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.
The word "jerky" doesn't conjure images of health, which is why trying to make yourself a turkey jerky might not be the worst idea. The people behind beloved Chicago River North restaurant Hub 51 agree, and thats why they use free-range, organic white-meat turkey for their version. "It's an elevated version of beef jerky," says R.J. Melman, managing partner. "It's healthier, but it still pairs really well with an ice-cold beer." What's more, it's just as easy to make as a beef product. "The goal is for it to be moist and chewy, not dry and flavorless," says Melman. Just be sure to buy the best quality turkey you can find, and slice into consistently thin strips – before you drink.
Hub 51 Turkey Jerky
Yield: 8 servings
For jerky marinade:
- 1 1/2 cups Worcestershire sauce
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup liquid smoke
- 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
- 1 3/4 tbsp onion powder
For turkey jerky:
- 1 lb turkey breast tenders
- 1 bowl jerky marinade
Slice the turkey breast tenders into thin strips
Place the strips on a sheet pan and cover with the jerky marinade.
Let sit in the fridge for 8-12 hours.
Place on paper towels to dry off excess liquid.
Place in oven at 200°F for approximately 30-40 minutes, until the jerky is dry and golden.