Welcome to our first installment of the Make It From Scratch series!
Let's all admit it: you like jerky. Everybody likes jerky. Easy, fast protein, great for hikes, road trips, and camping, you can stash it in your bag to have for emergency protein whenever and wherever hunger strikes. To most people, this is a food item you always buy if you want to eat it. The time and equipment involved to make your own jerky is not appealing at all, especially if you have a job and/or kids.
I honestly felt the same way, and also felt I could not justify buying a huge hunk of beef to just dry it out, since we prefer to buy grass fed beef (which is a tad on the spendy side.....). But we stopped buying jerky a couple years ago when my oldest was diagnosed with her food sensitivities, because one of her no foods is ...soy! Which is in pretty much every single commercial jerky in the form of soy sauce. That delicious, savory, salty flavor that IS jerky flavor...now forbidden. Bummer! In those type of food situations I tend to just say:
"Oh well, no jerky. Moving on! Find an alternative and just forget about jerky forever."
But then a couple months ago I decided to give homemade jerky a try, just to see if it was easy or affordable or doable for me. And boy was the result amazing! Have you ever had homemade jerky? Oh man, oh man. It is so good! The flavor is better, the texture is better, everything about it is better than store bought!
I used a recipe from a cookbook I have. You can find recipes for homemade jerky pretty easily, but below are the basic steps to making homemade jerky. It is totally worth your time; this is one convenience food that you will be glad to have in your repertoire.
Sharp knife (If it ain't sharp, just go make something else. Really. Any knife less than super sharp is worthless for cutting food.)
Sheet pan/jelly roll/cookie tray that above wire rack fits into
Foil or parchment paper
1 pound lean meat (beef, chicken breast, turkey breast, etc. I use a cut of beef usually labeled London Broil. It is nice and lean so perfect for jerky)
Soy sauce, Tamari, or coconut aminos (we use coconut aminos)
Seasonings of your choice like garlic powder, onion powder, honey, paprika, chili powder, etc.
Place your protein of choice on your cutting board and proceed to slice it with or against the grain of the meat, depending on your desired end result. If you slice it with the grain your jerky will be chewier and not fall apart, which is how I prefer it. If you slice it across the grain it may fall apart after it is dried, but it will be much less chewy.
|See the grain of the meat running left to right on the piece to the left? I am going to cut with that grain for nice chewy jerky.|
Slice your protein about 1/8 of an inch thick. Try to be as consistent as possible so all of your meat will dry evenly. As you slice it place it in your medium bowl. It can help to freeze your meat for about 30 minutes prior to slicing it to firm it up a bit.
|Slicing 1/8 " thick|
|Pile 'o' meat|
Once all the meat is sliced, wash your hands. Now add your seasonings! Use anywhere from 1 to 3 teaspoons (or more!) of your choice of seasonings. I use a teaspoon each of granulated garlic and onion, plus a heaping teaspoon of pepper. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and then slosh in about a third cup of soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos. Mix it all up with your hands to get it evenly coated. Wash your hands again!
Place your marinating meat in the fridge or leave on the counter for one hour. Go catch up on emails, sitcoms, laundry, whatever. After an hour, set your oven to 200 degrees F. Get our your sheet pan and cover it with a sheet of foil or parchment. Place the wire rack over it and begin to place your strips of meat on the rack, close together, but not touching. You may need a second rack and sheet pan.
|See, I needed two trays for my batch of jerky. More jerky!|
Now, gaze upon what you have created...the hardest part is over! Oh, wait, scratch that, the next step is the hardest. Put your jerky in the oven and smell it's deliciousness for 2 hours, then check it to see if it is dried out so you can just eat a piece warm from the oven. Mmmmm, so good, right?!
|This has been drying two hours, it is just right for me.|
If you want it more dried out, check it every 30 minutes or so until it is dried to your liking. Let cool completely, then put in an airtight container and store in the fridge. Yes, yes, I know. You want to be able to keep it in your bag for emergency protein. Well, go right ahead! Just be sure to actually eat it that day or the next. Trust me, you won't be able to help yourself anyway.
This amount of jerky will last us a few days, maybe a week if we ration it out. The kids even like it which is amazing. Now go forth and make jerky!