Last week we gave tons of budget-saving tips for clean eating, so we thought we’d keep the ball rolling with more of that tasty macro that all fit folk need in spades: protein. Jerky has always been a go-to snack and workout fuel for active people—and we mean always, because dried meat was a staple in all early human cultures—but if you’re a fan you know how expensive it can be. Whether you’re trying to hit a goal of protein grams per day, or you just want a snack that isn’t loaded with sugar and won’t break the bank, this easy DIY jerky recipe has your back.
The best part about making your own jerky is avoiding all the sugar, artificial preservatives found in some supermarket brands, plus you get to control the quality of the meat you start with.
Start with a large piece of lean, grass-fed meat—you can use brisket, loin, sirloin, flank, or top round, you just want to make sure to trim any visible fat. The leaner your meat, the longer your jerky will stay delicious. Place the meat in the freezer for an hour to an hour and a half, which will make it way easier to slice. Cut the meat into long, thin strips and place into a large plastic bag or glass container with a lid. Top with your marinade of choice*, then place in the fridge to soak up all the good flavor overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 170 degrees (If you have a convection oven, use that setting to help circulate air around the beef strips.) and place the strips on cooling racks set on foil-lined cooking sheets and pat them dry with a paper towel. Place the racks in the oven and prop the door of the oven open slightly by sticking a wooden spoon in the way. Let the meat dry for 3 hours, then flip it over and give it another 3 hours. Let it cool before putting it in an airtight container—it’ll keep for around 4 months!
Don’t feel like making your own? The good news is packaged jerky is getting better and better, with plenty of grass-fed and sustainable options amongst the supermarket brands (especially here in Portland). Epic brand makes jerky and protein bars using just meat, dried fruit, and vegetables, The New Primal has a delicious spicy variety made from grass-fed New Zealand cattle, and Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value Organic beef jerky is a pretty good deal at $6.99 for 3 ounces. You can even find salmon jerky at the Portland Farmers Market!