Primal/Paleo snacks can be hard to find when you’re on the go. Often I’ll be surrounded by bastardized versions of tasty Primal treats – hormone-laden beef sticks loaded with MSG, sugar and nitrates for instance – and will choose to not eat rather than subject my body to the chemicals found in the non-recyclable packaging. Even at Trader Joe’s, my favoritest grocery store in the world, the beef jerky is loaded with sugar. Part of being Primal is planning ahead and making your own food. So, I tried my hand at beef jerky.
It was surprisingly easy. The results were amazing. It was hands down, the best beef jerky my husband and I have ever had. Since I started with a grassfed cut of beef, I knew the quality was top notch. There were no chemicals, hormones or excitotoxins and absolutely no sugar. A truly Primal/Paleo snack I could eat with abandon – and eat it we did. The best advice I can give you is to make LOTS. It goes fast.
The first time I made it, I started with a 2.78 lb piece of flat iron steak. You can use pretty much any cut of meat you want, but make sure it isn’t too fatty. The fat in the meat is what makes it spoil faster and you need to remove it. Starting with a leaner cut makes things easier on you. You can “blot” the jerky throughout the drying process with a paper towel to remove the excess fat that drips out. I got exactly 1 lb of beef jerky from the almost 3 lb piece I started with, so there is quite a bit of water in there. That’s why I say make lots. Next time I attempt this, I will use at least 6 pounds of beef to make it worth my while. This explains why commercial beef jerky is so expensive – but not why they use so many damned chemicals.
The second time I made jerky, I used a crossrib roast I didn’t know what else to do with. I had looked up ways to cook it online and pretty much found out that the slow cooker was the only way to make this cut of meat tender enough to eat. I realllllly didn’t feel like yet another slow cooked roast, so I said screw it, I’ll make it into jerky and see how it turns out. The meat had a lot more fat on it, so it took more work to cut it all off. But the meat itself didn’t have a lot of marbling – so it turns out it was a great cut of meat to use. I didn’t even have to blot it during the drying process. I was worried about it being too tough to eat – but nope, surprisingly it was more tender than any other time I’ve made it.
I got a $40 dehydrator on Amazon, and it dries the jerky beautifully. I’ve never tried to use an oven to dry meat, apparently even the lowest temperature will still “cook” the meat a little, and that isn’t what you want. If you’re serious about being Paleo/Primal and you like jerky, spend the $40 and get a dehydrator. Let me tell you, dried kiwi’s (with the skin still on for the extra fiber and vitamin C) are like sweet-tart potato chips. Dried apples are amazing on a hike. The skin gets all crispy and even the core is delicious (I just sliced the apple using a mandolin and removed the nothing but the stem and the seeds. If you do it from the top, you get a beautiful star pattern in the middle of the apple. Art AND food. But I digress.) Having your own dehydrator is worth it, IMHO.
I also have a vacuum sealer, which I use to seal up 2 oz bags of jerky (or whatever I’ve dried) to help it keep longer. Then, I keep those bags in the fridge. To be honest, we’ve never had jerky last more than two weeks in the house – we keep eating it all – so I don’t know how long it would actually last before going bad. Vacuum sealing, however, would make it last much longer – exposure to air is what makes the fat go rancid, which is what makes the meat spoil. Cut off the air and you don’t have to worry about that.
There are plenty of fantastic recipes for the marinades on the Internet – the website I use is www.beefjerkyrecipes.com. They’ve got everything on there – even recipes for rabbit jerky. My favorite one is a recipe called Island Cowboy Beef Jerky. You can use wheat-free tamari instead of the soy sauce if you want, skip the Worcestershire (although I do admit I like the taste of it and do use it, since there’s only 2 tablespoons per batch) and mix up the ingredients to suit your own tastes and dietary restrictions. All the directions you need and more information and tips can be found right on their website.
Making my own beef jerky was so amazingly simple that I can’t believe more people don’t do it themselves. The fact that I didn’t have to use any preservatives, chemicals or sugar just gave me more ammo against the prepackaged food industry.