Somewhere along the line, consumers decided it was acceptable for manufacturers of cheap, processed meat products to employ the term "jerky" when selling their dried-out goods. But real jerky isn't available next to the gas station cash registers; real jerky – popular in the New World since the height of the Incan Empire – is a gourmet treat. Fortunately, the hand-made stuff is getting easier to find as serious chefs create unique products from high-end ingredients (and sometimes soda).
Here are some of the best jerky recipes for cooks looking to get in on the action. They're hard to find – jerky chefs are protective of their prized recipes – but worth the time. So get the knives, break out your smokers, and pre-heat your oven. The only thing better than cooking a gourmet treat is being able to put it in your pocket before you head out to the bar.
"Cajun don't have to mean hot!" says Milton Hock, who, with his wife Tootie, has worked on recipes for their now-sought-after Bayou Blend Meat Snacks for nearly 20 years in Napoleanville, LA. "With all due respect, people outside our culture think that if you add cayenne pepper to something it becomes Cajun," Hock says. "That's nowhere near the truth; our food has a whole lot more than pepper." And in this recipe – one that Hock almost wouldn't share – home cooks will find flavors local to the bayou, like "crab and shrimp boil" seasoning (sold by Zatarain's, among others), which gives the dish a low-country Old Bay flavor and a chewy texture that keeps your palate wanting more.
Bayou Blend Home Recipe Jerky
- 5-10 lbs of top round beef
- 1 cup Worchestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
- 3 cups water
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp powdered crab/shrimp boil
- 1 tbsp liquid smoke
Combine all ingredients and stir well.
Slice 5-10 lbs of top round beef in 1/8-1/4 inch thick slices.
Add beef slices to marinade individually making sure that each piece is fully covered with marinade.
Refrigerate the marinade/beef mixture for 24-48 hours. ("Longer the better!!")
Place slices on the trays. Dry the marinaded slices at least 160 degrees on a dehydrator making sure you do not overlap the pieces. The type of the dehydrator will determine the length of time to dry it. Turn the slices over when no wet spots are seen.