Beef jerky is the convenience food that’s actually good for you. These strips of dehydrated beef are perfect for road trips and days out and as healthy, natural snacks for growing children.
And if you’re wondering how to make beef jerky at home, it’s easier than you think. In this article, we’ll talk you through the process with our beef jerky recipes.
Homemade beef jerky: the healthier choice
Once you’ve tried making your own beef jerky at home, you’ll never look back. You’ll love that you can control all the ingredients that go into your jerky, leaving out any of those additives or preservatives that you often get with store-bought products.
You’ll also enjoy the fact that homemade beef jerky makes a healthy snack. It’s packed with protein, which gives you energy and helps your body to recover, repair and build muscle mass.
Beef jerky also contains iron and zinc. Iron helps your body produce blood cells, while zinc boosts your immune system.
Quick tips for making beef jerky
If you’re new to making beef jerky at home, you’ll appreciate our quick tips. Read these first before you embark on your latest culinary project:
- Freeze your beef before cutting it. It doesn’t have to be completely frozen but just be firm enough to make it easier to slice.
- If you like a chewy texture, cut your beef with the grain. For a more tender bite, cut against the grain.
- Once it’s cut, tenderise your beef with a mallet for a softer texture. Doing so breaks down muscle strands and collagen, resulting in a more tender meat.
- Marinate your beef in a Ziploc bag. This makes it easy to distribute the marinade evenly over the beef simply by massaging it through the bag.
- Preheat your dehydrator to 70 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Fahrenheit) to cook your beef at a temperature that will kill off any bacteria.
- Keep an eye on cooking time — you don’t want to overcook or completely dehydrate your jerky.
Best cuts of meat for beef jerky
The key to choosing your cut of meat for jerky is to select the leanest cut you can find.
You don’t want too much fat in your cut as it simply won’t dehydrate, even if the water content evaporates away. This means that your jerky could go off during storage.
We recommend the following cuts of beef for jerky:
You can also use flank steak, which is a little more costly but worth it for the rich flavour and ease of cutting into strips.
How To Dehydrate Beef Jerky
Preheat your dehydrator to 71°C to dehydrate your jerky. Preheat your oven to 71°C or lower if you oven allows it
Place the grass-fed meat evenly on the trays, without the pieces touching and place them in the oven or dehydrator.
The drying time depends on the thickness of the beef, how much you have loaded it, your machine, and other factors. Double-check your manual. The drying time for jerky is usually between 4 and 6 hours. To promote consistent drying, wipe away the fat form jerky with a paper towel every once in a while.
When properly dried, jerky should not crack or break when bent.
What to do with fat?
Even if you choose a lean cut of beef, you will get some fat.
Target any large lines of fat by running your knife underneath them and cutting them away at a shallow angle.
You’ll also see some thinner lines of fat running through your meat. If you’re planning to eat your jerky soon after production, then you don’t necessarily need to take them out.
However, if you’re planning to store it for a longer period, carefully cut the fat away to maximise shelf life.
How to cut the beef
You first need to decide whether you want tender or chewy jerky.
For a tender result, cut against the grain. For a chewy jerky, cut with the grain.
You’ll need to slice the meat as thinly as you can — we recommend a thickness of 3 to 6 millimetres. You don’t want it too thick as it will be hard to dehydrate and you’ll end up with an excessively chewy texture.
To make it easier, put your beef in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours before slicing. It shouldn’t be frozen solid but firm enough to slice with ease.
It sounds obvious, but you should also use a sharp knife — this will make your task a whole lot easier!
You could ask your butcher to slice the meat for you if you’re a bit nervous about cutting it.
The importance of tenderising
The secret of successful beef jerky is ensuring that its texture is interesting but not too chewy.
First of all, we would recommend that you cut your beef against the grain for a more tender texture.
And you should also tenderise your meat to break down those tough muscle fibres and collagen. You can either do this with a wooden or metal mallet or use meat tenderising powders.
If you’re going for the mallet method, take care not to get carried away — you don’t want your meat to end up with a mushy consistency!
You can also use meat tenderising powders, which are essentially enzymes that break down the tough fibres. Sprinkle them on your beef before it goes into the dehydrator, where they will be activated by heat.
Finally, the salt in the marinade will add to the tenderising effect to ensure you end up with a mouthwatering jerky to be proud of!
Which is better: oven, dehydrator or air fryer?
You can make beef jerky in an oven, dehydrator or air fryer. For best results, choose a dehydrator or air fryer. Because you have better temperature control and airflow in both, you will end up with a superior result.
It’s actually pretty simple to make jerky in a dehydrator. Just preheat to the required temperature, place your beef strips on the trays and make sure they’re not overlapping.
Leave them for the time stated in the recipe (usually around 4 to 6 hours), checking every now and then to blot away any fat with a kitchen towel or rotate the tray for even dehydration.
To make beef jerky in an air fryer, you can either place it on skewers so it doesn’t touch the surface or put it directly in the air fryer on a rack. You may need to dehydrate it in batches, depending on the quantity you are working with.
Know that you will only need to keep it in the air fryer for around 1 to 2 hours.
And to make jerky in a conventional oven, place your strips of beef on a raised cooling rack set on a baking sheet. This method takes around 4 to 6 hours.
You’ll know your jerky is dried to perfection when it cracks when bent but does not break.
Store it in any container if you’re going to eat it up to a week after production. For up to a month, use an airtight container. For storage between 3 and 6 months, vacuum seal it and keep it in the fridge. You can also vacuum seal it and store it in the freezer for up to a year.
Best Ways To Store Beef Jerky
How you store your beef jerky will often depend on when you intend on eating it. The longer you want to store it, the more specific the storing process needs to become.
Up to a week: Beef jerky can be stored in an airtight plastic baggie or reusable container for up to seven days. It’s best to avoid direct sunlight and to limit air exposure.
Up to a month: Use an airtight container, such as a Mason jar or resealable plastic container with gasket lid. You can store it at room temperature, but keep it away from direct sunlight.
3-6 months: Keeping Beef jerky for more than a month should be vacuum sealed in an airtight container. FoodSaver offers a variety of methods for vacuum sealing food, including plastic pouches and reusable Mason jars. It is best to keep it in the fridge.
Up to a year: You can extend the shelf life of beef jerky by vacuum sealing it in an airtight container. Then, place it in the freezer. A moisture-absorbing packet may be an option.
Simple DIY beef jerky
Try this classic Australian beef jerky recipe if you’re new to making jerky at home. It’s easy to follow and results in a delicious jerky that’s full of flavour and with a hint of spice.
DIY Beef Jerky
- Energy: 163 kcal / 681 kJ
- Fat: 24 g
- Protein: 28 g
- Carbs: 4 g
- For: 10 serves
- Preparation: 12 h
- Cooking: 6 h
- Ready in: 18 h
- Thinly slice the meat* and cut off all visible fat.
- Pound slices with a meat tenderiser mallet ( or rolling pin) until pieces are uniform thickness (aprox nickel width).
- Place the beef strips in a zip-top bag. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over beef.
- Cover & marinate for 12-36 hours. Shake the bag a few times as it's marinating to make sure the beef is evenly coated.
- Spread the meat in a single layer, shaking off any excess marinade, on the dehydrator trays.
- Dry at 74c for 4-6 hours, occasionally blotting off any fat droplets that appear on the surface. Test using a cooled piece. Properly dried jerky, when bent, should crack but not break.
- Package jerky in and air-tight container or vacuum seal (*see storage notes below). Store in a cool, dark & dry place.
*Partially freezing meat makes it easier for you to cut. For a chewier jerky, cut with the grain. Cut against the grain to make tender and more brittle pieces.
Storage Notes Properly dried and packaged, jerky can be kept at room temperature for up to one week in a regular zip top bag, up until a month in an airtight container, up to three months in the fridge and up to one year in a vacuum sealed container and stored in freezer.
Chilli lime jerky recipe
Chilli and lime are a powerful pairing, with the citrus tang cutting through the spiciness. So this is possibly the best beef jerky recipe if you love mouthfuls of flavour with an unexpected twist!
Chili Lime Jerky Recipe
- Energy: 149 kcal / 623 kJ
- Fat: 4 g
- Protein: 20 g
- Carbs: 5 g
- For: 10 Serves
- Preparation: 1 h
- Cooking: 6 h
- Ready in: 7 h
- Pick you favorite type of beef and trim all visible fat. Place the meat in the freezer for 1-2 hours to partially freeze. This allows for easier slicing and more consistent widths.
- Mix all above ingredients in a container with a tight fitting lid. Whisk marinade until all brown sugar is dissolved.
- Remove beef from the freezer and slice against the grain between ⅛"-¼" thick.
- Add sliced beef to the container of marinade and shake well to evenly coat the meat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 6-24 hours.
- After marinating, remove and dry the strips with paper towels. Dehydrate your meat using your Oven, Dehydrator, Air Fryer or Smoker.
- Jerky will be finished when it bends and cracks, but does not break in half. Allow to cool for several hours before storing in an air tight container.
Air fryer beef jerky
If you enjoy the convenience of cooking with an air fryer, you’ll appreciate this jerky beef recipe. The honey and soy sauce give it an oriental flavour and you can add as much or as little chilli as you like, depending on your taste.
Air Fryer Beef Jerky
- Energy: 93 kcal / 389 kJ
- Fat: 5.8 g
- Protein: 7.5 g
- Carbs: 2.5 g
- Preparation: 15 min
- Cooking: 2 h
- Ready in: 2 h 33 min
- Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl.
- Cut beef slices into strips or squares.
- Add the beef strips to the marinade, ensure that all surfaces of the beef are covered by the marinade.
- Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 3 hours.
- Remove beef from marinade and pat dry with paper towels.
- Place beef strips in air fryer basket in a single layer – ensure it is not overlapping.
- Air fry the strips for 2 hours at 100°C. After that, check the jerky. Continue to air fry the jerky for 15-20 minutes until it is dry. (It should reach 71°C.)
Choose grass-fed beef for your jerky recipe
For all of these recipes, we recommend grass-fed beef sourced from our Provenir-approved suppliers.
We only offer grass fed-beef because we know that it’s a healthier and more ethical way to raise animals. Free to roam in a natural environment and eat only grass as they would in the wild, the animals we source our meat from live happier, more natural lives.
This translates to healthier meat for you and your family. There’s no need for added hormones to stimulate growth or antibiotics to guard against diseases that spread in confined conditions, so you end up with the best quality meat on your plate.
We also believe in the paddock to plate way of producing meat. This means reducing the distance between farms to your plate as much as possible. That’s why we only use mobile abattoirs that travel to farms, minimising the stress to animals and the distance your food travels.
It’s the more ethical and sustainable way to produce high-quality meat that’s packed full of nutrition and makes for healthier family meals.
Ethical meat straight to your door
Get ethical meat straight to your door with our grass-fed meat delivery service right across eastern Australia.
We deliver to Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, Brisbane and other areas, as well as to Geelong, which is our base.
All you need to do is check your postcode to see if we deliver to your area. Then, in just a few clicks, you’ll have the best quality grass-fed beef meat you need to enjoy these homemade jerky recipes, starting a whole new way of eating and enjoying beef!