This post goes back to the very first step of our initial post on making beef jerky at home (Part 1 of 100), which is buying beef. The thing is, you don’t even have to buy beef! Almost anything can be jerkified, from turkey to salmon to used car tires, but we still recommend sticking to meat if you want the best jerky available.
Beef: The key is to have a lean piece of meat that is fairly easy to slice. Fat is the enemy in jerky. For the leanest cuts of beef try top round, eye round, bottom round or brisket. When you buy a hunk of meat from your butcher, ask him to trim the fat as best as possible. This will save you a lot of the hassle at home, unless you like that sort of thing. Another topic is grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef, which is partly an ideological and health preference rather than one of taste, and we’ll get into it in a later post.
Turkey: Turkey also works great, since it is a very lean meat. The first time I tried Hot & Smoky turkey jerky fresh out of the dehydrator was a moment of unadulterated bliss and is a taste I will never forget. You’ll want to buy turkey breast, and again trim the fat, slice, marinate, and dehydrate to your wildest dreams.
Other Meats: Hunters swear by venison jerky, as deer is another incredibly lean animal. I imagine rabbit may work just as well for the same reason. Buffalo meat is also a very popular type of jerky that we haven’t yet experimented with at the SlantShack, but is kind of like a leaner version of a cow, so it makes sense. Salmon is a whole different animal, literally and figuratively, as it is known for being naturally fatty (the good fat, of course) and seems to go against the “lean meat” advice we’ve been giving so far. However, we’ve done a wasabi and soy salmon jerky, and it was amazing. So, salmon and other white-fleshed fish (cod, trout, etc.) can work very well.
Experiment jerking everything and find your very own soul meat by making jerky at home.
Note: Some folks don’t like the leaner cuts that have overlapping bands of muscle fiber, because it makes it tougher to slice the meat with the grain. Here at SlantShack we actually cut both with the grain and against the grain. It results in different jerky textures and a lot of people actually like the feel and taste of jerky cut against the grain. Remember, we’re all about experimenting and customizing beef jerky to individual preferences, so try both and figure out what you like best!