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The seasoning process in making beef jerky can involve many different types of techniques. Seasoning can include salts, dry rubs, brines, and marinades. Here is a look at the processes that add flavor to your beef jerky strips.
Marinating Beef Jerky
Marinades are a great way to introduce flavors to beef jerky. Marinades are flavorful liquids that the meat is usually soaked in before the dehydrating process. Once the meat is submerged in the marinade, it takes about a day for it to absorb the flavor.
Marinating may take the jerky a longer time to dry because of the extra moisture it introduces. Be sure to keep the marinating meet it in the fridge for safety if you are marinating it for more than an hour.
Marinades come in many types and a wide range of ingredients. The type of marinade used in seasoning meat for dehydrating directly influences the outcome of how a beef jerky will taste.
For self-preparation, first determine your choice of marinade. Marinades can be sweet, tart, hot and savory. There are also several brands of marinades you can buy at your nearest supermarket or grocery store.
Brining Beef Jerky
Brining actually makes the meat moist. While a beef jerky should be dry, brining is used to tenderize the meat and add flavors.
Brine means "salt" and is a tried-and-true method of preserving meats. In fact, salt is the most common type of jerky seasoning. While old-fashioned brining was intended for meat preservation, the main goal of flavor brining is to boost the moisture, texture, and flavor of lean meat cuts.
To accomplish this, the meat is drenched in a reasonably salty solution, about 1.5 to 3% salt. The salt submersion takes about several hours to a couple of days depending on the size of the meat. According to Cook's Illustrated magazine, the solution passes through the meat cells while boosting the salty flavor and water inside of them. It also carries flavor into the meat.
Brining helps keep the meat moist even if it is overcooked or over dried. Brining allows people to have total control over the meat's flavor. Kosher and sea salts are common types of salt used in brining.
Dry Rubs for Beef Jerky
Dry rubs are another way to introduce flavor to the jerky. You combine salt with other ground spices and apply them to the meat. Some common spices are garlic powder, chile powders, cumin, coriander, and dried thyme. You can find many seasoning rubs at the grocery store or online.
Once you apply the dry rub to the sliced meat you refrigerate it for 12 to 24 hours so the flavors can penetrate it. Depending on the strength of the rub you can either rinse off the rub before dehydrating the meat or put the meat directly in the dehydrator.
Smoking Beef Jerky
Smoking is the seasoning technique of slowly heating meat over a fire indirectly before you dehydrate it using a dehydrator. This can be accomplished with a normal smoker, an electric smoker, or even a smoking gun.
Smoking improves a jerky's taste and flavor by using pungent wood chips and chunks such as apple, hickory, cherry, or maple. Using wood is satisfyingly easy as it replaces the need for spices. It imparts that unique, natural, and subtle grill flavor that many people love.
Other Beef Jerky Seasoning Types
There are other modern techniques used in seasoning the meat for dehydrating. Some of these include pickling, acid, hot, and saccharine seasonings.
Pickling uses an anti-microbial liquid, such as vinegar, to preserve food. The liquid is edible but destroys bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit raw and moisture-ridden meat products. However, today's pickled meat is used more to add flavor instead of preservation.
Other types of seasoning can be acid, hot, or saccharine. Acid seasoning uses juices and vinegar to season meat. Acid dries up a meat quickly which can be preferable in making beef jerky.
Hot seasoning is composed of ingredients such as peppercorns, cayenne, and paprika among others. Most of these are dry rubs for the jerky.
Lastly, saccharine seasoning provides that sweet flavor by making use of honey or sugar that can augment the taste of a jerky before it undergoes the dehydration process.
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