Cooking Corner: Homemade Jerky

cooking_jerky

The Native Americans of the Great Plains have made jerky for thousands of years, drying out their meat to preserve it. With a lean cut of meat, a little equipment, and a lot of time, anyone can make tasty jerky for less than the commercially produced version.

Necessary Equipment:
-A barbecue smoker or oven.
-Wood chips and/or charcoal. Hardwoods like apple or hickory work the best.
-A sharp knife and cutting board, or a mandolin slicer.
-Bamboo skewers.

Ingredients:
-2 pounds red meat (the pictures show elk and antelope, but any super-lean meat, like flank steak, will do)
-2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
-2/3 cup soy sauce
-1 teaspoon liquid smoke (leave this out if using a smoker)
-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
-1 tablespoon honey

1. Trim any fat or gristle from the meat.
2. Slice the meat as thinly as possible, going with the grain. Make the strips about as long and as thick as a pencil, and about half an inch wide.
3. Mix all of the ingredients into a marinade and pour into a large plastic bag.
4. Put the meat in the bag and let it marinate overnight.
5. Pull out the meat and skewer all the pieces through one end. Arrange the pieces with a small gap between them so that they will hang down.
6. Start a small fire in the bottom of the smoker. In an electric smoker, just put a tray of wood chips on top of the burner. DO NOT soak the wood chips in water, since the goal is to dry the meat out. Keep the fire low, or the wood chips just barely smoldering, so as to not overcook the meat.
7. Arrange the skewers on the grill so that the strips are hanging down and there is enough space in between all the pieces for air to circulate.
8. Put the lid on, with the vents open, and wait. It will probably take about 6 to 8 hours to fully dry the meat. More wood chips will be needed at least once every hour.
9. When the meat is dry, take it off the skewers and put it in plastic sandwich bags. Unless every last drop of moisture is out of the meat, keep it refrigerated.

Those without a smoker can use an oven to make jerky. Follow steps 1-5, then heat the oven to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit and hang the meat from the racks. Also, keep the door cracked open with a stick to let out moisture.



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