What? This doesn’t relate to game art? Nonsense! Beef/Venison/etc Jerky is always relevant! Nom nom nom.
And so here is my own recipe for beef/venison jerky. This is measured for 2 pounds of meat:
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp Black pepper
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Garlic – minced
1 Tbsp Green Onion – chopped
1/2 Cup Teriyaki Sauce
1/2 Cup Worcestershire Sauce
1/3 Cup Soy Sauce
1/4 Cup Ketchup
1 Tbsp Liquid Smoke
Mix all of the above ingredients in a bowl, making sure the brown sugar is dissolved. I noticed the ketchup didn’t mix in very well when I did it. I might leave that ingredient out next time.
Now on to the meat. I’ve only used venison so far, but I imagine this works with other meats as well. Make sure you slice off any fat you don’t want on the meat first. Then start slicing your pieces. The key here is to keep a consistent thickness. I’ve seen recipes say cut into long strips, one inch wide, but that is primarily for laying meat directly on oven/grill racks. So based on your method of drying, length and width will vary. Since I cook on a baking sheet, I like to cut them smaller because the end result feels like you have more (psychologically). Just be aware that a dried cut of meat will be ~1/2 the size of the original cut.
So, cut into pieces of your choosing but generally 1/4 inch thick slices. Any smaller will dry out too quickly, and thicker will take a longer time to dry and risk harboring more bacteria. And not the good kind. These will eat your soul.
When you have your meat all sliced, you may choose your preferred method of marinading, but I tend to go for the ziplock freezer bag. Put all of the meat cuts in the bag, then pour the bowl of marinade in. Seal the bag, making sure to press as much air out of it as you can. Refrigerate for 3 days for maximum flavor. The extra days really do make a difference. I’d suggest kneading the bag occasionally during that time.
The only method of drying I have experience with is with the oven, but as a friend pointed out, this is a waste of energy. And for that matter, so is using a dehydrator. I plan to use a smoker or a grill next time, but for now I’ll just post directions for drying in an oven.
Get a baking sheet and line it with aluminum foil. Lay the cuts of marinaded meat onto the baking sheet, making sure they lay as flat as possible. You don’t need to keep space between the cuts, just make sure none are overlapping.
Set the oven to 200F, put the baking sheet with the meat on the middle rack and… here’s the important part… prop the oven door open with a spoon or similar. This allows the moisture to escape, thus jerkifying the meat. The length of time you will need to dry the meat depends on how thick you made them, but just remember to keep flipping the pieces every 30 minutes until the thickest cut feels firm. As smaller cuts will dry first, remove them from the tray as they’re ready.
And that’s it! The pieces should be slightly sticky, considering the brown sugar caramelizes from the heat. It’s like jerky candy! Try not to eat it all at once. Seriously. I DARE YOU.
I feel I need to update this post with some amendments to the above. The quality of latest batch is 500% better than the method I described above.
First, correcting some misinformation. DO NOT dry your jerky laying on a baking sheet. There are a few reasons for this. Drying will take longer and it will be uneven (hence the need to flip the meat periodically). You also run the risk of burning the meat, which you do not want. The last, and perhaps the more frightening reason, is that the acids from the meat and marinade eat into aluminum foil and your meat will absorb some of the broken down aluminum. This is the kind of stuff you find out when you delve into the sciency areas of cooking. Cooking is, after all, a form of chemistry. Very tasty chemistry.
This is minor misinformation, but saying that smaller pieces will dry out too quickly is… well, it’s not wrong, it’s just not a bad thing either. You can’t really over-dry jerky.
As for recipe changes, I removed ketchup, fresh garlic, and green onions from the marinade. Unless you plan on eating the jerky the day you cook it, cut off as much of the fat as you can. It will make the jerky less juicy, but you will effectively increase shelf life tenfold. Unless you properly preserve your jerky, the fat will go rancid and you do not want that. Seriously. I bit into a rancid piece of jerky before. I cried over the loss of jerky. I sent the remaining pieces out on a burning raft and shot flaming arrows into the night. A fitting send off.
And to add to that, I’d advise against wanting softer jerky and not drying them completely. Bacteria be a harsh mistress. Also about bacteria, I’d suggest only marinating for 2 days instead of 3. Small reduction in flavor for large reduction in risk.
The only other thing I did differently is set the oven to 175F. Technically, the required temp to rid the meat of bacteria is 160F, but I just put it up to 175 to be safe. The reason I backed it off from 200 is that you just want to dry the meat, not cook it as well.
And that’s all I have for now. I plan on diving into more technical aspects of jerky making such as meat and marinade pH balancing, and will update this post with my findings when I do.