Simple Jerky Recipe: Easy Steps for Homemade Snacking

Making jerky at home can be a fun and savory project for any meat lover. With a few basic ingredients and simple equipment, anyone can transform lean cuts of beef into flavorful, portable snacks. This simple jerky recipe gives you the freedom to customize flavors ranging from smoky or spicy to sweet or tangy, and it’s healthier because you’re in control of the ingredients, avoiding the preservatives often found in store-bought varieties.

The process involves slicing beef thinly, marinating it with a combination of spices and sauces, and then drying it slowly at a low temperature. This can be done using a dehydrator or a conventional oven. Patience is key, as the meat needs to dry out completely to achieve that classic chewy texture. The completed jerky can then be enjoyed on-the-go, whether on a hike, as a quick protein-packed snack, or even as a homemade gift for friends and family.

Selecting the Right Meat

When making beef jerky, one should choose a cut of beef that is lean and tender. Fatty meats can spoil faster, so lean cuts are ideal. They can look for cuts like London broil, sirloin tip, flank steak, or eye of round. These types of beef not only offer the desired lean quality but also tend to be more cost-effective.

Here’s a quick guide to help choose:

  • Lean – Little to no fat is visible.
  • Cut – With the grain for chewy jerky, against it for more tender pieces.
  • Texture – Look for consistently red cuts without a lot of marbling.

When preparing the beef, they should partially freeze it before slicing. This helps in cutting the meat thinly and evenly, ensuring that each piece of jerky dries at the same rate. The ideal thickness when slicing the meat is between 1/8 and 1/4 inch.

Cut of BeefCharacteristics
London BroilVery lean, economical
Sirloin TipSlightly more tender
Flank SteakLean, flavorful
Eye of RoundExtremely lean, uniform shape

Once they have the right cut of meat, they can move on to marinating and drying it to create delicious homemade beef jerky.

Preparing the Meat

When creating jerky, the preparation of the meat is crucial. It involves careful slicing and tenderizing to ensure consistent texture and flavor.

Slicing the Meat

To begin, one must slice the meat properly. The ideal thickness is between 1/8 and 1/4 inch. Slicing with the grain results in chewier jerky, while against the grain gives a more tender bite. A partially frozen piece of meat is easier to slice, as it holds firm. This can be done using a sharp knife or a meat slicer for uniformity.

Tenderizing the Meat

For tenderizing, physical methods like pounding the slices with a meat tenderizer can be used. This breaks down the fibers and makes the meat more receptive to the marinade. Another method is using a tenderizing marinade, which contains enzymes like bromelain. This enzyme is found in fruit and can be included in the marinade to naturally tenderize the meat during the marinating process.

Crafting the Marinade

A successful beef jerky marinade balances flavors and tenderizes the meat, requiring a blend of sweet, savory, and aromatic ingredients. Soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce lay the foundation for this umami-rich liquid in which the beef will soak up flavors.

Mixing the Ingredients

One begins by combining the liquid elements that will characterize the marinade’s base. These typically include soy sauce for its salty and rich umami profile and Worcestershire sauce for a complex, tangy kick. Sweetness is incorporated through brown sugar or honey, which helps create a glazed texture once the beef jerky is dehydrated. The dry spices, such as ground black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and often a hint of smoked paprika for a touch of smokiness, are whisked in until everything is evenly combined. To enhance the marinade’s depth, a dash of liquid smoke can be added for a traditional smoky flavor.

Soy Sauce1/2 cup
Worcestershire Sauce1/4 cup
Brown Sugar2 tbsp
Ground Black Pepper1 tsp
Onion Powder1 tsp
Garlic Powder1 tsp
Smoked Paprika1/2 tsp
Liquid Smoke1/2 tsp

Marinating the Meat

After mixing the marinade, the meat is added. Depending on one’s taste preference, they can include red pepper flakes for heat or additional black pepper for a bolder flavor. The beef should be thoroughly coated with the marinade mixture, ensuring that each strip is submerged in the flavorful bath. Marinating time is crucial; the beef ought to rest in this mixture for a minimum of 4 hours. However, for bolder, richer flavor, letting it marinate for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator is often recommended. This extended time allows the beef to absorb all the tastes and tenderize properly for the best results.

  • Ensure every piece of beef is well-coated
  • Marinate for a minimum of 4 hours, up to 24 hours
  • Store in the refrigerator during marination for safety
  • Turn the beef occasionally to maintain even flavor absorption

Marinating is the step that infuses the beef with a harmonious mix of flavors, which ultimately defines the deliciously complex experience of homemade beef jerky.

Drying the Jerky

After preparing the jerky in its marinade, drying is the next crucial step. Proper drying ensures flavor and preservation, setting the stage for a delicious final product. Here are the specific methods one can use to dehydrate jerky effectively.

Using a Dehydrator

A dehydrator is an appliance designed for drying foods. To dry jerky in a dehydrator, one should:

  1. Lay the marinated meat strips in single layers on the dehydrator racks.
  2. Make sure there’s space between them for airflow.
  3. Set the dehydrator to 160°F or as per the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  4. Dehydrate for about 4 to 6 hours, checking periodically for the desired consistency.

The key to using a dehydrator is maintaining steady heat and airflow to evenly dry the meat.

Oven Drying Method

If a dehydrator isn’t available, an oven can be a good alternative. To use an oven:

  • Preheat the oven to the lowest setting, typically around 160°F to 200°F.
  • Place aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to catch drips.
  • Arrange the marinated jerky strips on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
  • Prop the oven door slightly open to allow moisture to escape and encourage cool air circulation.
  • Bake for about 3 to 8 hours, flipping the jerky occasionally and checking for doneness.

Consistent heat and air circulation are essential for uniform drying in the oven.

Smoking Technique

Drying jerky using a smoker adds a rich, smoky flavor. When smoking jerky:

  • Prepare the smoker by preheating it to around 160° to 180°F.
  • Place the jerky strips on the smoker racks with space between them for proper airflow.
  • Smoke the jerky for 2 to 6 hours, keeping a close watch for the preferred dryness.

The smoker should remain cool enough to dry the jerky without cooking it, enhancing its taste and texture with smoke.

Storing and Preserving Jerky

After crafting the perfect batch of jerky, storing it correctly is crucial for maintaining its flavor and safety. Jerky can last a good while if one follows a few simple steps to keep away moisture and prevent spoilage.

Airtight Containers: One should opt for an airtight container to protect the jerky from air and moisture, which can lead to spoilage. Storing jerky in a dry place at room temperature is suitable for short-term storage.

Storage LocationStorage Time
Room TemperatureUp to 2 weeks
Refrigerator1-2 months
FreezerUp to 6 months

Plastic Bags: For additional protection, one can use plastic bags such as Ziploc bags. Before sealing, place a paper towel inside to absorb any extra moisture. Refrigerating the jerky in a plastic bag can extend its life.

Serving Size and Calories: Dividing jerky into servings before storing can make it easier to keep track of calories and prevent the need to expose all the jerky when one only needs a portion. By doing so, one maintains freshness for each serving.


  • Keep jerky in a cool, dry place to prevent the growth of bacteria.
  • Opt for airtight packaging whenever possible, and always use clean hands when handling jerky to minimize the risk of contamination and extend its storage time.

Nutritional Information

Beef jerky is a high-protein, low-fat snack that provides nutritional value while being convenient. The following breakdown gives a general idea of what one might expect from a serving of homemade beef jerky.

Calories: One ounce of beef jerky typically contains about 70 to 100 calories. The variance in calories depends on the cut of beef and the ingredients used in the marinade.

Protein: Jerky is an excellent source of protein, offering around 9 to 15 grams per ounce. Protein is crucial for muscle repair and growth.

Fat: Most jerky recipes result in a low-fat product, generally containing 1 to 3 grams per ounce. Choosing lean cuts of beef helps ensure lower fat content.

Carbohydrates: Depending on the recipe, there can be 2 to 5 grams of carbs per ounce. Marinades with sugar or honey will contribute to the carbohydrate content.

Sodium: Beef jerky can be high in sodium, ranging from 300 to 600 milligrams per ounce. It’s important for individuals monitoring their salt intake to check recipes for sodium levels.

Nutritional content varies based on the ingredients and preparation methods used. Individuals should consider their dietary needs when selecting or preparing beef jerky.

NutrientAmount per ounce

It’s advisable to consume beef jerky in moderation, especially for those watching their sodium intake. Its shelf-stable nature and nutrient profile make it a popular choice for a snack on the go.

Alternative Jerky Variations

Exploring different meats for jerky can lead to delicious outcomes beyond the traditional beef jerky. These variations provide unique flavors and textures that cater to diverse preferences and can be a delightful twist on the familiar snack.

Poultry Jerky

Turkey jerky is a leaner alternative and can be just as flavorful as classic beef jerky. For those watching their red meat consumption, it offers a protein-rich snack. Marinate thinly-sliced turkey breast in a blend of soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and a touch of brown sugar for a sweet and savory treat.

Pork Jerky

Pork lends itself well to the jerky-making process, especially when using cuts like tenderloin, which stays moist during dehydration. One can create unique flavors with pork by incorporating a dry rub of smoked paprika and cracked black pepper before dehydrating.

Game Meat Jerky

Game meats like elk and deer (venison) are excellent for those who prefer a gamey taste. They are often leaner and richer in flavor compared to traditional beef or pork. Ground beef jerky is a more accessible option that allows for easy seasoning and uniform texture. When making game meat jerky, it’s essential to marinate the meat to enhance its natural flavors and tenderize it.

Jerky Recipe Examples

When one seeks to make tender beef jerky, there are a myriad of recipes to choose from. Each recipe offers a different flavor profile and level of complexity, making it exciting to explore the various options.

Basic Jerky
A basic jerky recipe includes ingredients like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, and onion powder. Ideal for beginners, this recipe demands minimal preparation. One slices the meat thinly, marinates it, and then dries it using an oven or dehydrator.

  • Ingredients: Lean beef, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, spices
  • Preparation: Marinate meat, drain, dry in an oven or dehydrator

Easy Jerky Recipe
An easy jerky recipe simplifies the process further and is perfect for a quick snack without extensive ingredients.

  • Ingredients: Beef, salt, and pepper
  • Method: Season, dry until preferred tenderness

Teriyaki Beef Jerky
For those who enjoy a sweet and savory touch, the teriyaki beef jerky balances soy sauce with brown sugar and adds a hint of garlic and ginger for a distinct Asian flair.

  • Marinade: Soy sauce mix, brown sugar, garlic, ginger
  • Tip: Marinate overnight for deeper flavor

BBQ Beef Jerky
BBQ beef jerky incorporates the smoky flavors of barbecue. In this variety, one often adds a barbecue sauce to the marinade, creating a robust, smoky taste reminiscent of a summer grill.

  • Specialty: Smoky barbecue sauce mixed in marinade
  • Suggestion: Use liquid smoke for added smokiness if dehydrating indoors

For detailed recipes and cooking tips, explorers of jerky-making can visit trusted websites like Once Upon a Chef for a comprehensive guide, or Jerkyholic to get started on a basic jerky recipe. Additionally, for a wide array of beef jerky recipes to suit any palette, there’s a valuable collection at Jerkyholic’s selection of homemade jerky recipes.

Safety Tips for Making Beef Jerky

When embarking on making beef jerky at home, one must prioritize safety to prevent foodborne illnesses. They should keep the meat cold, refrigerating it until it’s time to cook, as advised by Beef Jerky Hub. This step is crucial to deter bacterial growth, such as Salmonella and E. Coli, which can thrive at room temperature.

Curing the beef is another essential safety step. Curing involves using salt and sometimes sodium nitrite to preserve the meat. This process creates an unfriendly environment for bacteria, making the jerky safer to store and consume.

Key Steps to include in Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe:

  • Choose lean meat cuts as they are best for jerky.
  • Trim away all visible fat, as fat can spoil quickly.
  • Marinate with generous amounts of salt.
  • Dehydrate at a temperature between 145-155 F for at least 4-6 hours, depending on thickness.

It’s also important to follow a reliable homemade beef jerky recipe that uses precise temperatures and timings for dehydration. After drying the jerky, a final heating in a preheated 275 F oven for 10 minutes ensures that any remaining pathogens are destroyed, a step recommended by the University of Minnesota Extension.

Lastly, good hygiene practices such as washing hands before handling food, sanitizing surfaces and equipment, and using clean utensils are necessary to maintain the safety of the jerky-making process. Remember, taking the right precautions leads to delicious and safe beef jerky every time.

FAQs about Homemade Beef Jerky

How do you prepare the meat for jerky?
Before making jerky, it’s important to partially freeze the beef to make it easier to slice. Cut the meat against the grain for tender jerky, or with the grain for a chewier texture.

What’s the ideal thickness for jerky slices?
Slices should be between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. This ensures they will dry evenly and become the perfect combination of chewy and pliable.

Can I make jerky without a dehydrator?
Yes, an oven set to the lowest temperature can be used to make beef jerky. Just make sure the meat is placed on a wire rack for proper air circulation.

How long does it take to make jerky?
Prepare for a total time of about 4-10 hours, which includes prep time for slicing and marinating the meat, and cook time for drying it out.

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour (for cutting and marinating)
  • Cook Time: 3-8 hours (for drying in a dehydrator or oven)

What seasonings should I use?
A simple seasoning mix can include salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and a sweetener like sugar or honey. Feel free to experiment with different spices and marinades to find your favorite combination.

Simple Jerky Recipe

Simple Jerky Recipe

This recipe guides you through making savory homemade beef jerky using lean cuts such as London broil, sirloin tip, or flank steak. The process involves slicing the meat thinly, tenderizing, and marinating it in a flavorful blend of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and spices like garlic and onion powder. The marinated beef is then dried using a dehydrator, oven, or smoker to achieve the perfect chewy texture. Ideal for snacking, this homemade jerky is healthier, free from preservatives, and can be stored for weeks.

  • Beef (Lean Cut: Choose cuts like London broil, sirloin tip, flank steak, or eye of round.)
  • 1/2 cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder: 1 teaspoon
  • 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Liquid Smoke
  • Optional: Red pepper flakes for heat or additional black pepper for a bolder flavor

Selecting and Preparing the Meat:

  1. Choose a lean cut of beef.
  2. Partially freeze the meat for easier slicing.
  3. Slice the beef between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thickness, either with the grain for chewy jerky or against the grain for more tender jerky.

Tenderizing the Meat:

  1. Use a meat tenderizer to pound the slices or a tenderizing marinade with enzymes like bromelain.

Crafting the Marinade:

  1. In a bowl, combine soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, ground black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and liquid smoke.
  2. Thoroughly coat the beef slices in the marinade.
  3. Marinate the beef for a minimum of 4 hours, preferably up to 24 hours, in the refrigerator.

Drying the Jerky:

  1. Using a Dehydrator: Place marinated meat strips in single layers on dehydrator racks. Set the dehydrator to 160°F and dehydrate for about 4 to 6 hours.
  2. Oven Drying Method: Preheat oven to the lowest setting (160°F to 200°F). Place aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to catch drips. Arrange the jerky strips on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Prop the oven door slightly open. Bake for about 3 to 8 hours, flipping occasionally.
  3. Smoking Technique: Preheat the smoker to around 160° to 180°F. Place the jerky strips on smoker racks with space between them. Smoke for 2 to 6 hours.

Storing and Preserving Jerky:

  1. Store in airtight containers or plastic bags with a paper towel inside to absorb moisture.
  2. Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks at room temperature, 1-2 months in the refrigerator, or up to 6 months in the freezer.
Wild Game
beef, dehydrated, jerky