Making beef jerky is simple enough but you have to follow a few simple rules. The cut of beef you choose to make jerky with can make a lot of difference to the finished product so it pays to think carefully about and keep an eye out for a few key attributes that will make the best beef jerky. In this article, we are going to take a look at the what cuts of beef are best and why.
What To Look For In A Cut Of Meat For Jerky?
Jerky is, of course, dehydrated meat which can be stored at ambient temperature. The drying of the beef is what stops the jerky from spoiling. We need to think about this when selecting any type of meat to make into jerky.
The leaner the meat the better for making beef jerky. The reason for this is that to make beef jerky we are removing moisture to keep it preserved and stable when stored at room temperatures. Fat is full of oils that cannot be dehydrated so they will decrease the shelf life of your jerky and eventually go bad. Of course, all cuts of beef will have some fat content so this will need to be trimmed away whilst you are preparing the beef for making jerky.
A couple of obvious things we also need to consider when selecting beef for making jerky is the following:
Fresher the better: using meat that has been hanging around for a while or close to the expiration date is a definite no-no. We are of course only drying the meat not necessarily cooking it so as fresh as possible is a must.
Buying enough meat: If you are putting the effort into making jerky I recommend making a fair amount at once. You have to consider that once the beef is dried you end up losing around 2/3rds of the weight. You may also need to trim the meat of excess fat so making sure the cuts of meat you but are large enough is a must.
Consider quality: In all aspects of food and especially when shopping for cuts to make jerky, look for quality over price, it almost always pays off in the finished product.
With this in mind, we can now have a better idea of what to look for in particular cuts of beef to select for making beef jerky.
Specific Cuts of Beef For Jerky
Probably one of the most popular cuts for making beef jerky is the round. The round can be subcategorized into top round or bottom round which you may see when you are buying meat but they all come from the rear leg of a cow. The round coming from the rear leg is a well-worked muscle and has very little fat marbling which makes it the perfect candidate for making jerky.
When you buy a cut of beef round you will notice the muscle itself has very little fat at all in the muscle. There may be some fat and sinew on the outer surface of the round that will need to be trimmed before making jerky.
The round has a definite grain which runs along the length of the cut. This makes it easy to see when slicing the beef for jerky so you can cut along the grain for chewier jerky or against for a more tender jerky.
Top Round: Taken from the inside of the leg muscle the top round is moderately tender with little to no fat marbling.
Bottom Round: A cut from the outside of the leg muscle that is the toughest of the round cuts. Again has little to no marbling and may be cheaper than the other round cuts. Still great for making jerky
Eye of Round: The oval muscle in the rear leg and the most tender of the round cuts. This is one of the most popular cuts and what a lot of commercial jerky producers will use to make beef jerky.
This is most commonly used as steaks or a roasting joint but sirloin is one of the tenderest cuts of beef for making jerky. There is a layer of fat on the outer surface of the muscle that can be easily trimmed for making jerky.
There is very little fat marbling in sirloin which is the key trait to look for in any cut of meat for making jerky. It may be more expensive than round but is definitely worth trying for making jerky you won’t regret it.
A cut of meat taken from the abdominal region or the lower chest of the cow. Flank is long flat cut of beef that is worked well and again has low fat marbling. The grain of the meat is easily visible and flank can be slice across the grain to make tender jerky or along the grain to make a tougher, chewier jerky.
Flank is easy to work with because of the shape of the muscle and is great for slicing. It may be a little pricier than the other cuts here but is a great candidate for making your own jerky.
It is not so much the cut of beef you use for jerky it is the all-important fat content. You will be able to use any cut you want if it is lean enough. Chuck steak and brisket is fine for making beef jerky but will require more trimming as you slice to remove some of the marbled fat. Any fat that does remain will mean the jerky will need to be eaten quicker which is by no means a bad thing!
The takeaway from this is that the most important thing to consider when selecting the best cut for making jerky is the fat content.