The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe

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This is the best homemade beef jerky recipe, and it’s easy to make without any special equipment.

After road tripping with my family and sampling jerky from gas stations along the way – and spending a small fortune on it – I resolved to come up with a good homemade beef jerky recipe. The good news is that beef jerky is surprisingly easy to make and doesn’t require any special equipment other than a standard oven, baking sheets, and wire racks. However, most homemade jerky isn’t nearly as tender as the store-bought kind. That’s because commercial jerky producers use special equipment and curing preservatives to make their signature jerky.
Finally, after falling down an internet rabbit hole of pitmaster video tutorials, I learned the secret to making tender jerky at home: increasing the sugar in the marinade. The extra sugar not only helps preserve the meat but also locks in moisture. This recipe makes a salty-sweet, smoky jerky with a chewy yet tender texture, similar to the well-known brands.

What You’ll Need To Make Homemade Beef Jerky

When making beef jerky, it’s important to start with a well-trimmed, lean cut of meat, as fat does not dry out and accelerates spoilage. An eye of round roast is ideal; it’s affordable, accessible, lean, and easy to trim. Before slicing, pop it in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours; it will be much easier to cut.

The marinade contains soy sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, seasoning, and unseasoned meat tenderizer. Meat tenderizer contains bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down meat tissue. You can find it in the spice section of your supermarket (I use McCormick).

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Slice the Meat

slicing the meat for beef jerky
Slice the meat between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick with the grain. If the roast is too thick to slice easily, cut it in half horizontally before slicing.
slicing the meat

2. Make the Marinade

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, smoked paprika, meat tenderizer, black pepper, red pepper flakes, onion powder, and garlic powder.

marinade for beef jerky

Whisk until evenly combined and the sugar is dissolved.

whisked marinade

3. Marinate the Beef

Add the meat to the marinade and toss until all of the pieces are evenly coated. Cover with plastic wrap (or transfer to a large ziplock bag) and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or overnight. Toss the meat (or flip the bag) once or twice to be sure the meat marinates evenly.

marinate the beef

4. Dry Out The Meat

Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Place a wire rack over each pan. Preheat the oven to 175°F and set two oven racks in the centermost positions.
Arrange the marinated meat on the wire racks in a single layer.

marinated beef on wire rack

Bake, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom midway through, until the meat is dried out, 3 to 4 hours. To determine if the jerky is thoroughly dried out, take a piece out of the oven and let it cool to room temperature. It should be dry to the touch, leather-like in appearance, and chewy but still somewhat tender.
cooked beef jerky

Store the jerky inside an airtight plastic container, Ziploc bag, or airtight glass jars. Properly dried jerky will keep at room temperature for about one week.

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The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe

This is the best homemade beef jerky recipe, and it’s easy to make without any special equipment.

Servings: 12 to 14 servings
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 3 Hours
Total Time: 3 Hours 30 Minutes, plus at least 12 hours to marinate

Ingredients

  • One 3-pound eye of round roast (see note), trimmed of fat and silver skin
  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon unseasoned meat tenderizer (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

  1. Slice the meat between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick with the grain. (If the roast is too thick to slice easily, cut it in half horizontally before slicing.)
  2. Make the marinade: In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, smoked paprika, meat tenderizer, black pepper, red pepper flakes, onion powder, and garlic powder. Whisk until evenly combined and the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add the meat to the marinade and toss until all of the pieces are evenly coated. Cover with plastic wrap or transfer to a large ziplock bag and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or overnight. Toss the meat (or flip the bag) once or twice to be sure the meat marinates evenly.
  4. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Place a wire rack over each pan. Preheat the oven to 175°F and set two oven racks in the centermost positions.
  5. Arrange the marinated meat on the wire racks in a single layer. Bake, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom midway through, until the meat is dried out, 3 to 4 hours. To determine if the jerky is thoroughly dried out, take a piece out of the oven and let it cool to room temperature. It should be dry to the touch, leather-like in appearance, and chewy but still somewhat tender.
  6. Store the jerky inside an airtight plastic container, Ziploc bag, or airtight glass jars. Properly dried jerky will keep at room temperature for about one week. Refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.
  7. Note: Pop the meat in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours before slicing; it will be easier to cut.
  8. Note: Meat tenderizer contains bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down meat tissue. You can find it in the spice section of your supermarket. (I use McCormick.)

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Reviews & Comments

  • I’ve been making beef jerky for years with different recipes. Finally found a keeper!
    So many are salty, inspire of using los sodium & half the sale. Yours is mildly sweet with a little kick.
    Thank you!

    • — lora on October 12, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’ve made this recipe several times and it’s hands down, the best. My only caveat is that it’s too sweet for my tastes. I cut the 1 cup of brown sugar down to just 1/2 cup and … viola! … it’s terrific!

    • — Mike McCaleb on August 5, 2021
    • Reply
  • Instead of using meat tenderiser use pineapple juice instead which has naturally occurring bromelain. It also gives a wonderful fruity taste to the jerky.

    • — Jason Hayes on August 4, 2021
    • Reply
    • Thank you! I was just about to do a search for a substitute tenderizer.
      Do you reduce the amount of brown sugar to compensate for the sweetness of the pineapple?

      • — Karl Schneider on October 22, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi, great recipe came out so well I have done it a few times. One variation I preferred was to cut the beef across the grain, use half a grated onion instead of the onion powder (as it’s all I had in the pantry) and leave out the meat tenderizer.
    Thanks very much.

    • — Michael on July 23, 2021
    • Reply

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