This Salt and Pepper Beef Jerky recipe is a great snack to have on hand when the next meal seems a lifetime away and you want something satisfying to your tastebuds that’s not laden with sugar.
What is beef jerky?
Beef jerky is common in the US but maybe not so well known here in the UK. I personally love the stuff and find it makes for a really tasty and satisfying snack when you are craving something savoury rather than the usual sweet bites.
So what is beef jerky? It’s a low-carb, low-fat savoury snack using meat that has been dried out. The process of drying out the meat means that it will last longer.
Looking a little bit into the history behind beef jerky and beef jerky recipes via a quick search online, it seems that it could well have dated back to the times of ancient Egypt. However, it would appear that beef jerky really took off as a result of them there cowboys!
According to the internet(!), cowboys in the wild, wild west would slice off strips of meat from any animal that was too big to eat to eat all in one go. They then hung it up to dry in the hot sun. This preserved the meat and meant that these ‘leftovers’ could be kept in said cowboys’ saddle bags when they were out riding a long trail.
I love the idea of this! Almost makes me want to go get on a horse and stride out over the plains with only my saddle bag and my salt and pepper beef jerky for company!
How to prepare jerky
One of your most trusted tools for this recipe is going to be your knife. I don’t class a good knife as a luxury kitchen item. If, like me, you spend a lot of time in the kitchen I believe you are fully justified in having a decent knife. Indeed, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice, if you don’t own one.
Beef jerky is the perfect recipe to put a good knife through its paces. You’ll soon appreciate why it’s so valuable to have as you need those sheets of meat to be super thin.
My top tip for preparing beef for a beef jerky recipe, is to pop the joint of meat into the freezer before slicing it. This firms it up, which makes it easier to cut through.
My second top tip is to cut the beef against the grain of the muscle fibre. I find this makes the beef jerky less chewy. Do give it a go with and against the grain though, as you may find that you prefer the texture using the alternative slicing method.
Salt and pepper beef jerky recipe: no nitrates, no marinade
Normally I’d season beef jerky with spices such as smoked paprika and hot chilli, but for this salt and pepper beef jerky recipe I’ve gone back to the basics and kept it really simple.
I dry our jerky using a dehydrator. A dehydrator is not essential however, and if you don’t have one, you can find the instructions here to dry the beef in a low heated oven instead.
Whichever method you choose, remember that you’re dealing with raw meat that won’t be cooked at a high temperature to kill any bacteria. For this reason, ensure everything that touches the meat is perfectly clean and sterile. Oh, and remove any fat as you go as the fat will spoil in storage and ruin your jerky.
If you have ever made jerky before, you will note that this recipe doesn’t use any nitrates or a marinade. From what I understand, that’s actually quite unusual for a beef jerky recipe. Because we are using no nitrates and no marinade, this particular recipe will need to be stored in the fridge after drying.
I found this really interesting PDF on the safety and storage of jerky . This will be useful if you’re not planning to scoff it within a few days. I tried the first of their options but it made my jerky really crispy. In fact, weirdly it ended up tasting like crispy bacon?! I’m not complaining!
Happy jerky-ing foodies! ;)
And if you are using a dehydrator for the first time for this recipe and are keen to explore this method, this post on dehydrating tomatoes may well be your next project!
- 600 g silverside beef lean
- 2 teaspoons fine salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
Pop the piece of beef in the freezer for an hour to firm up which will make it easier to slice.
Sharpen your knife, then slice the meat as thin as you can possibly get it. There will always be bits that are thicker than others so don't fret about it too much.
I always cut against the grain of the muscle fibres as it makes for a less chewy jerky but try it both ways to discover your favourite method.
Place the slices of beef into a large ziploc bag and sprinkle over the salt and pepper. Seal the bag then massage the meat through the plastic with the aim of getting the seasoning to touch every single piece of beef.
Lay out on your dehydrator or oven shelves ensuring that the pieces don't touch or overlap.
Dry until the meat is dry but still flexible. Leave to cool then pop in a sealed tub.
You'll probably find that different pieces in different areas of the dehydrator or oven will dry at different rates, just take the 'done' bits out to cool while the rest finishes off.