Air Fryer Beef Jerky Recipe: Quick and Healthy Snack Ideas

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Beef jerky is a popular snack beloved for its savory flavor and satisfying chewiness. Traditionally dried in a smoker or dehydrator, beef jerky can now be made at home using an air fryer, a versatile appliance that cooks food by circulating hot air around it. This method allows you to create a delicious jerky with less hassle and time. Air frying offers a quicker drying process compared to conventional methods, making it a convenient choice for jerky enthusiasts.

When making beef jerky in an air fryer, selecting the right cut of meat is essential for great texture and taste. The leaner the beef, the better, as it minimizes fat that could cause the jerky to spoil faster. After choosing the ideal cut, the beef is sliced into thin strips that are then marinated with various seasonings to infuse flavor. The marinated beef strips are placed in the air fryer where they cook at a low temperature, ensuring that they dry out evenly without cooking too quickly.

This approach to making beef jerky not only streamlines the process but also provides a means to enjoy homemade jerky without needing specialized equipment. Whether one prefers their jerky plain or spiced up with a kick, the air fryer can accommodate all taste preferences, yielding a protein-rich and portable snack that’s perfect on the go.

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Selecting the Right Cut of Beef

When making beef jerky with an air fryer, the cut of beef they choose is crucial. The ideal cuts are lean to avoid excess fat that doesn’t dry well and could spoil the jerky.

Understanding Beef Cuts

Beef is divided into sections called primal cuts from which the individual steaks and roasts are trimmed. Knowing which primal cut to start with is important, as it influences the texture and flavor of the beef jerky. Typically, the larger, leaner cuts of beef are preferred for creating delicious, dry jerky.

Lean Cuts for Jerky

Using lean cuts for jerky ensures the final product is both healthy and evenly dried. Here are some of the best cuts of beef for making jerky:

  • Top round: Also known as “inside round,” it is one of the most popular choices due to its lean nature and uniform shape, making it easy to cut into strips.
  • Bottom round: Slightly tougher than top round, but still a good choice for jerky due to its lean quality.
  • Eye of round: It is one of the leanest cuts available and ideal for making jerky.
  • Sirloin tip: Also known as “knuckle,” this cut is lean and economical but can be less tender than other cuts.
  • Flank steak: It’s flavorful and lean, though it generally requires more effort to ensure tenderness.

For the best jerky, they need to trim any visible fat from these cuts before slicing them into thin strips for the air fryer. The lower the fat content, the better the jerky will preserve.

Preparing the Beef

Before cooking beef jerky in an air fryer, the beef must be properly prepared to ensure the best texture and flavor. This involves slicing the beef to the appropriate thickness and removing excess fat, which can hinder the drying process.

Slicing Beef

For optimal texture, beef slices for jerky should be consistent. One should slice the beef into thin strips, typically between 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. If the beef is partially frozen, slicing becomes easier as the meat holds its shape better. Uniform slices will dry at the same rate, helping prevent some pieces from becoming too tough or not drying adequately.

Trimming Fat and Paper Towel Drying

Trimming away visible fat from the beef is crucial, as fat does not dry well and can cause the jerky to spoil faster. After trimming the fat, one should pat the beef slices dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture. This step is important because it helps speed up the drying process and enhances the texture of the finished jerky.

Marinating the Beef

The marinating process is essential for infusing the beef with flavors and ensuring that the jerky is delicious and tender. With the right combination of ingredients and time, marinated beef jerky becomes not just a snack, but a gourmet experience.

Choosing a Marinade

When preparing a marinade for beef jerky in an air fryer, one must select the right ingredients to create a harmonious blend of flavors. A basic marinade typically includes soy sauce, which imparts a rich umami taste, and can be accompanied by Worcestershire sauce for added complexity. Sweetness might come from honey, while garlic and pepper add a savory kick. For a smoky flavor without the grill, liquid smoke is an excellent addition. Alternatively, teriyaki sauce provides a popular pre-made option that combines several flavors together. One may choose to add other seasonings according to personal taste, such as onion powder, chili flakes, or ginger.

Marinade Time

The length of marinating time greatly influences the final taste and texture of beef jerky. For optimal flavor penetration, beef should typically marinate for about 24-48 hours. During this period, the sauce mixture works its magic, tenderizing the beef and locking in flavors. It is essential to turn the beef occasionally, ensuring that all pieces are equally exposed to the marinade. Keeping the marinating beef in the refrigerator serves dual purposes: it allows the ingredients to meld together and prevents bacterial growth. The total time spent marinating will vary depending on the recipe and personal preference, but longer is generally better for maximum flavor development.

Air Frying Process

Making beef jerky in an air fryer involves setting the right temperature and cooking the meat in stages to achieve the ideal texture and flavor.

Setting up the Air Fryer

Before cooking, one must ensure the air fryer is prepped correctly. Initially, one should preheat the air fryer to the optimal temperature for making jerky, which is often around 165°F (74°C). It’s crucial for dehydration without overcooking. After preheating, the air fryer basket or rack has to be arranged to accommodate the beef strips. The meat should be placed in a single layer with space between each piece to allow for efficient air circulation.

Cooking in Stages

While the air fryer beef jerky cooks, monitoring the cooking time is essential. Depending on the air fryer’s model and the thickness of the meat slices, cooking time can range from 2 to 4 hours. It’s recommended to check the jerky periodically and flip the pieces midway through the cooking process to ensure even drying. By cooking in stages and assessing doneness at intervals, one can achieve the perfectly dried jerky texture that is neither too moist nor overly dehydrated.

Finishing Touches

After crafting homemade beef jerky in the air fryer, ensuring the right texture and moisture level is crucial for the perfect snack. It’s not just about cooking; proper finishing steps guarantee the best quality and longevity of your beef jerky.

Checking for Doneness

To determine if your beef jerky is done, pay attention to its texture. The jerky should exhibit a leathery consistency—pliable yet not overly dry. Take a piece from the air fryer and allow it to cool slightly; it should bend without breaking. If unsure, the total time in the air fryer can range from 3 to 4 hours, but should be adjusted based on thickness and your air fryer’s specifics.

Cooling and Storage

Once the jerky has reached the desired doneness, remove it from the air fryer and place it on a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture. Cooling on a rack for a few hours is essential to allow the jerky to finish drying evenly.

For storing your beef jerky, use sealable bags or an airtight container to maintain freshness. Refrigerate your jerky to extend its shelf life, which can last from 1 to 2 months when stored properly. Always ensure the container seals correctly to protect the jerky from moisture and air that could lead to spoilage.

Nutritional Information

When making air fryer beef jerky, it’s important to consider the nutritional content. This section breaks down the calories and essential nutrients, along with the amounts of sugar and sodium in each serving.

Calories and Macronutrients

Air fryer beef jerky typically offers a high protein content with moderate calories, making it a hearty snack. On average, a single serving might provide around 70-150 calories, primarily from protein and fat, with lesser amounts coming from carbohydrates.

  • Protein: Essential for muscle repair and growth, beef jerky is a rich source, offering about 15-20 grams per serving.
  • Total Fat: Beef jerky contains varying levels of fat depending on the cut of meat, but it generally has around 1-3 grams per serving, with minimal saturated fat.
  • Carbohydrates: Typically low in carbs, beef jerky may contain between 2-5 grams per serving, mostly due to any added seasonings or marinades.

Sugar and Sodium Content

While beef jerky is a protein-packed snack, it’s also known for its sodium and sugar content, which are important to monitor for overall health.

  • Sugar: Some recipes add sugar for flavor, which can increase the carbohydrate count. The sugar content can range from less than 1 gram to several grams per serving.
  • Sodium: Beef jerky is often high in sodium due to the curing process; sodium levels can be as much as 400-600 milligrams per serving. It’s essential to keep this in mind for those watching their sodium intake.

Recipe Variations

Creating the perfect batch of beef jerky in an air fryer allows for a lot of creativity. One can easily adjust the flavors to suit personal tastes, from sweet and spicy kicks to low-carb and gluten-free diets.

Sweet and Spicy Variations

For those who enjoy a mix of sweet and heat, adding brown sugar to your marinade creates a delicious caramelized coating on the jerky. To ramp up the warmth, one can introduce cayenne pepper or chili flakes. These ingredients are great for making a spicy jerky that tickles the taste buds while delivering a sugary finish.

  • Sweet and Spicy Mix:
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

With the addition of smoked paprika, the jerky takes on a robust, smoky flavor that pairs well with both sweet and spicy elements.

Low Carb and Gluten-Free Options

For those managing their carbohydrate intake or with gluten sensitivities, there are equally delicious jerky variations that cater to these dietary needs. When creating a low-carb or gluten-free jerky, it’s important to select the right marinade. A teriyaki marinade can be made gluten-free by using tamari instead of traditional soy sauce.

  • Low Carb and Gluten-Free Teriyaki Marinade:
    • Gluten-free tamari or soy sauce
    • Your choice of sweetener such as stevia or erythritol

One might also choose to focus on savory and herby flavors, which naturally avoid sugars and gluten, ensuring the jerky is both homemade and aligned with dietary goals.

Serving and Pairing Suggestions

When it’s time to serve your air fryer beef jerky, the right accompaniments and portion sizes can turn this snack into a satisfying experience.


Pairing air fryer beef jerky with the right sides is a game-changer. A well-stocked pantry can provide a range of options. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Fresh Vegetables: Sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and carrot sticks add a refreshing crunch.
  • Cheese: Options like cheddar or gouda complement the savory jerky.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds or pumpkin seeds offer a contrasting texture.
  • Dried Fruits: Balance the saltiness with sweet dried apricots or mango slices.
  • Crackers or Bread: Whole-grain crackers or slices of baguette serve as a hearty base.

Serving Size and Portions

When determining servings, think about the appetite and preferences of your guests. A general guideline for air fryer beef jerky is as follows:

  • Individual Snack: Roughly 1 to 2 ounces per person
  • Part of a Meal: Combine with other items, planning for less jerky per person

It’s always good to prepare in bulk for gatherings, but remember that air fryer recipes like beef jerky are rich and satisfying, so a little goes a long way. Whether served alongside air fryer steak, chicken tenders, or as a standalone treat, keep portions manageable to leave room for a variety of flavors at the table.

Preserving Beef Jerky

Proper storage methods are key to maintaining the shelf life and freshness of beef jerky. To prevent spoilage and ensure that your homemade beef jerky stays safe to eat, follow these specific guidelines on long-term storage and freezing.

Long-Term Storage

For long-term storage, beef jerky should be kept in a cool, dry place. One should use an airtight container to protect it from excess moisture and other contaminants that could lead to spoilage. The ideal storage location is a pantry or a cupboard away from direct sunlight.

  • Place jerky in an airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bag.
  • Include a desiccant pack, if available, to absorb any residual moisture.
  • Check the seal of the container or bag to ensure it’s completely closed.

Freezing and Thawing

Freezing beef jerky can extend its shelf life even further, keeping it fresh for months.

To freeze beef jerky:

  1. Divide jerky into portion sizes.
  2. Place portions in freezer bags, removing as much air as possible before sealing.
  3. Label bags with the freezing date.

For thawing:

  • Thaw beef jerky in the refrigerator to prevent any temperature spikes that might encourage bacterial growth.
  • Alternatively, jerky can be eaten directly from the freezer since it does not freeze solid due to the low moisture content.

By following these steps, one can enjoy their homemade beef jerky for a longer period, ensuring it remains safe and delicious.

Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to making beef jerky in an air fryer, there are certain concerns and tips that can help ensure the process is successful and yields the best possible results.

Common Concerns

Can I make beef jerky in an air fryer if I don’t have a dehydrator?
Yes, one can use an air fryer as a dehydrator to make beef jerky. It’s important to trim the fat off the sliced beef for an optimal dehydration process, as fat can cause the jerky to spoil faster.

How long does beef jerky last in the refrigerator?
Properly stored in an airtight container, beef jerky can last 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator. For extending its shelf life, one may opt to cure the jerky with salt or tamari which acts as preservatives.

Tips for Perfect Beef Jerky

Preparation tips for the best outcome:

  • Prep time: Start by slicing the beef into thin, even strips to ensure a uniform dehydration process.
  • Cook time: Cooking times can vary based on your air fryer model, like a Cosori, but generally, it ranges from 3-4 hours at a lower temperature.
  • Arrange the beef in a single layer in the basket to allow for proper air circulation.

Dehydrating tips for optimal texture:

  • Check for doneness by taking a piece out of the air fryer and letting it cool. It should be leathery but not brittle.
  • One can marinate or cure the beef ahead of time to infuse flavors and aid in preservation.
Air Fryer Beef Jerky recipe

Honey-Balsamic Air Fryer Beef Jerky

This Honey-Balsamic Air Fryer Beef Jerky offers a delightful combination of sweetness and tanginess, enveloped in the savory goodness of beef. Perfect as a protein-packed snack, this jerky is easy to make in your air fryer, offering a healthier alternative to store-bought options. Its unique flavor comes from a special honey-balsamic marinade, which adds a rich, gourmet touch to this classic snack.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Course Snack
Cuisine Wild Game
Servings 12 servings
Calories 120 kcal


  • 2 lbs lean beef top round or sirloin tip, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp red chili flakes optional


  • In a bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, honey, soy sauce, garlic, black pepper, onion powder, smoked paprika, and red chili flakes.
  • Place the beef slices in a large ziplock bag and pour the marinade over them. Seal the bag and massage the marinade into the meat. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  • Preheat your air fryer to 165°F (74°C). Place the marinated beef slices in a single layer in the air fryer basket, ensuring they don’t overlap.
  • Air fry for about 3-4 hours, flipping the beef slices halfway through, until they achieve a leathery texture.
  • Once done, allow the jerky to cool before storing it in an airtight container.
Keyword beef, dehydrated, jerky
User Review
5 (1 vote)