What is Jerky?
Jerky is meat that has been cut into strips trimmed of fat, marinated in a spicy, salty or sweet liquid and then dried with low heat (usually under 70°C/160°F) or occasionally salted and sun-dried. The result is a salty, stripped, semi-sweet snack that can be stored without refrigeration. Jerky is an early application of food preservation techniques.
Any single preparation, or recipe for jerky typically uses only one type of meat. Of the many types of meat that may be used, beef is the most common. Meat from other animals—such as wild game, venison, elk, caribou and moose—is also used. Recently, other meats have come to market, such as turkey, ostrich, salmon, alligator, and tuna. The meat must be dried quickly, to limit bacterial growth during the critical period where the meat is not yet dry. To do this, the meat is thinly sliced, or pressed thinly, in the case of ground meat. Drying is performed at low temperatures, to avoid cooking or overdrying the meat and making it brittle.
Since 1996, jerky has been selected by astronauts several times for space flight due to its light weight and high level of nutrition.
Jerky can be made from almost any lean meat, with beef or venison being the best. If made from pork the meat must be treated to kill the trichinella parasite before it is sliced and marinated. This parasite could cause trichinosis. To treat the pork, freeze a portion that is 15cm or less thick at -15°C or lower for 20 days. Poultry is not recommended for jerky, because of its texture when raw.
The meat is marinated for both flavour and tenderness. Ingredients for marinades include oil, salt and an acid product such as vinegar, lemon juice, teriyaki, soy sauce or wine. The first step in preparing the meat is to slice it into long, thin strips. Trim and discard all the fat from the meat, because it becomes rancid rapidly Partially freezing the meat before cutting makes it easier to slice evenly Slice with the grain into thin strips approximately 6mm thick if a chewy jerky is desired. Slice across the grain for a more tender, brittle jerky A tenderiser can also be used on the meat.
- 675-900g of lean meat, prepared as above
- ¼ teaspoon each of pepper and garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon hickory smoke-flavoured salt
- 60ml soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Combine all ingredients.
- Place strips of meat in a bowl and cover with the marinade.
- Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight.
- Remove meat strips from the marinade, drain on absorbent towelling and arrange on dehydrator trays. Place the slices close together but do not overlap.
- Place the trays in the dehydrator preheated at 70°C.
- Dry until a test piece cracks but does not break when it is bent (6-10 hours).
- Pat off any oil with absorbent towelling and cool. Remove strips from the racks.
- Allow to cool and package in glass jars or heavy plastic bags.