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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: adding plenty of sugar to 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.

video tutorial

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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
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

  1. Slice the meat between ⅛ and ¼ 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.)

See more recipes:

Comments

  • Just slaughtered and butchered our annual grass only fed steer: 6 trials of recipes later, this one is hands down is the best we have had. Super mild spicy with our peppers, so we are adding about double to get a medium/hot spice effect. Done on racks in a propane smoker/oven with oak chips. We use every cut on the animal except rib eye in jerky, we cut against and/or with grain depending on cut, it all works. I doubled the amount of meat in the recipe per amount of marinade, no problem there, and we make 30+ lbs. Love the sugar effect. No tenderizers used/needed for us. Nice job, Chef!

    • — Kestrel Blais on January 16, 2023
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  • I have tried many different Recipes for jerky and this one the the BEST!!!! the only changes that I did was to give it more of a kick I added 3 TABLE spoons of peppers, Swapped the powered garlic with 1 Table spoon of minced garlic and 1 Table spoon of Siracha. Spend a few bones and get a dehydrator and you will have the most awesome jerky ever!

    • — TONKA on January 13, 2023
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  • I made this as directed with eye round. The flavor was excellent, but it was so tough, I fed it to my dogs.

    Will try again with another cut of beef, so disappointed 😞.

    • — Jean Palmer on December 30, 2022
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    • This is a great guide, thank you! I didn’t have any tenderizer but it’s made from pineapple or papaya extract so I blended up frozen pineapple with the marinade because that’s what I had on hand. You could also use pineapple juice. I also added fresh grated ginger because it is supposed to help tenderize. I followed some of the other suggestions in the comments (vinegar pre soak, adding apple cider vinegar to the marinade, add sriracha) and the jerky turned out great! It’s not tough, maybe a little crunchier than I would like though. It’s great overall, my family loves it. I will definitely be saving this for future use! Thanks for sharing!

      • — Caleigh on January 25, 2023
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  • Why did you say commercial jerky from the store and on the road is usually more tender?? I find the jerky I buy from the store and on the road is so CHEWY HARD AND ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO EAT!! That’s why I looked for a tender jerky recipe! I’m going to try your recipe but if it turns out like the hard chewy jerky from the store I WILL LET YOU KNOW IF I WAS DISAPPOINTED!!

    • — Rob on December 13, 2022
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    • Hi Rob, I guess it depends on the jerky. Certain brand are more tender than others. That said, I hope you enjoy the recipe! 🙂

      • — Jenn on December 13, 2022
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  • Yery easy and delicious!!

    • — Clarence Bakker on December 11, 2022
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  • Simple, yet very tasty recipe. Used with beef. Should also be good with venison. Thank you!

    • — Jared on December 1, 2022
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  • Excellent recipe! I used venison eye of round and gluten free soy sauce. I sliced it thinner than suggested, but I like the thicker pieces better, so I’ll change that next time. Flavor is spot on. Delicious and easy! Thank you for this one!

    • — Kelly on November 29, 2022
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  • I’ve always wanted to try making beef jerky and I used your recipe as my first attempt. It turned out so perfectly! Fantastic recipe!

    • — Steve on November 13, 2022
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    • Wonderful results …cant wait to make another batch. Very easy and simple to yield such a delicious snack.

      • — Dexter Dickson on November 19, 2022
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  • I have made this jerky several times now and I am hooked. I love it, and so does my family. Thanks for a very simple and great recipe!

    • — Dave Wichmann on November 11, 2022
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  • Cut the brown sugar in half and added about 3/4 cup of organic ACV. Tenderized the meat and provided a move savory – less sweet jerky. The marinade recipe was a good place to start.

    • — DK Clausman on October 13, 2022
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  • The recipe says cut meat with the grain. Shouldn’t it be against
    The grain?

    • — Sue Miller on October 11, 2022
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    • Hi Sue, Normally beef is sliced against the grain, but in this case I cut with the grain for the best jerky texture.

      • — Jenn on October 12, 2022
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      • great recipe!
        with or across the grain..done it both ways..its personal preference, wont affect the taste at all..across the grain may be a little less chewy to some;

        • — adam on December 10, 2022
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  • The jerky was so tough I couldn’t eat it! I think cutting with the grain makes it tougher than across the grain. I’ll try it that way next. The marinade was very good.

    • — Alina on October 5, 2022
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  • Awesome recipe! I do have to say that if you add about 2 Tbsp of honey it makes it just a little better than it already is. Im so happy I found this recipe!

    • — ShWn on September 22, 2022
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  • Made it..was delicious…didn’t get much, everyone else grabbed it first..made about 2lb..will make a larger quantity next time..thanks

    • — Wayneskaggs on August 16, 2022
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  • Excellent!

    • — John on July 14, 2022
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  • Adding sugar? Thats a good way to injure your body over the years. Completely unnecessary and a sign of how screwed up our knowledge of nutrition really is.

    • — Bob McConnell on July 11, 2022
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    • Thanks for your worthless comment

      • — Jason S on January 20, 2023
      • Reply
    • I made this using the Sukrin Gold brown sugar replacement instead of regular brown sugar, and it turned out great! As with some of the other reviewers, I didn’t have the meat tenderizer, so I added ACV for a similar effect and the added savoriness. I’ve made this recipe several times now, and the picky kids keep asking for more. Home run, Jenn.

      • — Van on January 30, 2023
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  • I used this recipe guide and it was the best beef jerky I’ve ever had. (although I used a proper food dehydrator machine I had just bought the day before to kick it’s tires.

    But I have to admit, finding a lean reasonably priced cut of meat was a tall order. My local Publix had a very limited selection, so I drove to the local Amish grocery store that always has top notch beef, even aged beef.
    Detweiler’s Amish butchers were also struggling to meet the meat demand due to Memorial Day, but this retired soldier was making beef jerky hell or high water.

    …….So I bought several pounds of tenderloin, as it was priced about the same as the lesser meats. Never seen that scenario.

    I also made dog jerky with a lesser humongous steak I got at Publix. With that, I didn’t use a recipe as I wanted to make my neighbor’s dogs jerky with no spices, I did add a little sweet potato as that dog loves sweet potatoes. Next on my list is trying to see if I can make beef jerky my two cats will like, as I’m tired of giving them cat treats with to many preservatives and ingredients.

    • — Sam G on May 29, 2022
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  • Superb flavor, But a little tough. I used bottom round. Any suggestions for my next batch?

    • — Susan Kardos on May 5, 2022
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    • Hi Susan, sorry to hear it was a little tough. For the best results, I’d stick with the eye of round. If you’re not able to find eye of round and use bottom round again, I’d cut it against the grain.

      • — Jenn on May 5, 2022
      • Reply
    • Family has been making jerky for 30 years.

      London broil! I know expensive.

      Side note.

      Slice the meat against the grain.

      Fill a tub or cleaned sink with cold water and vinegar, redwine or white. 1/4 or so to two gallons.

      Place the sliced meat in the water and squeeze the meat getting all blood out of the meat. Repeat this step until all the blood is out. Two-three times.

      • — Mike on May 7, 2022
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    • It is tough I believe because the instructions were to slice with the grain. You should always slice against the grain. Great recipe though, probably just a small oversight.

      • — Mark S on November 22, 2022
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      • This jerky is the exception to the rule when it comes to slicing against the grain. When you slice it against the grain, it almost falls apart. The jerky has a better texture when sliced with the grain.

        • — Jenn on November 22, 2022
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        • This is very true ! I am make venison as I am writing this if you cut across the grain it will surely fall apart on you , I always cut with the grain and never have any issues , I am using your recipe for the first time can’t wait it smells incredible I will post pictures when done 👍

          • — Dean on December 11, 2022
          • Reply
  • I didn’t read all of the comments so somebody may have already mentioned this. But when you slice the meat WITH the grain, it can get pretty tough to chew. I always slice mine ACROSS the grain. It stays “chewy” but it’s still tender enough that you can bite pieces off fairly easily. People with teeth that are sensitive or those with dentures, might find it a little more enjoyable to eat this way.

    • — Jim Sears on May 3, 2022
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  • WOW! This is sooooo tasty! I take a LOT of roadtrips with my family, (wife and son), and I KNOW what you mean about the almost outrageous price of jerky at gas stations! Your recipe(s) are wonderful! Thanks for the article; and thanks for the recipes!!!

    -Paddy Ryan of Rockford,Illinois
    April 13, 2022

    • — Paddy Ryan on April 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • I’ve never tried making jerky before but my family are definitely jerky lovers. I used moose meat (roast) instead of the beef and I’m really excited about the first batch! Everyone loves it 🙂

    • — Nancy on April 3, 2022
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  • Love this recipe. Just a few words to novice chefs…make sure you have a sharp large knife. A nonslip cutting board…And I recommend double bagging the meat when it’s marinating. So far I’ve gone through 5 lbs of lean beef. I think this is a great gift idea for those jerky lovers!!!❤

    • — Deb Pollard on March 16, 2022
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    • Absolutely great!! The whole family loves it. I used a rolled roast, cut with the grain, made exactly as the recipe states and it was perfect. Thanks!!

      • — Lisa on October 15, 2022
      • Reply
  • I have just done a complete hind of sambar deer so multiplied marinade recipe by 4…. Superb!! so the variation to the standard recipe was I used only 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1 cup of fresh pineapple juice to substitute the meat tenderiser powder… All my neighbours line up after I come back from a hunt and after this recipe I have nothing but “When is the next delivery??” Absolute keeper this one….Regards from Melbourne Australia 😉

    • — Michael on March 5, 2022
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  • I’ve never made beef jerky before. Made it in my oven as mine has a dehydrate mode. Omg yummy & then some! Super easy recipe to follow! Very husband approved! I like that it doesn’t taste salty! This recipe is def a keeper!

    • — Margaret on February 23, 2022
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  • I made this for our Superbowl party.

    This recipe was very close to Jack Links. A solid recipe. Next time I will add a bit of sugar, salt, and liquid smoke to the marinade. Either way, this is a good, solid recipe.

    • — Eric A. on February 13, 2022
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  • Jerky is the ‘poor man’s’ biltong. I’m living in South Africa, the origin of biltong. I have a commercial dryer and make about 20kgs per week.

    Besides the spices listed in the link, I add ground cloves and use brown vinegar as the intial rubbed coating.. Only sprinkle coarse salt on the meat, otherwise it’s too salty. MUST have fat for the taste!

    • — Vernon Lazarus on February 5, 2022
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  • How come it only lasts for a week? How does the commercial stuff last indefinitely?

    • — Robin on February 3, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Robin, I believe that the commercial stuff lasts much longer as it likely has preservatives in it. Also while this may last for longer than a week, I always try to err on the conservative side from a food safety standpoint. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on February 4, 2022
      • Reply
  • Fantastic flavor with just the right amount of kick. Very good recipe. Top shelf!!

    • — Michael on January 21, 2022
    • Reply
  • Love this recipe! A few changes I made: Used “London Broil” aka “Top Round” since I didn’t have access to “Eye of Round”. Marinated for close to 24 hours. Used “Liquid Aminos” in place of Soy Sauce (can’t taste the difference) for low salt alternative, only 13% daily value vs. 30+% in normal soy sauce. Low sodium soy sauce reduces it to only 23%. For less heat, reduced crushed red pepper flakes to 1/8 Tsp. Keeping the 1 Tsp recipe for those who want a hotter jerky. Lastly, made sure the measurement of smoked paprika was rounded spoon full. Smoked on wood pellet bbq/smoker for 4.25 hours on “Smoke” setting ~160°-180°. Best jerky I’ve ever tasted! Hope this helps. Enjoy!

    • — Garth Ruckhaber on January 21, 2022
    • Reply
  • This looks delicious! Would this be safe for pregnant women to eat?

    • — Selina on January 20, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Selina, I would assume so, but that’s definitely not my area of expertise, so if you are unsure, I would definitely consult your doctor. 🙂

      • — Jenn on January 20, 2022
      • Reply
  • After trying numerable recipes for beef jerky, I have concluded that this is absolutely the ‘best’ recipe. My only change is to reduce the brown sugar to a half cup. Otherwise, it’s perfect!

    • — Mike McCaleb on January 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • I am an experienced cook and typically don’t measure anything when cooking (though I’m not a good baker). With that said, I follow Jen’s recipes exactly and have yet to be disappointed. This jerky was excellent. Tender, yet chewy and the sweetness and heat were well balanced. If you prefer less sweet or more heat, you could adjust accordingly, but note that Jen says the sugar locks in moisture and tenderizes. Thanks Jen! We did it again!

    • — Stacy E. on January 7, 2022
    • Reply
  • is there any other type of meat you can use for this recipe?

    • — hallie on January 4, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Hallie, I haven’t tried this with any other cut of beef so I can’t say for sure — sorry!

      • — Jenn on January 4, 2022
      • Reply
    • You can use just about any cut of meat as long as it’s very lean. Even the leanest cuts of meat will still have some fat in it though. So trim off as much of that as possible. Fat in the meat will go rancid pretty quickly.

      • — Jim Sears on May 3, 2022
      • Reply
  • This was too spicy for me. I would make again and eliminate red pepper all together

    • — Brenda on December 12, 2021
    • Reply
  • I make jerky to an old family recipe very similar to yours except mine calls for a cup of water which I understand the water acts as a catylist to help deliver the marinade to the meat.

    • — Robert Harris on December 11, 2021
    • Reply
  • Oh my darn goodness! My first time making my own beef jerky and the taste is quite perfect. I’m still waiting for it to dry out but you know, I nabbed a piece. I divided the ingredients in half because I only wanted to spend no more than 10 dollars for the correct cut. The only draw back to doing this is the price. It would be great to be able to this with cheap and tough cuts of beef. This recipe I definitely must save. Thank you for the nice walkthrough.

    • — Steve on November 6, 2021
    • Reply
  • 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
    • true with fresh pineapple, canned pineapple will only tenderize because of the acidity. Canned pineapple is usually heated after canning to kill germs and unfortunately kills the enzymes also.

      • — jeff on January 22, 2022
      • Reply
    • Just wondering how much canned pineapple juice to use please ?

      • — Paige on March 13, 2022
      • 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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