Basic Beef Jerky

Posted By: Daniel Gasteiger  //  Category: food dehydrator, food dryer, food drying, jerky

Store-bought beef jerky comes in many varieties, and some are very tasty. However, jerky you make at home is likely to be far tastier than any you buy in a store. Today’s post includes a recipe for a simple jerky marinade with instructions for how to make beef jerky in your own food dryer.

Beef Jerky in a Food Dryer

Jerky is heavily-seasoned, dehydrated meat. Seasoning, salt, and sometimes other chemicals combine with dehydration to extend the meat’s shelf life and preserve its nutritional content. You can create a huge variety of seasoning combinations to create dozens of delicious jerky flavors, and making jerky is easy to do.

Historically, people dried meat over a fire or even by hanging it in direct sunlight. You can still do it that way if you wish, but using your oven is safer, and using a dedicated food dryer is even more efficient and less costly.

Considerations for Making Beef Jerky

Start with lean beef. Round steak and flank steak are good choices. Trim off all surface fat, and then put the meat in your freezer for an hour or longer until it becomes firm but not totally frozen.

While the meat cools, prepare the marinade (see box for a relatively standard recipe). You can also make sure your food dryer is clean and ready for use, but you won’t need it for another seven or more hours.

Beef Jerky Marinade for a Home Food Dryer

Use this recipe to marinade 2 pounds of thinly-sliced lean beef.

In a zipper-topped bag, mix 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Add a quarter teaspoon of ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon of onion powder, ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a teaspoon of table salt, and a teaspoon of liquid smoke.

Squeeze the bag repeatedly to mix the ingredients well, then add the beef. Kneed the marinade through the beef and then force as much air as you can out of the bag as you zip it closed. Ideally, the bag will seem vacuum-sealed and will cling to the meat it contains.

Store the bag in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours before dehydrating the jerky.

Remove the meat from the feezer and slice it very thin—a sixteenth to an eighth of an inch thick—across the grain. If you encounter sections of fat and connective tissue inside the meat, remove them.

Add the sliced meat to the prepared marinade and refrigerate it for six to 12 hours.

Into the Food Dryer

Remove the beef strips from the marinade and let them drain a bit before laying them out on your food dryer’s trays. It’s OK if the strips touch each other, but don’t let them overlap.

If your dehydrator has a temperature knob, set it at 150 degrees Fahrenheit and let the jerky dry for six hours. It’s ready when it’s dark and leathery; if you bend a piece it should crack but not break. If your jerky isn’t dry enough, continue dehydrating it for two more hours and so on until it passes the bending test.

How to Store Beef Jerky

When the jerky is done, turn off the food dryer and let the jerky cool to room temperature. At that point, loosen the pieces of jerky from the dehydrator trays but leave them for another 4 to 6 hours. Then move the jerky to an air tight container and store it in the refrigerator where it will keep for two or three months.

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Do You Have a Hidden Food Dryer?

Posted By: Daniel Gasteiger  //  Category: dry fruit, food dehydrator, food dryer, food drying, solar dryer

The first fruit chips I made in my toaster oven/food dryer were sweet, chewy, and delicious. I’ve never been a great fan of raw bananas, but it would be easy to snack all day on banana chips.

For years, I’ve wanted to have a food dryer. Out of sloth, I suppose, I haven’t gotten one. But while contemplating what to plant in my small kitchen garden this spring, my urge to have a food dryer grew intense: I decided to try dehydrating food in my oven.

On my way to the kitchen, it dawned on me: my toaster oven has a temperature-control knob. I wondered if I could set the temperature low enough to dry food without cooking it. Low and behold, the temperature knob had a setting marked DEH. It was designed to be used as a dehydrator!

Banana and Strawberry Chips

I cut 3/8 inch lengthwise slices from several strawberries, and then cut a banana into disks of about the same thickness. I laid these out on aluminum foil, slipped the foil into the toaster oven, and set the oven on DEH. Then I went to bed.

When I awoke six hours later, the strawberry and banana slices were dry on top, but very sticky underneath. With some effort, I peeled them off the aluminum foil, flipped them, and returned them to the toaster oven. Two hours later, I snacked on strawberry and banana chips.

I was amused to learn that I far prefer dehydrated bananas over fresh. Mine hadn’t dried crispy, and the slightly gummy chewiness was a huge improvement in texture over that of a fresh, raw banana.

More into the Food Dryer

While snacking on my first batch of banana chips, I cut up two more bananas, this time setting the slices on waxed paper that I had spread with a light coating of olive oil. The heat of the toaster oven’s DEH setting didn’t seem enough to damage waxed paper. In fact, mid afternoon, I had no trouble peeling the banana chips off and flipping them—and they came off easily that evening.

My enthusiasm for drying food has never been greater. While I continue to experiment with my newly-discovered food dryer, I encourage you to check your own kitchen gear. Running a conventional oven to dry food isn’t energy-efficient, but it will work. Alternatively, a toaster oven with a temperature control feature may hold the temperature low-enough (anywhere from 95F degrees up to about 150F degrees will work, depending on what you’re drying) to dry food without cooking it.

Conventional and toaster ovens develop hot spots, so you’ll have better results with a convection oven. You might also consider building a solar-powered food dryer; links at the end of this post lead to plans that may help you get started. Of course, the most efficient food dryer is a machine specifically designed to dry food. You’ll find many highly-praised models in my Food Dryer Store, powered by Amazon.com.

 

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