrigerator for six to 24 hours to let those flavors really sink in. 

Then, drain the marinade from the meat and pat dry. Now, it’s time to make jerky!

[Related: Explore Different Types of Jerky Recipes With Our Tips]

Four Ways to Make Homemade Beef Jerky

The jerky-making process doesn’t have hard-and-fast rules. You have plenty of options, and the appliance you have may make the choice easier. 

If you own any device listed below, you might as well give it a try. This will help you pinpoint your beef jerky preferences and really understand how results can vary depending on the process you follow.

1. Homemade Beef Jerky: Dehydrator 

Place the strips of meat on the dehydrator rack. Make sure the strips have ample space and do not touch or overlap. This extra room will allow good air circulation and create evenly dehydrated meat. 

Turn on your dehydrator to 165℉, and let it run for four to five hours. 

2. Homemade Beef Jerky: Oven

Making beef jerky doesn’t require using a fancy new appliance — your home oven is the perfect device for starting your homemade beef jerky journey.

Start by covering the bottom rack of the oven with aluminum foil to avoid a drippy mess. Next, lay the strips of meat flat on a baking sheet while preheating the oven to 170℉ to 200℉.

When the oven is preheated, place the baking sheet with the strips of meat on the highest rack. Use a wooden spoon to prop open the oven door to allow moisture to escape.

The oven process can take from three to eight hours. Check after three hours, and then continue as needed.

3. Homemade Beef Jerky: Smoker

Again, start by covering the drip pan with aluminum foil to prevent an hour of post-jerky cleanup.

Lay out the strips of meat evenly on the highest rack. Make sure to open the top vent of the smoker entirely. Allow the meat to dry for 90 minutes at 170℉.

Next, raise the smoker temperature to 180℉ to 200℉, then add a handful of wood chips that you’ve soaked in water for 15 minutes. Leave for 30 minutes to one hour. You’ll know the smoker is at the right temperature when blue smoke appears. 

Finally, lower the temperature to 160℉ for another 30 minutes to one hour.

4. Homemade Beef Jerky: Air Fryer

Place the strips of beef in the air fryer. Make sure they don’t touch or overlap. If you have room for an extra rack, put it to use to cook twice as much!

Next, set the air fryer to 210℉ and cook for two hours. From there, continue to cook the jerky in 15-minute intervals until it’s done. 

How to Know When the Jerky Is Done

The goal of the dehydration process is to remove moisture while allowing the jerky’s internal temperature to reach 160℉. 

Check the jerky regularly throughout the drying process — you want to avoid overdrying. You’ll know the jerky is done when it bends and cracks without breaking. Visible white fibers in the meat also signal the process is complete.

When the drying is done, let the jerky sit on a cooling rack for two hours. 

How Long Is Homemade Beef Jerky Good? How to Store It Properly for an Extended Shelf Life

Homemade beef jerky doesn’t have the same shelf life as store-bought jerky, so we suggest you get busy eating!

However, you can extend its shelf life to one to two months by using a vacuum sealer. Otherwise, place it in a zip-seal bag, glass jar or other container and enjoy within seven to 10 days.

[Related: How Long Does Beef Jerky Last?]

Explore the Jerky Universe

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Featured image via Pixabay

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