Gonna try some jerky!

Discussion in 'Making Jerky' started by sigmo, Aug 21, 2013.

  1. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic

    I've been thinking about trying to make some jerky for a while, so I came here to read up.  Based on that, I ordered some Cure #1 last week and that came in quickly.

    I was inspired by Kevin (Couger78)'s thread and recipes here:


    So I got the other necessary ingredients and five pounds of beef chuck roast the other night.

    I didn't have time to freeze the meat, but just sliced it by hand from a "refrigerator cold" state.  It sliced OK, but I think I'd like to have a meat slicer if I'm going to be doing a lot of this.  It also went quite a bit better once I sharpened the knife I was using!  [​IMG]

    I made up the marinade/cure using Kevin's Basic Black Pepper Jerky recipe, but modified slightly.  I added some chopped scallions (mentioned in his Teriyaki recipe) and used  five cloves of garlic rather than the three in his Pepper Jerky recipe.

    Here's how the marinade looked as I was starting to slice the meat and toss it in:

    As I added more and more of the meat, I became concerned that there wouldn't be enough liquid to really soak the meat, so I put in an additional 4 oz of Soy Sauce and one more oz of Worchestershire sauce just to increase the liquid volume.

    I then bagged it all in a one gallon storage bag, and tried to get all of the excess air out:

    So that's the state of things right now.  It's been in the fridge for approximately 24 hours, and I've periodically flopped the bag and kneaded things a bit to try to make sure the marinade is getting to every piece equally.

    I may have messed up by adding the additional liquid ingredients since looking at Kevin's photos, his bagged meat looks like it didn't have any more liquid than what mine did before I added the extra.  Well, we'll see how it turns out, I guess!

    I plan on putting it in the smoker tomorrow at about 02:00.  It will have had 48 hours of marinading at that point.  I often work strange hours, and I figure I can get off of work about then and have a chance to get it started.  If I have to stay later, it'll soak a few more hours.  Hopefully that won't make any significant difference.

    Any suggestions or recommendations are welcome.

    I'll be drying/smoking it in a first generation MES40 with an AMNPS pellet burner for the smoke.  I'm not sure which wood pellets I'll try.  I've got a few different varieties on hand, so any recommendations along those lines would certainly be welcome!

    Also, I'm not sure exactly how I'll hang it.  I saw the toothpick technique, and that looks promising. I also read about the non-stick coated skewers that are supposedly available at Wal Mart, so those might be a good idea, too.

    I love jerky.  Time will tell if I love this batch!

  2. roller

    roller Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    I hope your jerky turns out great ! Its fun to make and love eating it...You will be hooked...
  3. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic

    Thank you, Roller!

    I got home from work at about 02:45 and got started getting things ready for hanging the meat in the smoker.  I had bought some of the non-stick skewers from Wally World, and decided that a reasonable way to hang the skewers from one of the racks was with paper clips.  They're cheap, plenty strong, yet easy to bend to whatever shape is needed.

    So I ended up with this arrangement:

    I put six paper clips on each "end" of the rack so I could hang six skewers.

    A shot from below showing all six clips on each end of the rack.  Spaced to let me safely hang the skewers.

    The back skewer hanging.

    All six skewers hanging.  But I still had a bit of the meat left over, so:

    I just laid the rest out on a rack and slipped it into the slot two racks down.  I was hoping this wouldn't restrict the airflow too much.

    At the top, you can see the bent-over oven liner that I lay on the top rack, when possible, to force the airflow to go all the way to our left before curling around to the right to find its way out the vent opening (which is in the top of the smoker, all the way over to the right).

    On the bottom rack, you can see that it's covered with foil on its left half.  That acts as a drip protector for the AMAZN AMNPS which lays on the bars at the bottom left of the image.

    Now, I set the temperature control for 115, and placed the MES 40's meat probe up next to the top rack, on the left, in the pathway that the escaping air has to take to get up out of the chamber.  I figure that will give the best, most representative sample of the actual air temperature that's surrounding the coldest of the jerky.  All of the hot air from the heating element must rise up through the cabinet, passing over the meat, and finally emerge through that one "chute" before it can leave the cabinet via the vent at the top right.

    I had the chip loader completely out, the chip tray pulled wide open, and the vent damper as far open as it can go, too.  After all, I'm trying to dry this stuff out.

    I ran it for an hour and a half, and during that time, I adjusted the smoker's setpoint up to 140 to get the meat-probe temperature up to about 120.

    My MES 40's cabinet temperature probe reads higher than its true temperature as you get to higher temperatures.  So the probe itself or the electronic controller is uncalibrated, with the temperature indicated becoming further and further from the truth as the temperature goes up.  At room temperature, it's just about dead on.  But at 225 (actual temperature of the probe itself), the MES's indicators show more like 250.  So you have to set the MES for a higher temperature than what you actually want to get.

    This was painstakingly measured some time ago, when I first got the MES 40, using a known to be calibrated, and very tiny thermocouple probe, intimately coupled to the MES's probe (that sticks out of the back of the cabinet, into the chamber, in the lower right area of the chamber).  So I knew the MES's probe's actual temperature at several points, and saw what the MES's display read.

    So anyhow, regardless of what I might think about the biases introduced by the position of the MES's probe, I also know that the probe itself does not read accurately - BUT, I know what it's characteristics really are, so I can compensate for them when smoking.

    The MES's meat probe, on the other hand, was proven to be very accurate over the whole range, by placing it into an extremely accurate dry block calibrator (also done when the MES was new) and comparing it against a NIST traceable system.

    So while I know that the MES's controller and control probe are not accurate, oddly, I also know that the MES's meat probe is highly accurate.  Within 1 degree F over it's whole range.

    Anyhow, I trust the meat probe in the system to tell me exactly what temperature it's "seeing".  So I tended to adjust the MES's controller to whatever was necessary to get the "exhaust" air temperature to what I wanted throughout this whole process.

    Anyhow, after pre-drying the jerky-to-be for 90 minutes with the exhaust temperature adjusted to be around 120, I decided it was time to apply the smoke.

    Lighting the pellets.  I used a blend of cherry and hickory.  I microwaved them for three blasts of 30 seconds, stirring and allowing to rest for a minute or two between each zap in the microwave oven so that the steam could escape.  I hate running the microwave oven for too long at any given time with such a light "load" in it.  The poor magnetron must be groaning with all of the reflected power bouncing around.  Also, if you nuke the pellets for too long in one zap, they WILL begin to burn, right there in the microwave oven.  Ask me now I know!!!

    I let the pellets just burn for about ten minutes, and then became concerned that maybe one row of pellets wouldn't be enough.  So I filled part of another row with some Pitmaster's Choice just for insurance.  Then touched them up again with the torch a bit, then blew them out and put them into the smoker.

    So this was the whole arrangement.

    The AMNPS sitting astride the bars at the left bottom of the smoker chamber.  The chip drawer pulled open as far as it can go without hitting the door.  My foil shield over the AMNPS to protect it from drips.  Some jerky on the next to bottom rack, hopefully with plenty of airspace between the pieces to let the air, heat, and smoke rise upwards to the main body of the jerky, then the jerky on skewers hanging from the top rack.  Next, the deflector plate (folded-over oven drip tray) set on top of the top rack to force the smoke and air to pass over all of the jerky before it can exit up through the top of the chamber and out the vent seen in the top right rear corner of the chamber's "ceiling".  And finally, the MES 40's meat probe set up in the air flow path at the upper left of the top rack so I can monitor the exhaust air temp.

    TBS, finally, at about 06:00 this morning.  The smoke looks pretty dense, but it's photo-trickery (by getting the flash aimed properly through the smoke).  With the naked eye, I couldn't even see the smoke coming out unless I aimed a flashlight straight down into the smoke stream so I could see the light scattered 90 degrees to the light beam.  (Turbidimetric smoke density measurement, anyone?)  Hmmm.  I need to invent a "smoke nephelometer"!!!  Gotta work on that for us!

    Anyhow, with that, I climbed into bed, but kept the MES 40's remote near at hand, for a nap.

    I let it smoke for about 3.5 hours, gradually turning the MES's temperature up.  When I finally removed the AMNPS it had barely started burning "around the corner" into the pitmaster's choice.  So the original "one row" estimate was probably OK.  I just wrapped the AMNPS up in foil to choke it off, so I can save the extra pellets for another job.

    The jerky was still pretty moist, so I closed the smoker back up and went back to sleep, periodically waking up to check the temperatures and turning it up more and more.

    It's still drying!  I've now got the MES temp set to 165F, and the exhaust probe is saying 157.  So I need to check again.  But the stuff has been in there, now, since 04:30, and it's almost 17:00!  So it's taking its sweet time getting dry.

    I like my jerky on the dry side, but maybe I'm going too far!!

    I'm gonna go back down and give it another check.  [​IMG]
  4. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic

    OK.  I finally took the jerky out of the smoker.

    The stuff that was laying on the grill below came off surprisingly easily.  I had sprayed the rack/grill with a light coating of spray cooking oil, so that probably helped.

    The stuff that was on the non-stick skewers also came off easily, so that was nice, too.

    It's quite peppery and salty.  I might back off on all of that a bit for the next batch.

    It's got some areas where the fat in it rendered out and leaves it with shiny droplets visible.  I'm not sure it that's too much fat, but it's not bad.

    I've got it bagged up in a gallon zip-lock, partially closed to try to even out the moisture for a while.

    I may toss it in the fridge since there is some visible fat/oil, and I don't want that to get rancid.

    Maybe you experts can judge things a bit by looking at some pictures:

    You can see some bits of garlic right there on this back-lit shot.  [​IMG]

    I seem to have ended up with 1.92 pounds out of the original 5 pounds of meat.  Uhh, but I did eat some before weighing it.  [​IMG]
    dirtsailor2003 likes this.
  5. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    Looks mighty tasty to me!
    Nice translucency!!
    Great Job!!!!
  6. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Tasty looking Jerky and a great write up!!
  7. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic

    Thanks, guys

    My only concern now is that it still seems to have quite a bit of moisture content.  I suppose, just going by the weight, we can know if it's dry enough or not.

    1.92 pounds from 5 pounds of meat to start probably tells most of the story.  But I'm not sure what's customary.

    And when I put the jerky into a gallon bag, even leaving the bag all the way open, I am seeing some condensation on the inside of the bag.  I hope that doesn't lead to mold or some other grief.

    The texture seems about like what I get with commercially prepared jerky for whatever that's worth.

    I wonder if I should leave it out, spread out on racks rather than have it in the bag to start off.
  8. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    Store it in a paper bag so it can breathe.
  9. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic

    That seems like a good idea!  Do you think it's wise to store such jerky in the fridge to keep any fat that's in it from going rancid, or would it actually be better to store it at room temperature?
  10. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Sigmo, evening......  In the refer is a good idea.....  not only will it keep the fat from going rancid, the refer will also dehydrate the meat and fat more.....    

  11. Looks good, great write up! Since you mention some fat, I might suggest a leaner cut, like eye of round, london broil, etc. Chuck has quite a bit of marbling and for jerky that's not what you really want. 

    You got great advice on storing it in a paper bag in the fridge. 

    Nice job!
  12. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic

    Excellent.  I got some paper bags at Wally World just now, and I'll put the jerky in one or two of those bags and store it in the fridge.  Thanks!
    Thanks, and I realize that you're right about the fat in the meat I got.  Next time, I'll probably try some London Broils or other very lean cuts for jerky.  The fat isn't terribly nasty on this batch, but it's enough that I'd rather keep it in the fridge!  I think the paper bags will be a great way to go, allowing the meat to further dehydrate while in the fridge.

    I may have been better off leaving this batch in the smoker for a while longer, but man, it was in there for over 12 hours as it was, and I was getting anxious!!! 

    It's pretty tasty, but a bit saltier than it needs to be, and maybe has more pepper than I'd prefer, although I've had store-bought pepper jerky that was even heavier on the pepper.

    Next time, I'll go with a London Broil or similar cut, reduce the amount of soy sauce, hopefully have a meat slicer available, and I may start off at a higher temperature.  But I have to say that for me, the smoke flavor this batch got is just about right.  So I'll probably do that part about the same next time!

    Also, I suspect having the rack with the extra bits on it at the bottom may have choked off some of the airflow, which may have made the drying process a bit slower, too.

    Lots and lots of variables to master!

    Thanks everyone for your help and advice.  The jerky is pretty darned good (if not perfect), so I'm pretty happy with this as my first attempt.
  13. mneeley490

    mneeley490 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Looks like you did great! I'll have to borrow that paper clip trick. [​IMG]
    knothead69 likes this.
  14. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic

    I stood around in the hardware aisle for a while the other night, pondering various gadgets that might work well to hold the skewers, and it finally dawned on me that some bailing wire or just paper clips would be about the best because I could easily bend them to act how I wanted.

    It was sort of tricky hanging and un-hanging the skewers, but the only thing that would have made it easier would be if the hooks were fastened to the rack so that they wouldn't swing around so you could do it one-handed.  I might have to try bending a paper clip or other bit of wire to accomplish something like that when I'm feeling more ambitious or have more time to kill.  :)

    The good thing about the paper clips being free to move was that it made adjusting the spacing between the skewers quick and easy once I had the meat hanging there and just wanted to get everything positioned so no piece was touching any other.
  15. The paper clips as hooks is pretty neat. I use the skewers and hang them from the MES racks with stainless steel S-Hooks (bending one end open cause the only ones I could find were closed on the ends. I attach the S Hooks to each end of the skewer and then hang on the racks

    Just a couple tips that I have found works for me. I use the top rack and the third rack down if need be, removing the second rack for space. If I still have jerky left over, I lay it on the top rack first and then the third rack if need be. I usually get 9-11 pieces of jerky on each skewer and 6-8 skewers per rack.

    If the humidity is high, it takes mine longer to "dry", I think the longest it has taken mine to dry is 10 hrs. Looks like you had temps similar to the way I do it (I followed Rick's (NEPAS) time and temp from his jerky making). I also use a dry cure which probably makes a difference. 

    Do you know about the "bend test" to check the doneness of jerky?

    There's a pic of it in this thread: http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/123611/elk-jerky-again
  16. the zil

    the zil Smoke Blower

    Looks awesome. I was going to use s hooks, til I priced them. Lol. I did see instructions on the Internet on how to make a jig to shape your own S hooks, on the cheap. I like projects like that. Til I can make my own I use bamboo skewers, run to pieces of jerky through with a skewer. Then, dangle each piece through the slots on the grates. I can get about 80 pieces of jerky hung per rack, but only use 3 racks. That is with the MES 30". Takes forever to load it but this is a hobby, for me, so I don't mind. I have 8# in my MES 30 right now. I'll have to try that recipe, sounds delish.
  17. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic

    I think putting the extra jerky up on the top rack makes sense so you don't restrict the airflow to the lower racks.  I always put that drip pan on the top of the top rack, pushed over to the right to force the smoke to travel all the way around that pan and up through the opening it leaves over at the left.  Since the exhaust vent is in top right of my smoker, I want to get the airflow to circulate rather than just rise straight up from the heating element (which is also on the right side).  There may really be no problem without the baffle, but I've always done it that way.

    But that, then, means that the top side of the top rack is unavailable for smoking.  If I need the extra space, I just forego the baffle.

    What I ought to do is build a better baffle and attach it up higher so that it doesn't interfere with the use of the top rack!

    And along the same lines, I usually have a piece of foil covering the left half (a bit less, actually) of the bottom rack to stop any drips from reaching the AMNPS.  So that sort of means that the bottom rack is also off limits!

    Generally, I just use the middle two racks, and for most things, that's plenty of space.

    But hanging all of that jerky did take up the entire top rack, and it hung down low enough that just like you said, the third rack would have been touching.  So that did leave me with the 2nd rack up as the place I put the extra.  If I did take the bottom rack out, I'd have probably had room to hang the other pieces from rack 2 without it touching the cover over the heating element or the AMNPS.

    I've used a foil "tent" over the AMNPS before, but I find that the way I'm doing it now seems to keep it lit better.  I've had problems in the past keeping it going.  We're at about 5300' elevation, and I think the thinner air makes airflow more critical for keeping the pellets burning.

    I really should build a more rigid and permanent top baffle that's closer to the "ceiling" to duct the airflow the way I like.  I could also build a better shield for the AMNPS so that the bottom rack wouldn't be partially unusable due to the foil.

    And really, what might be neat would be some kind of a rack that slips into the rack rails, but which stands up higher so that for jerky, your hanging pieces would start off up higher to the "ceiling" for the top rack.

    Then, maybe you could also use the 3rd rack up for another group hanging, and that would leave more room below.

    I should play around with building a rack like that for the top, for jerky hanging.  The way things are, there's a lot of wasted space above that top rack :)

    Your count of how much jerky can be hung from one rack seems to match mine.  I went with 9 pieces per skewer and six skewers.  That seemed to give enough space that nothing was touching anything else.

    The humidity here is usually extremely low, but we have had a somewhat more humid than usual summer this year (actually, about the last five or six summers we've had higher than normal summertime humidity).  I'm not sure if that had anything to do with my long drying time, but I suspect that I may have started off with too low of a temperature, and as you pointed out, my marinade was very wet.

    I actually put extra liquid over and above what the recipe called for in because I was concerned that I didn't have enough to fully cover all of the pieces.  But I think that was a mistake, and made the strips a lot wetter than they probably are supposed to be when starting out.

    A dry cure would have been even better from the perspective of getting the meat to dry quickly.  I need to experiment with all of this!!!

    It's funny, but I had read that other thread of yours with the "bend test" illustrated, and I did do that!  In fact, I think I got a lot of my temperature regime from those posts of yours in that thread!

    I kind of went through a bunch of threads on here, and copied and pasted various recipes and temperature/time profiles, etc., from some of the posts into one text file that I printed out and was referring to as I was doing this!  I'm sure some of your posts got "pasted" into that "cheat sheet" that I made!

    My whole procedure pretty much came from various posts here.  :)  I have to say thanks to all of you who have contributed!
    I know what you mean about the price of the "S" hooks. I  was prepared to buy a batch, but as I stood there in the hardware aisle, looking at the prices, and trying to see what they had that would do the job, but which wasn't super-expensive, that's when it occurred to me to try the paper clips!  I thought there might be a pack of, say, ten or a dozen for a couple of bucks, but all they had were packs of one or two at a couple of bucks a pop.  Cheapskate that I am, it made me ponder.

    I like that idea of using the skewers, and allowing the jerky to dangle through the grate.  That also gets things up just a bit higher, which is a plus, I think.  I have seen some posts where folks used toothpicks to skewer the meat, then just let it hang down through the grate.  That also looked promising, and when I was buying the skewers and paperclips, I also bought a big box of toothpicks!

    In the end, though, I went with the skewers because I couldn't think of an easy way to get the meat on toothpicks into the grate while it was in the smoker.  And I was afraid of it falling off if I tried to carry it from somewhere else and slip the grate into the smoker.  Loading up the skewers, putting them on a tray, then putting the individual skewers up under the grate while it was in the smoker seemed like a "doable" job.

    If I made a stand that I could put one of the smoker grates onto so that I could pre-hang the jerky, using the bamboo skewers the way you describe, I think I could get more jerky per grate!  Then I could carry that grate to the smoker and slide it in.  I may have to try that!

    Also, if I were to trim the meat slices to a shorter length, I could theoretically use at least three of the four grates.  That might also be a good thing to look into!

    I did get a meat slicer the other day.  I had looked a couple of places in town, but while the websites of these big-box stores showed that they had meat slicers, none of our local branches actually had them in stock.  I would have had to order one, and since I was going to have to order anyhow, I got it from Amazon.  Take that, local big-box store branches!  ;-)

    Anyhow, If a person was to cut the steak into slabs such that the slices from those slabs would be short enough to fit between the grates, AND if you used a method like you describe with the bamboo skewers (or something short enough to fit the depth of the grates), you'd have the tops of the slices up at the top surface of the grates, so you wouldn't have the wasted space that my paper clips forced me to have.  All of that should allow more slices to be jammed into the smoker at one time.

    Also, if I bent the paper clips to be more specialized hanger/hooks, I could get the skewers up closer to the bottoms of the racks.  So there are a lot of possibilities for optimizing things to make it easier and get better use of the space in the smoker.  But it's good to think about this ahead of time like this because once you've got that cured meat in front of you, and the smoker warming up, it's too late to plan out how you're going to hang the slices!

    I guess that's part of what  person learns by doing this a few times and by getting help from everyone else who's already been through it a few times!!!

    Maybe it'd be worth building a special jerky hanging rack for these MESs to make things easier.

    Sorry for the long ramble.  It's sometimes easier to think things through when writing it out, I guess.

Share This Page