Preparing Meat for Dehydrating
Preparing meat to make dried beef jerky strips consists of several steps. Here is a more detailed look at how to prepare meat for the drying process.
Trimming the Meat for Beef Jerky
The first step is to trim all fat off it. Fat does not dehydrate or preserve well so lean meats should be used and all excess fat should be removed.
To get rid of fat, use a clean, sharp, and flexible knife. This easily slices off unwanted fat, gristle, and other parts like bone that aren't consumable. If there is a line of fat and silver skin, slice under the fat starting from the top of the meat while keeping the knife parallel to the cutting board. This way, you can remove most of the fat safely and quickly.
The trimming step is followed by cutting the meat into strips or grinding it.
Cutting Beef Jerky Into Strips
Beef jerky is commonly known for being thin, dried meat strips. You can opt for mechanical slicers or have a local butcher to evenly cut the meat into nice strips for you. If a mechanical slicer or a local butcher isn't available, a handy kitchen knife is the best tool for the job. Slowly work your way through the meat in smooth, even strokes.
To make the slicing easier, put the trimmed meat into the freezer for 30 to 60 minutes to slightly harden it. It is recommended to slice across the grain since this makes the jerky easier to bite into once it has dried. Usually the average thickness of a beef jerky strip is 1/8 to 3/8 of an inch.
Grinding Meat for Beef Jerky
The other main way to make beef jerky is by grinding it and using extruders to form shapes. The grinding process often uses extruding devices or machines like a jerky gun to make beef jerky strips out of lean meat.
To make your own ground meat, a meat grinder is necessary. Using a food processor is also suitable. The meat's texture should be finer as this will aid in retaining the shape of having a firmer and more compact appearance.
Ground meat can also be purchased in food stores if you don't have a grinder at home. For store-bought ground meat, another option is to second grind it while you add your preferred spice mixture.
To prepare meat for drying, divide the meat mixture into equal portions, and roll them into rectangles with a 1/8 to 3/8 of an inch thickness, or use a jerky extruder gun.
Seasoning Meat for Beef Jerky
Prior to dehydrating beef jerky, you should season it to boost the meat's flavor and texture. A beef jerky should not taste bland and seasoning it enables the meat to produce varying appetizing flavors. Seasoning involves the use of salt, pepper, herbs, spices and other condiments.
As its primary seasoning, making beef jerky involves adding large or small amounts of salt before the drying process. The salt is rubbed onto the skin of the meat to help in increasing its natural flavor and to draw out the meat's water content (for in-depth information on seasoning, see the page on Seasoning Meat for Dehydrating). Seasoning makes the jerky strips more tender and succulent.