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Homemade Beef Jerky

A couple of weeks ago, I made beef jerky for the first time. After sharing some pictures on Instagram, I was asked me to share the recipe on my blog.

I didn’t document the entire process, so I can’t share pictures of the first few stages, but the process starts with taking a cut of lean meat—I used an eye of round roast—and slicing it into thin strips.

Trim any excess fat, particularly around the outer edges of your slices. A little bit of fat is OK, as it’ll render out during the smoking process, but if you have too much there’s a chance that it’ll go rancid before you eat the jerky (assuming it lasts long enough; I ate all of mine within a week).

Once your meat is prepared, you can cure it with curing salt. I skipped this step, but there’s no reason not to do it unless you’re trying to avoid nitrates.

Curing the meat will allow it to be stored without refrigeration, but refrigeration may not be necessary if you’re going to use it up quickly (since making jerky dehydrates the meat, limiting the amount of moisture available for bacteria). That said, I kept mine in the fridge just to be safe. When I wanted a snack, I’d take a few pieces out and let them warm to room temperature before eating them, since cold beef jerky is pretty tough.

Whether you cure the jerky or not, the next step is to let it marinate and get some flavour. There are a ton of recipes available online. I used a pre-packaged spice mix that Sara bought me for Christmas last year. It was really more of a wet rub than a marinade, but it worked well (1 tbsp of spices, plus 1 tbsp of water per pound of meat).

After marinating for several hours (overnight is recommended), it’s time to smoke the meat!

Sliced meat hanging from racks in a propane smoker
The jerky-making process begins.

I set my smoker as low as it could go (about 150 degrees F) and smoked the meat for about 2 hours using hickory wood chips. After that, the smoker started to really heat up and I was having trouble keeping the temperature low, so I removed the meat and finished it in the oven (again on the lowest temperature, with the door blocked open slightly).

The total cook time was about 4.5 hours, but I’d only do four hours next time, since some of the thinner pieces were just a little bit drier than I’d hoped.

A piece of homemade beef jerky
The finished product: homemade beef jerky.

That’s it—my simple beef jerky process. Even though some of the pieces were more dried out than I’d have preferred, it definitely tasted better than store-bought jerky.