Two Carnivores + a Dehydrator = Homemade Jerky

Just over a week ago, I mentioned that Brian and I had been experimenting with the dehydrator we found while cleaning out my childhood home. While we had tried a few different fruits, the real reason we brought the giant gadget home was to try something entirely unknown to us: making homemade jerky.

We are both huge jerky fans - it is a healthy, filling snack that tastes amazing. Plus, it is perfect for camping and road trips. But if you eat as much of it as we do, it is pretty cost prohibitive. Not to mention we really have no idea what is being put into it since I can't pronounce half the items on the ingredient lists of the package. So when we realized we could make our own homemade jerky, with our own ingredients, we were pretty excited.

As with anything new, we started with a bit of research then pretty much just winged it from there. The staples, such as safe drying temps and times, we definitely followed, but the rest was pretty much just made up. Since we just pulled our second batch of jerky and they were both delicious (plus, neither one of us got sick) we figure we are on the right track.

Just in case any of you readers have a dehydrator or a love of beef jerky, I'm going to share a bit about what we do to make ours. We haven't experimented with other meats - I know for poultry and pork there is a lot of pre-cooking involved that we just haven't bothered with. Call us lazy if you want, but with an already 12 hour process, I really don't want to wait any longer for my jerky!

Both times, we've started with eye of round roasts, essentially you want the leanest meat you can find. Both eye of round and flank steak are supposed to work well, it just so happens that eye of round has been on sale for $3.99 a pound both times we've been to the store. You want to cut it into 3/8" strips to start (hint: if you put the meat in the freezer for a few hours before you plan to make jerky, it makes cutting way easier). If you like chewier jerky, cut with the grain. If you prefer easier to eat jerky, cut against the grain. Being the carnivores we are, we always cut with the grain.

Typically while one of us cuts, the other is preparing the marinade. My made up marinade is pretty simple: 1 part soy sauce, 1 part Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, a couple tablespoons tomato sauce, and a healthy amount of black pepper. I also use a seasoning called Back of the Yards, which is black pepper, garlic salt, and a bunch of other stuff, but you should be good with plain old black pepper. If you use reduced sodium soy sauce, I'd recommend adding extra salt- it prohibits bacterial growth in the early stages of drying. Otherwise, the soy should have enough salt already! Again, this is a super flexible marinade - play around and see what flavors you like!

I prep my marinade in a zip top bag, which makes it super simple to fill and zip to make sure all of the meat is submerged. Plus, it is one less dish to wash! The first time around, we marinated for about four hours and the flavor was super strong- this time we marinated for just under three and it came out way better! Again, play around with what works for you.

I tried to get a picture of the meat in the marinade, but gave up because every time it just looked disgusting! Instead, here it is laid out on the drying trays... much better.

We dry our jerky at about 150 degrees F for nine hours and it has come out perfectly both times. If you do have a dehydrator, it would probably be best to check the manual or recipe book to see how long/what temp you should use for your particular machine.

Nine hours later, you'll have amazing jerky! OK, this photo doesn't really do it justice, but believe me, this is some of the best jerky we've ever tasted. Maybe I'll try to get some more appetizing photos of it next time...

Have any of you ever tried making jerky? How did it turn out?

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