Beef jerky is one of tho—
Eh? You think the “beefy jerk” caption is a tad juvenile?
I’m sorry. How about I share a little bit of interesting history and etymology?
The term jerky probably comes from South America, specifically the Quechua word ch’arki, which means “dried, salted meat.”
Some other People Who Know These Things™ also say the food, if not the name, comes from South Africa, where they make cured meat strips they call biltong, from the Dutch words bil (“buttock”) and tong (“strip” or “tongue”). So calling your beef jerky “ass tongue” or “tongue butt” might keep your friends from mooching so much of—
What’s that? You’d rather go back to sophomoric jokes about the douchebag in the photo?
Okay, fine. Next time you see someone like that, grab your crotch and say, “I got some beef you can jerk right here!”
Now, here’s how ya make the stuff.
- 1 1⁄2 to 2 lbs. of beef*
- Marinade (use the recipe below or one listed under More Stuff)
*What’s the Beef?
What kind of beef? Depends who you ask. Some recipes call for London broil or other more expensive cuts; the Alton Brown recipe this is based on uses flank steak. But any lean beef should work just fine. If there’s much fat, especially if it’s marbled, you’ll have some jerky with nasty, possibly rancid, crud on it; if you heat it long enough to get rid of all the fat, you’ll have some tasteless, rock-hard beef on your hands.
I’ve had good results with rump roast: It’s inexpensive and it’s usually easy to trim off the fat. Which, no matter what cut you choose, is step one:
- Trim off as much fat as possible from your beef.
- Put it in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours so it will be easier to slice consistently.
- Slice it up.
- Marinate for 12 to 48 hours.
- Dry it.
Dry It? How?
A smoker or dehydrator is ideal for this, or you can rig up a, um—a Jerker? Jerkinator? Not sure what to call it, but if you really want to follow Alton Brown’s recipe you’ll need a box fan and some bungie cords and air conditioner filters. No, really.1
If you’re not that ambitious, or you don’t have a smoker or dehydrator, your oven will do just fine.
Slice your beef up as consistently as possible into strips, trimming off any leftover fat as you go. If you want chewier jerky, use thin slices. If you like it softer, cut it a bit thicker or into sticks. You’ll need to experiment a bit to get it dialed in just the way you like. If you’ve got a mixture of thinner and thicker slices, just take the thinner slices out earlier so they don’t get too dry and tough.
Put the sliced beef into a bag with your marinade and refrigerate at least 12 hours, up to 48, turning it occasionally so all the beef gets marinaded.
Blot the strips with paper towels and place them in a single layer on a broiler or roasting rack.
Set your oven’s temp as low as possible; somewhere around 165° is ideal. Try to at least keep it below 200°.
Put the beef strips in the oven but don’t close it: Prop the door open a couple of inches with a wooden spoon or tongs or something; this lets air circulate and helps it get dry (this will also help keep it from getting too hot).
Turn it over every hour or so; remove when it’s done. This might be anywhere from a couple of hours to all day, depending on what cut you’re using and how thick it is. If the jerky has any marinade on its surface, blot it again while it’s still warm.
If you need to store your jerky for a while or send it as gifts or whatnot, you can buy silica gel packets to keep it from doing unspeakably evil things when no one’s looking.
Here’s the Marinade!
- 1 1⁄2 to 2 pounds flank steak
- 2⁄3 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 2⁄3 cup soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. liquid smoke
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
This one’s pretty simple to prepare:
Whisk everything together and dump it in the bag with your beef.