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Monday, July 20, 2009

Make Your Own Jerky

Drying was the original technique used to preserve meat for storage and transport in pre-agricultural times. In our modern world it still makes one of the best cavegirl snacks. Commercial jerky might help you survive an emergency hunger situation that lands you in a 7-11 hunting for something to eat, but it usually contains nitrites and other preservatives that make it not the best choice for everyday food. Made in your own kitchen with beautiful grass fed meat though, jerky is a delicious delight.

There are two tricks to making good jerky:

1) Choose lean cuts. The texture of fat is weird when dehydrated and it goes rancid quickly, defeating the "shelf stable" purpose of dried meat.

2) The marinade must contain both salt and some form of acid. This cures the meat before dehydrating and kills any bacteria.

The meat slicer in action!

My favorite for jerky is a bison eye round roast. There is a great bison farmer at the Farmer's Market that raises their animals on pasture. Their meat is also available at the Clarence Ave Market on Clarence and 12th Street. I use my meat slicer to get a uniform thickness, although this works best if the roast is still slightly frozen.

Original Jerky Recipe
1/4 Cup Water
1/4 Cup White Wine Vinegar
1/4 Cup Tomato Paste
1/4 Cup Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
2 TB raw honey
1 TB liquid smoke
1 TB onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
1 tsp black pepper

Make sure each piece is coated in the marinade and then let it sit for 12-24 hours.

If you have a dehydrator, spread the meat on the racks and dry for 4-8 hours. Bison seems to dry much faster than beef so be sure to check on it every couple of hours. The meat should turn quite dark when finished but remain somewhat pliable. You don't want to dry it totally into dust!

Although I have never tried it, I've read you can use your oven to dehydrate jerky as well. Spread the meat out directly on the oven racks, set it to the lowest possible temperature (usually 160F), and leave the door slightly cracked.

Questions? Post them to comments!


  1. How much meat would you need for that amount of marinade?

  2. I use one entire eye round roast, which vary in size but are usually around 2-3kgs.

  3. Where did you buy your meat slicer?