Three Things You Need to Make Great Jerky

Beef jerky is a delicious, healthy treat that is easier to make than you might realize.

a plate of beef jerky
Prepared correctly, jerky is a delicious, nutritious snack you can enjoy anytime.Alpha/Wikimedia Commons

So, you want to make your own beef jerky but don’t know where to start? In truth, it’s a very easy process. To accomplish the task, get some beef, slice it thin, use an appropriate amount of seasoning, and stick it in a food dehydrator until it is ready to eat. Then package up what you don’t eat and store it in the freezer for the next time you crave jerky. If you want to make your own great beef jerky, here are three things you’ll need to make it happen.

Meat Slicer

BESWOOD 10" Premium Chromium-plated Carbon Steel Blade Electric Deli Meat Cheese Food Slicer
This stainless-steel meat slicer can slice beef thick or thin, however you prefer your jerky.BESWOOD

Good jerky starts with meat sliced to just the right thickness. That can be done with a knife, but you’ll likely never be satisfied since it’s impossible to make every slice exactly the same thickness. Later, when the meat is in a dehydrator, thinner pieces will finish drying at different times, making it much more work. A good meat slicer solves the problem from the start. Note that cutting meat to just the right thickness is in the eye of the beholder. Depending on your preference for thick, moist jerky or thinner, drier jerky, you’ll want it sliced differently. Choosing a meat slicer that can slice beef in a variety of thicknesses will give you the most versatility.

Dehydrator

NESCO FD-75A, Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator
This simple dehydrator comes with five trays but is expandable to 12.NESCO

A dehydrator is another critical piece of equipment for making beef jerky. Sure, you can make jerky in the oven, but keeping the temperature and humidity just right can be a challenge. A good food drier, or dehydrator, makes keeping the temperature and humidity easier while you dry your meat. Just set the dehydrator on the correct setting for drying meat (see the owner’s manual) and leave it alone for hours at a time. Note that buying a dehydrator that can also be used to dry other foods like fruit, vegetables, and herbs gives you a much more versatile piece of equipment that will come in handy for chores other than just making jerky.

Vacuum Packer

FoodSaver FM2000 Vacuum Sealer Machine
A vacuum packer like this one can help you keep jerky fresh for months at a time.FoodSaver

A vacuum packer isn’t a necessity for making great jerky, but it sure is handy for storing it. Like with other foods that are often stored in the refrigerator or freezer, jerky can start to go bad or even get freezer burn just stuffed in a zippered plastic bag. Using a vacuum sealer can ensure your jerky or other food stays fresh for up to twice as long in the freezer. Vacuum sealers come in a wide variety of sizes, so choosing the size for you will depend on what you will use it for. If you’ll just be bagging up your jerky, a small one will work fine. If you’ll be vacuum packing roasts, steaks or other cuts of meat, a larger one will serve your purposes better.