May 17, 2013

Homemade Beef Jerky (With or Without Dehydrator!)

Today I'm sharing a piece of my history. My Mom got this recipe from my uncle Pat long before I can remember. I didn't know him very well, he lived in Texas and as an Air Force family we were always moving around. I do remember his last visit to us, when we lived in Colorado in 1998. I was 13, and he drove up to visit us on his big touring motorcycle. He took us for rides on it, we played games till the cows came home, and I finally felt like I knew my uncle. A few months after he left, he was diagnosed with leukemia, and died after we moved to Missouri in 1999. I've always been grateful that he came to visit us that last time, and that I was old enough to remember him. 

This jerky has become legend in our family. My Mom would make a double batch every summer, for our summer vacations to Utah. One batch for us, and one for her brother Kent, her best hiking buddy. We would hoard and fight over every last piece! Occasionally my brother will still ask Mom to make him a batch and mail it to him. 
I started making it for my family a few years ago. I even made a batch for a friend as she was leaving on a road trip. (And moving away from me!!) I've made bags of it for The Geologist's college field courses, backpacking trips, and our own camping trips. Someday I'll pass the recipe on to my kids, but it will always be Uncle Pat's Beef Jerky. 

Uncle Pat's Homemade Beef Jerky
Printable Recipe

1 large (2-3 pound) bottom round or eye of round roast
1- 4 oz bottle liquid smoke (I like Hickory best)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce plus 2 Tb
1 Tb seasoned salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Trim any large chunks of fat off the outside of the roast. Slice your roast very thinly, 1/4 inch or less. (Sometimes you can get your butcher to do this for you, which is awesome. Just make sure they know you need it very thin. If slicing yourself, try putting the roast in the freezer for about an hour. This will make it firmer, and easier to slice. And make sure your knife is very sharp.)
Combine the liquid ingredients in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another bowl. Using a large, lidded bowl, or a square casserole dish, pour a little bit of the liquid in the bottom, just enough to cover. Lay a single layer of beef strips in the bottom. Sprinkle with a few pinches of the spices. (Sorry these two pictures aren't awesome, they're from forever ago)
Drizzle a tablespoon or two of the liquid over. (This shouldn't completely cover the meat, it just gets flavor in between each layer)
Continue layering in this order: beef, spices, liquid, until you've used up all the meat. (I like to alternate the direction I lay the meat each time.) Sprinkle with any remaining spices, drizzle with any remaining liquid, and cover.

Let marinate for about 24 hours. Mix or toss the meat about halfway through (before you go to bed, or when you wake up). If you have a dehydrator, set on the jerky setting (or highest, if you don't have a jerky setting), lay beef out on dehydrator racks, and you're good to go! Although make sure you check it every hour or so. My dehydrator says jerky takes seven hours, but it was done in four.

If you don't have a dehydrator, no worries!! You can make it in the oven! In fact, I like it better this way. All you need is some foil and toothpicks.

Arrange your oven racks with one rack on the very top, and one on the next-to-lowest setting. Spread a piece of foil over the bottom rack, folding the edges up just a bit. You're basically baking a disposable baking sheet.
One at a time, take each piece of meat, poke a toothpick through one end, and hang on the top rack, with the meat hanging down between the bars, and the toothpick laying across the bars.  It'll drip on the foil, not on your oven!
Set your oven as low as it will go, about 160-170 degrees. Keep your oven cracked open by sticking a wooden spoon in the door. Dry your jerky in the oven for 5-7 hours. Start checking at 5 hours. You want the jerky to feel like rubber, kinda firm and bendy, not soft and squishy, but not dark and crackly. No grey spots. It may take a few tries to get it perfect. You can even remove jerky at different times to see how "done" you like yours. It will dry a bit more once you remove it from the oven. Take the toothpicks out and immediately put your jerky in a ziploc bag. This will keep it from drying out.
There you have it! This is the only jerky I will eat. It's the only one I've ever had with enough flavor, enough seasonings, and without the rubbery, fake-meat texture of store-bought jerky. I always feel like I'm eating dog treats when I try that stuff. Yuck.
Jerky isn't very photogenic, but it's very yummy. And now you can make your own! You can skip the red pepper flakes and use less cayenne if you're not a fan of heat. Perfect for road trips, camping, hiking, and just plain snacking.


  1. I've never actually eaten beef jerky but yours looks really fantastic!
    Mary x

  2. WOW! I LOVE the oven idea. Thanks, I do not have a dehydrator. but love jerky now thanks to you I can still make it. It's funny how one never thinks of somethings. till someone else does and than it's why didn't I think of that moment. Thanks again.

    1. You're so welcome! I hope you do try it, and I'd love to hear how it turns out :)

  3. This is a wonderful beef recipe. I would love tp try it. Thanks for sharing it.

    Survival food

  4. Wow, great article, I really appreciate your thought process and having it explained properly, thank you!

    Grace Crawford (Website Link to Beef Jerky from


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