I don't know why I haven't discussed my love for beef jerky on this blog. It's a long-lasting romance that Michael even mentioned in his vows to me on October 21 2006. I love beef jerky. I love the saltiness, the spiciness, the texture, the fact that it takes a while to chew, that I can carry it around, that it's mostly protein. It's the perfect snack and I'm rarely without it. That said, I've given considerable time and thought to what is the best beef jerky. The best, as reported by Gourmet Magazine way back when, is Stripling's. I think it was my brother in law Avi who first bought it for me as a gift (you have to mail order it.) It's now a special purchase I treat myself to every few months.
In terms of store-bought, I like a lot of the newer more organic, locally made, grass fed varieties like Field Trip, even though they are more expensive and slightly harder to find. In a pinch I will always go for a drugstore brand--usually Jack Link's pepper flavor. If something is on sale, I'll often cheap out too. Over the years I've spent a lot of money on this snack which is why when I saw a "how to make your own jerky" class being offered by Dickinsons' Meat Shop in Chelsea Market for $85, it seemed like a solid investment. And it was, I think. The class was casual but informative and I definitely learned the major how-tos. Yesterday Michael picked up my bag o jerky (it needed a few days to marinate and dry) and I have to say it's really amazing. It's almost as good as Stripling's.
Here's how it works:
Use lean cut like bottom round (not ribeye!) which is on the thigh near the butt. The strategy is to eliminate fat and moisture and it helps to freeze meat a bit before slicing. Clean all the fat and bristle off with a sharp chef's knife or Cenataur. Remove silver skin and use for stock. Square off the end so it's all the same thickness. Cut even slices about 1/4 to 1/8 inches thick, using your hand to push the meat against itself. The slices should be flat, uniform and a little translucent. (Flatten on table with hand or knife if necessary.) If the meat turns a little brown, it's just oxidizing but if it smells bad don't use it.
For the marinade, you need 3 tablespoons of salt or soy sauce per 1-2 lbs, Also use a combination to taste of lime zest, fish sauce, ABC's medium sweet soy sauce, hot sauce, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, Worcestershire, soy sauce, smoked paprika, black pepper, honey. Add water so you have 8 oz of marinade per 1-2 lbs meat. Mix beef in plastic bag with marinate separating each piece and coating it. They should all be color of the marinade. Marinate 3-6 hours in fridge.
Lay pieces on a wire rack without touching and dry in low temp oven. 150-175 degrees or "warm"--rotate if its a higher temperature. Crack oven door 1/2 inch. Can also hang over racks in oven or get a mesh mat online. Dry for 4-5 hours.