Originally Posted by chadtower
Hi folks! I've been reading like crazy but am still short on a few concepts. I am not new to smoking but I am new to jerky.
I am going to use a GOSM cabinet to smoke. I recently modded it with a needle valve so I can easily run it as low as 100 if I want. Yesterday I ran it empty at a perfect 125 for an hour. If anyone out there has a GOSM I highly recommend this mod.
I have a consumer level meat slicer so I can get consistent cuts. I will be trimming fat on the pieces rather than the whole.
I have LEM Cure. Frankly, the instructions suck. It doesn't say how long to cure. Can I mix the cure in with the marinade or do I need to do that separately?
Is this a jerky spice blend with cure in separate packets? I don't use kits anymore, so I'm out of the loop on that part... That's how the jerky kits were typically packaged a few years back, just so the cure gets properly mixed immediately prior to use. Anyway, yes to mixing the cure into the marinade spices, with water...should be around 3-4oz of water per pound of meat, plus a cure packet and spice packet. Put prepped meat in a clean, non-reactive container, pour marinade mix over meat and gently toss to coat all pieces well. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or lid, or put in ziploc bag, and refrigerate. I like to allow at least 24 hours for cure time, 36-48 if thicker slices.
If curing in a bowl, I uncover and toss around to redistribute the marinade about every 8-12 hours. If in a bag, you can gently toss/tumble the bag to do the same. The liquids from the marinade mix should absorb into the meat within the first 12-18 hours, usually sooner. The reason for adding water is to aid in getting even coverage of the spices and cure throughout the batch. Without water, some pieces of meat may not cure evenly, if at all. When the pieces are removed and placed on dehydrator trays or smoker grates, hung, etc. they should all have a red color...any that are slightly grey are not completely cured...these can be considered suspect for bacterial issues if you cold smoke and do low temp drying, so watch for them. If you watch for this when you remove the pieces from the curing container you can catch them right away.
With this setup what is the recommended temp to go with? I have no preference for dehydrating vs smoking. I just want the best jerky I can produce.
Smoking gives a great additional flavor to the overall jerky experience, so I recommend it. Hickory is good, even with these smaller pieces of beef, as the flavor of the meat intensifies when dried, so the stronger smoke will go well with that. I've used cherry as well, and it is a bit milder, but has a slightly sweet aroma and flavor, with a bit heavier background than other fruit woods I've smoked with...good choice for beef jerky as well. Mesquite is a very heavy, earthy flavor and aroma, so if you have some you could try it sometime and see what you think, but you may want to use it a bit more sparingly than hickory or cherry (less time with smoke before drying, or lighter smoke from wood).
With cured meat, I smoke my jerky @ anywhere below 100* up to about 120* for 15-20 if thin sliced (<1/8 - 3/16") and 20-30 minutes if thick (1/4 - 3/8"), then remove smoke wood and dry at 120* for a few hours. check texture and increase to around 135-140 for a few more hours and check again. If you have low relative humidity (R/H) and especially if thin sliced, it may start drying faster than you might expect, so you need to be around to keep an eye on things. I generally bump to around 160* after the jerky has begun showing shrinkage and hasn't gotten very leathery to the touch yet. The higher temps will finish it up, but drying with too high of temps at the start can cause texture issues...some crumbly spots, some not as dry. If drying in a smoker, you need good ventilation to keep exhausting the water vapor from the drying meat out of the chamber. More ventilation = less humidity = a bit faster drying.
If you prefer to dry in a dehydrator, you could use approx the same drying temps and times as for a smoker (either smoke first, or no smoke and straight to drying), but you really need to be able to look at and touch the jerky to determine how the drying process is progressing. It can get too dry...crumbly and brittle pieces are over-dried.
I will be using a 4lb bottom round as a test run. It was on a pretty good sale. :)
Bottom round works pretty well for jerky...fairly lean interior...just knock off the fat cap if it has one before you slice and it will save you additional trimming time if doing final trimming piece by piece.
Thanks for any clarifications here. I've been reading quite a bit but am somehow missing a couple of the relationships between steps and methods.