Have you ever smelled jerky being made? It makes your mouth water and if you’re like my family, it keeps you near the jerky until it’s ready to be eaten.
It isn’t hard to make. All you need is strips of beef, a proper marinade and an oven. Well, you need two more things; time and a means of keeping people from eating it before it’s done.
You can buy marinades, but I like to make my own. The two main ingredients are usually soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. I’ve also used fruit juice and soda pop, depending on the flavors I’m going for and how tough the meat is.
Liquid smoke is a must. You can find it in the sauce section of your grocery store. Most stores I’ve visited stock it at about eye level, next to the gravy starter. Some stores have more than one “flavor,” so you may get to experiment with that.
There are other seasonings, of course. We like our jerky on the hot side, so I add chili powder, red pepper flakes and cayenne to most batches. Garlic is a must, and occasionally minced onion. Mix all of these together and put in your sliced beef. (Slicing can be done by the butcher or at home. Make the slices as thin as possible so they will dry evenly and faster.)
The longer this marinates, the better. It should stay in for a minimum of two hours, and should be turned occasionally to make sure every piece gets the flavor. You can put it in the fridge overnight for a more intense taste.
This next step will save you considerable time and effort in cleanup. Line the bottom of your oven with heavy duty tinfoil. This stuff will drip and the heat from the drying source will make it nearly impossible to chip off.
Since you want air circulating around all sides of the beef, you’re going to use the bare rack for this job. Lay each piece across the rack, leaving at least half an inch around each one. If you have more meat than rack, put the rest in the fridge until the first batch is done.
There are three ways to apply enough heat to dry the meat. If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, that may be enough heat. Some people also use the light in the oven to increase the temperature. I’ve found that turning the oven on low, at under 150 degrees, works the best.
Drying time depends on several factors, so you’ll have to check it by feel. The factors include weather, temperature and the thickness of the meat. When it’s difficult to bend, it’s done.
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