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The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe

The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe

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The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe

After road tripping with my family last year and sampling jerky from gas stations along the way – and spending a small fortune on it – I resolved to come up with a good homemade beef jerky recipe. The good news is that beef jerky is surprisingly easy to make and doesn’t require any special equipment other than a standard oven, baking sheets, and wire racks. However, after trying many recipes, I found that most homemade jerky isn’t nearly as tender as the store-bought kind. That’s because commercial jerky producers use special equipment and curing preservatives to make their signature jerky. Finally, after falling down an internet rabbit hole of pitmaster video tutorials, I learned the secret to making tender jerky at home: increasing the sugar in the marinade. The extra sugar not only helps preserve the meat but also locks in moisture. This recipe makes a salty-sweet, smoky jerky with a chewy yet tender texture, similar to the well-known brands.

What You’ll Need To Make Homemade Beef Jerky

When making beef jerky, it’s important to start with a well-trimmed, lean cut of meat, as fat does not dry out and accelerates spoilage. An eye of round roast is ideal; it’s affordable, accessible, lean, and easy to trim. Before slicing, pop it in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours; it will be much easier to cut.

The marinade contains soy sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, seasoning, and unseasoned meat tenderizer. Meat tenderizer contains bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down meat tissue. You can find it in the spice section of your supermarket (I use McCormick).

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Slice the Meat

slicing the meat for beef jerky
Slice the meat between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick with the grain. If the roast is too thick to slice easily, cut it in half horizontally before slicing.
slicing the meat

2. Make the Marinade

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, smoked paprika, meat tenderizer, black pepper, red pepper flakes, onion powder, and garlic powder.

marinade for beef jerky

Whisk until evenly combined and the sugar is dissolved.

whisked marinade

3. Marinate the Beef

Add the meat to the marinade and toss until all of the pieces are evenly coated. Cover with plastic wrap (or transfer to a large ziplock bag) and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or overnight. Toss the meat (or flip the bag) once or twice to be sure the meat marinates evenly.

marinate the beef

4. Dry Out The Meat

Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Place a wire rack over each pan. Preheat the oven to 175°F and set two oven racks in the centermost positions.
Arrange the marinated meat on the wire racks in a single layer.

marinated beef on wire rack

Bake, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom midway through, until the meat is dried out, 3 to 4 hours. To determine if the jerky is thoroughly dried out, take a piece out of the oven and let it cool to room temperature. It should be dry to the touch, leather-like in appearance, and chewy but still somewhat tender.
cooked beef jerky

Store the jerky inside an airtight plastic container, Ziploc bag, or airtight glass jars. Properly dried jerky will keep at room temperature for about one week.

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