This nitrate free Salt and Pepper Beef Jerky recipe is a great snack that’s full of protein, contains zero added sugar and fits well into a low carb, keto, paleo or whole food diet. It also tastes amazing!
What is beef jerky?
So what is beef jerky?
Beef jerky is made by slicing lean pieces of meat really thin, then removing all the water by dehydration.
This dry piece of meat can then be stored for much longer than the raw meat but also makes a delicious savoury snack.
It’s a low-carb, low-fat that packs a very high protein punch.
Beef jerky in history
Researching the history of jerky and it seems it’s first mentioned in ancient Egypt. Egypt would have the perfect climate to dry foods naturally in the sun (unlike here in rainy England!)
However, it would appear that beef jerky really took in America. Apparently cowboys in the wild, wild west would slice off strips of meat from any animal that was too big to eat all in one go.
They then hung it up to dry in the hot sun which preserved the meat and meant that these ‘leftovers’ could be kept in their saddle bags for taking out on the 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!
Don’t I need to add nitrates to make jerky?
That all depends. Nitrates are added to cured meat products to give them a longer shelf life.
In this recipe we’re not using nitrates, so this beef jerky will need to be eaten quicker than if we had used them. And I don’t know about you, but homemade jerky never lasts long in my house!
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 fibres.
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’ve 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 eat 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! ;)
PS if you’re using a dehydrator for the first time, this post on dehydrating tomatoes would make a great project too!
- 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.