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.

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

  • Superb flavor, But a little tough. I used bottom round. Any suggestions for my next batch?

    • — Susan Kardos on May 5, 2022
    • Reply
    • 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
      • 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
  • 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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