Well Done…

I always thought Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors made beef jerky.

The bagged beef always seemed worthy of holding up a good pair on pants.

On top of that, you’d think the cow that ended-up as jerky might’ve had to drink from a bowl of unicorn’s blood. Or, maybe it grazed on freshly-minted $100 bills. Why else is the stuff so expensive??

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I finally starting snapping into the softer, more pliable, and much cheaper, Slim Jim. They’re tasty, but just as salty as gool ol’ jerky. Plus, I always felt like the magic
wand-like snack was just some way to trick you into eating elbows, claws, beaks
and hooves. I’m sure that’s all in my head, but still…

I recently realized that jerky is actually a good, healthy treat. You get a lot
of protein, which is big for weight loss and muscle building.

This is where label reading comes in handy. Roll your eyes, it’s ok.

Just about all the mainstream brands are made with MSG and sodium nitrate.
Monosodium glutamate is an additive, believed to be safe, that enhances flavor.
Sodium nitrate improves shelf life. I’m not a fan of either, so I went looking
for varieties that don’t use them.

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My first discovery turned out to be a delicious one.

Perky Jerky comes in a shiny, eye-catching, stomach-teasing package.

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It’s $4.99 for 2 ounces.

No funky ingredients. Plus, there’s a perk inside, literally. Guarana is among
the ingredients. Guarana is a plant, common in Brazil, which is known for its
coffee bean-sized fruit that packs about twice the concentration of caffeine
found in coffee beans.

Perky Jerky is sweet, tender and overflowing with the superstar seasoning you’d expect on a
steakhouse-style slab of scrumptiousness.

I tried jerky from The Fresh Market, too. It happened to be on sale at about $5
for a small bag. No additives, but not as perky as the previously mentioned
meat.

When it comes to quality, I doubt you’ll find anything better than Perky Jerky.

Price, and pure curiosity, got me thinking about homemade jerky.

Once again, fancy brand names came to mind. I thought I’d definitely need a
dehydrator or some infomercial star to make my own meaty morsels. Men’s Health magazine proved me wrong.

If you’re not following Guy Gourmet (food fun from Men’s Health) on Twitter and Facebook, you should go rub Sriracha in your eyes to repent. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Hopefully you’ve washed out your peepers well enough to be able to read this once again. Moving on.

From Guy Gourmet, I learned that homemade beef jerkey can be yours if you have an oven and a wire rack.

Oddly enough, I just bought a rack (on sale). It’s technically a cooling rack, but I couldn’t find one made specifically for use in the oven.

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I took the blueprint from Guy Gourmet and made it my own. You’re surprised, I know.

For $6.50 (on sale), I got a 1.03 lb. petite sirloin steak. Avoid fatty steaks, like the ribeye.

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I left it in the freezer for about 10 minutes to remove some of the smushiness from the meat.

Here’s how to prep it:

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Cut the steak into quarters. Remove any obvious fat, and then slice each quarter into strips. Make them as thin as possible. I used a boning knife. Use every piece of meat you have, even the little slivers and bits. Get your money’s worth!

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Put the strips in a big resealable bag.

Make your marinade. Here’s mine:
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 Teaspoon Sriracha
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
4 Garlic cloves, minced
1 Teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
1 Teaspoon cumin seed

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Whisk all the ingredients and pour into the sandwich bag. Squeeze out the air, seal it, and then give it the kind of massage you’d expect from a 300-pound hun named Helga. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

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Let’s get cookin’:

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.

Set your rack onto a cookie sheet lined with foil, this will make clean-up easier (the marinade will drip). Line up the strips onto the wire rack. Remove any cumin seeds or chunks of garlic that are holding onto the meat for dear life.

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Slide the pan into the oven and bake for an hour. Your oven may work differently than mine, so check the meat at the 50 minute mark. If it’s not dry enough after an hour, give it another 5 or 10 minutes.

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It won’t be like leather, it’ll still be somewhat pliable and juicy. Make sure you can hold up a piece without it drooping or falling over.

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Let the meat cool, then store it in another resealable bag.

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Here’s the catch: You should keep this refrigerated, but that’s only because this jerky isn’t pumped up with preservatives.

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From that one steak, I got about 6.5 ounces of jerky. Think about that – $6.50 (I already had all the marinade ingredients!) for 6.5 ounces. In the store, that much jerky would cost me more than $15!

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Make your jerky your own!

Add red pepper flakes, or sliced jalapenos to make it really spicy. Use balsamic vinegar instead of rice vinegar. Add citrus juice, or zest.

My jerky had a touch of sweetness and a lot of smokiness from the cumin.

Will I give up Perky Jerky? No way.
Will I continue to make use of bargain-priced steaks, my new wire rack, and my arsenal of spices? Absolutely. I’d be a jerk not to, right?


Tip: As nice as it is to have a snack on hand, like jerky, it’s also great to have a go-to lunch option sitting in the fridge. Buy a pack of chicken (I stock up when it’s on sale). You’ll usually get three large breasts. Cut each one in half lengthwise. In a 9×12 baking dish, line-up the filets, drizzle them with olive oil and rub it around on each side of the meat. Then, pick your 3 favorite spice mixes and use each one to coat both sides of 2 breasts. I did garlic powder, salt & pepper, Herbes de Provence, and chili powder. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes. Cut up a breast and pair it with a sweet potato, or dice one and put it on a spinach salad, or thinly-slice a breast on an angle and make a sandwich! The possibilities are endless, and you won’t get tired of eating the same flavor all week.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Takes me back to a time when my roommate the deer hunter made a big batch of venison jerky. Thought it would be gamey
    but it was delicious! If you need a volunteer to sample your jerky I’m the dude. It looks awesome! -LSO-

    1. Next time I make it you’ll get a sample! Venison jerky could be interesting… I’m not a hunter, though… Haha!

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