How To Begin Making Your Own Jerky

Jerky is delicious, nutritious and satisfying. Unfortunately, it’s also growing more expensive. If you can’t get enough of the stuff but your bank account is suffering, you might want to start making your own. Here’s how to get started.

Gather Your Tools

You’ll need to invest in some equipment if you plan to make your own jerky. But the long-term benefits outweigh the initial cost of getting started. Here are some of the jerky-making tools you’ll want to have on-hand.

  • Dehydrator

  • Jerky gun or meat slicer

  • Curing salt or alternative

  • Wire racks

Dehydrators come in many different sizes. You can get one that’s about the size of a microwave or one that’s as big as a freezer. There’s no “right size” for everyone. Just choose a dehydrator that fits your needs most closely.

A jerky gun is a handy tool that makes it easy to create tender jerky strips from ground meat. You simply load the barrel of the tool with your seasoned ground meat and pull the handle to dispense your meat strips. If you don’t have a jerky gun or if you prefer to make your jerky from whole meat, you can use a meat slicer to create your strips.

Curing salt is a mixture of sodium nitrite and table salt. It’s used to prevent meat spoilage by fungi or bacteria. It’s an important tool in food preservation, but if you don’t have it, you can create your own alternative using a mixture of ingredients such as sea salt, turbinado or raw sugar, evaporated can juice, and lactic acid starter culture.

Wire racks are essential if you plan to use your oven or a smoker to make jerky. Alternatively, you can use metal skewers to hang your jerky from the top rack in your oven. If you use this method, you’ll need to place a cookie sheet below the hanging strips of meat to catch the drippings.

Choose Your Dehydrating Method

As mentioned already, there are several methods you can use to dehydrate your meat. The preferred method for many jerky connoisseurs is a dehydrator. But you can also use your smoker, oven or air fryer to create mouthwatering jerky strips.

Select Your Meat

You can make jerky from practically any lean meat cut. Visually inspect the cuts to make sure they’re free from all fat and skin. Otherwise, your jerky is more likely to turn out rancid and have trouble drying thoroughly. Here are some of the best cuts for jerky.

  • Pork: Tenderloin

  • Beef: Sirloin tip roast, flank, top round, eye of round, bottom round

  • Fish: Salmon (without skin and fat), tuna steaks

  • Poultry: Breasts, tenderloin

  • Venison: Rump roast, eye of round, backstrap

You can also use lean ground meat. Just make sure it has no more than 10% fat content.

To determine how much meat you need, keep in mind that you’ll get approximately 1 lb. of dry jerky for every 3 lbs. of raw meat you use. So if you want 2 lbs. of dry jerky, use 5 lbs. of raw meat.

Find Your Preferred Recipe

There are many different jerky recipes from which you can choose. The key to selecting a good recipe is to make sure it’s intended for the type of jerky you’re making. For example, if you’re making beef jerky, don’t use a recipe that’s intended for poultry jerky, and vice versa.

You should also select a recipe that uses your preferred dehydrating method, whether it be air fryer, dehydrator, oven or smoker. Remember to always cure your meat beforehand for safety purposes. This involves applying curing salt or a homemade alternative to the meat.

Get Started

Once you have the basic tools and a favorite recipe, you can start making your own jerky from scratch. Store completed jerky in glass storage jars with desiccant packets to lengthen the shelf life.

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