At least, I love homemade jerky. Do not call Slim Jims or that other crap that they sell at gas stations or the packy "jerky" -- bleeeeccckkk.
Jerky is nothing more than dried meat and spices, so if you like meat and have never tried it because you thought jerky = Slim Jim, I urge you to reconsider.
Jerky is a great snack to have on hand when you want something a little salty, and the portability makes it ideal for hikes, lunch boxes, road trips, etc.
Not to mention that jerky is an incredibly high-value dog treat -- the Ninjette will pretty much do any kind of trick you ask and never take her eyes from mine when I'm holding even the tiniest bit of this jerky.
I make my jerky in a dehydrator, but you could make this by drying the meat on cookie sheets in a low (200 degree) oven as well. The beauty of the dehydrator is that it uses very little electricity, so it's a more efficient way of making jerky than leaving your oven on all day.
Additionally, you can make a lot more than jerky with your dehydrator: veggie chips, dried fruit, sundried tomatoes and fruit roll-ups, just to name a few.
Moreover, if you're short on counter space in your kitchen, you can put the dehydrator in any room in which you have an electrical outlet and don't mind the fragrance of whatever you're drying. I used to run mine in the guest bathroom with the exhaust fan turned on.
(Can you tell yet that I'm a big fan of the dehydrator?)
I just helped a friend do a little dehydrator research. If you'd like to get started, you don't have to invest in a large-capacity dehydrator; reliable models can be purchased for around $50 (minus 20 percent, if you use those ubiquitous Bed Bath and Beyond coupons!).
A couple of other jerky tips, based on my experience:
- Popping the meat into the freezer for about 15 minutes beforehand makes the meat much easier to slice thinly
- The thinner you slice the meat, the less time it takes to dry
- A ceramic knife is the absolute best tool for getting the thinnest possible slices
- Place a new plastic trash bag on the counter before placing the drippy strips on the trays -- it will make your clean up that much easier
- I store my jerky in large canning jars or ziplock bags in the pantry -- if you're paranoid about spoilage, though, feel free to store it in the refrigerator, for extra peace of mind
|Marinating the chicken strips|
|Arranging the strips on the dehydrator trays|
|Store in an air-tight container or bag|
Let me know by posting a comment below if you'd like some other jerky recipes for beef, turkey, venison -- even fish!
Chicken Jerky (adapted from Preserve It Naturally: The Complete Guide to Food Dehydration)
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast tenders, sliced into strips about 1/4 to 1/8 of an inch thick
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Mix all the ingredients except the chicken in a gallon-sized ziplock bag. Add the chicken strips, seal the bag and ensure that all the meat gets coated with marinade. Place bag in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
Place the meat strips on dehydrator trays. Dry at 145 degrees for 5-7 hours or until completely dry (length of drying time depends on thickness of strips).