Saturday, May 12, 2012

Homemade Beef Jerky [Zack]

Sometimes people are adventurous with their food.  Rarely is your food more adventurous than you are.  I'm proud (and/or jealous) to say that my first batch of homemade beef jerky has traveled to the top of the world.  Here it is at the summit of Aconcagua, Argentina - the highest peak in the Southern and Western Hemisphere at 6,962m.

Our good friends John and Martina decided to ditch out on corporate life and take a 7 month hiatus to backpack around the world, climbing the tallest mountains on many different continents.  Even though we were sick with envy, Lauren and I wanted to get them a proper going away present.  But what do you get people who just sold all of their life-long possessions at a flea market for 1 EUR a piece??

Beef jerky was our answer.  It's great for hikers - the weight to protein ratio is amazing and it gives a much-needed boost of salt.  It would also remind them of us because it's very American - imagine a cowboy sitting under a tree in the shade, hat tipped low, gnawing on a piece of beef jerky.  Cowboys had it figured out - if they let strips of beef dry in the sun, they would became much lighter to carry and wouldn't spoil.

I was surprised at how great homemade beef jerky tasted and how simple it was to make.  In summary, you pour all of the ingredients into a bag, let the meat marinate for 1 day, then put it in a low-heat oven to dry it out until it feels like beef jerky.

It's preferable to use a cheap cut of meat because any fat creates a chance for it to spoil.  Save the rib-eyes for the grill!


Below a picture of the necessary ingredients:

Trim any fat off of your beef.  Place it into the freezer so it firms up.  It’s a lot easier to slice the meat evenly if you put it in the freezer for about an hour.   It’s important to try to maintain the same thickness for all of the slices of beef because you want even drying.

Dice or chop your ginger, garlic, onion, and chiles.  Place them in a large zip-lock bag.  Measure out your soy sauce, vinegar, honey, sesame oil, and brown sugar.  Stir to mix and pour it into the bag.

Take your steak out of the freezer and make sure it’s firm to the touch, but not a solid brick (or else you won't be able to slice it).  Slice each piece ~1/8 inch thick and place into the marinade bag.

When you are finished, squeeze out as much air in the bag as possible and massage the marinade around the meat. Refrigerate for 1 day.

Take the meat out of the bag and drain off the marinade. Place the meat on a grated oven rack, leaving a little space around each piece.  I put a tray below it to catch the marinade that drips off during the drying process.

Put into the oven at 150 F / 75 C for 3-4 hours.  The time really depends on the thickness of your slices.  If you've ever had beef jerky before, just take it out when it feels like the stuff you get out of the package.  The low temperature will dry out the beef strips and you’ll be left with jerky in a few hours!

Bag it up for your hiker friends, or place it in a covered container.  It should last for a few weeks, but it's doubtful that it will make it through the first evening.

1/2 inch ginger
3 cloves garlic
2 birdseye chiles
1/2 red onion

3/4 cup light soy sauce (or 1/2 cup regular)
2T rice wine vinegar
1/2 T sesame oil
4 T honey
2T brown sugar

2 lb steak (900g)

Creativity Options:
Add lemongrass and cilantro to the marinade for a Thai feel
Smoky paprika will give a nice deep flavor
Tons of freshly cracked pepper is a great variation

Song:  Robin Thicke - Compass or Map


  1. Hey have no idea how much effort and dedication and commitment was required to get to the top of Aconcagua without eating the bag of beef jerky before we even got there! It was harder than climbing the mountain itself. We also had to deny that we were carrying meat products to the Argentinian customs people and risk imprisonment and prison food! But it was definitely amazingly delicious and we are looking forward to picking up the next batch when we return! Missing you both and thinking of you constantly, particularly at meal times :-))) Greetings from Singapore!

  2. Hi, Zachary! I'm making beef jerky using your recipe. Wow! The beef jerky came out amazing! Just the smell of it when I opened the oven door made me and my dog start to drool haha........... Everyone I gave a piece to said they never realised how tasty beef jerky really is, cause the packaged jerky over here (USA) tastes like crap compared to this. Cheers- Mellisa from Beef Jerky Sale