Jerky is the food of adventurers, the pub snack of champions and a godsend to Atkins dieters. It’s a popular request amongst astronauts going on space missions – and who can blame them? Not only is jerky packed with protein, but the beef takes on the flavour of whatever it’s marinated in before it’s dried, making it a varied, and utterly delicious snack.
We wanted to get in on the action, so asked Will Yates, jerky-making expert and founder of Billy Frank’s to give us some tips. Click through to our interview for inspiration on his cheeseburger and teriyaki varieties, or use our recipes below to get started straight away.
What steps do you have to take when making beef jerky?
- Choosing the meat - Fat spoils quickly, so chose a lean cut so you don’t have to spend too long trimming it. Silverside is cheap and easy to get hold of. Roll blade and skirt are also good cuts for jerky-making.
- Marinade - Soak the beef in a cold marinade for at least five hours to infuse it with delicious flavours. Acidity helps tenderise the meat, so use vinegar as a base – white wine vinegar is fine, but Chinkiang black rice vinegar creates interesting, smoky flavours. Strong flavours like chillies, miso and soy sauceall work well in the marinades.
Jerky is a popular request amongst astronauts going on space missions
- Equipment - The aim is to dry out the beef quickly – and at a high enough temperature – so it doesn’t spoil, but without actually cooking the meat. Dehydrators are best because they closely regulate low temperatures, however an oven can also work if you carefully monitor its temperature with a thermometer – most domestic ovens are not designed to be accurate at low temperatures.
- Temperatures & food safety - Making jerky should be safe if you pay attention to the basic temperature guidelines. The Excalibur dehydrators have a special ‘jerky setting’.
Other dehydrators may not be so accurate, so keep checking the temperature if you're at all uncertain. If cooking in an oven, be very careful to make sure it is hot enough. If you think the beef might have been kept below that for any period of time, then throw it away!
- Timings - 6-8 hours at 68°C is ideal (after first heating the meat to 71°C, following USDA guidelines above) – after that, tear a piece apart, and check that the jerky has a dried-out, rather than fleshy, consistency.
Is beef jerky a healthy snack?
Jerky is a protein-packed snack. The key ingredient is beef, and different ingredients are added depending on what you like, be it sweet, sour, hot or tangy flavours. If you’re making beef jerky yourself, you can ensure your ingredients are the best they can be, and choose the highest-quality meat. Beef jerky is low in carbs and also sugar, but be aware that the ingredients you use in the marinade can change its nutritional value.
What is beef jerky made from?
Beef jerky is made from beef! You can choose the cut, but a lean cut like silverside, roll blade or skirt is best. Then comes the marinade. This can be whatever you like it to be, but there needs to be some acidity to tenderise the meat – white wine vinegar works well. Below we’ve included 3 recipes for different marinades, from Korean gochujang to miso and ginger to Mexican mole.
Ingredients for beef jerky Serves: 4
- 250g roll blade beef per marinade
For Korean red pepper and doenjang
For Chinkiang, tamarind and miso
For Mexican mole and agave
Method for beef jerky
- If you have time, freeze the beef for 1 hour, so it’s easier to cut, but not frozen-solid.
- Mix together the marinade in a container
- Slice the beef, between 0.5 -1cm thick, and soak in the marinade in the fridge for a minimum of 5 hours - overnight is ideal.
- Excalibur suggest dehydrating for 6-8 hours at a minimum of 68°C. Tear a piece of beef to check that it is dried-out throughout.
- Slice into bite-sized pieces.