Ok, so I’ve got a bit of a confession to make. Not only have I been making jerky over the past couple of months, but I’ve also been buying the stuff.
I’m not going to lie. I still regularly buy it from the JerkySpot bulk beef jerky section. I’ve found the cost is still more than making it myself, but it’s cheaper if I buy in a larger quantity (both in shipping and the per pound cost).
Here’s a video about their bulk jerky options: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LKTt5F7klQ
At first I was foolishly buying these 3oz and 4oz bags from the store. The problem with these bags is not the taste. In fact, I’m still trying perfect the texture and flavor in my own batches. But the biggie is actually the cost. If you’re still buying the store-bought stuff, then you’re very likely paying 4 to 5 times more than if you were making it.
I know what you might be thinking… Making my own, that sounds hard!
The truth is that it’s really not difficult at all. In fact, if you can fry an egg then you’ll be able to make a decent batch. Now, you probably won’t make a Krave jerky right off the bat, but with my tips you’ll work your way up to something close.
With all of that said, here are the 4 factors I’ve “stolen” from the professional jerky makers. And I really haven’t stolen anything to be honest. Just a lot of eating and adapting of recipes to figure these things out.
1 – The Texture Factor:
The first point is texture. The texture of your jerky seems to mostly depend on the thickness of the cut and whether you cut against or with the grain. As you might have guessed, thin meat will become much more brittle when it’s dried. While thick will hold much more moisture and the texture will be completely different. Getting the right texture is first thinking about what you’re after (because all jerky-eaters are different), and then making the cut.
2 – The Flavor Factor:
Flavor was tricky for me at first, but here is the way to get it right. First, I marinate in a brine for at least 4 hours for most meats. Then I dry. And then I make a choice. I either double-dip by making a new brine and soaking the meat in it again, and then drying for 1-2 hours. There’s also another method, which I’ll sometimes do before placing it back in the dehydrator. This is where I’ll brine the meat, and then I’ll create a dry rub and dip in there before drying.
3 – The Moisture Factor:
Moisture is a beast you’ll quickly have to tackle from the first batch you make. Drying time is mostly going to influence how much moisture content your jerky holds. I’ve had the best results with 1/8th inch thick slices and at least 3 hours of drying at 160F.
4 – The Chew Factor:
Chew is a factor I’ve been playing with a lot now. At first I was partial to moist jerkys that chewed up rather quickly. Then I tried a smoked jerky from a friend and it opened my taste buds to the flavorful dry varieties. Generally what I’ve found, is dry jerkys will hold more flavor and also have a greater chew time than less dry meat.
These guys at Mingua have a great selection of dry jerkys to try if you’re new to the idea.