When developing this recipe I wanted to overcome some of the common pitfalls I find in Jerky. I am a fan of jerky but a good end result can be hard to come by. Many are too salty, others suffer from a singular dominant flavor, which could be soy sauce, garlic or an overwhelming artificial smokiness.
You may notice that my recipe is missing a common jerky marinade ingredient, liquid smoke. I have used a combination of smoked paprika and Via® (Starbucks® instant coffee) instead to produce an underlying smokiness with deep richness.
Lean cuts of meat are preferred for jerky because fat has a tendency to spoil more quickly. The fat can turn rancid at room temperature just like oils. If the meat I am using for jerky has any fat I store it in the refrigerator to prolong its shelf life. Game meats are naturally lean, which makes them an ideal choice for jerky.
According to the USDA food safety guidelines, meat must reach a temperature of 160° Fahrenheit to effectively kill the harmful bacteria, which may be present on the meat. In addition to reaching the proper temperature the lack of moisture in the finished product inhibits enzymatic growth. My oven has a drying option when in convection mode. The default presets are 140° and 190°. I overrode the presets and entered 170° to make sure I exceeded the minimum safe temperature.
For 3 pounds of meat
1/2c. Soy Sauce
1/2c. Red Wine
2T. Lemon Juice
3T. Brown Sugar
1T Smoked Paprika
1T Worchestershire Sauce
1t. Granulated Garlic
1t. Onion Powder
1 t. Via® (instant coffee)
1/2t. White Pepper
Place the meat in the freezer for two ours prior to cutting. This will firm up the meat and make it easier to cut slices of consistent thickness.
Combine the marinade ingredients and set aside. Creating the marinade at the start will allow the sugar time to dissolve.
Slice the meat in 1/8” thick slices. Meat cut across the grain will bite apart easily. Meat cut with the grain will have long muscle fibers that will be tough to tear. I prefer to land somewhere in between using a diagonal cross-grain cut so that the jerky has that characteristic chew without being impossible to bite.
Once all of the meat has been sliced pour the marinade into a gallon zipper bag. Add the meat to the marinade a few slices at a time so that all pieces are completely coated. Squeeze the air from the bag and zip shut. Place the bag in a bowl and marinate in the refrigerator overnight to allow the marinade to fully penetrate the meat.
Preheat the oven to 170°
Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil for easier clean up then place wire racks on the sheets. For three pounds of marinated meat two half-sheet pans or one three-quarter sheet pan should be enough.
Remove the meat from the marinade and blot on paper towels to remove excess surface moisture. Arrange the slices on the wire racks so that the pieces are not touching. Place the pans in the oven with the door propped open a crack to allow moisture to escape. You can use a wooden spoon for this; metal will transfer heat and will be hot to touch.
Sometimes pieces along the edges will dry more quickly than those in the center of the rack. I like to check the progress after two hours to see if any of the pieces need to be rearranged. I check it again at three hours and reposition as needed. After four hours at 170° I was able to begin removing some of the pieces. The total time will vary with the thickness of the meat. When it looks dry squeeze it between two fingers. If it feels spongy it is not yet done.
The Finishing Touch
After all of the jerky is dried blot any fat (shiny spots) from the surface with paper towels. Spread the jerky on a tray then sprinkle with ½ tsp. of fine salt (popcorn salt) and 1 tsp. of my RB beef rub and toss together. By finishing with light seasoning on the outside I avoided over salting/seasoning with the marinade so the beefy flavor shines through.
When cooled, store the jerky in a plastic zipper bag. I know it’s overkill but I prefer to keep mine in the fridge so there is no chance of any fat going rancid and to extend the shelf life. If making large quantities vacuum seal the excess and toss it in the freezer.