How to Make Your Own Kickass Beef Jerky with No Special Tools

Beef jerky can be a nearly perfect snack nutritionally but it’s expensive and making your own requires special equipment like a dehydrator. Until now. We show you how to get great tasting beef jerky with the stuff you’ve already got in your kitchen.

Growing up in Central Pennsylvania, I’m no stranger to homemade jerky. I found myself befriending the girls who brought in their father’s homemade venison jerky come deer season.

Jerky is one of the healthier foods you can snack on if you get a brand not loaded with preservatives and salt. It’s a great way to refuel between meals with its relatively low caloric count and high protein content per serving. So much so, even astronauts request beef jerky because of its low weight and high nutritional value.

And considering what we know about carbs, the importance of protein and the ‘undemonization’ of fats, it all adds up to jerky being a hell of a food.

As much as I love jerky, it can quickly become expensive with a 3 oz bag easily costing $5 to $6 and the thought of making my own was tainted with tales of hours of prep and the aid of a high-priced dehydrator.

So imagine my delight and skepticism when I ran across a small blurb in Men’s Health claiming jerky could be made at home simply and with no expensive tools.

On one hand excited and the other doubtful I set out to try to make my own beef jerky.

What you’ll need:

  • Strip steak
  • Ingredients for your marinade
  • A large resealable plastic bag
  • A sharp kitchen knife

How to Make Homemade Beef Jerky

Start out by placing some strip steaks in the freezer for a few minutes. As Men’s Health recommends, this firms up the meat and makes it easier to slice.

Remove the steaks from the freezer and cut them first lengthwise then again crosswise. For this step it’s really important to have a quality, sharp kitchen knife. I use and really recommend the JA Henkels 4 Star Line. It’s affordable and will last you forever. (Check out our review here.)

To get the best results, you want the thinnest slices you can get. Cut the pieces again lengthwise into strips.

The Marinade

The marinade and seasonings give the meat the jerky taste you’re after. The Men’s Health recipe calls for things like dark-brown sugar, oyster sauce, coriander, and a few other things I don’t normally keep on hand. Since I’m not interested in spending a bunch of money to make jerky, when it’s already expensive to buy, I chose to use all the good stuff I could find in the pantry already. You’re likely to have many of the things I used.

In a bowl mix together your seasonings like:

  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Tapatio
  • Fresh garlic
  • Sugar
  • Onion Powder
  • Chili powder

You could substitute things like mustard, BBQ sauce, garlic powder, red wine vinegar, cilantro leaves, curry powder, lime juice, etc.

Place the beef strips and marinade in a large zip top bag and stash it in the fridge for 4-24 hours. I only did 4 and it still had a lot of flavor.

Cook the Jerky

To replace the use of a dehydrator we’ll use an oven at a low temperature, which doesn’t sound too crazy if you realize all we’re trying to do is overcook (without burning) the beef until it’s dry.

Place the beef strips right on an oven rack and put a baking pan underneath to catch dripping marinade. A few pieces will inevitably fall off the rack as they shrink, so it’s good to have something there to catch them.

Bake at 200°F until dry. Men’s Health recommended 45 minutes, I found it took about 90 minutes to really get a nice dry texture.

The Result

It tastes like….beef jerky! I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome, it actually tastes like real beef jerky. The texture is right and the flavor is excellent. I assumed store bought jerky had its taste based on special curing methods and family-secret marinade recipes. Turns out, dry, seasoned beef isn’t too hard to make taste good.

The only issue is storage. It probably should be refrigerated after you make it, but when I did that, it made the jerky soggy. I was able to salvage by putting it in the oven again for 20 minutes, but that doesn’t seem practical. You’ll probably go through it fast enough that you won’t find out whether it needs to be refrigerated or not. I almost ate my whole batch in one sitting.

I encourage you to give it a try! In the summer time there will be some great sales on steak at your grocery store, that’s a good time to jump in and experiment yourself.

Do you have any experience with making jerky? Share your knowledge with the rest of us in the comments.

 

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page.

  • clint

    I would use the moisture control packets (the silicon based ‘do not eat’ ones) and a Ziploc bag to store. Jerky is fairly stable at room temp as long as moisture is controlled to prevent molds and bacteria from growing. Putting it into the fridge increases the humidity it is exposed to. I also recommend using a bit more salt in the marinade (soy sauce) OR lightly brush with warm honey (natural antibiotic).

  • Ricardo

    This is the exact method my family and I use! A couple of reccomendations:

    -BEER, especially RED beers make awesome additions to the marinade.

    -Everything is subject to personal taste, but IMHO, just like with a burger, it really is hard to over-pepper jerkey.

    As far as storage goes, the generations-old mexican trick for keeping dry foods dry is this:

    Wrap a handful of (uncooked) rice and a little salt in a little tissue paper (I use coffee filters because they’re cheap), staple/rubberband that closed and throw it in the ziploc you plan on storing your jerky in. Squeeze out as much of the air as you can as you close the bag. it keeps your dry food VERY dry. The rice naturally absorbs the moisture that would otherwise make your food go bad.

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Clint, Great points and good idea. Thank you!

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Ricardo,

    Awesome! Beer is solid idea, can’t believe I didn’t think of that. Bourbon might be a good way to go as well.

    Agreed with the pepper. Very hard to over-pepper beef.

    The coffee filters and rice idea is fantastic! Nice, cheap idea to get the job done.

  • Ricardo

    Andrew,

    You’re in Cali so I’m sure there are plenty of mexican breakfast diners in the area, like in texas. Ever wonder what the grans of rice inside the salt shakers are for? same thing.

  • Brendan Leber

    I ask the butcher at my grocery store to slice the beef. They’ve always done it for free and their slicer makes nice thin cuts.

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Brandan,

    That’s a great point. I was thinking of doing that the next time I make a batch. Do you just ask for it to be sliced thin?

  • Adam

    That’s not why astronauts ask for jerky, they want it for the same reason we all do when we’re on a long trip! ;)

    Although I’m sure it’s general healthiness and other qualities probably explain why mission control let’s them take it.

  • http://www.beefjerkymarinade.net Derek

    Yes, making beef jerky really is pretty easy, thanks for a great recipe. I’m always looking for “new” and improved ways to make it. It’s like anything, anyone may do it but to do it really well takes practice I think.

  • james

    I tried this the other week and threaded a cocktail stick through the meat to dry it out a bit more.

  • http://www.homemade-beef-jerky.com homemade beef jerky

    Making homemade beef jerky is fairly easy to do once you know the basic concept, but it’s easier if you have the right equipment.

    Only then can you venture out and try new custom recipes to fit your palate. Some like it spicy and others like their beef jerky sweet.

  • joe d

    I’m a big jerky fan and have been making it for about 5 years now. My method is similar to that described above, however, I deviate in a few places. I always soak for at least 24 hours but I realize your marinades may reach equilibrium earlier. Secondly, to avoid extra clean up, I hang the meat on bamboo skewers between the oven racks. With more meat packed into the oven now, a drip pan is essential but foil can work and I actually line this with papper towel that I remove after about 45 minutes of cooking. I seek dry meat not over cooked meat. So, I crack the oven door to release moisture. A full oven of soon to be jewrky takes about 4-8 hours of slow drying this was.

  • Ana Alicia Robles

    You just need to store the beef jerky like the days of old, before any kind of cold storage. Just make sure it really really dry place it in paper bags, your done. This will last for at least a month or more. Just ask the old folks from way back when.

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  • Jonathan

    well this is my first time doing jerky this way and you guys have realy awsome ideas now i went to the store boaught some meat and at the same time i got the jerky cure and sesoning now my ? is i also got some of that 30 min marednaide wil tha work?

  • maritza

    where are the measurements of the ingredients for the marinate?

  • Zach

    So thin slices does that mean see thru or 1/4″ or what, some one just said as thick as your finger and I just had a HUGE fail… Some 10 hours later its still pink out side and very brown/black out side at 175…. Should have got into making cupcakes

    • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

      As thin as you can get them.

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  • Paige

    Just a few tips I picked up from my dad, after years of scarfing down deer jerky:

    We would always put the venison into the oven right before going to bed. Drying it out for a longer period of time will also prevent it from getting soggy in the fridge.
    The lower the temp, the better. If you let it dry overnight set it to about 140 F. It’s just like barbeque… the longer it cooks, the better it is!
    Also, be sure to keep the oven door cracked. The moisture needs somewhere to go, or else the meat doesn’t dry out as nicely or as evenly.

    As for the marinades, experiment with favorite foods. Beer is always a good one, but you can make them out of just about anything. I personally make a buffalo marinade for chicken jerky, and a rosemary and herb steak inspired marinade for particularly nice cuts of beef. Some bolder options are curry, chili chocolate, chili lime, or even wasabi.

    And if I haven’t ranted enough, you can always use this method for creating doggie treats with any bad cuts of meat or extra scraps you have. [:

    [:

  • Emily

    I tried making jerky for the first time tonight, and boy do I wish I had read this page before doing it.  Last night I got my marinade all together, and 24 hours later I’m reading forums and blogs on how to cook it in the oven properly.  I ended up “skewering” each one on a toothpick and dangling it from the top rack, which worked great, mind you.  But then all the things I had read said a minimum of 8 hour cooking time but more like 10-12 hours. So at 7 hours I checked on it, and they were burnt to a crisp, even though I had the oven on 160 just like I had been told. Oh well, next week I’ll try again!

  • Cuurlytopp

    I use a dehydrator and the following ingredients:
    1 bottle Light soy sauce
    1/2 bottle liquid smoke
    tsp brown sugar
    Dash of Worcestershire sauce
    Tabasco to taste( we like a lot)
    Shot of Jack Daniels
    Sometimes we use garlic and onion powder
    Sometimes we use a spice called hot shot(which is just a blend of peppers) if we have it on hand
    Meats:
    I have used skirt steak
    rump roast
    Bottom round
    flank steak
    my son prefers rump roast!
    We have the butcher cut the meat in 1/4 inch slices then all we have to do is cut it into strips. I make the marinade before cutting meathet so that all the ingredients have a chance to meld together. I stir real good before placing meat in. I like to use a bowl with high sides. I try not to put too much meat in at a time so that each piece gets equal saturation. Our first batch only gets to stay in the marinade about an hour as my son is eager to eat it, but the next batch usually stays overnight. We leave on dehydrator until it’s the consistency we like.

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  • Brenda Rowley

    I made jerky once when I still had a dehydrator, but I did not use sliced beef, instead I used very lean ground round, mixed in the dry jerky seasoning that came with the dehydrator, used a cookie press with a disk that would make flat strips of jerky like you buy from the store. It came out great,I could not tell the difference from the store bought, I gave it to my nephew for christmas, He liked it so much that he said he wanted it for christmas every year.

  • http://twitter.com/FakeChadMiller Chad Miller

    Don’t forget the liquid smoke in your marinade! Hickory or mesquite gives it a great smoky flavor.

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  • KOLL

    IIIIIIIIIIII LLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEE JJJJJJJJJJEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRKKKKKKKKKKKKKYYYY

  • KOLL

    WHO ELSE LOVES IT.??????

    • juankehoe

      I’ve been making beef jerky for 20 years and the recipe is not nearly as important as finding beef good enough for the process, e.g. almost all beef is full of veins, blood vessels, fat, gristle etc. So I’ll skip that part and leave it up to you..But my recipe is very short and simple..I spend a long time trimming up the beef. Cut out all trash, fat, veins, gristle etc. Don’t slice too thin because dehydrating will reduce it to maybe 20% of it’s original thickness. For my marinate I use a 50/50 mix of “La Choy (Yes brand names make a big difference), Then toss in a very generous amount of dark brown sugar, (Like at least a cup) and a few drops of liquid smoke (Too much of this will ruin your jerky)..I marinate mine for a couple of hours, then place an oven rack over my sink and hang it to drip dry for an hour, Take a cookie sheet and sprinkle course black pepper on it..(Use McCormick..It’s ground fine and tasty)..place the beef strips on the peppered sheet..then sprinkle more pepper on top..Take your hands and press the pepper into the meat. Load it into your dehydrator. Mine has 5 trays so I rotate them every 4 hours, or so..Dehydrate for at least 20 hours..This stuff is great but if it’s your first try at jerky be aware that if you start with 5 lbs of beef..You’ll likely get one half pound of jerky/Juan

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