I found this recipe in the latest issue of Esquire Magazine which I had picked up for a little plane reading on my recent ski trip with the boys. I am generally not a big magazine reader, with the exception of a few cooking mags and The Economist, but I picked this one up for two reasons. First, on the cover was the terrific actor Peter Dinklage a.k.a Tyrion Lannister from the great HBO show Game of Thrones, both a favorite actor and show of ours. Second, the mag had a feature called "Eat Like A Man", and hey, we were men on a men's vacation….. so Esquire was my choice for the flight to Colorado.
As good as the piece on Dinklage was, I found the food article to be surprisingly good given the magazine's general focus on men's style and culture. I may end up cooking a few more recipes from the issue, but this one jumped out at me immediately as one I wanted to take a swing at. I've been a beef jerky FREAK since I was a kid growing up in Vermont where it was always a favorite snack during my hiking – camping – scouting days.
Over the past few years there has been a resurgence of Jerky making driven by the farm to table, artisanal food, D-I-Y charcuterie waves washing over us all. This is the second recipe I've tried for making my own jerky, and by far the most successful. The first, which I made about a month back turned out horridly salty (and I'm a salt demon as you all know), but this one hits just the right balance of sweet – salty – and black pepper spicy.
It turns out that making your own jerky is stupid simple, requires no special equipment (like a dehydrator), is something that is easily adaptable to your own tastes, and in the end provides you with a great high-protein, low fat tasty snack food. Enjoy!
Cheers – Steve
Black Pepper Jerky
- 3 flank steaks, approximately 2 pounds each
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup real maple syrup
- 1 1/2 cups soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
- 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoon fine-medium ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- Make the marinade: combine all ingredients (except the beef) in a medium sized bowl, whisking well to make sure the molasses and maple syrup are totally integrated. Set aside.
- Slice the steaks width-wise (across the grain), no thicker that 1/4 inch thick, holding the blade at a 45-degree angle and slicing diagonally. Steaks are easier to slice if you pop them in the freezer for an hour or two.
- Whisk the marinade and pour a quarter of it into a square sided container such as a Pyrex casserole. Layer the meat evenly, pouring more marinade over as needed to coat all the pieces equally, pushing down each layer snugly.
- Cover, pressing plastic wrap directly on top of the meat and refrigerate for 24 hours.
- When ready to dehydrate the meat, layer the meat slices between layers of paper towels to remove excess marinade. If the strips are wet, they won't dry evenly.
- Turn your oven to it's lowest setting (if you have a very new oven you might even have a "dehydrate" setting). Lay the meat out onto lightly oiled cooling racks, leaving a little space between each piece. Place a few sheets of aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to catch any drippings, and place the baking racks directly on the oven racks, with no cookie sheet or anything to block the air and heat from circulating around the oven.
- Leave the oven door cracked open throughout the drying process, which will take anywhere from 6-8 hours. Every 2 hours, flip the slices of meat and rotate the racks top to bottom.
- When the jerky is done, the strips should be firm and bend but not break. Let the jerky rest at room temperature for a bit after it comes out of the oven. This gives any moisture left in the meat a chance to equalize with the drier outside surface. Store in an airtight container like a ziploc bag or Tupperware.