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Beef Jerky 101

Posted 4:09pm on Thursday, Apr. 12, 2012

I am kind of known as the “jerky guy” at work. You know, the guy that brings in homemade jerky for people to snack on. If you have a smoker and you're not known as the “jerky guy” then something is wrong. Shoot, you can even make jerky in your oven, so there is no excuse. So here is how you can become the “jerky guy” with my Jerky 101.

The hard part about making jerky for me has always been cutting up all that meat. So, I looked for an alternative and found that my local Walmart has thin cut top round. When I say thin cut, I mean really thin: about 1/8th an inch.

The next thing you need is some jerky racks. You could use oven racks or cake/cookie cooling racks in a pinch, but nothing says you’re really serous about jerky more than buying some jerky racks. Sporting goods stores like Academy have them.

OK, we have our meat and racks, so now we need a good marinade. I have a great recipe from the people that made my smoker. My Traeger wood pellet grill can be used as both a smoker and a grill. On their website, Traeger has a great marinade called “Coffee Break Beef Jerky”. I am going to use a variation of that to make my jerky, including variations for using an oven in case you don’t have a smoker. Here is the jerky recipe:

Coffee Break Beef Jerky

  • 1 cup brewed strong hot coffee
  • 1 can cold cola
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Morton Tender Quick® curing salt (optional, my local Kroger carries it)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup of liquid smoke (skip if you are using a smoker)
  • 2 pounds thin-sliced beef top round or sirloin

In a mixing bowl, combine the hot coffee, brown sugar, curing salt (if using) and stir with a whisk. Add cold cola, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and hot sauce and stir again.

Dip the thin beef slices in marinade then place beef in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade mixture over the beef, and massage the bag so all the slices get coated with the marinade. Seal the bag and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to cook, start smoker or oven to a temperature between 140ºF to 170ºF. Try to keep the temp on the low side (150ºF) if possible. Also, when using an oven it is good to line the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil for easy clean up later.

Remove the beef from the marinade and discard the marinade. Dry the beef slices between paper towels. Arrange the meat in a single layer on jerky racks. Smoke 3 to 4 hours, or until the jerky is dry but still chewy. If using oven, be sure to leave the oven door open a couple of inches to allow for the moisture to escape.

When jerky is done, let it cool then cut into strips with a knife or scissors. Be sure to cut against the grain. Transfer to glass jar or resealable plastic bags. Jerky will keep for several weeks, but normally is gone in a couple of days.

I like to add a couple of moisture absorbers to my jars of jerky to help keep it fresh. You can buy them online, but I normally just collect absorbers when I come across them in products around the house.

Be sure to check out the slideshow above for step-by-step pictures on making jerky.

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