Jerky is meat that has had the moisture removed from it by exposing it to low and dry heat. It is a dried type of meat, instead of a cooked meat. Making beef jerky is easy and fun, and it makes a wonderful snack. It does not require many skills to make good beef jerky, nor does it take a lot of equipment.
You will need to purchase a lean cut of meat appropriate for making beef jerky. Then, take that meat and cut it into thin strips. This is done with the grain of the muscle to produce a chewy type of jerky. You will want to season the meat with either a marinade overnight or just salt and pepper it. Some drying methods may require adding a cure product to protect against spoilage.
Another style of jerky is made from grinding up lean cuts of meat and shaping the meat into sheets or strips. Make sure they are shaped thin. The ground jerky technique is great to use if you have small scraps of meat left over from the other jerky style.
Once you have prepared your meat, it will be ready to be dried. One way to dry it is on a food dehydrator. When you buy a dehydrator, there will be instructions that come with it explaining how to set it up. The only problem with these is that they will not hold a lot of jerky at one time.
Another method is something you probably already have in your home, and that is your oven in the kitchen. It can do a wonderful job of drying the meat in a short amount of time. A great thing about using your oven is that it will dry a large amount of jerky at one time. Just place the jerky strips in the oven by placing the meat directly on the oven racks or on racks that are made for jerky. Leave some space around each strip of meat for the air to circulate. It is best to put a pan or aluminum foil in the bottom of the oven to catch any drips from the meat. Set the temperature to its lowest setting, and then partially prop open the door of the oven to allow the moisture to escape. Allow the jerky to dry until you are able to bend but not break it. You do not want to over-dry it. Drying jerky can take several hours, and you will lose the use of your oven during this time.
A smoker designed for meat has a large capacity and drip pan, and it offers a good ventilation to allow the moisture to escape. The temperature is ideal to dry the meat. This method works great if you want to add some wood chips for smoke flavor. This method may also need the cure product added since it takes longer to make jerky this way.
Jerky originally was made by using the natural element of the sun. This method can still work today if done properly. The sun will provide the heat and air movement to dry the meat. Areas with lots of sunlight and high temperatures as well as low humidity are the best areas for drying beef jerky. You have no control over the temperatures to dry the meat, so add the cure product to this method. You will need to protect the jerky from animals and bugs. It will take several days to dry the meat properly. In addition, this process requires bringing the meat in at night to protect it from the humidity.