How to Make Beef Jerky

  • 01 of 07

    Beef Jerky Right at Home

    beef jerky ingredients
    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

    Making beef jerky at home is way easier than you ever imagined. With just a few ingredients and a can-do attitude, you can have a wonderful protein-rich snack ready to go using one of two preparation methods: the oven method or the dehydrator method.

    There are endless possibilities for recipes and flavors and it can be done with a wide range of meats. You will never eat store-bought jerky again after trying this homemade version. 

    Hit the road with your jerky or bring it along as a powerful snack on a road trip, a picnic, a hike, or a hunting trip.  

    Prep Time: 10 hours and 30 minutes (only 30 minutes of active prep)

    Cook Time: 2 to 3 hours

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  • 02 of 07

    Select Your Meat

    prep the meat for making beef jerky
    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

    Let's begin!

    Beef makes a great base for jerky. It absorbs flavor really well and it is hearty and chewy. It's also easy to come by and can be bought in any grocery store. 

    If you're making beef jerky, you want cuts that are low in fat, as fat does not provide good texture in the jerky. Below are some recommendations that we feel are great for homemade jerky:

    Other types of meat can make excellent jerky as well! If you are a hunter, many meats can be turned into jerky! 

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  • 03 of 07

    Trim the Fat and Slice the Meat

    Trim the Fat and Slice the Meat
    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

    Make sure to start with 2 to 3 pounds of meat and then trim all of the fat off of the meat. Again, the fat does not dehydrate well and will create an unpleasant texture if left on the meat. That, and the fat can also cause the jerky to spoil faster. 

    Then, slice the beef with or against the grain. Some people prefer one texture over another.  Either way, your jerky will be quite chewy. Just make sure to cut it thinly, at least 1/4-inch thick, if not thinner. It helps to place the beef in the freezer for an hour or so before trying to cut. Just make sure to use a sharp knife. Then get ready to marinade!

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  • 04 of 07

    Marinate the Meat

    Marinate the Meat
    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

    Marinating the meat packs it full of flavor. It takes a while, but it is well worth it. It can also give it a little stickiness, which some people may like.  

    Below are some flavor combinations we love to make. Whichever marinade you decide to use, begin with a base of 2 tablespoons of salt and 1/4 cup of white vinegar:

    • Teriyaki
      • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
      • 1/4 cup soy sauce
      • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
      • 1/4 cup brown sugar
      • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
      • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • Honey Pepper: 
      • 1/4 cup honey
      • 1/4 cup soy sauce
      • 1 tablespoon chili powder
      • 2 teaspoons black pepper
    • Hawaiian:
      • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
      • 1/4 cup brown sugar
      • 1/4 cup soy sauce
    • Sweet and Spicy Bourbon:
      • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
      • 1 tablespoon molasses
      • 1/4 cup bourbon
      • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
      • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
      • 1 tablespoon of hot sauce 

    Marinate the meat in a covered container in the refrigerator for 8 to 10 hours. 

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  • 05 of 07

    Add Dry Seasonings

    Add Dry Seasonings
    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

    After you have marinated the meat, drain off the marinade and prepare the dry rub. 

    Whisk together the dry seasonings in a small bowl. For most of the jerky you can use this following mixture. Alter the pepper according to how spicy you want the jerky. 

    • 1/2 cup of brown sugar (optional, if you don't want sweet jerky)
    • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1/4 cup salt
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper

    You can also add other spices like cinnamon, chili powder, ginger, and nutmeg to create different flavor profiles - the spice choices are endless!

    Dip both sides of the slices of beef into the dry seasoning and you will be ready to dehydrate.

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  • 06 of 07

    Cook the Jerky

    Cook the Jerky
    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

     If using an oven, set to 165 F. Any cooler and you risk the jerky spoiling. 

    Oven Method

    1. If you are making your beef jerky in the oven, lay out a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Place a wire rack on top of the tray, then place the strips of beef jerky on the wire rack, allowing the excess moisture from the marinade to dip off first. 
    2. The jerky will take 2 to 3 hours to dehydrate in the oven depending on how much moisture you added with the marinade.  

    Dehydrator Method

    1. If you are using a dehydrator, place them onto greased dehydrator trays. 
    2. Using a dehydrator will take longer, more like 8 to 10 hours, but the results are just as delicious. Bonus: this method doesn't occupy your oven, so you aren't banned from using it for a few hours when you need to make dinner.
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  • 07 of 07

    Store and Serve

    beef jerky recipe
    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

    Storing the jerky is simple. Just pop it in a Ziploc bag and keep it in the refrigerator or freezer. Since it is dried, it will stay fresh in the fridge for a while, up to 3 weeks.

    You can also vacuum seal it for ultimate freshness. It will last vacuumed sealed in the fridge for 3 months.

    Since it is not treated with preservatives it is best not to keep it out of the refrigerator for long periods of time. Just divvy out how much you think you'll need for either a beach trip, road trip, or hiking trip and keep the rest for your next adventure.