Homemade beef jerky recipe – making it is a rollercoaster adventure
Testing out my new food dehydrator kitchen gadget... well, sorta
My in-laws, Jerry and Ellen, got me a pretty cool birthday present this year; something I have been wanting for a little while. Another kitchen gadget! A food dehydrator! I had decided I wanted a food dehydrator after trying homemade beef jerky a coworker had brought into the office. It was pretty damn good and I wanted to be able to make the same thing.
Jerry and Ellen actually sent me the dehydrator I had told my wife I wanted, made by Nesco. It comes with six trays, a couple of drying sheets for smaller items; like herbs, a fruit rollup sheet, and the jerky making kit with a jerky gun, and seasoning and cure. I bought 4 lbs. of very 96% lean beef (because the fat can go rancid if there is too much in beef jerky) and excitedly started making beef jerky!
Ready for action!
This is a lot of ground beef! 96% lean!
To start, one pack of seasoning and one pack of cure are mixed with 1 lb. of ground beef. I did this in a big bowl with 4 lbs. of beef and the correct number of seasoning and cure packets. The meat is then packed into the jerky making gun, and extruded out onto the racks of the dehydrator. Halfway through extruding little beef jerky sticks, I stopped and mixed in a healthy dose of crushed red pepper into the meat to make hot and spicy beef jerky. All-in-all, this isn't exactly fun work; elbow deep in bloody ground beef and pungent jerky seasonings. And it takes a lot of time! But I knew the reward was going to be worth the effort. Once I had all of the hard work done, it was time for the easy part; sitting back and letting the dehydrator do its thing.
But this is where it all went sideways.
Beef, seasoning, and cure.
I have to admit; this doesn't look all that appetizing!
Yum! Extruded meat! HAHAHAHAHA!
Fill tray after tray, until you run out of room!
Stack it up and repeat!
I plugged it in my brand new Nesco dehydrator, expecting the soft whirring of a fan and the gentle building of heat. Istead, I was greeted by a really bad burning smell, and nothing else. My brand new Nesco dehydrator was dead on arrival! I was absolutely crushed. I felt like a little kid who had just lost his scoop of ice cream to gravity. Crushed!
Dejected, I packed up all of my extruded strips of meat into a container and stashed them in the freezer, hoping that they wouldn't be ruined by being cured and then frozen. And started the process to return my Nesco dehydrator back through Amazon.
Luckily, a coworker hunts and makes jerky from parts of the deer he harvests. He brought his dehydrator in for me to borrow, and I was back in the game! I thawed out my strips of meat, carefully laid them out on the trays of the loaner dehydrator, and let them dry for approximately five hours at 165°F (74°C). During this time, I anxiously waited the results of my hard work, worried that curing and freezing the meat was going to ruin it all of my efforts.
Getting ready with the loaner dehydrator!
We're back in action!
But it all came out perfect! Of the 4 lbs. of meat, about 3 lbs. made it through the jerky gun (the rest is in the freezer, for now). This 3 lbs. of meat yielded enough beef jerky to fill a 1 gallon (about a 4 liter) Ziploc bag. And it tastes great and the texture is really good! It's not so hard to bite that you feel like your going to damage your dental work by eating a strip, having just the right bite and texture. The flavor is awesome! A smokiness mixed with some saltiness and a little umami. The beef I mixed the crushed red pepper in with made the best jerky, with that added kick of heat. It really makes you want to eat more and more!
Mmmmmm. Dried, meaty goodness!
Showing off those meat sticks!
That is a lot of yumminess right there!
I can't wait to get my replacement dehydrator from Amazon! I have a feeling I'm going to be making a lot of jerky and playing around with the flavor possibilities. I am going to look in to making my own flavoring marinades and experiment with Cajun, jerk, and Asian flavors. I'm excited!