Friday, September 17, 2010

How to Jerk Your Meat

Get your mind out of the gutter.

Step 1: Buy some flank steak or London broil -- the leaner the better. (Trader Joe's flank steak: $6.99/pound.) I didn't this time, but go grassfed if you can.

Step 2: Lay out each steak on a flat surface and encase it in plastic wrap. Freeze the steaks, making sure they stay flat.

Step 3: Before slicing 'em up, let the steaks defrost just a little. Using a sharp knife or a deli slicer, cut the steaks in 1/8-inch thick strips. Slice along (not against) the grain.

Also: Trim off the fat.

More after the jump...

I prefer using an electric deli slicer -- slicing by hand takes a lot more physical coordination and patience (two things I have in short supply).

Step 4: Make the marinade.

For this batch, I used: 1/3 cup coconut aminos; 1 tablespoon maple syrup; 2 teaspoons kosher salt; 2 teaspoons onion powder; 2 teaspoons granulated garlic; 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.

Another (spicier) marinade I like to make: 1/3 cup finely chopped chipotle peppers in adobo, 2 tablespoons kosher salt; 2 teaspoons granulated garlic; 2 teaspoons onion powder.

Step 5: Meat meets marinade. Refrigerate overnight in a tightly sealed container or bag.

Step 6: Assemble your drying rig. You'll need a big box fan, some plastic wrap, three or four wire racks, and something to keep each rack elevated. (I re-purposed the kids' Lego Duplo blocks.)
The box fan goes on the bottom. (Make sure there's space underneath for air flow.) Stack the spacers and wire racks on top.

(Credit belongs to Alton Brown and food blogger Sarah Joy Albrecht for coming up with this particular method for drying jerky. And, as always, to MacGyver.)

Step 7: Blot the excess marinade off your meat and lay out the strips on each rack.
Keep stacking until you're out of meat or until you're out of racks.

Step 8: Wrap the sides of your rig with plastic wrap. I also put a mesh thingamabob on the top of my jerky tower to keep the meat pest- and pestilence-free.

Step 9: Turn on the fan. Medium speed is fine. After 4 or 5 hours, check the jerky. The stuff on the bottom rack may be done before the stuff on top is fully dried, so rearrange your meat as necessary.
And keep your exhaust fan on. Otherwise, your entire house will smell like dried meat for a long, long time.

Done and done.

Two flavors are pictured here: Mild in the front, spicy in the back. This particular batch was hand-cut.

Here's a machine-cut batch.

I like to weigh and portion out my jerky. Sadly, post-drying, the meat weighs about 2/3 less than it used to.

(Yes, there's a random batch of bacon in the background. Because bacon is delicious.)

Vacuum sealing is fun.

The end.