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.)

See more recipes:

Reviews & Comments

  • What an outstanding recipe !!! The results are far superior to commercial jerky available in stores. I have already shared this with friends and family who are jerky-aficionados. Well done.

    • — Les N. on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi, made this with moosemeat and it was pretty darn good! Did not use meat tenderizer (mostly because forgot to get it at store). Used the same temperature setting but did convection bake and cooked for 2.5 hours, it was chewy but not tough. Added a dash of worcestershire and mustard, as to my personal taste.

    • — Ann DeLong on January 28, 2021
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  • Wow, Thank you for the recipe and all the important tips/explanation included. I just bought over $100 worth of beef jerky because my husband is cutting down carb for his snacks and he loves beef jerky. I love Taiwanese jerky which they use both pork and beef as the meat source. I am going to use fresh pineapple to add to the marinade since I don’t have bromelain on hand. I have two questions? Is there a difference in final meat quality if eye of round instead of round is used? I believe eye of round is a more expensive cut. Wonder if it’s worth the extra expense.
    To do: I will try to use pork for this recipe. I have a vacuum sealer and I just found another good use of my sealer!

    • — Janet on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Janet, I’ve tried several different cuts of meat, and I had the best results with eye of round, so I’d recommend sticking with that for the best results. (That said, I haven’t tried it with round.)

      • — Jenn on January 28, 2021
      • Reply
  • Made this yesterday, it is fantastic!! I made it for my husband and sons, tired of buying expensive, full-of-preservatives store bought jerky. Now I’m in trouble because they said from now on they only want this!!!!
    Any thoughts on if I try to 1.5 or double the recipe (yesterday’s single batch is nearly gone already!!) would I need to change oven heat or time? Or both?

    Another awesome recipe, every single one I’ve tried off this site has been a winner!!

    • — Katie on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • So glad all your boys enjoyed it, Katie! It doesn’t last long at my house either. You can definitely increase/double the recipe. I would keep the oven temperature the same but allow extra time in the oven…I’m guessing an additional 30-60 minutes but just keep an eye on it (and be sure to rotate all the pans in the oven so they cook evenly).

      • — Jenn on January 28, 2021
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  • Hi Jenn

    I made the homemade jerky. It was absolutely delicious.

    I decreased the amount of brown sugar to 1/2 cup and instead of using the oven the dehydrator did a great job. Dehydrate according to instrutions.

    Sue Price

    • — Sue Price on January 28, 2021
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  • As always with your recipes, great flavor. I did marinate the beef for 2 days. Good snack alternative for those cookies we have been snacking on 🙂

    • — susan on January 28, 2021
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  • Hi Jenn:

    I love all your recipes especially the Secret Chocolate cookies. So good. Sometimes I put more processed oats in it for the texture.

    Also enjoyed making the almond biscotti too. What a treat!

    I tried your beef jerky but found it to be a bit tough. What did I do wrong?

    Please advise me. Many thanks

    Judy Knight

    • — Judy Knight on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Judy, Beef jerky is chewy by nature, but this version shouldn’t be tough. Did you by chance make any substitutions or use a different cut of meat?

      • — Jenn on January 28, 2021
      • Reply
  • Although I’ve never been a beef jerky fan, I made your recipe for my husband, who claims it’s the best he’s ever had. I may soon be eating jerky too. Thanks for a great recipe!

    • — Jenny Bennett on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this beef jerky exactly as shown except for adding a teaspoon of baking soda in place of meat tenderizer. As with other recipes found on Once Upon a Chef, this one turned out great! I will definitely be making beef jerky again, probably sooner rather than later, since I find it difficult to just eat a slice or two at one time. Thanks for the recipe Jenn.

    • — Roger on January 28, 2021
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  • Beef jerky is a classic for Road trips and camping- Usually store bought ones are a bit too sweet or hard. This one is nothing like that- perfect amount of chewiness and sweetness, makes everyone want to keep eating! All of Jen’s tips and tricks for almost every recipe leads to nothing but the BEST food ever. From my experience of being Jenn’s #1 true fan, I can tell you one thing: She never leaves us hanging- only shares recipes that are nothing short from perfect.

    • — Hannah Sebastian on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • ❤️

      • — Jenn on January 28, 2021
      • Reply
  • This was amazing and gone in 2 days.
    I can’t believe I have wasted so much money on jerky that is the texture of shoe leather when I could easily make tasty, tender beef jerky for so much less! I will never buy beef jerky again!
    Thanks for another great recipe Jenn!

    • — Julie on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Very Good! I cut the smoked paprika and tenderizer and used a smoker with pecan chips. Will definitely make again. Thanks for recipe

    • — Cary on January 28, 2021
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  • This recipe is amazing. It was super easy … loved the tip of freezing it ahead of time for assisting with thin cuts. Definitely going to be something we make regularly. It is perfect for adding a little more protein to your daily intake. Thanks so much!

    • — Sue Nilsson on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This turned out really well! Texture was perfect at 3-1/2 hours. My family liked the spices. What a great cost saving!

    • — Julie on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Made this 100% per directions – nom, nom, nom! This recipe is a keeper – thank you!

    • — Julie J. on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this and it turned out so well! (As do all your recipe’s, Jenn!) A big hit at our house! I did try a few strips in the air fryer at 180° for 1 hour then flipped them and back in for another hour (approximately). They turned out great and I got to taste the jerky before the main batch was done! This would work for a small batch but the oven would be the best for a full recipe. I so appreciate how you explain recipes and break it down for ease. Your book has a permanent spot on my counter. Thank you for inspiring me in the kitchen!

    • — Susan on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this for a football watch party with my extended family and it was the first thing to disappear. Absolutely everyone loved it. This jerky was not only tasty but tender and not chewy and hard like many brands that you can purchase. It had just the right amount of heat that was truly irresistible. I will be making this again! (Note: I used filet)

    • — Karen on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this as a trial for my husband. I thought if we liked it I will make it for road trips in the future. My son-in-laws were over and saw this on my counter & I told them to help themselves. Everyone loved it and that was the end of my jerky. We will definitely make this again, loved it!!

    • — Gina Brewer on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this beef jerky and my family voted it the best they have ever had. Thank you so much for this awesome recipe will be making it again.

    • — Deanna on January 28, 2021
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  • So excited to make this for my husband. Since we don’t do road trips these days – there’s no jerky! I have a question – we have lo-sodium kikkoman (I prefer it). Would that make a difference?

    • — Michaela on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Michaela, I think low-sodium will work just fine. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 28, 2021
      • Reply
  • Thanks for the wonderful recipe for beef jerky. Since we live abroad we can not really buy any here and now we can make our own. It really is great.

    • — I .Shakocius on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Yet again another amazing recipe from Jenn! Once upon a chef is now my go to for all my recipe desires and searches ! I have tried sooooo many of these recipes and LOVE them all! I look forward (as does my husband hahaha! ) to trying many more as well !!:) Thank you Jenn for all of your great recipes , pictures and tips !!

    • — Dayna M. on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • We made this jerky this week and it is excellent! The “chew factor” was spot on and the flavor was the perfect combination of sweet and spice. Freezing the meat first was key to slicing it thin…though I wasn’t complaining when some of the slices came out a little thicker. 😉

    The marinade was soooo good – what else can I use it for (new batch of course)?

    • — Sheri on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed it, Sheri! I think it’d be a good flank or flat iron steak marinade.

      • — Jenn on January 28, 2021
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  • I made this recipe over the weekend as my husband is a jerky lover!
    It was easy to make, although I did have a hard time finding meat tenderizer. I did find seasoned meat tenderizer but could not find unseasoned. The taste was fine even with this substitution. Would make this again as its a great money saver to buying jerky in store.

    • — Ashley on January 28, 2021
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  • Unfortunately, both wife and I found it too sweet and also sticky after hours and hours in our dehydrator. The good thing is our dogs (7) love it!

    • — Chuck O'Brien on January 28, 2021
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  • My son is a jerky connoisseur so I was excited to make this for him! It was incredibly easy to make (although I forgot it was marinating so mine sat for 2 days in the fridge) and turned out perfect! I will definitely make another batch-it goes fast!

    • — Jean Kennell on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is a great beef jerky recipe! I had everything except the meat tenderizer, but the overnight marinade actually took care of that pretty well. I used flank steak instead of bottom round. I had made other jerky recipes that did not require a marinade and they came out sub-par. I believe I have finally found my go-to beef jerky recipe! Try it, you won’t be disappointed!

    • — Mary Anne Kolobow on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’ve long been a nut about good home made jerky. Jerky should reflect its name and require a good ‘chew’ rather than be too tender. I’m thinking your recipe might be a tad too sweet and tender for my tastes, but am willing to give it a try .. once my current ‘stash’ is history. On the basis of your recipe and descriptors, my guess is that your jerky should neatly fit into a three star recipe.

    • — Mike McCaleb on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • My son is a snacker and loves jerky and meat sticks so I was very excited to find this recipe! It was easy to make (he even helped), much healthier than store bought and tastes amazing! Highly recommend this recipe.

    • — Meg on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I tried this last weekend. It turned out fantastic. We all loved it. It was really easy to prepare. I would recommend anyone who likes Beef Jerky to try it.

    • — Cheryl M on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe turned out great and will be my go to one for jerky. Thank you!

    • — Connie Koh on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’ve always liked the idea of beef jerky more than I’ve liked actual commercial beef jerky, which tends to be too much salt and too little flavor.

    This recipe is a revelation. Super easy and very tasty. Thanks so much for figuring this one out, Jenn. It’s really good.

    • — Adam on January 26, 2021
    • Reply
  • Awesome recipe, had to fight the boys off sneaking it before it cooled down. They gave you five stars. Thank you. Love your book and love all your posts. You are my go to. Trevor

    • — Trevor on January 25, 2021
    • Reply
    • ❤️

      • — Jenn on January 25, 2021
      • Reply
  • Fantastic recipe! My boys are loving it. Thank you.

    • — Jen on January 25, 2021
    • Reply
  • Just took the beef jerky out of the oven and it was yummy!! It had been a once apon a chef kind of day in the house yesterday. Beef jerky was marinating, almond biscotti was in the oven, chai banana bread was out of the oven and cooling And… to top it off, I made the kung pao chicken for dinner. You rock in my house, Jenn!!

    • — Danette on January 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • ❤️

      • — Jenn on January 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi! if I can’t get unseasoned meat tenderizer, is there anything else I can use besides? I live overseas and cant always get things. Also regarding the wire rack, why does it need that?
    Thank you!!

    • — Debbie S. on January 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Debbie, You can leave it out, but I would add an additional 1/4 teaspoon salt (the tenderizer has salt in it). The wire rack allows the meat to dry out evenly.

      • — Jenn on January 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • Actually I’m going to promote a company for the best jerky marinade this company is called Dale’s sauce location Birmingham Alabama

    • — Tim borden on January 22, 2021
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  • I haven’t made this, but it is very similar to the method I learned how to make beef jerky in 1992 – my recipe is to use the round roast, sliced thin; add a handful of brown sugar, add soy sauce (not covered), liquid smoke and crushed red pepper. Marinate for 15 minutes (!), though I’ve let it go much more than that.

    I’ve always used a dehydrator, but I had some extra this past Xmas (I give it as gifts) so I used the oven for the extra – went much faster!

    • — Sandra D on January 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Oh, I forgot – I also add Montreal Steak Spice!!

      • — Sandra D on January 21, 2021
      • Reply
  • Can the brown sugar be replaced with Stevia sweetener?
    Can the jerky be frozen in case it is not consumed within a week?
    Thank you.

    • — Rene Lemelin on January 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Rene, I don’t have any experience working with sugar substitutes, so I can’t say for sure how Stevia would impact the recipe (especially if the stevia would have the same tenderizing effect). The jerky can definitely be frozen for longer storage. If you try it with Stevia, I’d love to hear how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on January 22, 2021
      • Reply
      • Fake sugar doesn’t caramelize
        So no is your answer

        • — Tim borden on January 22, 2021
        • Reply
  • Jenn, can you think of any substitute for the soy sauce? I have a son with a soy allergy. I usually use coconut aminos… would it work here? Thanks for all of your hard work!

    • — Amanda W on January 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Amanda, I do think coconut aminos would work well here. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it. 🙂

      • — Jenn on January 22, 2021
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      • Great flavor Jenn! One question though, after 3 hours the bottom of each piece wasn’t dried like the top so I flipped each piece and cooked for another 45 minutes to dry it up a bit. Wondering if you had the same experience or if it would be better not to flip and just keep cooking for another 45 mins to an hour? Thanks!

        • — Dave Smith on January 23, 2021
        • Reply
        • Glad you enjoyed it, Dave! Most oven-dried jerky recipes call for flipping the meat halfway through, but I didn’t find it necessary when using the wire racks in my oven — it dried out evenly in about 3 hours. It certainly doesn’t hurt to flip the meat, so next time, I’d try flipping at the 1.5 hour mark and see if the meat is evenly dried in 3 hours. Hope that helps!

          • — Jenn on January 23, 2021
          • Reply
  • Could you make the beef jerky with a bottom round roast?

    • — Cynthia on January 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Yes, it should work, Cynthia. Please LMK how it turns out. 🙂

      • — Jenn on January 21, 2021
      • Reply
  • Tip: Save some money by substituting about 3/4 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in a small amount of water for meat tenderizer. It has the same tenderizing effect on meat proteins by raising the pH. Only a little baking soda is necessary. Too much will over-tenderize to an unappealing texture.

    • — RobP on January 21, 2021
    • Reply
  • Jenn, can I use lower-sodium soy sauce in this recipe? Thanks!

    Joanne

    • — Joanne DeCamp on January 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Joanne, Yes I think you could get away with it.

      • — Jenn on January 21, 2021
      • Reply
  • If your oven does convection, this cuts the time dramatically. Do be ready to wipe down the edges of the doors partway through, as there will be some condensation buildup!

    • — Greybeard on January 21, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. Any thoughts or recommendations on adapting to turkey? Or any other other non-red meat or cloven hooved animal? We have an alpha-gal eater (thanks to a tick bite) and thus “allergic” to beef, pork, venison, goat, etc.
    By the way, you are my first go-to site for recipes – Great recipes/notes and great feedback/questions from other folks!

    • — Frank on January 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Frank, I do think it would work with turkey. I would start checking for doneness at the 2-hour mark. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on January 21, 2021
      • Reply
  • Do you know the sodium amount per serving?

    • — Patti Ritter on January 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Patti, because I don’t know how much of the marinade gets absorbed by the beef, I was not able to provide nutritional information for this. I would assume though, that the sodium is pretty high.

      • — Jenn on January 22, 2021
      • Reply
  • Could you make Turkey Jerky using this recipe but substituting turkey breast for meat?

    • — Donna on January 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Donna, I do think it would work. I would start checking for doneness at the 2 hour mark.

      • — Jenn on January 21, 2021
      • Reply
  • I can’t wait to try this! I would love to see a recipe for “turkey” jerky!

    • — Lisa BPaul on January 21, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can you do this in a dehydrator and, if so, how long would that take?

    • — Alison on January 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Alison, Surprisingly, I found that the jerky turned out much better (and more tender) when made in the oven as opposed to the dehydrator, so I’d recommend sticking with the oven.

      • — Jenn on January 21, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi, do you know if it’s okay to freeze the jerky if you won’t be able to eat all of it within a week?

    • — Yvonne on January 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Yes, that’s fine, Yvonne. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 21, 2021
      • Reply

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