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.
At Biercamp, a small speciality shop in leafy Ann Arbor, the cooks only work with meat raised without antibiotics, nitrates, hormones, and artificial preservatives. Which is why it's surprising that their best jerky – a pastrami-flavored product – tastes a little like a Jewish deli in the best of ways. "What makes the pastrami jerky so great is the terrific texture and flavor explosion you get from the cracked pepper and coriander seed," says co-owner Walter Hansen. "It's a simple recipe, yet really flavorful. It's one of our favorites to eat directly out of the smoker while it's still hot. It's perfect for shredding over a salad, chopped up, or added to chili; and it looks great on a charcuterie tray, especially if you can say you made it yourself."
Biercamp Pastrami Jerky
- 3 lbs flank steak, brisket or eye-round
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tbsp pureed garlic
- 2 tbsp cracked pepper
- 2 tbsp coriander seed
Using a very sharp knife, cut each piece of meat into thin strips 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick.
Combine all ingredients (reserve cracked pepper and coriander seed for later) in a large ziplock bag.
Add the sliced meat and marinate in the fridge overnight.
Remove the meat from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
Pre-heat oven to 180°F and place a sheet tray at the bottom of the oven. Spray oven racks with nonstick cooking spray.
Remove the strips of meat from the marinade and arrange side-by-side across the racks, leaving room between each strip. Lightly sprinkle the strips of meat with the reserved cracked pepper and coriander until coated. The more you use, the spicier it will be.
Leave the oven open a crack to maintain temperature and cook until completely dry. This will take anywhere from two to four hours, depending on how dry or chewy you like your jerky. The jerky is ready when the color looks right and it gently pulls apart and does not snap.