Drying Beef Jerky

To jerk meat means to preserve it by cutting it into long thin slices and drying it in the sun, in an oven or in a microwave oven. Meat Jerky may also be made from venison, moose, elk, antelope and other game animals. It is important to know that the fat in meat goes rancid and will spoil the jerky fast.

When using beef, use only the leaner cuts such as the round and chuck roast. Wild game animals are typically very lean, so this is less of a problem. Trim off all of the fat and membrane that you can as you cut up the meat.

When making jerky cleanliness and sanitation are of utmost importance. Be sure all work surfaces, equipment and hands are thoroughly clean.

Drying jerky in the sun takes a long period of time and is not very sanitary. Jerked meat is roughly one-fourth the weight of its fresh raw state. Use very lean flank steak that is partially frozen so it will be easier to cut. The thinner the strips are, the quicker it will dry. Cut the meat into thin strips 1/4" thick and 6" long. For better taste it is a good idea to dip the strips in Teriyaki sauce, in soy or Worcestershire sauce, brush with liquid smoke, or sprinkle with garlic powder or seasoned salt.

Oven Drying

Arrange the seasoned strips of meat in a single layer on wire racks (cake-cooling or oven racks) and do not allow the pieces to touch. The meat will drip, especially if marinated, so you need to place a piece of aluminum foil (or a tray) under the meat to catch drippings. Space it as far underneath the meat as possible (or on the bottom of the oven) to avoid restricting the air flow. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees F and then turn the heat back to the 140 degrees. Place the meat in the oven, leaving the oven door open at the first stop. After four or five hours, turn the strips over and continue drying at the same temperature for an additional four or five hours. 

Note: If you have more racks do not place racks so that one layer can drip on another layer.

When thoroughly dry the jerky is shriveled and black, and is brittle when cooled. Remember that too much moisture left in the meat will cause mold.

Store jerky after well cooled, because putting it away while warm will cause sweating inside the container. No matter how well you make jerky, consider its shelf life short, and keep it in sealed plastic container, plastic bags or glass  jars, so it will not absorb moisture. Store the containers in the refrigerator or freezer for maximum safe storage. Eat the jerky within 6 months.

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Did You Know?
The "open-kettle," or "hot-pack," method was the oldest canning method. It was largely used during the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The food was completely cooked in the preserving kettle, and it was then packed into hot, sterilized jars, after which the jars were sealed. As the packing into the jar was done after the sterilization has been completed, there was always a possibility of bacteria and spores entering the jar with the cooked food and the air. Fruits can be handled successfully in this way, but this method cannot be used for vegetables, greens and meats. It is a very laborious, hot and hard way to can. Modern housewives were discarding this old canning method and don't use it any more. Modern women place their trust in the newer and far more scientific methods of canning and food preserving.

The "intermittent," or fractional sterilization, method is still beloved by some people who cling to the sure and hate to venture into the new. Fruits were handled by this method, but it is not safe for vegetables and meats. The another objection to this method of canning is that it requires three periods of sterilization on three different days and three liftings of jars in and out of the sterilizer.

What is sometimes called the "cold-water" method of canning should not be confused with the "cold-pack" method. The "cold-water" is often used in connection with the canning of rhubarb, green gooseberries and a comparatively few other sour berry fruits. If the "cold-water" method is used we would suggest that the product be thoroughly washed, placed in a strainer, scalding water poured over it, and the product then packed at once, in practically a fresh state, in the jars, and clean, cold water applied until the jars are filled. If these steps are taken carefully and quickly the method in most cases will be successful with some acid products. As the products will have to be cooked before they can be used many housewives do not consider it any saving of time or labor to follow this method.