My new kitchen toy is a Guide Gear 10-shelf dehydrator, seen here, if interested: http://www.sportsmansguide.com/net/cb/cb.aspx?a=876424 . It just cranked out the most beautiful, tasty batch of beef jerky in 4 hours flat!! I love me some good beef jerky!! This has always been my husband’s favorite snack as well. And the perfect low-carb snack indeed! At $12-16 per pound in most meat markets, this is a very expensive little snack. For years I made my jerky on regular sheet pans in the oven at 155-160º for 4-6 hours, basting and turning the meat a couple times during the drying process. Doable, but not as easy. A dehydrator allows the strips of meat to dry on open racks, with forced warm air circulation around all sides of the meat, eliminating the need to turn the meat at all, somewhat speeding up the drying process. My old plastic small dehydrator with only 4 very small shelves gave up the ghost years ago and I’m just now replacing it with this large model. And I’m SO glad I finally acquired a new one!
This recipe can be done with other cuts of beef, but sirloin will be the lowest in calories and fat (except for skirt meat) and probably the best meat value for jerky. I began with 4 nice sirloins (about 6# raw meat total) that when trimmed of all fat, sinew, any visible gristle and membrane, yielded exactly 5# of lean strips of raw beef. That dried out to exactly 32 oz. of finished jerky. Since I can’t possibly know how much you will eat at a sitting, I’m giving you nutritional info for a 1 oz. serving, which is probably 2-3 pieces, depending on their size.
When slicing your meat, it is important to slice it uniformly thick (FYI, longer strips are best for dehydrator trays. If oven cooking, the length of the strips is unimportant). I aim for 3/16″-1/4″ thick slices. HANDY TIP: Slicing partially frozen meat is easier, if you can take the time to partially freeze it. Any thinner than 3/16″ will reduce your final jerky to crispy critters faster than the thicker pieces (must remove those from cooking sooner); thicker than 1/4″ will take a long time to fully dry out.
I like to marinate my meat for at least 6 hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator in a covered plastic pan before dehydrating. You will get better flavor results with longer marinating time. :) If you find the marinate renders jerky that isn’t flavorful enough, increase the soy and spices; decrease if this marinate is too strong in flavor for your taste. For those that like a sweeter, teryaki-type jerky, you can add 1 tsp. of maple extract and a dab of your favorite sweetening agent (honey or fruit puree).
6-6½ lbs. boneless sirloin (will yield about 5 lb. trimmed meat)
1 T. tomato paste
3/4 c. water
1/3 c. soy sauce (regular full-sodium is best here, but use what you must for your eating plan)
1/4 c. red wine
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. coarse black pepper
DIRECTIONS: Partially freeze meat to facilitate slicing. Trim all fat, membrane, sinew and scriffin off the meat and slice the lean meat 3/16″ thick. In large plastic/glass marinating pan, blend tomato paste with wine until smooth. Add water and remaining ingredients and stir well. Add meat to the marinade and using hands, toss meat several times to coat well. Cover and marinate 6 hours or overnight, covered, in refrigerator. Stir once during marinating if possible. When ready to dehydrate, lift meat pieces out of marinade and lay on dehydrator trays or non-stick baking sheets, leaving a ¼” space between pieces. You do not want them to touch each other as this will block air/heat circulation. Set dehydrator to meat setting (155º-160º) for 4-6 hours. I check mine every hour, in case small/thin pieces are over drying. No matter how hard you try, some pieces will slice out thinner than others. It just happens!
My jerky takes 4 hours in my new dehydrator, but it used to take 6 or more in my old one, for several reasons, mostly tray overcrowding. If oven cooking on pans, set oven to 160º and turn meat every 1½ hours (usually 1 or 2 times is enough). Take pieces out of the dehydrator/oven as they appear to be fully dried. It goes without saying, any thick pieces will take longer to fully dry out. Discard any marinate remainders as it is contaminated with raw meat juices and cannot be safely saved/reused. When jerky has cooled, enjoy some right now!! Mmmmm.
For remainders, wrap in small batches in foil and then place the foil packs into a large ziploc bag. Though they can be stored on the counter for 1-2 months, if not properly dried, it can mold/spoil. Refrigerating therefore, is always the safest way to store jerky that has not been done commercially. I actually keep most of mine in the freezer and just thaw 1 foil pack as needed, keeping the one in the fridge until that pack is fully consumed.
NUTRITIONAL INFO: Makes 32 oz. (2 lb) finished jerky, or 32 servings of 1 oz. each. Each serving contains:
2.52 g fat
.58 g carbs, .09 g fiber, .49 g NET CARBS
16 g protein
128 mg sodium
268 mg potassium
30% RDA Vitamin B6, 28% B12, 33% niacin, 40% selenium, 36% zinc