Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Beef Jerky

Time is running out before our 2014 NSE trip (this year it's Surf City on the Churchill River near Missinipe, SK) and I still have to pack and get everything ready. On my "To-Do" list is smoking & drying the jerky for our trip. On Sunday I bought 2 round roasts (5 lbs of meat in total?), sliced them up and marinated them in a homemade teryaki sauce with jerky cure. This evening (Tuesday) they will go into the smoker using this smoke schedule from the Bradley Smoker website:

  1. Dry at 140°F without smoke until the meat is dry (~ 1 hour)
  2. Smoke at 160°F for 2-3 hours
  3. Dry at 175°F until done - about 3 hours.
The sauce I used was gleaned and modified from a couple of different websites and spiced up some, but basically went something like this:
  • 1 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup white wine (since I didn't have any rice wine or whatever was called for)
  • a couple tablespoons of fresh ginger
  • a fair bit of honey to sweeten the mixture to taste - maybe 1/4 cup or more
  • minced garlic
  • onion powder
  • cayenne
  • ground pepper
  • chili flakes
The sauce was heated to dissolve the honey, then cooled in the freezer before use. Just prior to marinating the meat with the sauce, I added an appropriate amount of cure based on the instructions (just shy of 2 tsp).

Rather than finish in the smoker, I pulled the jerky out after smoking and finished in the dehydrator. The smoker doesn't offer very even heat, getting hot along the back above the burner (some folks install a small fan which would be great in this application). Because the meat is thin it is prone to quickly overcooking in some areas along the back and I would have to counter this by frequently rotating the racks and meat. Since it was late (~11 pm), I decided to finish the drying process on the dehydrator, set to 160°F. I connected the dehydrator to a block heater timer so that it would dry for about 3 hours, be off for the rest of the night, then start up again in the morning to finish it off. I find that second drying step is helpful with a lot of foods - the moisture becomes "trapped" inside the dried outer parts, and takes a very long time to dry properly. By giving the food a bit of a break, the moisture moves outward and becomes more even through the product. Then, a short period of drying (~1 hour in this case) finishes off the product and ensures it is sufficiently dry all the way through.

Smoker set up and ready to go.

5 racks of jerky ready to start the drying step.
The finished product the next morning.