I’ve been making jerky on and off for a year now. I still always worry that it wont turn out properly, and I’ll kill someone because they’ve eaten not-quite-dehydrated-enough ‘raw’ meat. Mortality count at the time of posting: 0.
In one of my earlier posts I hypothesised that maple syrup (or sweetener in general) was fairly essential to making tasty jerky. Recent experiments have proved otherwise. This is a good thing because I can make Whole 30 compliant jerky quite easily.
This is how I now make my jerky:
~500g of lean red stuff. I make it in fairly small batches (hence why only 500g) as my dehydrator is fairly small and low tech (on/off switch, no heat/fan control) so I try not to overload it or block its limited ability to circulate air. My current meaty preference is lamb back-strap (mild taste, good texture). Kangaroo works well too but it has quite a dominant flavour. I try to cut the meat into long strips (like biltong stokkies) about 5-10mm thick. I prefer the texture of slightly chewy jerky and this thickness works best for me. I’ve cut it thinner a couple of times and it tastes fine but it dries quite crunchy/snappy. I usually try to slice along the grain of the meat, so some pieces end up longer than others, but generally I’ll try to cut pieces that are the same thickness so they dehydrate at the same rate. I haven’t tried cutting it much thicker as I think it would be too chewy — it would also take longer to dehydrate (and I’m impatient enough as it is).
Place sliced meat in a non reactive bowl (I use glass/Pyrex). Sprinkle with apple cider vinegar. I don’t measure it, I just splash it. I use about 2 tablespoons. The ACV helps to tenderise the meat and add a bit of ‘tang’. I also use pink salt flakes — they’ve got a mild taste and tend to ‘melt’ when heated – add a good 3-4 pinches.
Add 1 – 2 tablespoons (I usually use approx 1 heaped tablespoon) of any of the following. I always add 1-2 teaspoons of proper cinnamon (not cassia) regardless of what other spices I’m using, as cinnamon has some good health properties and doesn’t contribute much to the flavour profile. ** denotes my current favourites.
You can also add 1-2 teaspoons of the following (I wouldn’t normally add these in addition to any of the spice blends above). If you want to know how to use some of these guys together, see here. Otherwise throw whatever takes your fancy into a mortar and pestle and bang away:
- Guajllo chilli powder (mild heat)
- Chipotle chilli powder (warmer heat, smokey taste). If you like things hot, check out this recipe.
- Smashed coriander seeds
- Smashed cardamom seeds
- Smashed fennel seeds
- Cassia powder
- Chilli flakes
Marinating and Cooking
I make sure I mix all the seasoning and spices throughout the meaty strips. If I’ve planned ahead, I’ll leave them all to party overnight in the fridge. If I haven’t, I’ll let them get cosy for about an hour, usually out on the bench (presuming not it’s 40C outside).
There is generally little to no liquid residue, so I just plonk the strips straight on to the dehydrator trays, leaving a couple of centimetres between each piece to allow for air flow between and around the trays.
I like to rotate the trays every couple of hours, and will also flip the meat once; my theory being that they’ll be more evenly dehydrated. If I’ve cut the meat very thin, then it’s usually done within 6 hours. My preferred 5-10mm thickness is usually ‘done’ at the 8 hour mark in my dehydrator. It often gets sampled from the 6th hour (I have no issues nibbling at mostly dehydrated meat — my concerns are if I then store it for a few days (it has never lasted weeks because we eat it so fast) and it’s not dehydrated properly, then someone might get sick. As noted earlier; so far so good 🙂
So there you go — you can have tasty sugar-free jerky, and eat it too 🙂