Foods that don’t need any preparation, are lightweight, and are shelf stable make ideal foods for a survival pack, or to have on hand for emergencies at home, the office, or in the car. The best part is that beef jerky is delicious and by no means needs extensive cooking or food preparation skills to make.
Beef Jerky = Nature’s Meat Candy.
DIY jerky may seem intimidating, but the hardest part is deciding on a marinade. You can find hundreds of difference recipes online to make and try. Today I’m not going to be discussing marinades, but the basics of cooking it. What meat to choose, how to prepare it, and cooking in the oven.
Start with a piece of lean beef and remove all traces of visible fat from that meat. Remember that dehydrating the meat will reduce it up to 50%, so a 5 pound cut of meat will yield roughly 2.5 pounds of jerky.
I like to use brisket, but you could also use loin, sirloin, top round, flank or any other lean cut. Keep in mind when making jerky that fat will go rancid faster than leaner cuts of meat. So, the leaner the meat, the longer your jerky will keep.
Remove as much visible fat as you can and place the meat in the freezer, for 60 to 90 minutes. Freezing the meat will make it a lot easier for you to cut it into long, thin strips.
Slice the meat in long thin strips, going with or against the grain depending on your preference. Jerky sliced against the grain tends to be easier to chew and breaks more easily into pieces whereas jerky that is sliced with the grain will be a lot chewier.
Choose Your Marinade
Place your strips of meat into a large, ziplock plastic bag, and pour your choice of marinade. Place the whole bag into the fridge for up to 24 hours, but no fewer than 4 hours. The longer you marinate, the deeper your flavor and tenderize it. I will usually refrigerate overnight and cook the following day.
Drying Your Jerky
Remove your oven racks before turning on the oven. Line the bottom of your oven with aluminum foil to catch the drips, and to make clean-up a snap. Then, preheat oven to about 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Take marinated strips of meat and lay them flat across the racks. Be sure the strips are not touching and there is space for air to circulate around each one. Place the racks back in the oven and leave the door cracked open if you can. This makes sure the warm air is moving and circulating to dry the meat.
Cooking time will average around 7 or 8 hours in the oven, depending on the thickness and size of your strips. Remember to turn slices over about halfway through, so both sides will dry even.
To see if the meat is cooked, grab a piece and give it a bend. If it’s too dry, it will crack and break right off. If it’s easy to bend and tear off a bite, it is ready to go! Try this at around 6 hours. If it’s not yet ready, give it another hour or so, and test again.
When done, remove jerky from the oven and let cool. It can be stored in an airtight container, and should last you 4-6 months. But chances are it will have disappeared long before its “expiration date.”