Homemade Jerky – How to Make Beef Jerky

We love beef jerky here at the Accountability household.  Two problems with buying it: it’s expensive and no telling what all unpronounceable ingredients are included with it, like MSG and who knows what other preservative chemicals are added.

For comparison, here is Amazon’s current price for Jack Link’s Beef Jerky:

On the day I published this post, 20 ounces of Jack Link’s Beef Jerkyfrom Amazon is going to set you back $23.57 – free shipping providing you add something to the cart for over $1.43 unless you have Amazon Prime and then of course shipping is free.  That’s for 1 pound four ounces of beef jerky and ends up costing $1.17 per ounce.  Now considering that about four pounds of meat dehydrates down into one pound… that 20 ounces of meat was originally 80 ounces or 5 pounds of meat.  That would put the hydrated cost of the meat at $4.71 a pound.  Which is really not bad considering, but you can do better than that if you make your own.

And guess what? You don’t even need to buy a dehydrator if you follow Alton Brown’s recipe for jerky made using a box fan and air conditioning filters.  Even if you do by a dehydrator, you’re going to save oodles of money if you like beef jerky.

You’re going to use a tiny bit of electricity – I plugged in my Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor and ended up using four kilowatt hours for a twenty four hour period.  That means I used about twenty-eight cents to dry the meat!


Comparison Chart Store Bought vs. Make Your Own Beef Jerky
Comparison Chart Store Bought vs. Make Your Own Beef Jerky


54 Cents Per Ounce When You Make It Yourself!

Store bought price for bulk jerky (bear in mind you are going to spend more per ounce when you buy just an ounce or two at at time) is going for $1.17 per ounce, considering the beginning cost of $23.57 for 20 ounces.

Of course you have to consider that you are paying someone else to do the work for you: cutting the meat into strips, marinading it, laying it in the dehydrator, packaging it and shipping it to the store.

And it tastes sooooo much better than store bought!

Beef Jerky - Before and After in the Dehydrating Trays
Beef Jerky – Before and After in the Dehydrating Trays

Here is a site with dozens of jerky recipes: Cooking with SusieQ. And from Best Beef Jerky.

My Favorite Jerky Marinade and How To Make Jerky

This is what I came up with for my beef jerky to marinate 2.5 pounds of beef (2.5 pounds is the most I can fit into my round dehydrator at one time, one day soon I’m investing in an Excalibur 9 Tray Food Dehydrator):

  • 1 Tablespoons Blackstrap Molasses
  • 1 Tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon raw crushed onion with juice
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fresh garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves

Basically you cut the beef into thin strips.  First trim all the fat from the meat as the fat will go rancid.  After trimming the fat, it can make the job of cutting easier if you place the meat in the freezer for two hours so it is partially frozen.  Try to keep the cuts uniform in size, no more than 1/4 inch thick.  Cut across the grain for a more tender jerky, cut with the grain for more chewy. You can find a lot of recipes for making beef jerky on the Internet, so I encourage you to find one that you like and follow that.  Some recipes tell you to use a higher heat setting because of the fear of bacteria on the jerky but we eat the jerky we make so quickly that we dehydrate at lower temps.


When my boss gave me the FoodSaver, she also gave me a FoodSaver Quick Marinator so I used that, which pulls all of the air out of the canister and the meat.  When you unseal it, letting the air back in, the marinade sucks into the pores of the meat.

When checking the jerky for doneness I found that the thicker pieces would look dark when held up to the light; whereas the pieces that were thinner and “done” were translucent.  The thicker pieces I simply put back into the dehydrator for a few hours.

Comparison of Rare Jerky vs. Done Jerky
Comparison of Rare Jerky vs. Done Jerky

One last thing.  Beef jerky could be a fantastic Christmas or birthday gift.  And now’s the time to start on these little projects if you want to have it done in time for Christmas.

Have you ever made beef jerky? Are you a beef jerky fan? Would you ever try to make it?

This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links.

P.S. When I began this post – which has been sitting in my drafts folder since August – the cost for 20 ounces of Jack Link’s beef jerky was considerably higher!  The savings today to make your own is much less impressive than it would have been only three months ago.  The price in August was $49.95 with $7.95 shipping and handling!  The cost per ounce amounted to $2.89 and the cost per pound for the hydrated meat was $11.58 per pound.  All I can say is if you love Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, perhaps you’d better stock up while the price is less than half what it was three months ago.  This leads me to wonder… is beef jerky a seasonal product?  Is the demand higher in the summer, rather than in the winter?  What the heck?  Prices on groceries have been steadily rising in the grocery stores, and here we see a significant drop in cost online.  ~Mrs. Accountability

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20 thoughts on “Homemade Jerky – How to Make Beef Jerky

  1. Too funny as I was just thinking about this. Kmart has a jerky maker going on sale this weekend. We are visiting a friend in London and he loves beef jerky. His only request was for us to bring a few bags over for him as they don’t have it over there. But like you have pointed out, its pretty expensive to buy. We’ve never made it but have a BIL who does.


    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Kristen, you’ll have to let me know if you end up buying it. Be sure to tell you friend in London that he can make his own, and it’s really easy. Even without a dehydrator!


  2. Y’know, this is also an excellent way to make dog treats. Commercial “jerky” type treats contain even more bizarre gunk than commercial jerky prepared for humans — and they come from China, home of the great dog food melamine poisoning flap.

    Look for very, very cheap meat or chicken on sale, especially at ethnic stores. To make it for your pooch, absolutely positively do NOT marinate it in anything. Do not salt it. Do not pepper it. Just stick it in the dehydrator and dry it, following your instructions only without extra flavoring.

    I used to make beef jerky in the oven. It’s very easy. Drape the sliced, marinated meat over a baking rack (set on top of a cookie sheet) and let it set in the oven for several hours at the lowest temperature. Of course this will cost a bit more in electricity than a dehydrator. But it works.


    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Funny about Money, good idea! Thanks for sharing!


  3. I love this post, Mrs. A! I think you’ve just convinced me to buy a dehydrator and make me some tasty tasty beef jerky.

    I also love Funny’s suggestion about the dog treats. My dog, Major, will be in heaven after he gets his first taste!

    All the best,

    Len Penzo dot Com


    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Len Penzo, you’ll have to let me know if you do follow through and buy a dehydrator, Len. And thanks for the link in your Friday Black Coffee post.


  4. Not sure where you can find cheap meat around here. Most beef is at least $5 a pound if not more, and that’s for CAFO beef at the super market. The good stuff is much more expensive. I guess I should just buy the jerky for now. 😉


    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Kevin, so you pay $5/pound for meat on sale?! Wow. We are still able to buy beef, pork and chicken under $2.00 a pound. $1.77 is a good price. Maybe someday you can try homemade. In my opinion there is really no comparison to the store bought chemical laden stuff. 😉


  5. Good Post, Mrs. Accountability. I’ve had my eye on a dehydrator for a while, mostly for the veggies that we grow. This article may have pushed us over the decision edge.


    Michael Atencio Reply:

    @Andrew, If you don’t want to spend a lot of a dehydrator, you can DIY easily. I made a box with ten light bulbs in a line that point down at the meat. It’s on cookie cooling racks so heat and air gets circulated. The heat from the lights dehydrates well over night.

    Now, you’ve probably seen something like this – The Suzy Homemaker ovens used the exact same lights to bake cookies. This is the grown up version. Very easy to make and lasts forever.


  6. You don’t need tech, or a dehydrator, I have been making this since I was a kid as I grew up in South Africa. I marinade with soya, brown sugar, ginger, vinegar, garlic (crushed) pepper (Lots of it). Or just salt & pepper. However you do need sun and a simple frame to hang the strips or cubes (I like little cubes, I spike them on a bamboo spike). Once you have a box frame, (Just a simple wooden frame) you can have 1 or more handing lats. The most effective protection (Insects, ants, fly’s etc. is a screen wrapping, the same screen used for doors and windows, I just staple this on the frame, and have a flap that I Velcro down (You can just overlap and tuck). The unit is mobile and I hang mine, 1/2 day in the sun, and the rest of the day in the shade with a fan blowing. From 1st hang and 3 days sun dry, you can test, within 4-7 days 1cm cubes or 1/4 cm strips are perfect. I hang for 2-3 weeks, as I use much larger strips. You can experiment with the marinates, try honey & lemon with pepper, use fresh chilli and vinegar,this screen process can be used for fruits and vegetables (sun dried tomatoes) or even fish or squid, remember salt or vinegar is important, and make sure with blood is out of the meats.


  7. I recently purchased a dehydrator. Thus far I have gone through five large roasts and I have a tall stack of jerky stored in Food Savor packets. I have used black pepper, red chili, teriyaki, and even curry powder – and they are all wonderful. My system is different – I cook my roast then use the dehydrator. I believe the life of my jerky will be several times that of raw meat, safer too. Try rubbing a small amount of curry powder on your beef before the dehydrator – it is great! I will continue making jerky as a survival food. I intend to make some dog treats soon!


    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    @Keith in New Mexico, thanks for your input on this. I have never heard of cooking the meat first… how is the texture when done this way? Do you cook the roast until it is completely tender? Thanks for sharing. Mrs. A


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