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How to Make Beef Jerky

Two Parts:Preparing the JerkyCooking and Storing the Jerky

For most of human history the only way to preserve meat was to dry it into jerky. While new methods of meat preservation have now been developed (freezing, chemicals, and so on) many people still enjoy the flavor and convenience of jerky. Moisture and fat must be removed from the meat, so it can also be a healthy source of protein. Follow these steps and make your own!

  • Prep time: 5 hours, 30 minutes (active prep: 30 minutes)
  • Cook time: 1-3 hours
  • Total time: 6-9 hours

Part 1
Preparing the Jerky

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    Select a cut of meat. Choosing a lean cut like sirloin, flank steak, top round, or eye round will save time later.
    • Some jerky nowadays is also made from turkey. Turkey has a mild flavor, making it a perfect sponge for all your yummy seasoning. Plus, turkey is very lean.
    • Your jerky need not be limited to beef and turkey, however. Many types of jerky — bison, deer, elk, caribou, and salmon, among others — can and should be used.
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    Remove all noticeable fat. Fat causes the jerky to spoil much faster. Slice your meat into very thin strips less than 1/20" thick (sometimes a butcher will do this for you for an extra fee if you ask). To make it easier to slice, freeze it for about 5 hours before slicing. You can cut with or against the grain; some find that strips cut against the grain are easier to chew. Trim the fat as you go along, since fat does not dry.
    • While it is true that fat causes meat to spoil faster, it's also not very tasty and very chewy beneath your teeth. That could be mentioned since most people don't enjoy eating the fat, especially on a jerky. You can still feel its texture, even when it is dried up.
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    Marinate the meat (optional). Use a solution of olive oil and vinegar sea salt, or a recipe of your preference. If you choose to marinate the meat, place in the refrigerator for 10 - 24 hours so that the beef can absorb the flavor. This step is optional; the additional moisture can make dehydration take longer and the resulting jerky may be stickier. Brown sugar is a great addition.
    • One good combination marinade is liquid smoke, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and brown sugar.
    • Another great marinade is dark Belgian ale (yes, you read that right!), honey, soy sauce, mustard seeds, garlic, and lime.
    • Add some kick to your jerky with peppers! Habanero, jalapeno, or Anaheim peppers made a great addition (in moderation) to most jerky recipes.
    • Add some unusual flavors to your jerky by adding some pineapple juice (Hawaiian jerky); some ginger (Asian jerky); or some curry powder (Indian jerky). Don't be afraid to experiment!
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    Coat the meat in the seasonings of your choice. Don't be afraid to use salt. Salt will aid in dehydrating. Note: a simple marinade of oil, vinegar, liquid smoke, and brown sugar is recommended for the following seasonings.
    • Try dusting your marinaded jerky with a little bit of salt, pepper, cinnamon and chipotle pepper.
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    • Or try dusting your marinaded jerky with a little coriander, cumin, clove and (even less) nutmeg for an African-style jerky.
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    • Honey, red pepper flakes, and black pepper can also work for a mild and hint of sweet jerky.
    • Try dusting your marinaded jerky with some crushed oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika.
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Part 2
Cooking and Storing the Jerky

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    Dehydrate the meat. Now comes the rewarding part — removing all moisture from your jerky. Using a dehydrator is the standard way of cooking jerky, although you can use an oven (see Step #3). Leave enough room between pieces to allow air to flow around the meat. Avoid letting the meat separate if possible.
    • In a dehydrator, spray the racks with non-stick cooking spray and place your prepared meat on the racks.
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    Wait and watch. Beef jerky takes from eight to twelve hours in order for it to be truly jerky and dried up wonderfully.
    • Check the consistency of the jerky regularly after 2 hours, and every 30 minutes thereafter, until it meets your satisfaction. Cut into the jerky to ensure that it is not raw inside. Jerky should turn a deep brown or burgundy color.
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    Alternately, use an oven if you don't have a dehydrator. Set the temperature to 165° F (70° C) — any less may cause early spoilage as it's not hot enough to kill bacteria in the meat, and will only incubate the bacteria already present in the meat, and allow it to preheat.
    • Heat is not intended to cook your jerky; gentle heat aids in the dehydration process by causing the moisture to evaporate.
    • Place your prepared meat directly on a wire rack, with a saucepan or catch underneath to catch the marinade dripping from the jerky.
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    • Cook for 1 - 3 hours, depending on the cut of meat. Dehydration could take even longer, so be sure your meat is cooked through before taking from the oven. Check the jerky after 90 minutes and every 30 minutes thereafter.
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    Place the fresh jerky somewhere dry to store. Ideally, use mason jars for the safest seal. Place jerky in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to eat. Enjoy the homemade jerky within two weeks of its preparation. Beef jerky can last up to three months, though.
    • Ideally, the jerky should be vacuum sealed in plastic with a pouch of oxygen absorber in order to hinder spoilage, although this is not practical in most home situations.


  • Plastic bags tend to accumulate moisture which encourages the growth of bacteria. In jars, jerky can be kept for months.
  • Be swift. The meat should be dried as quickly as possible, to limit bacterial growth. Cutting the meat into thin slices dramatically shortens drying time. Placing the meat in a freezer for an hour or two before cutting will make it easier to cut thinly.
  • Do not allow the jerky to become too dry or it will become hard and unpleasant.
  • While drying out your jerky if you see any oil (fat) spots, dab it with paper towel to absorb it. Check for oil spots when checking if your jerky is ready.
  • Traditionally, jerky was smoked or salted to preserve and flavor the meat at the same time.
  • When drying in an oven, keep the door open a few inches with a couple of wooden spoons. This help the drying process and helps prevent the jerky scalding before it is dry.
  • You can also buy home jerky making kits if you are unsure of the whole process.
  • Use 3/4 cup of soy sauce, 3.5 oz of liquid smoke, and 1/2 cup of brewed coffee for your marinade.
  • For a vegetarian version of this, try using seitan (wheat protein) or marinated tofu.
  • Try using an oven with a timer, that way you don't sit up all night!
  • Try a soy sauce based marinade. Some excellent flavoring agents include Adobo seasoning, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, powdered ginger, sesame oil, Cajun seasoning.
  • Try using minced meat; it takes in the flavors nicely. Use a rolling pin to flatten as desired. Use a pizza cutter to cut.


  • This is not commercial jerky and therefore does not contain preservatives. Please take proper precautions to preserve your jerky (i.e. refrigerate or freeze) and consume it promptly.
  • Sun drying can lead to spoilage, and you will have a difficult time keeping the insects away.

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