Sunday, January 15, 2012

Trail Fuel: Homemade Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is one of MM and my favourite camping treats.  It's a super satisfying as a snack, a welcome break from monotonously sweet trail mix, and is a delicious addition to a bowl of instant mashed potatoes.

I can't imagine its healthy per say, but homemade beef jerky has to at least be a little healthier than the store bought stuff.  Right?  Right.  Let's go with it, ok?  Luckily, if you have a food dehydrator, it's easy to make.

I've eaten a lot of the store bought stuff and I've experimented a bit with recipes.  I'm sold on a recipe based on the Doc's Best Beef Jerky recipes from  I'd classify it as a cross between a teriyaki and a classic jerky recipe.  It's salty, a little sweet, and not spicy.

I changed it a smudge, here's how I do it:

About 1 lb of the leanest inside round steak you can find.
1/4 cup tamari sauce (I use this instead of soya sauce because I'm avoiding wheat currently, but soya sauce works just as well, I've tried both).
2 Tbsp Worcestershire
2 tsp salt (I like grainy kosher salt)
1 tsp black paper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika

First you need to slice up the beef.  If you've got any visible fat on your beef your going to want to cut that off.  Fatty bits won't ruin the process, but they sure don't add anything and I find them unappealing in the finished product.

As the original recipes suggests, to get really nice thin slices it helps to freeze it first for about 30 minutes.  Alternatively, if you can find beef that's already thinly sliced or get your butcher to do it that's even better.  I find that the inside round from Price Smart Foods (in Western Canada) is already sliced thin, so it's perfect.

Next, mix all that good stuff (a.k.a. everything but the beef) together into a yummy paste.  Put your beef strips into heavy duty ziplock, add that sauce, make sure you get it all coated, and marinate in the fridge  for at least half a day.  If you don't feel like the sauce has quite enough liquid to cover all of your beef, you can add a quarter cup of hot water to the mix to thin it out.  This is also a good idea if you would like a milder, less salty end product.

Next it's dehydrating time!  I use a NESCO Food and Jerky Dehydrator.  It's from Costco.  It's a good quality dehydrator with a fan and all that jazz.  Set that bad boy to 160 degrees F.

I like my jerky dry and crunchy so I let it go for about 12 hours.  The time really depends on how thick you've sliced your meat and your personal preference, so I'd suggest checking in on it after 8 hours.  MM often makes fun of me for producing "jerky chips" but I like them that way.

I keep my jerky in the freezer in an air tight freezer bag and it appears to keep forever (or for however long I can manage to keep my hands off of it).  Once you take it out of the freezer it should be good for a couple of weeks, varying depending on how dry you've made the product.

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