Excellent Home Made Beef Jerky [The Chiefs Guide]

Excellent Home Made Beef Jerky [The Chiefs Guide]

sliced beef jerky

Here's 2 ways guaranteed to get top quality beef jerky:

"BEEF JERKY is proof that given the opportunity, men will do everything the HARD way"

- Tin Can Caldwell

Understanding the process.

Before you start, you need to have an understanding of the process. Making great jerky is simple if you know how. Simple, but not easy.

Great beef jerky isn't as easy as throwing some meat in a dehydrator or oven. You need to consider preparing the right marinades, choosing the right cut of meat, how thick you slice each piece, method of drying and when to remove from the dehydrator.

These steps dictate the texture, flavour and your enjoyment of the finished jerky.

beef jerky marinade



Before you start, you need to have an understanding of the process. Making great jerky is simple if you know how. Simple, but not easy.

Great beef jerky isn't as easy as throwing some meat in a dehydrator or oven. You need to consider preparing the right marinades, choosing the right cut of meat, how thick you slice each piece, method of drying and when to remove from the dehydrator.

These steps dictate the texture, flavour and your enjoyment of the finished jerky.


Here's a quick list of equipment you're going to be using:







beef jerky dehydrator


Lets run through what you can expect to pay in order to prepare your home setup.

This is the main equipment you’ll be using. Which one you buy will depend on how much beef jerky you intend to make and how often.

My recommendation for virtually all home applications is to get a no name 10 tray wire rack dehydrator.

These can be brought on eBay for around $200, and I can say they worked great for me when I was starting out.

Here’s a list of whats available at different prices.

>A small round $50 unit can be picked up from a homemaker store at most shopping centers.

>A $200 eBay unit is a good mid range option. Grab a 10 tray box dehydrator. That's enough for around 6kg of wet beef and will yield about 2kg of dry beef jerky. These units are available with plastic or wire trays.

I STRONGLY recommend the wire trays. These are easier to clean and wont warp with sustained use. Warped trays will not fit into the dehydrator, becoming useless.

>$500 professional home dehydrators exist, like the Excalibur dehydrator range, if you want to drop serious cash. I've never used one so you'll have to do your own research here.

>Or if you don’t want to buy anything you can dry jerky in your oven (after you've cleaned the oven racks).

Knife/Meat slicer:
You can use the trusty kitchen knife to cut your beef down to the desired thickness, as long as it's sharp.

Throw the slab of beef in the freezer for a short while to make it more rigid and easier to slice uniformly. Uniform thickness is important to ensure each piece dries evenly, preventing wet spots in your finished product.

If you want to step it up to a serious level you can pickup a domestic or small commercial meat slicer. These range from $400-$1200 in price. If you're this keen I'll let you do your own research for the unit that suits you.

Marinading equipment:
You've got a few options here.
Large zip lock bags will do the trick. These are good if you're marinading multiple flavours at once as they stack efficiently in the fridge. Otherwise use a food safe storage container, like a tub or mixing bowl.

Kitchen scissors/Shears:
As you'll be cutting dry jerky you'll want a sharp, sturdy pair for this job. A decent pair will set you back $20-30. If you're cutting A LOT of jerky then don't go cheap here. Your hands will thank you later.


Ingredient quality is paramount when making a premium beef jerky.

The finished product is only as good as what you put into it.


A cheap jerky will be made from cheap cuts of meat, sometimes even a meat paste made from off cuts and trim. You can tell when your supermarket jerky uses a meat paste and cheap filler ingredients. The jerky is almost see-through and tears apart without resistance.

Like anything in this world, you get what you pay for.

Marinades: A good common list of jerky marinade ingredients are soy sauce, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sweet soy, brown sugar, black pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika and onion powder.

Here’s a basic traditional beef jerky recipe for you to try out. You can add any additional spices you like to give it your own twist.


1 cup Soy sauce

2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

1.5 Tbsp Onion paste/powder

1 Tsp Pepper

1.5 Tbsp Garlic paste/powder

0.5 Tbsp Liquid smoke


Dehydration Times.

How long to dry beef jerky depends on a variety of factors.

>Thickness of the meat strips.

>Consistency of the marinade.

>How dry you personally like your jerky.

>Temperature you dry the meat (should be set to 68 degrees).

>Efficiency of your dehydrator.

>How closely the meat is spaced out on the racks.

Generally you're going to need to set aside 8+ hours to get the job done. It will take 2 or 3 batches before you start to nail down the exact timing to get beef jerky the way you enjoy.

Slicing (Pre-Dehydration).

There's many ways to slice beef for jerky. Like every other step in the process, it's not cut and dry.

Here's a few points to think about:

How thick do you like to eat your jerky?

If you're unsure or are trying this for the first time aim for around 10-15mm. This thickness will prevent it drying out too quickly and becoming like cardboard.

If you like your jerky in big wide sheets (good for tearing apart) you need to slice your beef into thin steaks.

If you like long narrow pieces (good to snap or bite off) cut your beef into long strips.

If you like an easy chew then cut the beef AGAINST the grain (meaning cut the opposite direction to the meat fibres).

If you like a tougher chew the cut the beef WITH the grain (meaning cut the same direction the meat fibres run).

Your beef will shrink while dehydrating. The finished product will be smaller than what you put in. DO NOT chop your beef into pieces before you dry it. It will dry much smaller than you anticipate and it’ll end up no good.

You always want to cut the strips/sheets into bite sized pieces AFTER it comes out of the dehydrator and had time to cooled down.

THE CHIEF'S PACK beef jerky- Original Beef Chief jerky

Sold out

Marinading and storage.

Store refrigerated for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. Basically treat it as you would marinading steak before throwing it on the barby!

You will be using either a dry rub or a wet marinade to flavour your beef jerky.

Ensure the entire piece is FULLY coated in your dry rub seasoning of choice.

You want your meat to be fully coated in the liquid marinade. When it is stored in a container make sure there's enough marinade to cover all beef. Meat that's exposed above the marinade will not be absorbing the maximum amount of flavour.

For both methods, come back and mix up the container at least once to ensure each piece is getting lots of marinade and tastes great.

Marinading times vary based on personal preference and how long you have before starting a batch. I always recommend 24 hours minimum. If time won't allow a full day, anything over 4 hours will work.

homemade beef jerky marinade

Stacking the trays.

Before laying the meat onto the tray remove as much excess marinade from the beef as you can. The beef is fully soaked after marinading. Any marinade on the surface of the meat will lead to a longer drying time with no benefit to the taste.

Use the space efficiently and lay as much beef down as you can on each tray. By the time beef dries it's about 1/3rd the surface area of whatever you started with. Wasting space is a big no-no if you're making a large batch.

You want to maximise the space available in your dehydrator, but take care to not have the edges of the beef touching. The touching sides can stick together and will not dry.

When you’ve stacked each tray take some paper towel and dab any excess marinade from the to of the beef. The beef will drip and this marinade will pool and the bottom of your dehydrator when drying.

I've made the mistake of not removing all the excess marinade and have overflowed the shallow bottom of the dehydrator. The kitchen bench quickly becomes a sticky mess.


Set the dehydrator to 65-68 degrees (usually the highest setting on most domestic dehydrators).

If you are doing this inside your home keep the windows open or a ceiling exhaust fan on because all the moisture leaving the beef can make the room very humid. Condensation can form on your ceiling and walls.

You want to turn your dehydrator on and get it up to working temp before filling with beef. Give it 5-10 minutes to preheat.

Load the trays into the dehydrator. The trays closest to the heating element will dry quickest.

On a box dehydrator these are the middle trays. On a round unit these are the bottom few trays. This means you'll need to rotate these trays with the ones furthest from the heat source for even drying of the entire batch.

Checking on the meat while cooking.

When using any sort of dehydrator you'll need to rotate the trays AT LEAST once while drying.

Trays will dry unevenly based on their position relative to the heating element.

For instance, if you're using a 10 tray vertical box dehydrator the 4 trays closest to the center tend to dry fastest. The meat on the rear facing half of the tray will also dry quicker as the meat is closer to the heating element.

Remove a piece that looks dry and slice the jerky with some sharp kitchen scissors or a clean set of shears. Give it a squeeze to see if any juice comes out. Put it back if it's juicy. If one or two very small beads of juice form it’s OK to take out.

When removing beef jerky that is still too juicy, when it cools down this will be wet and wet jerky will have a much shorter shelf life and can get moldy.

cooking beef jerky

Removing the jerky.

The jerky will be ready when you take it out and can bend it and it feels like its just about to snap.

If it makes a cracking sound when you bend it you're probably spot on. If it snaps it's too dry and will be very hard and crispy when cooled down. This is still edible, but will be far from perfect.

It’s a disappointing feeling to ruin it right at the end of the process after all that time, effort and anticipation.

Storage while cooking and the risk of sweating.

When you remove the jerky from the dehydrator, it will be hot. Make sure to let the jerky cool down when you first pull it out.

Leave it uncovered on a tray or in a container for a few hours. If you store in an airtight container while it's still warm the meat wont finish drying properly and will sweat and it'll spoil prematurely.


You need a strong pair of kitchen scissors or garden shears for this step.

One strip at a time cut the jerky into bite sized pieces - around 2-5cm long - or leave them in long strips if you prefer it that way. Be sure to trim any fatty spots off as the moisture retained can prematurely spoil the jerky.

BUT, don’t throw those off cuts away! Between you and me, these are the best bits. Especially when it's still warm.

This is something special you can only enjoy if you make your own beef jerky. Sneak a piece to your missus and they'll understand your new obsession.

Long term storage.

Properly dried beef jerky can be stored for months on end.

To preserve the life of your beef jerky it needs to be kept in a cool dry place. It doesn't need to be refrigerated, storing in the pantry is fine.

Be careful leaving it somewhere it can get warm without you realising. Places like the glove box in your car can get hot on sunny days and these conditions can spoil the beef. Not the sort of surprise you want a week later when tucking in.

Beef Chief Jerky Storage


If you get a dehydrator with steel trays you can blast them with a pressure washer.

A quick soak in warm water and will result in all of the dried meat coming right off. This is by far the easiest and quickest way to get the job done.

If you haven’t got one of those, or you're using plastic trays the best bet is to soak them in soapy water and hit it with a scrubbing brush and some elbow grease. A pressure washer on too high a setting will snap the trays.

The Chief's finals thoughts...

Now you should have a good idea how to make your own beef jerky.

Experiment with some different flavours and see what you like the most. Send me a piece if it turns out any good. I might even hit you back with any of my new flavours in development.

If you're going to all this effort you should make a good sized batch to share around with your mates too. But be careful though because if you follow this guide you're going to have people constantly pestering you to make another batch.

Keep on chewin,

The Beef Chief

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