Beef jerky is a great snack to have on hand. It’s a great way to use up extra meat and for a good protein-packed snack to take on the road. You can make it right in your smoker, an oven, it a food dehydrator. I do recommend preparing it in your smoker, as this will impart a great deal of flavor. But, keep in mind that since jerky meat is sliced thin, it is prone to over smoking. Follow all of my steps, and you’ll have the perfect chili beef jerky!
What is jerky?
Jerky is generally long, thin strips of slow-smoked dried beef. The traditional method of making jerky was to leave the meat out in the sun. However, modern jerky has surpassed this method and includes much more than beef. You can make jerky out of proteins like turkey, salmon, and my favorite, venison. Jerky is chewy, salty, and satiating, but it is also lightweight and long-lasting without refrigeration.
If this is your first attempt, it’s best to keep it simple. Start with a lean, easy to use cut of beef like top round. Trim away all of the fat from the meat. You do not want any fat on jerky since it is prone to turning rancid. Next, cut the beef across the grain into 1/4″ slices.
Time to Flavor
You can season jerky with a spice mixture or with a marinade. Personally, I prefer the marinade, but rubs are great too. Keep it simple by sprinkling the meat with salt and pepper before taking it to the smoker. If you are using a more involved spice rub or a marinade, apply to the meat, cover, and place into the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
Smoking jerky is not like smoking beef or pork roast. It should be done using very low heat and with low smoke output. Do not use extra smoking chips in your smoker when making jerky. You’ll end up with a bitter tasting mess.
Set the temperature just under 150 degrees F. An electric smoker will introduce small amounts of smoke, but a charcoal unit or smoking over hardwood generates plenty of it. Smoke the jerky until it is completely dry. Depending on the exact method used, your smoking equipment, and the climate in your area, it can take anywhere between 12 hours to 3 days.
How to Store Jerky
First, make sure that the jerky is completely dried and cooled off. Condensation build-up on the jerky can cause problems (spoilage). So, let it cool off for a couple of hours.
I recommend storing jerky in vacuum-sealed bags, extending for up to a few weeks to 2 months if left unopened. For added shelf-life, add oxygen absorbers to the bags. Label the bags with the date of preparation.
Once opened, the jerky will need to be eaten with 5-6 days.
Storing jerky in a resealable bag in your pantry will have a 1 week shelf life.
Freezing jerky: If stored properly in a vacuum-sealed bag, jerky can be stored for up to 12 months in your freezer.
By starting the beef jerky in your smoker, you will get that authentic smoke flavor. Complete the drying in your oven or by using a food dehydrator.
Chili Beef Jerky
- 1 pound top round steak trimmed and cut into long thin strips
- 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and lightly crushed
- 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground dried red chili
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- Combine all ingredients except the meat in a resealable plastic bag and mix well. Add steak and marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
- Prepare smoker for a 4 hour smoke at about 150 degrees F.
- Remove meat from the marinade and place it on a sheet of foil. Spread the meat out evenly.
- Place in smoker and smoke until the surface begins to blacken or about 3 hours. Cover the strips loosely with foil. You want to keep the smoke off but let moisture escape. Continue smoking for 1 to 2 hours.
- Meat should be well dried. You can continue to dry the beef jerky in a food dehydrator or your oven at a very low temperature.