Easy, Tasty, Money Saving Beef Jerky

I love beef jerky. It’s a delicious, protein packed treat, but there are two issues that keep me from buying it in the store: it’s expensive, and it’s chock full of preservatives and added sugars. And I always assumed I needed a dehydrator or some other fancy bit of equipment to make my own. As it turns out, all you need is an oven! See, a few weeks ago, I stumbled across this “so easy I must have missed a step” recipe from Stupid Easy Paleo. I did some digging, compared other recipes, made some tweaks, and am ready to share my method for easy, cheap, healthy beef jerky!

Easy beef jerky:

1-3lbs of meat with the fat trimmed off

1/4 cup coconut aminos, liquid aminos, or soy sauce

Various spices of your choice

The first step is the right cut of meat. You want something that isn’t super fatty, and preferably something not too pricey at the start. My local grocery store has had London Broil on sale, so I wound up with around 3+ pounds for roughly $15.00. I split the meat up into several smaller pieces, setting some aside for meals and some for jerky. It is hard to break down the specifics, but I would guess I am using about half the meat for jerky, so let’s say I spent $7.50 on the meat (it made two batches, but that first batch went with Sarah on a camping trip).

Next, freeze the meat for around 2 hours. You can also freeze it for a few days and then defrost it until it is just barely frozen. The idea here is just to make it easy to cut down into roughly 1/8in slices. Don’t worry if your slices are rough around the edges, but you do want to keep them relatively even so they cook uniformly.

Once your meat is sliced, put the whole pile into a plastic bag or large bowl. Then add the soy sauce/aminos, and the herbs of your choice. For this batch, I added pepper, Mrs Dash Onion and Herb, Mrs Dash Garlic and Herb, Turmeric, and a health dose of Tabasco sauce. Even plain with just some pepper cracked on top is tasty, but I am experimenting with bolder flavoring this time.

Now comes the hard part. You’ve sliced your meat, you added amazing looking spices and marinade, and it all looks delicious. But you have to wait. I let my meat marinate for 12-24 hours in the refrigerator in a sealed plastic ziploc. If you used a bowl, cover it tightly and pop it in the fridge. It’s hard, I know, but the longer the meat marinates the better your jerky will taste.

Once your meat is marinated, preheat your oven for a very low temperature. Mine goes down to 170, so that’s what I use. I have seen suggestions as high as 200 and as low as 150, so this really comes down to how low your oven can be set. Put aluminum foil over a baking sheet, and then place a grill or baking rack over the sheet. This is very important, because the meat needs to be raised for air to circulate. If you don’t have a grill or rack, you could probably lay the meat right on your oven rack, but make sure you put tin foil down underneath to catch liquids as the meat dehydrates.

Space everything out in one layer and pop it in the oven. You want a slight amount of air circulating, so I usually stick an oven mitt in the door to keep it from closing all the way. A towel or any other oven safe item works well, but I like using the mitt because then I have it handy when I need to pull the meat out. Set a timer for 3 hours and walk away. Seriously, stay away from your kitchen, because it will smell deliciously like jerky.

At the end of 3 hours, pull out your meat and you have awesome jerky! I usually try one of the thicker pieces to make sure it is properly jerky-fied, and then just store the finished product in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Be warned, the one downside here is that using fresh meat means there may be more fat, and fat can go rancid after a week or two. This isn’t jerky that will last for months, but since we haven’t been able to avoid eating each batch in just a few days this may not be a problem for you either!

Here’s the best part of this jerky: not only is it delicious and a tasty protein filled snack, it’s also cheaper and healthier than the prepackaged stuff! Here are the ingredients for a bag of Jack Link’s jerky: Beef, Water, Sugar, Vinegar, Less Than 2% Salt, Brown Sugar, Maltodextrin, Flavorings, Monosodium Glutamate, Spices, Smoke Flavor, Sodium Erythorbate, Citric Acid, Sodium Nitrite. Compare that to beef, aminos, spices. Which one sounds more appealing and natural?

I said above I spent around $7.50 for the meat that made two batches of jerky. The batch I made this weekend was 5.2 oz, and the batch Sarah took with her was 9.4oz. That’s approximately $0.50 an ounce. If you buy the Jack Link’s jerky in bulk at Amazon, the best deal you can get is $1.31/oz, IF you do subscribe and save. Granted, I didn’t include the cost of my spices, but even if I broke it down to the cents, I would need to be using an awful lot of each to get anywhere near that number!

So there you go. With a bit of advance planning, and about 10 minutes of actual hands on work, you can have beef jerky that tastes better, and is better for you and your wallet, than the crap you find at the gas station! So what are you waiting for? Get to cookin!


Categories: Health and Fitness


6 replies

  1. This might be fun for the boys and me to try. I have a vacuum sealer, so that should help extend the shelf life by retarding fat oxidation (anecdotal reports say such sealing and storage in the refrigerator can extend shelf life to 2-3 months, longer in a freezer). Incidentally, MSG is an amino acid, well technically the salt of an amino acid, but for some people it can cause headaches and such the way aspartame gives me headaches.

    • Good point about MSG! I have seen variations using apple cider vinegar as the marinade base, so there are lots of options.
      Good luck if you make jerky with the boys…hope it turns out well!

      • And for a PSA, the University of Wisconsin Food Safety site has some recommendations for safe home meat dehydrating to ensure the proper pathogens are made kaput and how to ensure your oven temp is calibrated: http://tinyurl.com/cbgdv3j
        Also…this jerky bit might be a good way to make use of my wine that has started to get a little long in the tooth after opening.

  2. I’ve made it with a dehydrater before. Liquid Smoke is necessary for me as most beef jerky has a little in it and it makes it taste good. Liquid Smoke is one of those a little goes a long way things…just a tiny bit can make it really good. Of course, you don’t have to but that’s just how I like mine.

    Making it yourself usually is a good idea for most things except Granola. Granola IS good home made….even better than store bought…but because some of the ingredients are expensive I don’t make it often. I use Alton Brown’s recipe when I make Granola and it wants Maple Syrup and a small thing of REAL maple syrup (Golden Griddle and Aunt Jemima are not real) is about 5 to 7 bucks! So that makes the cost a wash.

    Beef Jerky on the other hand is much cheaper if you make it and you can make more of it for the same price as a large bag….if you wait til the meat goes on sale.

  3. I, too, use apple cider vinegar. It has been a few month and I always make mine by a glug of this and a dash of that. But it seems like I was using a 2 or 3 to 1 ratio of soy sauce to vinegar. And I also add some brown sugar.
    Walmart in my area also has a package of beef already pre-sliced super thin. The name on the package starts with an M. But I can’t remember the rest. I’ll go look. It works great for jerky.

  4. Sorry, I wasn’t clear in my breakdown. The 5.2oz was the second batch from the same $7.50 worth of meat-I had previously made 9.4oz, but my wife took that camping with her. I used the remainder to make the demo batch for the review. So actually, I got 14.6oz of finished beef jerky out of $7.50 worth of raw meat. That’s where I got the numbers.
    It is time consuming, and a big part of why I haven’t made any in a while. But I would rather prepare it myself and have it be a “once in a while when I have time” treat and be able to customize the flavors and control what goes into the marinade.