How To: The Process of Making Hand-Crafted Jerky
Jerky, especially hand-crafted jerky, is some of the most delicious food you can eat nowadays. Although the meal had its humble beginnings, new techniques and policies change the food into a super healthy and tasty meal for anyone’s enjoyment. With countless different meat types and flavorings, you can eat jerky however you want. That is especially true if you can cook your own jerky at home and transform it into whatever flavor and style you want. If you don’t know how, here’s the process of making hand-crafted jerky for your own benefit.
Choosing Your Meat
Simply put, almost all types of meat can become jerky, as the process requires little more than just the meat and a few seasonings as ingredients. You can even find big game as jerky, meaning you can buy venison jerky online without a problem. Beef jerky is very popular, as it holds a variety of health benefits and has a low-calorie count. However, you can use just about any meat you want for your jerky with this process, as long as you have the lean muscle part of the animal. Otherwise, your jerky might come out wrong. Do note that even if all meats are usable for jerky, the process and the end product can be different depending on the meat’s qualities. Drier meat will typically have a very different texture and consistency than your typical beef jerky. The time it takes for each step of the process and the flavor you get at the end might also change if you’re using a different meat. So, keep that in mind when you’re going through the process and know that our recipe assumes that you’re using a standard meat like beef or chicken for your jerky. However, it will also work for other jerky styles.
The next step after you choose your meat is cutting it up so it’s in the proper condition when you turn it into jerky. You can honestly take any part of the animal, but jerky traditionally comes from whole muscle meat. Either way, you should first trim all the fat you can from the meat, creating as lean a meat as possible. This helps greatly during the other steps in the process. When you start cutting the meat into jerky shape, you should cut against the grain. This will break down the meat’s fibers, making it less tough when you eventually eat it. For your cutting, you can really use whatever tool you have at hand, though there are slicing machines that can make the process very easy in comparison to using a knife. A few tricks that can help with slicing include partially freezing the meat before you cut it for an even cut or tenderizing it for softness after it’s made.
If you want any flavor in your jerky other than just the meat, you can marinate or cure it to add that flavor. You start by mixing together your favorite seasonings as you please. You can honestly put in any seasonings you want into the marinade, but know that whatever you choose will mix with the jerky’s flavor. A typical recipe would include things like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, sugar or brown sugar, and any number of other ingredients. There’s really no right or wrong flavoring here, as it’s entirely up to the person making the jerky and whatever result they want at the end of the process. Once you thoroughly mix the marinade together, you should then set it in a plastic airtight container or a baggie. Then, place your jerky slices into the marinade and let it sit. You should leave the jerky in the container for a minimum of half an hour, but the longer you leave it, the more flavor the jerky will suck up from the marinade. Periodically stir or shake up the container so the marinade’s evenly spread across the jerky.
Laying down the jerky may sound like an easy step, but even a small mistake can ruin some of the jerky. Once your jerky’s done marinating, lay down metal screens for cooking. Then, take the jerky out of the marinade container and place each piece onto the sheets by hand. Be careful that you place each piece at an equal distance from other pieces so they all cook evenly. You should also ensure that all the pieces of jerky are completely flat. Any budges or folds in your laying can ruin that piece of jerky as it cooks unevenly.
The next step in the process is cooking the jerky and drying it. These two steps are usually done at the same time in either an oven or a food dehydrator. The cooking part’s important, as it kills any of the pathogens in the meat and makes it safe for consumption. The exact temperature that the meat should reach varies depending on the type of meat you use. For example, beef should reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit before it’s safe for consumption, while chicken needs 165 degrees. If you’re using an oven instead of a food dehydrator, then you should keep your oven at a very low but consistent humidity while cooking. This will help it dehydrate and keep it safe after it’s done cooking. The cooking will likely last anywhere between 2.5 to 8 hours, depending on humidity, type of meat, and the amount of jerky that you’re cooking. Before you’re done cooking and drying the meat, make sure that it has a water activity level of less than .85.
The last step in the process is packaging or serving the jerky, depending on what you made the jerky for. If you’re packing it for sale, there are a lot of federal regulations on packaging that you should follow. If the jerky’s just food for you and not for sale, then you can package it as you want and eat it for your own enjoyment. It all depends on what you want out of the jerky in the end. It’s best if you package the jerky in an airtight package so it doesn’t spoil as quickly, and even better if you can seal it in an airtight vacuum seal inside the packaging.
This is the process of making hand-crafted jerky that even the big processing plants generally follow. This process only works on lean cuts of meat, so the process is different if you’re using ground meat. By focusing on your meat choice and marinade ingredients, you can create whatever jerky you want.