Thursday, June 17, 2010

S is not for S--t*: Homemade Black Pepper Beef Jerky

(*S is for Shelley although I wouldn’t blame you if you thought otherwise. It's pretty hard to style beef jerky in a fashion that doesn’t lend itself to looking like a pile of you know what.)

I was a bit of a picky eater as a kid. For example, I didn’t like sandwiches so my mom had to pack a thermos of soup for my school lunches. When I think back, I pretty much subsisted on Cheerios, Raisin Bran, and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup for a large part of my childhood. I wonder now if my mom decided to introduce beef jerky into my diet in a desperate attempt to get me to eat some sort of protein. If that was her intention, it worked because I’ve loved beef jerky ever since.

As a kid I ate that spurious beef jerky product called Slim Jims. Now that I am older and cognizant enough to read an ingredient list, I haven’t eaten a Slim Jim in quite a few years. In case you’re wondering, Slim Jims are only nominally beef; these “meat sticks” also contain mechanically separated chicken. Why on earth would ConAgra’s marketing department allow them to call a product a meat stick? Not terribly appetizing. Or for that matter, why would the FDA allow ConAgra to use a filler product like mechanically separated chicken? Do yourself a favor and don’t wiki mechanically separated chicken. Trust me… A good rule of thumb: if it sounds disgusting, it mostly likely is (and definitely is, in this case).
So color me thrilled when I saw a recipe for homemade beef jerky in a recent issue of Food & Wine. When I started gathering ingredients to make the recipe, I stopped by the Richardson Farms booth at the Triangle Farmers Market. I explained I was looking for a good cut of beef to make jerky and the gentleman manning the booth recommended using tri-tip. He assured me it would make fine jerky and he was right! This jerky is a great savory treat and I’m already ruminating (indulge the pun- I’ve laid off quite a bit lately) on variations to make next.

Black Pepper Beef Jerky
Recipe by Rachel Graville, published in Food & Wine

3 c amber ale or lager
2 c soy sauce
1/2 c Worcestershire sauce
2 T cracked black peppercorns, plus 2 T coarsely ground black pepper, for sprinkling before drying the meat
2 lbs trimmed beef top round or bottom round, about 1 1/2 inches thick

1.    To make the marinade, in a large bowl, combine ale or lager with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and cracked black peppercorns.
2.    Cut the beef into 1/4-inch-thick slices, against the grain.
3.    Add the beef to the marinade, a few slices at a time, stirring well to coat each slice with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours.
4.    To dry the meat, preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Set a large wire rack on each of 3 large rimmed baking sheets. Remove the beef from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Arrange the beef on the racks and allow 1/4 inch between slices. Sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper. Bake for about 4 hours, until the jerky is firm and almost completely dry, but still chewy. Let cool completely on the racks before serving.
      * (I'm just full of asterisks today.) I'm posting soothing, sepia-toned photos because, despite being an avowed carnivore, the color shots of raw, bloody meat were just a little too gory for me. I know, I know... philosophically, I could so totally be a vegetarian; it's just the physical deprivation of giving up yummy, tasty meat that trips me up.


  1. I absolutely love beef jerky but have NEVER thought of making it myself. Great post!

  2. Thanks Mandy! It's so simple you should give it a try.