|3Men Jerky Making Process|
Meat Jerky may be made from beef, venison, moose, elk, antelope and other game animals. The fat in meat goes rancid and will cause jerky to spoil a lot faster than meat with no fat. When using beef, we recommend using only the leaner cuts. Wild game animals are typically very lean, so this is less of a problem. Trim off all of the fat and membrane that you can as you cut up the meat. We like to make beef jerky and so a list of beef cuts follows with the most preferred at the top of the list:
Remember that about 4 pounds of lean, boneless meat, sliced into 1/4 inch slices produces about 1 pound of the final product.
3Men Butcher Shop (To see where the above cuts of meat come from)
When making jerky cleanliness and sanitation are of utmost importance. Be sure all work surfaces, equipment and hands are thoroughly clean.
Cut the meat into thin strips across the grain of the meat. The thinner the strips are, the quicker it will dry. 1/4" thick and 6" long is about right. You will be able to cut the meat into slices easier if it is partially frozen. Freeze, or thaw, the meat until the meat is just barely pliable and still cutable.
This step is optional, but if you chose to marinate your meat before drying, the result will be added flavor and character to your jerky. Marinades are flavored liquid concoctions in which the meat is soaked before drying. A wide range of flavors may be conjured up, limited only by your imagination and good taste. Some ingredients in marinades, such as salt and sodium nitrate, 'cure' the meat and help to preserve it, as with hams. Other ingredients, such as vinegar and soy sauce, will tenderize the meat. Marinades can also cut down on the gaminess in the taste of certain meats.
Use glass or ceramic containers when working with marinades, as many will react with metal. Blend the ingredients in a bowl. Allow roughly 1/2 cup of marinade for each pound of meat. Dip each piece of meat into marinade, coating well. Place in shallow glass dish. Pour remaining marinade over top, cover and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. When the meat is ready, remove it from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Proceed with drying as normal, but be aware that marinated meat will drip more when drying.
|Lay the slices out in rows and in a single layer. Do not allow the pieces to
touch. Sprinkle with coarse ground black pepper and salt and any other spices
that you like the taste of, such as garlic powder, chili powder, crushed red
The next step is to dry your meat. There are several methods you may use.
Whatever method of drying you chose, remember that the meat will drip as it dries. So, do not place your racks so that one layer can drip on another layer. If using your oven you may want to place a try or aluminum foil under the bottom layer of meat to catch the drips.
The time it takes to dry the meat will depend on the thickness of the meat to begin with, as well as the temperature at which the meat is dried. It is normal for the meat to darken as it dries. To test for proper dryness, bend the pieces. They should bend just slightly before they break. As a general rule meat dried in an oven will take between 6 and 24 hours, and meat dried in a dehydrator will take between 4 and 12 hours.
|Before you store your jerky always make sure that
it has completely cooled. If you do not do this it will sweat, when you
put it into a airtight container, and mould will set in. If you have not dried
your jerky sufficiently and there is too much moisture left in the meat, mould
will set in.
|1 Week||Store at room temperature in a cool, dry area in a sealed plastic container or Ziploc bag. You can also use a paper bag but this will cause the jerky to dry out more.|
|Several Weeks||Store in a sealed plastic container or Ziploc bag, and refrigerate 32 -38 degrees F.|
|1 Year||Store in a sealed plastic container or Ziploc bag, and preferably vacuum seal, then freeze.|
Dehydration is a process that millions of homeowners have turned to as their choice for drying everything from jerky to fruit, spices and maybe even some home-grown smoke-able herbs. So what's to a dehydrator? A dehydrator is a dehydrator is a dehydrator right? Well, not exactly.
Inexpensive consumer dehydrators typically utilize a multiple tray concept, stacked one upon the other in an interlocking means, so that air can be forced from the lowest tray through the top tray thus drying out the items. While a more efficient use of the heat and air coming from the unit, plan on having a lot of time on your hands as jerky can take anywhere from 4-24 hours depending on many variables such as meat thickness, amount of brine used, and the overall quality of the dehydrator being used. If you're in the market for a dehydrator, we recommend a dehydrator that contains both a blower motor and heating element.
1. Accelerates the dehydrating process on average from 16-24 hours down to 4-10 hours when combined with a heating element.
2. Blower maximizes air circulation thus minimizing the amount of tray rotations you have to do during the dehydrating process. (As the jerky cures the bottom tray being closer to the blower/heater will finish before top tray and will need to be either rotated or removed)
1. Accelerates the dehydrating process on average from 16-24 hours down to 4-10 hours when combined with a blower.
2. Is critical in maintaining a minimum temperature of above 140 degrees to prevent virus and bacteria, from forming
If your are fortunate enough to find a top quality (blower and heater) dehydrator in your local department store, you will want to be careful about tray size and expandability.
The outer diameter of the trays themselves, can vary from 10 inches to 15 inches depending on the manufacturer. Typically the smaller the diameter the more trays the manufacturer will allow you to stack. This tray stacking however extends dehydration time and forces more operator interaction with tray rotation during the dehydration process. Also, try fitting dirty 15 inch trays in your dish washer for cleanup without removing the top rack in your dishwasher. (Cleaning of these trays manually gets to be quite a chore).
Most dehydrators sold in the local stores (blower or heater units), retail for around $30.00. They come with an average of about 5 trays, and sometimes as few as 2. The various models then brag about expandability on average to about 7-15 total trays. Now the bad news. You can expect to pay on average of $10 -$15 per tray to expand these units to their full capacity. This can bring your total anywhere from $50 - $225 for a unit that may not be of the quality you expect. Combine this with the fact that the more trays you add, the longer the dehydration time and the more you will have to get involved in tray rotation during the process. Its enough to make you hit Hickory Farms and buy some jerky at $25.00 per pound.
For home use we recommend the Mr. Coffee Brand. This unit of course has a blower/heater combo, and can be expanded to a maximum of 7 trays, each measuring an optimal 12 inches in diameter. This allows for easy dishwasher clean up and has just the right amount of square inches to make 5 pounds of jerky in one loading. The result is a jerky dehydration time of 8-10 hours with only one rotation of the trays being required. You can find this unit in your local K-Mart or Wal-Mart stores.
If you consider yourself more than the casual jerky hobbyist and your budget allows for a $50-$200 investment, take a look at the EXCALIBUR DEHYDRATOR line of products. These units are premium quality for the home user; equipped with a variable temperature control and an analog timer as well as large multiple trays. Best of all these units incorporate a horizontal air flow technology. That is the air flows from the back of all trays simultaneously to the front of all trays. This gives even cooking and no rotating as well as about a 6 hours cook time versus 8-10 for circular stackable units.
Smoking is one of two ways to process jerky (The other being dehydration). Smoking provides a more natural flavored jerky. It also tends to be more tender. Meat is slowly cooked and dried at around 150 degrees for approximately 10 hours in a lightly vented enclosure that is filled with smoke and a heat source. The heat to cook the meat is provided by the use of either an electric heating element or charcoal. Because of the difficulties associated with keeping charcoal at a consistent burning rate for the 10 hours required, it makes practical sense to use electricity as your fuel source. The smoke then is created through a small metal pan placed directly on the heating element filed with the hard wood chips or chunks of your choice (hickory or mesquite are typical). The result is a slow smoldering smoke and more consistent heat that provides for a superior smoked jerky.
The two most common brand names of smokers are the Smoke-n-Grill round smoker manufactured by Brinkman and the Totem smokers made by Pop Geer.
The Brinkman is a fabulous all around smoker. This unit is known as a water smoker where the wood chips or chunks are put directly on lava rock adjacent to the electric heating element. There is a steel pan that sets on top of the electric element that is filled with water. The element boils the water into steam which mixes with the smoke from the smoldering wood and passes over the meat. Some of the moisture escapes through a designed 1/2" gap between the top and the smoker, but drippings from the meat fall back into the water pan which then pass over and through the meat again as they are steamed. The result is a wet basting smoke that tenderizes while it smokes leaving meat moist, tender and full of flavor.
The Totem smokers by Pop Geer are also electric smokers but do not use water. Instead the unit is a somewhat tight aluminum box which traps the smoke, heat and moisture from the meat in. The smoke and moisture weep out the riveted seams of the unit (which makes things a little messy).
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