Tuesday, November 05, 2019

**RECIPE** Beef Jerky (no dehydrator)

First, let me whine just a little. October was a horrible month. My health took a little dip, I had the blues and then things got so much worse. I'm so happy to see November that I could cry. Anyway. Let me hard segue out of that...

I've been tightening up my budget as much as I can. That means cutting out frivolous food buys (aka snacks). I'm not really bad when it comes to snacking but I do love my queso dip, beef jerky, and 'potato chips. Queso dip is priced like it saves lives and beef jerky is even worse. I've found a suitable and (mostly) affordable replacement for the chips. These have replaced the Good Thins I was in love with.




















The other week, I found some recipes for making my own queso dip. I prefer the yellow (salsa con queso) kind while my sister-in-law likes the white (Blanco) dip. The freak. (Okay, let me stop playing and admit that I have never tasted anything but the yellow dip!) This video shows a simple recipe for con queso. That recipe will probably be the only time I use Velveeta and the one reason to keep my old crockpot around.

Anyway.

Last week, I was craving beef jerky. The cheapest prices I could find it for was around ten dollars for a half-pound bag online or twelve dollars for 2 nine-ounce bags (on special sale) at a local store. That's a big ol' nope for me. I can go through a half-pound of jerky in a couple of days. That's a more expensive habit than cigarettes. Also, store-bought jerky tends to be way too sodium-rich for me. I'm not trying to spike my blood pressure or retain gallons of water weight. My only solution was to make my own batch of jerky. One of my nieces in Alaska used to make it for me in her dehydrator and, boy, was it ever yummy. I just had to figure out a way to make some here at home. 

I went to the local butcher and got around 3 pounds of bottom round beef. The butcher is always awesome and he sliced the meat for me into 1/4-inch pieces. Price: just over $15.

Because I don't have a dehydrator, I wanted to find other ways to prep my jerky. So... hello, Google!

I learned that I could use my air fryer or I could use the oven. I opted for the oven because I'm not as comfortable with the air fryer. (Does anyone else have buyer's remorse about their air fryer???)

I have heard that jerky done in the oven or air fryer is not as good as that done with a dehydrator. I disagree. My oven-prepped jerky came out pretty awesome. Here is a recipe from online and the following is how I made my jerky.

Tools you need:
  • A bowl/container large enough to hold your meat with marinade covering it. (This page has great info about marinading in general. Pay close attention to the part about what types of bowls to use.
  • A lid or some plastic wrap to seal the marinading meat in the fridge. The above link suggests using zip bags. I used a food sealer bag.
  • Something to hold the meat aloft for air circulation. I used some teepeed tin foil but you can use an oven-safe cooling rack, wooden or metal skewers. The main thing is that there is air under and above the slices of meat. This is the foil version I used since I didn't have anything else. 
    except mine didn't look this neat!
  • Something to go underneath the meat to catch drippings in the oven. (My foil was on top a baking pan.)
The Meat Prep
  • Marinade your beef for at least 12-14 hours in the refrigerator. Some people do a 24-hour marinade.
  • Drain the meat and pat it dry.
  • Drape the meat over whatever rack/foil you are going to use in the oven. It's important that there is room for air to flow over and under the meat.
  • Set oven temp as low as possible. My electric oven is marked lowest at 200 degrees but actually will turn on just under that - about 180 degrees. I don't like gas ovens but if you have one, you probably know to be very careful...
  • Let the meat "cook" (or, rather, dehydrate), checking it in 1-hour intervals, depending on the oven temp. With the oven at 180, I checked the meat twice in the first 2 hours, then every 30 minutes after that. My jerky was ready to turn over at the 3-hour mark. I made sure it was fully cooked on the one side, flipped it, then continued for another 2.5 hours until it was done - and I like my jerky softer. The longer you "cook" the dryer the meat becomes. 
Keep in mind that for your marinade, you can add whatever flavor you want. I added teriyaki sauce to one batch and some garlic powder to another.

About "curing" jerky: If you decide to marinate your meat in a "cure", it might last longer because curing combats bacteria. I read somewhere that by using certain ingredients in my marinade, I was already sort of curing the meat. ~shrug~.

Listen, I used enough soy and other seasonings that I don't think bacteria would form... But, seriously, there are products sold to cure the meat so I bought some, but I did not like using it. I have read that as long as your work area is clean and the meat is properly handled, you don't have to use a cure. I heat-seal my uneaten jerky in plastic and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. I only make a pound at a time so that I can freeze the unused meat to keep as long as possible. 

Here is a link to info about food safety. Other than handling the meat carefully, it's super important to do a lot of handwashing to cut down on contamination. I hope you do this any time you cook, you freaks. I kid, I kid - not about the handwashing though.

This is some of the jerky that I am actually eating as I type up this post. It's so much better-tasting than store-bought, I think because it's not as salty, dried out, and hardened.





UPDATE:

Now that it's been about a week since I started writing this post, I'm going to add a couple of tips that I've learned after having made 3 batches of jerky:
  • For more flavor, after I marinade the meat, I add a few more dashes of sauce (teriyaki and barbeque is what I'm using recently) before I put the meat on the rack. Yes, the meat will be wetter and take a little longer, but it will retain so much more flavor.
  • Using wooden skewers to lay across a baking pan is easier than using the teepee-ed tin foil method. Just make sure that the skewers are long enough not to fall into the baking pan. For my widest pan, I secured the skewers with some foil wrapped over them and around the lip of the baking pan. You can wash and dry the skewers to reuse at least once again but they are really cheap at the Dollar Store.

Just turned over to brown the other side
after about 2 hours
  • Don't rush the cooking part. My first batch came out well but slightly chewy. I liked that until I accidentally left another batch in for am hour longer and it turned out even better. The meat might look dried and tempt you to take it out of the oven but make sure you taste a piece first. Looking dry and being dehydrated is not the same.
  • Always make small batches. My first purchase of 3 pounds of beef is only half gone after I've made four batches. I wanted to try different flavorings to see what most like. My favorite is a mix of barbeque sauce and a separate teriyaki sauce (the thick kind). My least favorite was the plain batch seasoned with just Worcestershire, soy sauce, and pepper. 
  • If you have a few pieces of meat that cut thicker than you like, beat them flatter with a tenderizer tool (for me that is aka a clean and heavy can of soup!). This is also a nice way to get a more store-bought type of jerky. 
One small batch all
done & ready to store

By the way, not only does making small batches stretch out your supply of meat, but it's probably safer. Even I can only eat so much jerky and I'd rather not store a large amount and risk any going bad. 

One of the things I want to look into is using my cast iron dutch oven to heat the jerky. Cast iron holds heat really well and I think that if I put a small rack into the bottom of the dutch oven where air can still circulate around the meat, I might get a faster and more even result. I will let you know.

Ready to be sealed
to store
I am also looking at some of the cheaper dehydrators on Amazon in case I can afford to give myself a nice Christmas gift this year! Here is a search page that comes up for some in the $25 to $50 range of ratings 4-star and above. For the winter, I don't mind running the oven long enough to make the jerky. It helps heat the house and my winter energy bill is lower than during months I run the A/C but, come summer, I try to use the oven as little as possible.

That's it for the homemade jerky. Next recipe/food post will be about Flaxseed. I'm trying to get as much good and healthy stuff into this body as possible!

Peace
--Free






This song drifts into my mind sometimes.
Rest in peace, Tim