I have been asked for my beef jerky recipes several times, but since the notes were a mess, it has taken me a while to post the recipe for my favorite, Thai jerky. If you’ve never had home-dried beef jerky, you’re in for a treat. I have never really liked the flavor of store-bought jerky, because of all the preservatives and fake flavors that keep it shelf-stable for a commercial market. Even the “premium” stuff tastes primarily of salt, and the flavors don’t really distinguish themselves. There is rarely a marked difference between pepper jerky and Cajun jerky and teriyaki jerky.
When I made my own jerky for the first time, I realized that you could transform it into something incredible. The drying enhances the flavor of the beef, and with strong spices, you can experiment with myriad flavors from international cuisines. I tried my own teriyaki recipe, then Korean bulgogi, then Thai. I couldn’t stop eating jerky! This is dangerous, given you are at risk of eating 2 lbs. of salted meat in a short period of time. If you have more restraint, though, jerky makes an unusual and delicious cocktail snack.
My recipe for Thai beef jerky is based on a classic Thai dish for sun-dried beef. In Thailand, the beef is dried in the sun, then deep-fried and served as a main dish. The deep-frying will kill microbes, but it does not keep like regular beef jerky. My recipe eliminates the sun and the fryer.
You’ll need a good quality food dehydrator for this recipe. I’ve seen jerky recipes made in the oven; if you lack a dehydrator, I suppose you could try drying it at 200 degrees with the oven door ajar, but I can’t guarantee the results.
There are two ways to make jerky that ensure you kill microbes: heating up the raw meat in marinade to 160 degrees, or heating the strips in the oven to the same temperature after the drying process is completed. The OSU Master Food Preservers prefer the former, but it doesn’t work well with this recipe, so I use the latter, a method recommended by the preservation experts at University of Georgia.
Thai Beef Jerky
Planning: You’ll need a food dehydrator and food processor. Drying will take several hours.
- 2 lbs flank steak (see note)
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped lemon grass
- 2 bird’s eye or serrano chili peppers (or to taste)
- 3-4 large cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
- 5 tablespoons chopped cilantro stems
- 1/4 cup chopped shallot
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh galanga (or substitute fresh ginger)
- 1/4 cup Thai fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons palm sugar, chopped coarsely
I use flank steak because I like the texture for this recipe, but you might want to try a cheaper (lean) cut, such as round, sirloin, or rump. The crucial step is to remove all the fat from the meat.
Preparing the Meat:
Freeze meat for 10-15 minutes to ease the slicing process. Slice meat thinly — ¼ inch thick or less – and try to make pieces the same length and width to ensure quick, even drying. I aim for strips that are 2 inches wide and 4 inches long for ease of handling, but you might make them a different size depending on your needs. Cutting the meat *across* the grain makes for tender pieces; cutting *with* the grain makes for a chewier jerky. The photo shows what cutting with the grain looks like. Trim away all fat from the outside. Place finished meat strips into Ziploc bag with tight seal.
Place all marinade ingredients in food processor and pulverize into a paste. Add paste to meat strips and massage to combine. Refrigerate overnight.
Drying the Meat:
The drying process should take place at 155 degrees, or as hot as your dehydrator can get. Dry until the meat cracks but doesn’t break when you bend it, with no moist or underdone spots. This might take anywhere from 3-8 hours or more, depending on your dehydrator.
When the jerky is done, remove it from the racks and place on a baking sheet in one layer, not touching. Preheat oven to 275 degrees, then heat for 10 minutes to reach a 160 degree internal temperature. This will kill any remaining nasties.
Cool and serve as a snack with beer or with other Thai courses. Can be garnished with radish slices, a chiffonade of kaffir lime leaves, lime wedges, and/or cilantro.
I make jerky in small batches and store it in the refrigerator in a sealed bag, since we eat it quickly. It can also be stored on the shelf. For longer storage, store it in the freezer. It should be safe at room temperature, but why take chances? You’ll discover that any bits of fat left on the meat will go rancid quickly, and the overall quality will start to decline on the shelf.