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.
In South Africa, there's a thicker form of peppery jerky called "biltong," which you can try out with this recipe from Jerk 'N Pickle in Belmont, C.A. "Our style beef jerky is a savory and dry style jerky; the way it was made in the old west," says David Yosso, co-owner. Yosso calls his "Black Pepper" flavor a "perfect launching point" for the home cook. "It pairs well with almost every high-alcohol beer and especially well with aged scotch," he says. "One should use a dehydrator set to 150 degrees fahrenheit to achieve the dry cowboy-style jerky we prefer." An oven at 150 degrees fahrenheit will work but require more "babysitting" (flipping and rotating the meat) to avoid burning. Yosso's recipe calls for natural "inside round" beef, although London broil is more readily available and easier to find in your local grocery store.
"We recommend removing excess fat and membrane before slicing; fat in the jerky can make it turn rancid," he says. "This will ensure that the jerky will be free of sinew and last longer."
Jerk 'N Pickle Black Pepper Jerky
- black pepper
- 5 lbs all-natural inside round beef (JnP uses Choice) cut into 1/8" slices. (It helps to par-freeze the meat and slice on a meat slicer if possible.)
Combine wet ingredients:
- 2 cups and 2 ounces (18 ozs) soy sauce
- 2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce (JnP Brews his own to avoid high fructose corn syrup and the flavor of anchovies but commercial Worcestershire is acceptable)
- 1 lb carrots, juiced
- 1/2 lb celery, juiced
- Fresh ginger, juiced yielding 1 1/2 tbsp
- 1 1/2 tbsp garlic cloves, finely diced
Blend the following in a spice grinder or blender:
- 4 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper corns
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
Thoroughly whisk the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients.
Add sliced beef piece by piece and massage into marinade to allow for even distribution of ingredients. Refrigerate overnight (10-12 hours).
Place into home dehydrator or oven at 150 degrees for approximately six hours. Check and rotate as needed. Remove at desired texture and doneness.