Photo: Shutterstock/Fabio Balbi
Finding an easy beef jerky recipe can be a fickle process. Many recipes demand smokers, dehydrators or single-use equipment—but who has space for that? On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve found old-fashioned recipes that call for drying strips of meat outdoors using only the sun and wind. (Having seen how many flies it attracts, we’ll gracefully decline that method, too.)
After testing dozens of recipes, we found the easiest, most convenient (and safest!) option for your jerky needs: the oven. Follow along as we guide you through our simple beef jerky recipe.
Before you start, you should know there’s a risk of food-borne illness when making beef jerky. There are many recipes out there that go against the accepted practice stated by the USDA. This isn’t one of those recipes. We advise that you follow the recipe step by step. (And we promise we didn’t sacrifice any flavor.)
Easy Beef Jerky Recipe
1 beef flank steak (1-1/2 to 2 pounds)
After trying a number of different cuts of meat, we settled on flank steak as our favorite cut for making jerky. It’s lean, usually pretty inexpensive and very flavorful. Brisket is another option, but you’ll need to trim a lot of fat from the outside before slicing it up. It goes without saying that you should use the freshest meat you can get.
2/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup honey
3 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1-1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
Step 1: Prep and freeze
Trim all visible fat from steak, then pop the meat in the freezer, covered, for 30 minutes or until firm.
Test Kitchen tip: Freezing the meat will make it much easier to cut into thin slices.
Step 2: Get slicing
Carefully slice the steak along the grain (the long, fibrous streaks) into long 1/8-in.-thick strips.
Test Kitchen tip: Cut the slices as thin as possible. This will give you that customary, satisfying jerky chew.
Step 3: Marinate the meat
Transfer the meat to a shallow dish. Then, in a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Add to the dish with the beef. (This Teriyaki marinade will bestow the beef with irresistible flavor.)
Toss and stir the meat in the marinade to coat. Store in the refrigerator, covered, for 2 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.
Step 4: Boil it up
When you’re ready to start cooking, preheat the oven to 170°. Transfer the beef and marinade to a large saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil. When you start to see rolling bubbles, reduce the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes.
Using tongs, remove the beef from its marinade and let drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Discard the marinade.
Test Kitchen tip: Be sure to thoroughly pat dry the meat after it simmers, otherwise it will take too long to fully dry out.
Step 5: Dry, dry, dry
Arrange beef strips in single layer on wire racks placed on 15x10x1-in. baking pans. Let the meat dry in the 170° oven for 4-5 hours or until beef becomes dry and leathery. Be sure to rotate the pans occasionally.
Test Kitchen tip: If you have one handy, you can instead use a commercial dehydrator following manufacturer’s directions.
Step 6: Enjoy
When the jerky appears to have dried completely, take it out of the oven. (Try to let the batch cool completely before sinking your teeth in!) Using paper towels, gently blot any beads of oil from the jerky. Ta-da! You’ve made a batch of savory, mouthwatering beef jerky perfect for snacking on all week.
For the best quality and longer storage, store jerky, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week. If you plan to store in the freezer, use a food vacuum sealer to seal the jerky before storing.