Over the years, I have made Beef Jerky off and on, I have tried the "Jerky Maker" Gizmo that goes in the oven, I tried the box fan and filter method - eh. Last Year I got a nice Excalibur Food Dehydrator, OK This thing rocks, yes it dries at 155 degrees, but I am fine with that. This year, I got a manual Jerky Slicer from Cabelas that simplified the entire process greatly. I also happen to get a new Smokin it electric smoker. This thing is also cool and CAN smoke Jerky with the Jerky dryer attachment.
My last batch (also 5 lbs) I used my favorite seasoning (High Mountain Cracked Pepper and Garlic along with some Baldridge Seasoning shaken on before smoking for extra zip - Yeah I know flame away but I love the stuff). I run my dehydrator outside in my screen room, I just set it on top of the smoker and use it for a stand as mi kitchen is so small. This time I loaded my empty moker up with 4 little blocks of hicker and turned it on high. I set the air inlet for the dryer fan right over the chimney hole and poof have GREAT smokey Jerky!
I have noticed I do not like super dry Jerky, nothing like the leather you get with a Jack Links or such. My Jerky is cured for 24 hours, I also like some fat in my Jerky - damn that is good, try it if you have not before bashing. I smoked for about 3 hours and total dehydration time was 8 hours. I rotate the racks in the dehydrator at 4 hours moving the top to the bottom and so on. I start peeking/sampling after about 6.5 hours. I seem to be able to get it all to finish at the same time this way.
No, my Jerky will not take you through the Apocalypse nor will it last 20 years. When I am done dehydrating, I put it all on a plate in a big pile and let it totally cool, then I stick it in a gallon ziplock, take the air out as much as possible and toss it in the fridge. When I want some, I take out what i want wrap it in a paper towel and nuke it for 20 seconds in my whimpy microwave. It is fantastic. I have no idea how long IT COULD last as it has never even approached that time period. The longest I have been able to keep it without eating it was 3 weeks and it was just as good as day 1.
I think I may try something like Ribeye for a test run and see how the fattier cut works out....