This is 10 best tips for making beef jerky with ground beef, your guide to making some of the best jerky you’ve ever eaten. In this post, learn 10 great tips to make better beef jerky then you ever have before, and easier too.
Tips for Making Ground Beef jerky
It’s no secret that I love making ground beef jerky. In fact, this entire website is dedicated do nothing but making ground beef jerky. Even if you have been making jerky for a long time, the following tips and tricks will help you make it even better than you already do.
Each of the following tips deals with a different part of the process for making beef jerky, and I will go into each one of them in detail farther down in the post.
- Use the Right Ground Beef
- Start with a Good Base Seasoning
- Choose the Best Spices
- Beer Instead of Water
- Make it Smoky
- Add a Little Sugar
- Watch Your Salt Level
- Make Your Strips Smooth and Even
- Dehydrate Perfectly
- Store in the Fridge
If you are completely new to making beef jerky, you can start by learning the process for making ground beef jerky first.
Use the Right Ground Beef
The first thing you need to do to make better beef jerky is to start with the right kind of ground beef. There are a few different kinds that you can use, and the biggest thing you want to pay attention to is the fat content.
The highest you want to go when it comes to the fat content in your ground beef is 15%. Anything higher than this is going to drip while the jerky is in your dehydrator, creating a puddle at the bottom. Not only is this difficult to clean, it’s also a waste because your strips of jerky shrivel down to little twigs.
Even if you save a lot of money by using a beef with a higher fat content, it’s all just going to drip the bottom anyway . This makes the savings disappear, and it’s just not worth losing that much volume.
Instead, use a leaner beef, which can be anything from ground chuck, to sirloin, or tri-tip. The cut of beef itself doesn’t matter as much as the fat content. If you have been having trouble with your jerky shrinking and making puddles of grease, this is likely the cause of the problem.
Start With a Good Base Seasoning
Once you have the beef figured out, the next tip for making beef jerky is to start with a good base seasoning. The base what you use as the foundation for all of your recipes. This lays down the expected flavors for beef jerky, which you add upon later with other spices.
The best base recipes are fairly neutral, which means you are essentially creating vanilla, or original flavor beef jerky. You really don’t want anything too intense in the mixture, otherwise you won’t be able to mold your recipes too far from the base.
For example, if you have way too much Garlic in your base recipe, then all of your other recipes are going to have a Garlic flavor, whether you want it or not. Instead, use a base seasoning that lays down some good flavors, but doesn’t overpower the rest of your ingredients.
If you want a good base recipe, my Tata Rudy’s Jerky Seasoning is very good.
Choose the Best Spices
Next, you need to choose the best spices in order to make the best beef jerky. This doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money, but it does mean you need to spend a little time interviewing your spices.
What this means is you should try a few different versions of the same spice in order to find the one that you like the best. Different manufacturers are going to do different things with their spices, and especially their spice blends. Tasting a few of these and picking your favorite will help you control the flavor of your jerky even more.
You don’t have to do this for all of your spices, but it does help. For common spices like Black Pepper, and Garlic Powder, I recommend buying something in the middle price range, which will get you a significantly better product than entry-level, but not cost a bunch of money for the brand-name like high-end sometimes does.
When you use better spices, you get better flavors, and in the end that’s what you really want in a beef jerky recipe.
Beer Instead of Water
This is probably my favorite tip of all time, and this one little change will immediately have you making a better beef jerky even with the same recipes that you have used before.
Simply switching the water in your recipe for beer makes a huge difference in the final taste of your jerky. The type of beer really doesn’t matter, and I’ve used many different kinds in the past with good results.
The only thing I would recommend is if you are looking for a classic beer flavor, then you should use an American Lager Style Beer , like Budweiser, Coors, or Pabst Blue Ribbon. These are similar in flavor, and create a nice classic beer flavor profile in the background for your jerky.
If your recipe calls for 1/4 cup of water, simply replace that water with the same amount of beer and you are all set. Resist the urge to put a lot of beer mixture to get more flavor. It does work to an extent, but it makes the strips lose that characteristic jerky chew feeling.
Try my Beer Jerky Recipe for a quick and easy introduction to using beer in your jerky recipes.
Make it Smoky
Another of my best tips for making beef jerky is to add a little smoke to your recipe. Now, you don’t need to rush out and buy a smoker in order to do this, though you definitely can if you enjoy using a smoker.
There is a product called Liquid Smoke, and it’s super inexpensive, and you can find it in the grocery store near the barbecue sauces and ketchup. The bottle is really small, but it lasts a very long time because you don’t need very much.
Liquid Smoke is a very dark liquid that smells like a campfire, and it adds a smoky flavor to your beef jerky. All you need to do is add about 1/4 teaspoon to any recipe, going up to a maximum of half a teaspoon.
If you really like smoke flavor, you can use more than that, but I recommend tasting the recipe with half a teaspoon of liquid smoke first, because it will add a lot of flavor even with that small amount.
The main two types of liquid smoke are Hickory and Mesquite. I recommend buying a bottle of each, because they are slightly different. Try them with your next couple jerky recipes and you’ll enjoy the smoky flavor that is expected good beef jerky.
Add a Little Sugar
Next, nearly all beef jerky recipes can benefit from having a little sugar in the mixture. It doesn’t even have to be enough sugar that you can detect the sweetness, it just needs to have a little in the background working to support all the other flavors.
The easiest way to do this is to use a tablespoon of Brown Sugar packed. this is just enough add a little helper to the other flavors, and you probably won’t even notice it in the recipe.
Another thing you can do, and one of my secrets for making awesome jerky is to use Dry Malt Extract instead of sugar. You can find Dry Malt Extract at a home brewing store, or you can just go on Amazon and look for it.
DME is Malted Barley that has been dried to a powder. It has a subtle sweetness, but it also has the Barley flavor that is reminiscent of Beer, which makes sense because that’s what it’s used for. This provides a lot more flavor than Brown Sugar, and the sweetness is very subtle.
If you are going to use Dry Malt Extract, then I recommend using 1/4 cup in any recipe to support the other flavors.
Watch Your Salt Level
One of the nice things about making beef jerky is that you can control all of the different aspects of the recipe. One of these aspects is the salt level.
It really depends on your personal preference but most people don’t want to feel like they are licking a salt block when they eat a piece of beef jerky. If you are one of those people that likes it super salty, by all means, it’s your choice and your recipes.
However, because you can control every single aspect of the recipe, you should also monitor the amount of salt so that way you aren’t overdoing it. This is pretty easy to do, and you just have to pay attention to the spices that you’re using.
Most seasoning blends will already have salt in the mixture, so if you use a couple tablespoons of a seasoning blend, it makes sense that you really don’t need any more salt than you already added to the recipe.
In fact, I very rarely add salt directly to a recipe, with the exception of the occasional teaspoon or so of Lawry’s seasoned salt or Lawry’s Garlic Salt. Even these aren’t just directly salt, they also have a little flavor in there.
I only use a maximum of two tablespoons of salt in any recipe, and that’s on the higher end. Most of my recipes likely have about a tablespoon for two pounds of meat, which is not a lot, and the jerky still tastes great.
Make Your Strips Smooth and Even
This tip is particularly important and it can solve a lot of problems that come up while you are dehydrating your jerky strips. The number one cause of drying problems is laying down strips not smooth and even.
This causes problems when hydrating the meat, because the thicker parts take a lot longer and the thinner parts dehydrate a lot faster. This means you’ll have parts of the jerky that are not finished, and parts that are over finished.
It’s also miserably difficult to try and get your strips right when they are different sizes, because they just don’t dehydrate well.
Instead of going through all of these problems, practice dispensing strips on your dehydrator trays that are smooth and even. If you have to, pick up the ones that are lumpy and put them back in the bowl. Run them through your jerky gun as many times as you need to get it right, and they will dehydrate a lot better.
It’s better to practice and only dehydrate thin, even, and smooth strips because the process will be much more uniform. Solve this one problem with your jerky, and the dehydration process will go far smoother for you.
If you don’t have a jerky gun yet, read my post about jerky guns and you will be able to pick out a good one.
This is where a little personal preference comes into play, but in general the perfect amount of dehydration is when the strips are as dry as you can get them without being brittle or crumbly.
The goal of dehydration and preserving meat is to remove as much of the water as possible, because the meat lasts longer that way. However, you don’t want to take out so much water that the jerky crumbles when you chew it, because that ruins the experience.
For most jerky recipes that are dispensed as flat strips on the dehydrator, somewhere in the 4-6 hour range for most machines is about right. You are going to have to test the strips after a few hours and learn how your machine works so you can hit that perfect spot every time.
You are looking for a strip that bends pretty well, but doesn’t snap in half and doesn’t feel hard, crusty, or crumbly to the touch. Essentially, it should feel about the same as similarly shaped jerky strips that you would buy at the store.
Store in the Fridge
Finally, my last tip for making jerky is really a tip about keeping your jerky fresh. Even though the cure is meant to help make your jerky stable at room temperature, it’s still better to store your beef jerky in the fridge after you make it.
Like other foods, storing in your jerky in the fridge makes it last longer, and even though you’ll probably eat most of your recipes within a couple days anyway, because they’re so delicious, storing them in the fridge is still better than leaving them out on the counter.
You are still dealing with a raw product, kind of like eating over-easy eggs, so nothing is going to eliminate completely the chance of getting sick. However, putting your jerky in the fridge and keeping it cold will better your odds.
The more you keep your jerky in the fridge, the longer it will last, and the fresher it will be when you decide to eat it. I still recommend eating your jerky within the first few days to a week, and that’s just to be as safe as possible. When towards the end of a week , you should be treating it like any other food in your refrigerator, and checking it before you eat it.
Beef Jerky Tips Wrap Up
Now that I’ve given you all of these great tips for making beef jerky, it’s time to check out a few of my recipes, and get yourself into the kitchen and make some jerky.
Start with some really good meat, add the best spices, and then use a little beer to mix everything together. Your jerky will come out better than you’ve ever tasted before, and you’ll have a few new techniques that you can keep with you as you make even more batches.
If you have any questions about the post, please email me with the address on my contact page.