How to Make Beef Jerky

sweet-beef-jerky-recipe-strips-standing-in-glassThis is how to make beef jerky using ground beef.

Right here, you’ll learn everything you need to know to easily make the best tasting jerky you have ever eaten using ordinary ground beef and simple ingredients.

When you are finished, you’ll never make jerky the same way again. Enjoy.

Why Homemade Jerky is Better

It’s a surprise to most people that you can make beef jerky using ground beef. However, there are several advantages to using hamburger meat rather than whole muscle meat for jerky making:

  1. Homemade Jerky is Less Expensive
  2. It’s Quicker and Easier to Make
  3. The Equipment Cost is Very Low
  4. You Control the Ingredients
  5. Make the Exact Jerky You Like

how-to-make-beef-jerkyFirst, making your own jerky is a lot less expensive than buying it from a store. If you look inside those gigantic bags at the grocery store, there is usually only a small amount in the bottom of the bag.

Seven to ten dollars later, you are out of jerky, and your stomach is still hungry. For about the same amount of money, you can turn two pounds of meat into delicious jerky, and have more than you can eat in one sitting.

Second, ground beef jerky is quicker and easier to make. One of the big frustrations with whole meat jerky is that it’s a much longer process to get everything going.

The biggest hurtle is the marinade, which adds a day to your process. Since ground beef is already broken down, there is no need to marinade. All you do is mix in the dry and wet ingredients, and it’s ready to go. Super easy, and fast.

jerky-gun-fully-assembledNext, the equipment cost is really low. All you really need is a basic dehydrator and a jerky gun. The dehydrator will cost you about $40 and the jerky gun about $15. Other than that, it’s basic kitchen stuff like bowls and measuring spoons.

Also, you are in complete control of the ingredients. There is no mystery meat, random chemicals, or hard to pronounce preservatives. All the junk in jerky is completely eliminated, and you have full control of the recipe.

Finally, since you are making the jerky yourself at home, you get to make exactly the type of product you would like to eat. No more settling for the few flavors on the shelf. If you like something specific, just make it.

How to Make Ground Beef Jerky

This is the basic process for making your own beef jerky using ground beef, and it’s super easy to follow. For a more detailed version with lots of pictures, skip to How to Make Beef Jerky With a Dehydrator.

Here are the steps:

  1. Mix Your Dry Ingredients in a Large Bowl
  2. Add Your Liquid Ingredients and Mix Again
  3. Add the Ground Chuck and Mix Again
  4. Fill Your Jerky Gun and Make Jerky Strips
  5. Repeat Step 4 Until Your Dehydrator is Full
  6. Run the Dehydrator for 3-6 hours.
  7. Enjoy Eating a Huge Pile of DIY Beef Jerky

The first step is to gather up all of your dry ingredients, which consist of herbs, spices, and jerky base mix. Then, mix them all together really well to fully blend them.

Then, add your liquid ingredients, and mix again. You now have your seasoning mixture ready to go.

how-to-make-beef-jerky-mixing-the-meat-and-spicesFinally, add the meat, and using a pair of food handling gloves or a potato masher, spend a few minutes mixing the seasonings into the beef really well. It’s a good idea to mix for a few minutes until everything is the same color.

Now that the meat is done, fill your jerky gun and start dispensing strips onto your dehydrator trays. Leave a small gap in between them for air flow, and keep stacking up trays until your meat is gone.

beef-jerky-dehydrator-drying-ground-beef-jerkyPut the lid on your dehydrator, and run it on the jerky setting for 3-6 hours or until the jerky is done to your liking. If you don’t have a jerky setting, use 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

If it has no setting, check the box but it should heat to the required temperature all by itself.

Finally, enjoy your jerky, which you can eat right off the dehydrator trays if you like. It’s really that easy, and you can make hundreds of recipes using this exact same process.

Equipment for Making Jerky

Here is a quick introduction to the two main pieces of equipment you’ll need to turn ground beef into beef jerky. If you want more detail on both of these, please take a look at Beef Jerky Dehydrator and Jerky Gun.

  1. Food Dehydrator (Basic Models Work Well)
  2. Jerky Gun
  3. Basic Kitchen Supplies (Bowls, Measuring Spoons, etc.)

The first piece of equipment you need to make your own jerky at home is a simple dehydrator. You can find these in most stores that sell kitchen supplies, and online.

Thankfully, you only need a basic model, and most of these will cost about around $40. Look for a four tray model, which is typically about the size you need to make a full 2 pound batch of meat.

For the record, I have a Presto Dehydrator from Walmart that I have been using for about a decade, and it’s always been excellent.

Next, you need a jerky gun. In reality, you can go without and just roll out your meat and then cut it with a pizza cutter, but for the low price the gun makes the process a lot easier.

The jerky gun looks like a caulking gun, but with a large barrel that you fill with meat. Press the handle and strips of jerky come out of the tip. It makes filling your dehydrator easy, and they start around $15.

Finally, you’ll need some normal kitchen items like a large bowl, mixing spoons, measuring cup, and measuring spoons. Also, some food handling gloves are also nice for when you mix the meat.

That’s it for equipment, and even if you need to buy a dehydrator and a jerky gun, you can still get them both for a really low price.

Ingredients for Beef Jerky

The ingredients you need to make your recipes are all really common, and you likely have most of them in your spice cabinet right now. The only one that you will need to order is your base mix, and that’s where we’ll start.

One of the secrets to making the best beef jerky is to start out with a really good base seasoning. This gives you the stable platform you need to build a tasty recipe successfully.

The best base is Uncle Abe’s Jerky Seasoning, which you can find at online at The Sausage Maker. Start out with a one pound box and cure, and it will last you well into your beginner period, even making lots of recipes.

All the recipes in my books, as well as on this website start with the same solid base mix, and then build with herbs and spices, which takes us to the next set of ingredients.

Building on the base, you use common (and uncommon if you are adventurous) spices and herbs to flavor the recipe to your exact taste.

Spices like Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Paprika, Cumin, Chili Powder, and Black Pepper can all be found in the average spice cabinet. They are also easily bought in most grocery stores.

Uncommon spices like Habanero Powder, Jalapeno Powder, Extra Hot Chili Powder, and Ancho Powder might be harder to find in a store, but thanks to Amazon, you are a simple search away from anything you could ever want.

Also, if you would like to skip the spice blending, you can use pre-mixed seasoning blends like Southwest, Cajun, or Garlic and Herb to do the work of combining spices into perfect flavors for you.

how-to-make-beef-jerky-with-ground-beefThe beef is pretty simple. Just look for ground beef that is at least 90% lean or higher. In my recipes, I use 90/10 Ground Sirloin, which is about a dollar more than the regular ground beef.

You can buy the meat at your local grocery store, or if you feel adventurous, you can go to a butcher to have it ground for you. I normally get my meat from Walmart, and it’s always been great.

Finally, a little water goes into every recipe to help make it easier to mix the dry spices well with the meat. It will dehydrate away, leaving just the taste of the spices fully incorporated in the meat.

Your First Recipe

Another secret to making excellent jerky is to have a good recipe. With ground beef, the process and the recipe are what make your jerky outstanding, and they are both really easy.

The following starter recipe is perfect for you as a new homemade jerky maker. It’s tasty, easy, and if you follow along, you will have great results. If you already know how to make jerky, go to my Dehydrator Jerky Recipes for even more delicious options.

Garlic Pepper Jerky Recipe

  • 2 lbs. 90% Lean 10% Fat Ground Beef or Sirloin
  • 2 tablespoons Uncle Abe’s Jerky Seasoning
  • 1 /2 teaspoon Insta Cure No. 1
  • 1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 /4 cup Water
  • 1 /4 teaspoon Hickory or Mesquite Liquid Smoke (Optional)

Make sure to read the Step By Step Instructions for Making Ground Beef Jerky before you get started with this recipe. This way, you will know what to do, and your jerky will come out perfectly.

If you are not a fan of heat, you can remove the Red Pepper Flakes, or you can double the amount if you like spicy food.

The Liquid Smoke is an optional item, but worth your time to get if you are in the grocery store. You can typically find it near the barbecue sauces and a small bottle might only be a couple dollars. It lasts practically forever too.

This is a great tasting recipe with a simple flavor profile and ingredients that you can find easily. You will likely make this recipe several times, because it’s that good.

Storing Your Finished Jerky

Now that you have finished jerky on your hands, you need to store it well and know a little about how long it will last. After all, a little knowledge can help keep your jerky from going bad too quickly.

In general, there are a couple things that cause dried meats to spoil. They are:

  1. Salt Content
  2. Water Content
  3. Fat Content

If you can control these three things, you can help your homemade jerky last longer.

ground-beef-jerky-inside-dehydratorFirst, the seasoning blend that you use will likely have salt as the first ingredient, and that’s partially for taste and partially for helping to preserve the meat.

You can add additional salt sometimes in the seasoning blends you choose to use, because they too will have salt in them. Both will help your jerky store better, and slow the growth of bacteria.

Next, the water provides moisture that bacteria need to live. The wetter you like your jerky, the quicker it will spoil. If you can, try to dehydrate for at least three hours, but try four to five hours and see if you like the consistency.

Finally, fat goes bad quickly. The learner the beef, the better, and you will help prevent bacteria growth. I always recommend 90/10 ground sirloin or ground beef, but you can also use a leaner cut if you like.

Anything with more fat than 10% will just liquefy and fall out of the meat, and leave additional fat inside the beef that you just don’t need.

how-to-make-beef-jerky-with-ground-beef-blotting-the-finished-jerkyYou should also blot your jerky with paper towels when it comes out of the dehydrator. This will remove any liquefied fat on the surfaces of the meat, and further reduce the fat content.

If you use a good recipe, dry your jerky well, and use a low fat meat, you can be assured that you have done everything you can to make your product last as long as possible.

I also recommend keeping your beef jerky in the fridge, even though the curing salt will make it stable at room temperature. Unless you are going to a place where you don’t have a fridge, just keep it in there.

Refrigerated jerky can last a week or more, just make sure to smell it and treat it like any other leftovers. If it’s suspect, toss it.

However, once you taste your first recipe, you will wonder how anyone could have something that tasty in the fridge for a whole week anyway. Your first batches will likely be gone in a day or two.

Tips and Tricks

One of the best ways to learn about any new hobby is to read tips and tricks from experts. These are the little nuggets of information that you typically would have to learn by making mistakes. That’s why they are so valuable.

Instead of paying for the knowledge with lost time, ruined food, or wasted money on ingredients and equipment, you get to learn the lesson without feeling the pain.

It’s a huge win for you, and you can up your jerky making game really quickly even as a total beginner.

Here are a few jerky making tips to get you started:

  1. Mix all the ingredients with the meat really well. It takes a few minutes to get them fully combined, and you definitely do not want to have sections of meat without spices and cure. A couple extra minutes go a long way.
  2. Try replacing the water with Soy Sauce. It will add a nice Soy flavor, and compliment nearly any recipe. This is one of my favorite ways to add a huge flavor element to any recipe easily.
  3. Practice with your jerky gun a little. As you fill your first tray, if you don’t like how the strips look, put the meat back in the gun and try again.
  4. Hot peppers go a long way in a jerky recipe. Typically, a tablespoon or two of any normal (not insanely hot) pepper will be very noticeable.
  5. There are several kinds of liquid smoke, and since they are inexpensive, you should try them all because their flavors are each unique.

Making Your Own Recipes

ground-beef-jerky-drying-in-the-dehydratorThe next big step after you have made a few recipes and understand the process is to make your own jerky recipes.

This is where you take full control, and make the exact type of jerky you like with no compromise.

In order to make a successful recipe, you will only need a few building blocks, and they are:

  • A Great Tasting Base Mix
  • Jerky Cure (Insta Cure No. 1)
  • Seasoning Blends and Spices
  • Liquids

Think of your recipe as a set of blocks. Start with the base mix, the add your cure, one or more spices or seasoning blends, and then your liquids, like water, Soy Sauce, and Liquid Smoke.

If you start with the same base, then mix and match some spices that go well together, add your liquids, and you’ll have a jerky recipe that will taste like beef jerky when it comes out of the dehydrator.

Plus, the odds of you creating something that you can’t eat are really low. You might make something too spicy to eat, which I have done before, but it will still taste like jerky.

I recommend making a few of my recipes and getting to know the process really well first. Then, you won’t have to worry about that half of the hobby as you create your own delicious recipes.

Taking Your Process Up a Notch

Finally, there are a lot of ways to take your hobby to the next level if you want to go beyond the basic stuff. They are all pretty easy, and they can help you create unique and interesting jerky recipes.

One of the easiest is to add sprinkles to your jerky. Right after you lay out your strips on the dehydrator trays, sprinkle on some additional spices before you start up the machine.

The dry spices will stick to the wet meat, and the dehydration process will weld them in place. Some will fall off, but most will stick, and they will become a strong flavor layer as you bite into the pieces.

Another thing you can do is blend your own spices, and grind them up in a small electric coffee grinder. A spice grinder is really a coffee grinder that you only use for spices. You can get one for about $20 to $30.

Whenever you grind your own spices, you break them down and increase the potency. They will flavor better, more intensely, and with more richness than without.

Spices have the same effect as fresh ground coffee. When you grind fresh, right before making the coffee, it tastes better. The same goes for spices, and this can make a big difference in your jerky.

My Beef Jerky Making Books

If you want to make the best beef jerky you have every had in your life, and you like my process, you will love my books.

Ground Beef Jerky: How to Make Great Tasting Beef Jerky Using Ground Beef is my first book on jerky making, and you’ll learn the process, ingredients, and recipes you need to get going.

There are also sections on tips and tricks, troubleshooting, and taking your recipes to the next level with advanced cooking techniques. There is even a section on making jerky with fresh produce ingredients like Jalapenos.

100 Ground Beef Jerky Recipes is my second jerky making book, and it’s a collection of a hundred excellent recipes that you can make using the same process you just learned here.

They range widely from region to region, and you are sure to find several favorites that you will make many times over.

Ground Beef Jerky Wrap Up

If you stuck with me this long, you definitely need to give jerky making a shot. You will enjoy the process, and after your first taste, you will never buy beef jerky from a store ever again.

It’s a night and day difference, and nobody you give it to would ever guess that you made it from hamburger meat. In fact, when you tell them, most people will not believe you. That’s how good this stuff is.

If you have any questions about the process, ingredients, or what you need to do to get started, Please Reach Out Through My Contact Page and I will be glad to help you.

The Jerky Maker Book Series

jerky making books banner If you are ready to start making some of the best beef jerky you have ever made in your life, then The Jerky Maker Book Series is for you!  There are seven books in the series so far, each one filled with everything you need to know to make outstanding ground beef jerky using common ingredients, inexpensive equipment, and with flavor so good you'll never eat store bought jerky again! is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.