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 Kachina Southwestern Grill in Westminster, CO, Chef Jeff Bolton has found a way to blend our modern version of jerky with the traditional Native American staple that inspired it. "Bison was the Native Americans' main source of protein in North America," he says. "Even before pioneer days, the Natives had been using salt and smoke to preserve meat." Kachina's jerky is seasoned very heavily with a kick of habanero. Bolton likes bison top-round, a juicy cut, marinated for 24 hours, and uses a dehydrator.
"But the home chef can use an oven on the lowest temperature," he says. "You just have to check the jerky every 30 minutes to make sure it's not starting to burn."
Kachina Bison Jerky
Yield: Due to the drying process, the yield will be about half of the amount that you started with. For this recipe, you will have about 1 lb of jerky.
- 2 lb top round, sliced thin about 1/8 inch
- 2 tbsp chopped garlic
- 2 tsp honey
- 2 tbsp crushed red chile
- 1 tbsp cracked black pepper
- 1.5 cups Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- 1 tbsp sugar
Place all ingredients in a zip lock bag and allow to marinate for 24 hours.
Remove meat from bag, rinse, dry with paper towels.
Place meat on cooling racks in oven at lowest setting, preferably 175 degrees.
Dry meat for about 5-6 hours.
Store in an airtight container.