Learn how to make beef jerky in a smoker. This easy, step-by-step recipe has all the information, AND a video, you'll need to make the best beef jerky you've ever made!
It's 2:30 pm, you've been busy all day and there it is.
The brick wall.
We all know it. We all loathe it.
You know what kicks the mid-afternoon slump to the curb? A tasty snack!
This recipe is dedicated to the mid-afternoon struggle.
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What cut is best for beef jerky?
Beef jerky is made from lean meats. The leaner the better, because when we make beef jerky, we are smoking and dehydrating the beef which is essentially preserving and making shelf-stable.
Fat doesn't translate to shelf-stable! Any fat left on the roast has the potential to go rancid. If you watch my handsome hand model in the video, you'll see how Kevy trims his roast. He's using a little boning knife to slice off the fat.
We tend to choose cuts from the round portion of the beef. Eye of round is a nice shape and size, and one of our favourites. Top round is similar, and maybe a bit more tender. Either of those would be a great choice for beef jerky.
How to slice
There are 2 options when it comes to slicing your beef:
- With the grain - this gives you a chewier jerky. That can be split and pulled in long strips.
- Against the grain - this gives a more tender, less chewy jerky. It can still be pulled apart in chunks, but because the meat is cut against the grain, the muscle fibres are shorter and easier to chew.
We prefer to slice our beef against the grain. If you watch my video, you can see examples of both.
Once you've decided how to slice it, it's time to actually slice your beef roast!
Actually slicing the beef:
It's important to cut your beef jerky slices evenly - this will ensure an even cook and even texture in the finished product. In my opinion, the perfect slice is between 1/8" and 1/4"!
There are a couple of ways to help get a good clean cut on your jerky:
- Freeze your meat! Beef comes from a living animal - it's filled with moisture, and that makes it squishy and malleable. It's hard to slice something that's squirming all over the cutting board.
- Use a meat slicer if you have one, or invest in one if you plan on making a lot of jerky! It will make your life a lot easier, your slices consistent, and the prep-time shortened big time.
What's In the Marinade?
Every marinade is different, and truly, the sky is the limit on what you can add to your marinade.
There are a few things we always like to add:
- something sweet
- something salty
- something spicy
- herbs and spices
How Long To Marinate Jerky
Marinate your jerky for 18-24 hours. It takes a while to get all that delicious flavourness up in the beef.
Generally, what we do is slice and mix up the marinade on Saturday morning, then smoke Sunday afternoon.
How to smoke
Once your jerky has been sliced and sufficiently marinated, it's showtime!
- Fire up the Traeger to 180f.
- Use paper towel to dry your jerky.
- Spread the jerky in a single layer on the racks in your smoker.
- Smoke at 180f for 2-3 hours - flipping halfway through.
- Remove from smoker and place in a ziplock bag - allow it to cool slightly then seal. The beef will reabsorb the condensation
- Store in an airtight bag in the fridge.
How To Tell When Beef Jerky Is Done
The rule of thumb is to cook it until it bends but doesn't crack. The best way I've found is to pull your jerky off of the smoker and allow it to come to room temperature, then fold it right in half.
If it's pliable and the meat fibres start to crack it's pretty much perfect! If it's too floppy - back to the smoker.
Now for the good stuff:
This recipe can be made a lot easier with a food slicer. It's one of those random appliances you don't think you'd need or use, and then once you get it, you use it more than you ever thought imaginable.
There are a few things to look for in a meat slicer - you want a strong motor - you'll be cutting through frozen meat. You want something that's easy to disassemble and clean - you'll be cleaning raw meat off of it!
I've included both of our favourites in the recipe card below!
Both of these have been tested and tweaked by Kevin, the one with the patience to save some from each of a few batches and try them against another!
The sweet ginger jerky has just the right balance of sweetness and ginger bite. Root beer sriracha is fantastic - its got srirachy zip, and the sweet depth of flavour that root beer provides.
Both are a huge hit in our house, I don't think you can go wrong either way!
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📖 Printable Recipe
Use your smoker to smoke beef jerky and you'll never go back to store-bought. This step by step guide will walk you through the whole process. There are two different marinade recipes included, sweet ginger and root beer sriracha.
- Beef roast - eye of round
Sweet Ginger Beef Jerky:
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2 cans (~3 cups) ginger ale
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2-3" knob of ginger, sliced
Root Beer Sriracha Jerky:
- 2 cans (~3 cups) root beer
- 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sriracha
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- Freeze roast for 1-2 hours - until meat is firm, but not completely frozen though.
- Using a very sharp knife, or a meat slicer (we use a meat slicer) slice beef into approximately 1/8" - 1/4" slices.
- Mix desired marinade (from one of the options above, or one of your own creation) in a large bowl.
- Transfer sliced beef to a large ziplock bag, and pour marinade into the bag.
- Remove as much air from the bag as possible., then seal. (Optional, double bag to avoid leaks.)
- Massage the bag, and really mix it up, to ensure all the beef is coated with the marinade.
- Place the marinating bag in the fridge overnight - for 18-24 hours. Flip the bag twice during the marinading time. Our trick is to do it once at bedtime and once in the morning.
- Preheat smoker to 180f.
- Remove beef from the bag, and dry with paper towels.
- Spread on smoker racks in a single layer. Smoke at 180f for 2-3 hours or until jerky is pliable but doesn't crack.
- Transfer to a fresh ziplock bag and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before sealing the bag. There will be built up condensation, that's ok, seal it in the bag, the jerky will reabsorb it.
- Store your beef jerky in an airtight container in the fridge up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to a year.
* Each marinade batch will marinade up to a 4lb roast. Feel free to halve, or double as required.
* Lean cuts of beef work best for this recipe. Beef jerky needs to be very lean, and have very little fat marbling.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 10Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 3mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 1g