Best Cuts of Meat for Beef Jerky
There are so many different kinds of jerky out there. After all, “jerky” refers to the drying out of the meat using the addition of salt and spices to create a preserved meaty treat. For this reason, you can jerky just about any type of meat!
The most common, of course, is beef jerky. This is any jerky made from beef, or cow meat. However, you can make jerky from other meats like chicken, pork and even turkey. You can also get crazy with your choices, and make jerky from more exotic sources like kangaroo, wild boar, and even alligator.
In this article, we will explore the perfect cuts of meat to make an old school classic beef jerky that tastes delicious every time.
One thing to consider when choosing a meat is to select the proper cut of meat that will create the best results. The best cuts of meat to choose are the ones with the least amount of fat. That’s because fat is full of oils that are impossible to dry out, and it will decrease the shelf life of your jerky.
Keep in mind that the fattier the meat is the cheaper it will be. While this is a tempting trade off, you would definitely be sacrificing the quality of your jerky, so leaner is always better.
While it is virtually impossible to find a cut of meat that has zero fat in it, you can still find the cut of meat that has the least amount, and then trim the fat away before dehydrating it.
Pro tip: Don’t forget that drying meat typically reduces the quantity it will produce. Once the water is removed from the meat, it shrinks significantly. Kitchencounterchef suggests a rule of thumb “is 2-3 pounds of meat are required for each pound of jerky”.
Let’s dive in to the top three cuts of beef for making beef jerky.
- Beef Round:
- This is one of the most popular cuts for making jerky. The reason this cut is so popular is because it comes from the hind legs of a cow. This is typically a muscular area, therefore it has very little fat.
- Beef round can be categorized in to three different types:
- Top Round: comes from the inside of the leg muscle
- Bottom Round: comes from the outside of the leg muscle. This has the least amount of fat, but it is also the toughest area which makes it more difficult to work with.
- Eye of Round: This is the most popular of the three cuts as it is the most tender, which makes it the easiest to work with.
- No, you are not ordering at a steakhouse, although the sirloin is a popular steak choice. It also happens to be incredibly tender, so it is a great choice for making beef jerky. However there is typically a layer of fat on the surface of sirloin, so it needs to be trimmed before drying.
- Flank Steak:
- Flank steak is one of the leanest options out there. This makes it a perfect choice for making beef jerky, as the leaner the meat means the less fat it has.
- The flank steak is also a more flavorful cut of beef, which is why it can be more expensive than the other cuts on this list. However, flank steak is east to work with as it is tender, and it’s shape makes it great for cutting in to thin slices.
Other cuts for making beef jerky:
- Brisket Flats:
- This cut of beef requires the most inspection on your part when purchasing. The Brisket can be the most fatty cut of meat, therefore you will want to inspect each piece for its fat marbling.
- Ground Beef:
- While this might sound weird, ground beef that is turned to jerky is actually much easier to chew, which is why a lot of people enjoy a ground beef jerky. In order to make this in to jerky, you will either need a jerky gun, or you can pound it in to a thin sheet and then cut it in to strips.
Let’s talk about other types of meats for a second! Some people prefer the taste of jerky made from pork or game, so here a few options should this be your thing.
- Venison meat is actually great for making jerky, as it is both lean and tender. There is also very little internal marbling in deer meat, so you won’t have to do much work once it is sliced into thin strips. If a gamey flavor is something you enjoy, then deer jerky is the perfect choice for you.
- Pork Tenderloin:
- There are huge pros and cons when it comes to pork tenderloin. While it is a little more fatty than other cuts, it has a delicious flavor that goes well with both sweet and spicy recipes. The best part is that is is relatively cheap compared to other meats on this list, so you really can’t go wrong!
Alright hombre, let’s say you are at the store and you have our recommendations for the perfect meat, but what are your next steps?
Here are a few golden rules for meat shopping to follow when at the store:
- Remember the ratio for quantity of meat! 5 lbs of meat will produce about 2 lbs of dried jerky. So just make sure that you purchase enough.
- Whatever you do, do not purchase old meat. If it is discolored, or worse - expired, just move on!
- Inspect each piece of meat for fat marbling. Especially if you are buying a cut that is notorious for fat marbling, just make sure the one you are purchasing has the least amount that you can find.
Pro tip: You may even want to ask your butcher to slice the meat for you! If the butcher will slice it nice and thin for you, then that will save you a lot of time and work at home.
So now that you have picked out the perfect cut of beef for your jerky, head here to see our step by step guide to making beef jerky. Or, if you want to get creative in the kitchen, click here to see our list of top recipes using beef jerky as the main ingredient.