Do you remember what was on your Christmas list back in 1998?
Back then, I’m pretty sure that all of my girlfriends were asking for Abercrombie jeans, or the first-ever Harry Potter book, or the VHS of Titanic, or the latest Jewel or Matchbox 20 or Destiny’s Child or Spice Girls albums for Christmas. But me? I had one very important request of Santa that year, and I’m happy to say he (literally) delivered me my very first…dehydrator!
I mean, what 16-year-old girl doesn’t dream of having her very own dehydrator, right?! ♡
Well, having been an enormous fan of homemade beef jerky ever since I was little, I had been dreaming about having a dehydrator to make some of my own for years. It all began thanks to my great aunt Chris, who generously made batches upon batches of her famous beef jerky for our huge family holiday gatherings each year. And all thirteen of my cousins would scramble to the kitchen to see who could get the biggest handful for themselves to munch on, because her beef jerky was heavenly. And actually, I had no idea how good it was until I tried some of the store-bought stuff from a gas station years later, and could hardly believe that those weirdly sweet, sticky, and artificial-tasting strips of “beef” were the same thing. (Actually, I still feel the same way…)
So even as a teenager, I realized that if I wanted amazing beef jerky like Aunt Chris’ year-round, I was going to have to learn how to make it myself. So I called her and asked for the recipe. And 17 years, 2 dehydrators, and dozens upon dozens upon dozens of batches later, I’m still making her beef jerky recipe.
So today, I thought it was about dang time I shared about it with you too. Because in my experience…it truly is the best!
How To Make Beef Jerky | 1-Minute Video
Ok, my heart is seriously pounding as I’m writing this post because I get so dang excited giving people tips on making killer beef jerky! (<– So weird, I know, but don’t forget I’m also the girl who begged Santa for a dehydrator. #Perspective.) Here are some of my tips and answers to frequently-asked questions from friends:
Beef: The biggest question is probably what cut of beef to buy. I’ve made beef jerky with all different kinds, but my favorite the past few years has undoubtedly been flank steak. It’s definitely one of the priciest options, but it’s one of the leanest cuts and I love how it makes nice thin strips of beef jerky. Other great options are eye of round, top or bottom round, or London broil. Generally, I just recommend going as lean as possible, and trimming off any extra large sections of fat that you see.
When it comes to slicing the meat, I recommend slicing it about as thin as possible (1/8 to 1/4-inch thick). And then if you want a chewier jerky (which I weirdly like), slice the meat with the grain. And if you want a more tender jerky, slice the meat against the grain. You’re welcome to do this yourself at home (just pop the steak in the freezer for 15-20 minutes before slicing to help firm it up a bit). OR, chances are, the butcher behind the meat counter of your local grocery store would be happy to do it for you too. (<– Probably for free!)
Marinade: So, my biggest gripe with most store-bought beef jerky is that it is waaaayyyyy too sweet. I love my beef jerky nice and peppery and savory. So my marinade consists simply of soy sauce, worcestershire, black pepper, liquid smoke, onion powder, seasoned salt, and garlic powder. And then for those of you who love pepper as much as I do, I highly recommend cracking some extra black pepper on top of the strips once you have laid them out to cook. The pepperier, the better if you ask me.
If you do happen to like sweeter beef jerky, just add 1/4 cup of maple syrup to the marinade. And if you like a spicier beef jerky, I recommend sprinkling some crushed red pepper flakes on top of the jerky as it cooks.
Dehydrator vs. Oven: Probably the main question I hear from friends is how to make beef jerky without a dehydrator. It’s totally possible in the oven. But in order for it to cook evenly, I recommend laying the jerky out on wire racks that are placed on top of foil-covered baking sheets. I know that some people like to just lay the jerky out directly on the oven racks themselves, and then place a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to catch the dripping juices, but I’ve tried it and — heads up — it’s messy. So instead, I recommend the wire rack method.
But that said, I still think cooking beef jerky in the dehydrator yields the most consistent and best results. I’ve owned 2 different dehydrators, and will say that the technology has improved significantly over the years. For between $35-75, you can purchase an awesome dehydrator nowadays that will cook the jerky evenly and quickly. And of course, you can also use the dehydrator to make all kinds of fruit and veggie and kale chips, and all sorts of other good stuff. So if you happen to love beef jerky as much as I do, I would totally recommend the Cuisinart dehydrator that I currently own.
Anyway, go with whatever cooking method works best for you! I’ve included instructions for oven and dehydrator beef jerky in the recipe below.
So all that said, to make your beef jerky, just toss the sliced beef and the marinade together in a large ziplock bag until the beef is evenly coated. Then pop the bag in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day to let those flavors sink in.
Then lay the strips out in an even layer on your dehydrator trays, or your wire-rack trays in the oven, and cook according to the instructions below. (Fair warning — this is going to absolutely fill your home with the most irresistible smell of jerky ever!)
And then once the jerky reaches your desired level of dryness (I like mine really dry, but as long as it is cooked and dark and just slightly pliable, it should be good to go) — the BEST batch of beef jerky will be yours to enjoy and share!
Well, props to you if you make it to the sharing, because I tend to want to hoard this stuff. ;) But I am convinced this beef jerky makes the world a better place, so be generous if you can.
Thinly-slice the steak into 1/8-inch thick strips, either with the grain (which will result in a chewier beef jerky) or against the grain (which will be more tender). I recommend popping the steak in the freezer for 15-30 minutes before slicing so that it is easier to cut. (Or the butchers working behind the meat counters at most grocery stores will also do this for you if you ask.)
Transfer the strips of steak to a large ziplock bag*.
In a separate small mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients until combined. Pour the mixture into the ziplock bag with the steak, seal the bag, and toss until the steak is evenly coated.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 day.
If you’re making the jerky in a dehydrator,lay the strips out in a single layer on the trays of your dehydrator. Then follow the dehydrator’s instructions to cook the beef jerky until it is dry and firm, yet still a little bit pliable. (With my dehydrator, that meant cooking the jerky on medium heat for about 8 hours. But cooking times will vary based on the thickness of your meat, and the heat/brand of your dehydrator.) Remove jerky and transfer to a sealed container. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.
If you’re making the jerky in the oven, heat oven to 175°F. Adjust the racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Line two large baking sheets with aluminum foil, and place wire cooling racks on top of each sheet. Lay the strips out in a single layer on the wire racks. Bake until the beef jerky until it is dry and firm, yet still a little bit pliable, about 4 hours, flipping the beef jerky once about halfway through. (Cooking times will vary based on the thickness of your meat.) Remove jerky and transfer to a sealed container. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.
*Or you can also mix the beef and seasoning sauce together in a large mixing bowl.
**Cooking time does not include the amount of time needed to marinate the beef, which can be between 30 minutes to 24 hours. Also, the recipe yield was hard to gauge. With 2 pounds of beef, I usually yield around 50 individual pieces of beef jerky. But that will totally depend on how thick the beef is sliced, and what size of strips you have.
This post contains affiliate links for the products I use and recommend. :)
After the meat is marinaded do you blot it with paper towels or something before you put it in the dehydrator/oven or just go straight to the drying process?
I never blot mine and they always come out great.
What temperature do you set the dehydrator at and how long should I cook it for?
I set mine to 160 F and it came out fine.
I use hi- country jerky cure
Excellent recipe, I added 2 tbsp. Brown sugar, made it with moose meat. Kids are cleaning it up fast.
Wow, Wow, Wow!
I just finished making this beef jerky with my son and it is fantastic! It is a cross between pepper jerky (but not too peppery) and teriyaki jerky (but not too sweet) We will be making more soon as our first batch of almost 2 lbs lasted less than 3 hours.
Hi! This recipe is amazing!!! I used it once and I plan to make more! 2 questions… 1) Must curing salt be used to make jerky? 2) If I do use curing salt, how do I work it into the recipe?
I’ve been making my jerky the same exact way for over 25 years. Same marinade, in a ziploc, etc. I marinade for 1-3 days, the longer the better. I use london broil when it goes on sale. 50 lbs of meat at a time. 12 tray original dehydrator, only replaced trays. It is a traditional Christmas give to my family. Everyone says I should sell it.
If you like jerky, do it this way
Made this last week with a 2lb cut of eye of round. I did 1/8 inch-ish cuts and let it marinate for about 24 hrs. First time dehydrating jerky and it came out AMAZING. My dehydrator has only one setting (160F) and it finished off in like 5.5 hrs. Making more tomorrow, thanks for the great recipe!
Amazing! Smoked my skirt steaks with the a-maze-n for 3 hours before cutting into strips and didn’t include the liquid smoke from your recipe. Added about 2-3 Tbsp of maple syrup. Dehydrated at 160o for 4-5 hours depending on the sizes of the strips. So good, will make again!
This is a great recipe! Savory but no soy sauce taste. Just enough pepper and spicy flavor and not overpowering at all…really yummy!
What I do when making jerky is put a kabob skewer through each piece an inch or two from one end. I space the strips out about an inch on the skewer. I place the top oven rack over the kitchen sink. Then I thread the strips between the bars on the rack. The skewer keeps the strips from falling thru and they are all hanging vertical. Usually each 16″ skewer will hold over a dozen + strips. After 10 minutes when the strips have dripped dry, I return the rack to the top slot on the oven. I’ll place a cookie sheet on the bottom rack to catch the drips. If a few of the strips touch the cookie sheet it’s OK, they’ll dry just fine.
I was wondering if you fully cook your beef first then dehydrate in the dehydrator or do you marinate it and then put it inothe dehydrator raw?
Typically jerky is dehydrated raw meat
Great Question. You can optionally cook it till at least 160 degrees but it makes the jerky more tough and altogether worse
This was a great recipe! I also feel like most store bought jerky is too sweet. My husband, who has been a vegan for last three months, ate the jerky! He said it was so good, that it was worth eating meat for. Thanks!
This truly is the BEST jerky recipe I’ve ever come across. I too hate the overly sweet store bought jerky. This recipe results in nice salty thing beef jerky. I appreciate the tips on how cutting with/across the gain changes the texture. My husband who has been a vegan for last six months, made an exception to his diet, just to east this jerky. The smell in the house was just too good.
I love you! Great recipe. Ive made thousands of people happy with it as snacks or presents. Thank you!
Can you smoke it in a smoker?
I love you
Thanks heaps. Great recipe. We made some awesome jerky following this recipe – minus the liquid smoke as we didn’t have any
Thank you so much for this recipe, I am new to the world of making it but not eating it,wish me luck.
Easy to follow instructions and very informative , added a little maple syrup to give a sweet and savory taste
I have been making this recipe (replaced the soy sauce and worcestershire sauce with coconut aminos due to allergies) and it is always amazing.I use 100% grass fed london broil,cut it against the grain and marinade it for at least 24 h.I have to hide it from my 3 little monsters as they will finish it in a couple of minutes.
Was wondering why does it need refrigeration as the ones in the stores (organic and grass fed) don’t. I never refrigerate mine,but it doesn’t last longer than 1 week though.
I sliced my meat about 1/2 inch thick. I don’t watch my sodium intake so i used regular soy sauce and put 2 and 3/16 TBSP of Worcestershire sauce. I think 2 TSP of coarsely-ground black pepper is too much so i only put a teaspoon, but added 1.5 TSP of fine-grounded red pepper. I’m not a fan of smoke flavor so I added 1/4 cup of whiskey instead. 2 TSP of chopped onions, 2 heads of garlic and 2 TSP of salts added a whooping schmooping flavor. I marinated it for 4 hours and cooked between 30 minutes to 24 hours (depending on the thickness of the meat).
THANKS ALI FOR AN AWESOME RECIPE….. THIS HAS BECOME MY FAMILY’S FAVORITE!
Delicious! Thankyou for the recipe xx
Actually, best beef jerky ever. Dehydrate time was closer to 10 hours, but flavor is perfect. I did low sodium soy sauce like you asked, but added a tablespoon of sea salt per 2 pounds of flank. Pretty much perfect…..
5th or 6th time making this grrrrrrreat recipe! This time, I made one tray with a big sprinkle of McCormick Grillseasoning and a TON of cracked black pepper. It’s also ok to use regular soy sauce, though you will obviously get a much saltier product. Thanks SO MUCH!
Great recipe. If you have a convection oven that also works very well at 170.
wish there was another star…. plus is 2nd cut brisket a good recomendation for this recipie?
It was probably way overcooked. I cooked mine at 175 on convection for 2 hours and it was overcooked. The next batch I cooked for 1.5 hours and it was better.
Omg omg I’ve been making this for the last 4 months and I’ve been asked to make it for sooooo many people!!! It’s easy and I add two big fat chilies too we love the heat….. Have just made a big jar for My Dads 76th birthday this week……. Hope he likes it as much as we do…. My 11 year old takes it to school for recess!!
Made this twice now. It is perfect. I only wanted to comment because if you shop at Aldi, they sell sirloin that is labeled “Great for Fajitas!” It is vacuum sealed and already sliced at the PERFECT thickness for jerky. Just cut it in to smaller pieces to fit in your dehydrator and you’re golden.
P.S. I have a nesco dehydrator, and on Max (160), 8 hours is perfect if you like REAL jerky. It is dry and chewy (goes a long way per piece). Back off on the time a bit if you don’t mind refrigerating, but want is less dry/softer!
Thank you for the Aldi tip! And I have the Nesco too! Gonna try my first jerky today.
That is a GREAT tip. Many Mexican markets also sell it already cut for fajitas.
YES! Thanks for the Aldi tip. It was pricey but I was intimidated to try to slice the meat on my own. This made it very easy. Strips are in the dehydrator now. Hoping to love this as much as everyone on here.
Just stopping by here to find the recipe again! Made it the other week, it was devoured. I LOVE jerky on the tough side so cutting the flank steak with the grain was perfect! Also agree with sprinkling pepper on before cooking to balance out the sweetness from the worstershire. Guess I’ll be making my own beef jerky for the rest of my life? forever sharing the link to this recipe
Im tryin your recipe now the meat in the refrigerator marinating I put it in at 12 midnight and I’ll check it again at 12 noon so this way it’ll be marinating for 12 hours if I think the marinade has soaked through the meat then I will put it into my dehydrator and cross my fingers and Hope that it comes out the way I want it to… thanks
Just as you said, it’s deliciously tasty and the “…best beef jerky.”
Thank you for sharing. Another beef jerky family tradition is born.
Well made and better ate.
My jerky turns out tough . . . what am I doing wrong???? Please help!
Did not have liquid smoke (due to COVID-19, the stores have not had any new shipments for over a few months) but the final product was still AMAZING. The hubby unit just stood over the smaller tray and almost ate all of them in one ‘standing’. He’s now volunteering to go grocery shopping so we can see how the jerky will taste using brisket versus flank steak meat. Did the oven version and even though the slices were quite thin, it took around 5 to 5.5 hours versus suggested 4 hours (depends on how pliable you want your finished product to be). The smaller bits took only 4 hours while the longer slices needed that extra time to be the right “chewiness” we were looking for. I know what’ll I’ll be making for people’s gift baskets for awhile now! Thanks!
Love love love this recipe. I like to ha e a little crisp to mine as well as sweetness so I added I cup of brown sugar to my mix. Perfection!!!!!
Having made beef jerky before and enjoying the recipe I had been using, I was reluctant to leave out the sugar. Shouldn’t have worried. This jerky tasted wonderful and was addictive. Highly recommend.
Do you need to refrigerate the jerky afterwards or can it stay room temperature? Looking to make some for a 5 day hike. Does it need to be vacuum sealed or can a ziplock bag suffice?
I imagine you already went on your hike, but I figure others may have the same question!
You do not need to refrigerate beef jerky, but if you plan to store it for a long time it would be good to vacuum seal it or put it in a ziplock and freeze it. If you plan to eat it within the coming months then you don’t need to regrigerate it, taking it hiking/camping is totally fine!
This is an awesome recipe, I make a couple of changes to suit our preference. I make a whole eye of the round which is usually close to four pounds of meat once trimmed. I double everything except I use 3 tsp of black pepper and 1 tsp of chipotle powder. This adds smoke and a touch of heat. I omit the liquid smoke and add 1 Tbsp of honey to the four pound batch.
Amazing recipe! My go to every single time and my husband loves this!! Close tasting to a jerky we previously ordered from kentucky. THANK YOU!!
I plan on making this recipe ASAP. Is there any nutritional information available for this recipe? Cals/KJ and Macros would be great. I plan on using the jerky as snack to ‘beef’ up my protein intake (pun intended) :)
This recipe gave me a tapeworm
This jerky is absolutely amazing! I followed the advice of using flank steak and cut it against the grain because I like a more tender jerky (easier on my teeth, and used my dehydrator. I’ll have to make more because everyone who tried it wanted more and it’s almost gone. This is better than any store bought jerky. Thank you for this awesome and easy recipe.
Please tell me which brand seasoned salt you used. There are so many and all different.
Your recipe on 4# eye of round this weekend.
I love Lowry’s seasoned salt :)
Very good recipe!
I’ve made this about 6 times now. I don’t own a dehydrator but the oven method described works like a charm. Also, I’m not a fan of liquid smoke so I add two teaspoons of smoked paprika powder (Pimentón de la Vera) instead. Really nice. I’ve also tried the recipe with venison but prefer flank steak.
Why refrigerate? Jerky is typically shelf stable….
I make my own jerky using beef heart. Super lean, far more nutritious than muscle meat, and it’s cheap! (Around here, in lower michigan, i can get it for $2.50/lb and that’s from a family farm with no antibiotics, etc)
Most jerky recipes include the same standard ingredients-soy sauce, Worcester etc as does this one. The marinade smells absolutely delicious but I added a splash of Jack Daniels and more cracked pepper and a jalapeño seasoning before I started dehydrating the meat this morning. This is my first try at jerky and I can’t wait for it to be done. 5 stars for the recipe unless things change but this post gave me all the tips and base ingredients to start. Thanks for posting!
This truly is the BEST beef jerky!!! Not really breakfast food but I’ve definitely already had a few pieces today and it’s only 8:30 am. I marinated the beef for a little over 24 hours (bc I forgot lol) but they turned out soo good. Opted in to add a little maple syrup and sprinkled a lot of red pepper flakes on top. Put the meat in the dehydrator at 165 F for about 7 hours or so. Thank you for this!
I didn’t have any low sodium soy sauce, so I cut back on the salt to about 1/2. It’s still a bit salty for me, but my husband LOVES it. Next time I’ll make sure to use low sodium soy sauce. I love it chewy, too, and this was perfect. (I did go overnight with it in the dehydrater and actually went about an hour longer than the recipe because I overslept a tiny bit. I think if I would have cooked it for the 8 hours recommended, it would’ve been perfect. As it turned out, it was EXCELLENT!)
Low sodium soy sauce is 50/50 soy sauce and water
Use a wood pellet smoker grill and forget the liquid smoke. Set low as possible. Mine goes as low as 170. Healthier too. Lower salt. Actually smoker or no, substitute all ingredients with low salt versions.
This is a great recipe. Simple and good. I’ve used it a handful of times – both following the recipe exactly, and also with a few minor tweaks to the marinade. I’ve found that I like to add a bit of cayenne to the marinade to add just a little heat. For my latest batch I used a 6 lb. eye of round which I sliced along the grain. After trimming and considerable obligatory ‘sampling’ the recipe rendered a little over 2 lb of really great jerkey.
Could you use an air fryer? If so what settings and time?
The formula is pretty much for every 5 lbs of meat you will get 2 lbs of jerky.
I made this recipe but altered the ingredients some, I used low sodium worchesteshire sauce with low sodium soy and no seasoning salt.. Its very good. I used bottom round, only made a pound took but 5 hours I cut 1/4in slices. I like this recipe. Thank you!