Ultimate Guide to Making Beef Jerky

Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is a delicious, protein-packed snack that’s perfect for on-the-go eating, outdoor adventures, or just a tasty treat at home. Making beef jerky at home allows you to control the ingredients, flavors, and quality, ensuring a healthier and more satisfying product. Here’s a comprehensive guide to making your own beef jerky.

Ingredients and Equipment


  • 2-3 pounds of lean beef (top round, bottom round, or sirloin tip)
  • Marinade Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup soy sauce
    • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, for heat)
  • Alternative Marinade (Simple):
    • 1-1.5 cup Dale Sauce
    • 2 teaspoons Liquid Smoke (optional)


  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Large resealable plastic bags or containers
  • Dehydrator or oven with a wire rack
  • Paper towels

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Choose the Right Cut of Beef
    • Select a lean cut of beef to reduce the fat content in your jerky. Fat can turn rancid, which affects the jerky’s shelf life. Common choices include top round, bottom round, or sirloin tip.
  2. Prepare the Beef
    • Trim any visible fat from the beef.
    • Freeze the meat for about 1-2 hours to make it easier to slice. It should be firm but not completely frozen.
    • Slice the beef against the grain into thin strips, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Cutting against the grain makes the jerky more tender.
  3. Marinate the Beef
    • In a large bowl, combine your marinade ingredients. Common ingredients include soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and red pepper flakes.
    • Place the beef strips in a large resealable plastic bag or container and pour the marinade over the meat. Ensure all the strips are evenly coated.
    • Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat.
  4. Dry the Beef
    • Remove the beef strips from the marinade and pat them dry with paper towels to remove excess liquid.
    • Using a Dehydrator:
      • Lay the strips out in a single layer on the dehydrator trays, making sure they don’t overlap.
      • Set the dehydrator to 160°F (70°C) and dry for 4-8 hours, checking periodically. The jerky is done when it bends and cracks but doesn’t break in half.
    • Using an Oven:
      • Preheat your oven to the lowest temperature setting, usually around 170°F (75°C).
      • Place the beef strips on a wire rack set over a baking sheet to catch drips. Arrange the strips in a single layer.
      • Dry the jerky in the oven for 4-8 hours, leaving the oven door slightly ajar to allow moisture to escape. The jerky is ready when it bends and cracks without snapping.
  5. Cool and Store
    • Allow the jerky to cool completely on the racks.
    • Store the jerky in airtight containers or resealable bags. It can be kept at room temperature for about a week, refrigerated for up to a month, or frozen for several months.

Tips for Perfect Beef Jerky

Beef Jerky
  • Consistency: Try to slice the beef strips as evenly as possible to ensure uniform drying.
  • Flavor Variations: Experiment with different marinades and spices to create unique flavors. Honey, maple syrup, teriyaki sauce, and hot sauce are great additions.
  • Monitoring: Keep an eye on the drying process, especially if using an oven. The drying time can vary based on the thickness of the meat and the specific equipment used.
  • Testing: Test a piece of jerky for doneness by bending it. If it bends and cracks but does not break in half, it’s ready.

Making beef jerky at home is a fun and rewarding process that results in a healthy, tasty snack. Enjoy experimenting with flavors and perfecting your technique to create the best homemade beef jerky.

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