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7 Tips on How to Make Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is a delicious and convenient snack that’s packed with protein. However, anyone who’s recently wasted money on disappointing and overpriced jerky in a store might have wondered “Could I learn how to make beef jerky at home and get better results for less money?” The answer is yes, you can! With a Grilla Grills pellet smoker and some choice beef cuts, you can create amazingly succulent smoked jerky right in your backyard. Let’s check out seven tips that will help you make the best jerky you’ve ever tasted.

a plate full of jerky and peppers

1. Use a pellet smoker instead of a dehydrator for juicier and more flavorful jerky.

First, let’s talk about the two main methods of making jerky: smokers and dehydrators. The two use very different processes and produce different results. Pellet smoker grills use low-and-slow wood heat to remove moisture from the jerky, while dehydrators use an electric heating element and a powerful internal fan.

For a long-term emergency food source, dehydrated jerky is often the way to go, thanks to its substantially longer shelf life. However, as an everyday snack or on a day trip, smoked jerky is tastier and superior in almost every other way! Smoking leaves more moisture in the jerky, which makes it juicier, and the smoke also gives it the delicious signature flavor that no artificial “liquid smoke” can match.

2. Start with the right cuts of beef.

Put that ribeye back in the fridge! For jerky, unlike almost anything else you cook in a smoker, you’ll want cuts with as little fat as possible. Generally, that means you’re looking for top and bottom round, skirt steak and flank steak. These have plenty of flavor, not much fat and lots of bang for the buck. 

3. Slice the meat against the grain and trim off the fat.

Prepping your jerky meat first will give you much better results. First, slice your cuts of beef thinly (about one-quarter inch is usually good), cutting against the grain of the meat. This helps break up the chewy muscle fibers in the meat, so your jerky will be tender rather than tough. Once you’ve sliced the meat, use a small knife or kitchen shears to trim off any remaining fat.

4. Experiment with different types of wood pellets in your smoker.

The type of wood you use to smoke your jerky can have a big impact on its taste. That’s why it can be a lot of fun to experiment with different wood pellets when using a pellet smoker. Hickory is perhaps the most classic option, but mesquite is also popular for its strong and distinctive flavor. Check out our guide to wood pellets for more on the flavor profiles of the various woods, and remember that you can mix multiple woods together!

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5. Marinate your beef before putting it in the smoker. 

Marinating jerky meat before you smoke it adds tons of flavor and helps prevent the meat from drying out excessively. A classic jerky marinade will usually include some combo of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, black pepper and brown sugar. Our Kickin’ Kentucky Bourbon Marinade is also a great choice for southern-style jerky! 

However, these are just starting points. Feel free to get creative with other spices, hot sauces and basically whatever else you feel like adding. Smoked jerky is so quick and easy to make that if one batch isn’t your best, all you need to do is adjust the recipe and try again!

6. Use a jerky rack to smoke lots of jerky at once.

Many jerky lovers like to make a big batch to munch on — especially since family and friends may be asking for some! To make larger quantities of jerky, it’s useful to have the Grilla Grills jerky rack attachment to provide more cooking space in your smoker.

It’s a simple concept: A durable stainless steel rack with multiple slide-out trays that sits on top of your smoker’s grates. Load it up with your choice of jerky cuts, and then try to remain calm when you realize you just cooked a batch of jerky two or three times the normal size! Plus, jerky racks are also great for smoking wings, veggies and all kinds of other foods. 

7. Seal and freeze your jerky if you want it to keep longer.

Like we mentioned before, smoked jerky doesn’t last as long as dehydrated jerky. You’ll usually want to eat your jerky within a week of making it. However, you can extend the shelf life of smoked jerky by vacuum sealing and freezing it. This can allow your jerky to keep for a month or more, and you can simply thaw it when you’re ready to eat it!

Shop the Grilling Accessories You Need for Amazing Jerky

For more tips on using a pellet smoker to create tender and delicious jerky, watch our pitmasters make their signature jerky recipes! Don’t forget to check out our dozens of mouth-watering pellet grill recipes to find your next family dinner or cookout crowd-pleaser.

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