How to Make Beef Jerky

Beef Jerky

The Spruce / Kelly Ryan

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 3 hrs
Marinate: 10 hrs
Total: 13 hrs 30 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Yield: 1 pound of jerky
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
419 Calories
21g Fat
8g Carbs
48g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 419
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21g 26%
Saturated Fat 7g 37%
Cholesterol 156mg 52%
Sodium 3397mg 148%
Total Carbohydrate 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 48g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 37mg 3%
Iron 3mg 17%
Potassium 581mg 12%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Paleo, gluten-free, and Keto-friendly, a 2-ounce serving of beef jerky has less than 200 calories, but 25 grams of protein. If you need a quick, portable, and nutritious bite, this is a wonderful option.

Beef makes a great base for jerky as it absorbs flavor really well and is hearty and chewy, but you can use any other meat like elk, deer, turkey, goose, or bison. Always use good cuts of meat, the better the initial ingredient the better the jerky. For outstanding jerky, go with low-fat cuts like sirloin, flank steak, eye round, or top round. Usually, you obtain a third of jerky of the initial meat weight (3:1), so although our recipe has the measurements for 3 pounds of meat (1 pound of jerky), you can scale it up or down if you're making smaller or bigger batches.

Jerky needs to marinate. Start with this teriyaki marinade and then try other variations at the end. This dry rub is a standard mix, but feel free to add other spices like cinnamon, chili powder, ginger, or nutmeg to create different flavor profiles. There is no one perfect flavor for the marinade or dry rub.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds meat (any low-fat cut of your meat of choice), frozen for 1 hour prior to slicing

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar

  • 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

For Dry Rub:

  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Beef Jerky ingredients

    The Spruce / Kelly Ryan

  2. Trim all of the fat off of meat. Fat does not dehydrate well, will create an unpleasant texture if left on meat, and can cause faster decay.

    Trim all of the fat off of the meat

    The Spruce / Kelly Ryan

  3. With a very sharp knife, slice beef with or against the grain depending on preferred texture. Cut thinly, at least 1/4-inch thick, if not thinner. Freezing meet for 1 hour prior to slicing will make this process much easier.

    Slice Meat for Jerky

    The Spruce / Kelly Ryan

  4. Mix vinegar, liquid smoke, soy, Worcestershire, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and salt in a nonreactive bowl.

    Mix the marinade ingredients in a non-reactive bowl

    The Spruce / Kelly Ryan

  5. Place slices of meat in bowl. Mix well, cover with plastic wrap, and marinate meat for 10 hours in fridge. Toss meat around once or twice during this process.

    Marinating Meat for Jerky

    The Spruce / Kelly Ryan

  6. Once marinating time is over, place meat in a colander and drain off liquid.

    place the meat in a colander and drain off the liquid

    The Spruce / Kelly Ryan

  7. Mix red pepper flakes, salt, garlic powder, pepper, and brown sugar (if using) in a medium-sized bowl.

    Mix all of the dry rub ingredients in a medium-sized bowl

    The Spruce / Kelly Ryan

  8. Once meat is drained, dip both sides of each slice of meat into dry rub. Follow instructions for oven or dehydrator method, depending on which appliance you will be using.

    Jerky meat dipped into Dry Rub

    The Spruce / Kelly Ryan

Dehydrating in Oven

  1. Preheat oven to 175 F. Cover a large baking tray with parchment paper. Place a wire rack on top of the tray, then place strips of beef jerky on top. Allow excess moisture from marinade to drip off first. 

    place the strips of beef jerky on the wire rack

    The Spruce / Kelly Ryan

  2. The jerky will take 2 to 3 hours to dehydrate in oven depending on how much moisture the meat had at the beginning. If there are spots in oven that are hotter, turn trays around halfway through process. About 3/4 through on the drying time, take a piece of jerky and bend it. If there is any visible moisture, the jerky needs the remaining drying time. Check again at the end of the dehydration process and add more oven time if needed.

    Beef Jerky on wire rack

    The Spruce / Kelly Ryan

Dehydrating Jerky in Dehydrator

Heat up your dehydrator to 165 F. Once hot, lower the temperature to 150 F. Place the meat slices onto greased dehydrator trays. Leave the meat for 8 to 10 hours. However, check your jerky about 3/4 through on the drying time, take a piece of jerky and bend it. If there is any visible moisture, the jerky needs the remaining drying time. Check again at the end of the dehydration process and add more dehydrator time if needed.

Storage Tips

Because the homemade jerky has no additives or preservatives, it's best to keep it in the fridge if you're not eating it right away. For safe storage, place the meat in resealable bags or an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for up to three weeks. Vacuum seal it for ultimate freshness. With a good vacuum seal, it can keep in the fridge for three months.

Other Types of Marinade for Your Jerky

No matter the marinade you choose for your jerky, always start with 2 tablespoons of salt and 1/4 cup of white vinegar, adding one of these mixes:

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