I’m a huge fan of beef jerky, especially teriyaki beef jerky, but I’m not a fan of the price. Even when purchased in bulk, beef jerky is expensive. At the grocery store it’s around $20/lb, and at a convenience store or gas station I’ve seen it for double that. Fortunately, I’ve found that it’s very easy to make your own. I made some using a pellet grill, but you can also make it in a conventional oven if you get creative with the use of racks and drip tries so as not to make a mess.
After getting my pellet grill / smoker, I started watching some YouTube videos to get ideas for what to smoke with it. I was very excited when I found a video showing how to make teriyaki beef jerky with a pellet smoker. I researched some more and found quite a few different recipes for the marinade. They were all a little different but still very similar in ingredients used. This is the recipe I used that I liked the best from the ones I tried:
- 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp of honey
- if you like spicy vs sweet, you can add 1 or 2 tbsp of ground cayenne pepper
You’ll want to cut your meat in to thin strips and marinade it in this mixture for at least 24 hours. Stir all of the marinade ingredients well, add the meat, cover, and let it sit in the fridge for 24 hours. Remember when you’re cutting the strips of meat that as they dehydrate they will shrink a considerable amount, so don’t cut them too thin or small. Also try to make them all roughly the same size so they all cook evenly. I made the mistake of cutting some slices too thin and had to throw a few pieces away because they got “too cooked” (they were burned and hard), while the larger pieces were all fine. Set your smoker to the lowest heat possible, mine’s around 180 degrees F, and cook for about 3-4 hours, or until it passes the taste test and is dry.
There’s no special prep with the beef itself, other than trimming off as much fat as possible, and since you’re marinading and smoking you don’t need expensive cuts of meat. The only thing you’ll want to make sure of is that you buy cuts of beef with as little fat as possible. Fat will work against you a couple of ways here – first, it keeps the meat from drying out when in the smoker. This is good for something like pulled pork or a beef brisket, but is bad when you’re trying to make jerky. Second, any fat content that remains on the jerky after its smoked will be greasy, not dry out, and will reduce its shelf life. This is because there is risk that bacteria will begin to grow, and we don’t want that. When cooking, you’ll want to set your smoker to the lowest heat setting possible. For my pellet grill this is around 180 degrees F.
There’s a saying that I’ve heard multiple times in the smoking world, and that’s “if you’re lookin, you aint’ cookin.” Unfortunately, that’s not the case here. It should only take 3-4 hours for the jerky to cook, and you can overcook it. If it gets too dried out it’ll burn and get very hard. Unfortunately, this happens rather quickly, so there’s a fairly magic point in time where you need to remove the jerky from heat. Fortunately, however, this means that you get to continuously pull “test samples” of jerky to taste after the 2.5 – 3 hour mark to ensure you don’t overcook it.