OK, so you want details & particulars? Heh, heh. Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. I'm guessing a few of you may want to try this, or something similar. Sorry for my inconsideration of others, I was kinda in a hurry when I posted the pics. Also, sorry it took so long to get back on the forum to get this post out.
History of this smoke: So, this was experimental, and the first time I tried cube steak for jerky. Actually there were several firsts here. I made jerky on a gasser once, on my 3-1/2 year old GOSM, but not on my new converted and modded SNP. The steak was from a half beef purchased locally. I used cube just because it's what I had in the freezer from several months back, no special reason, just thought I'd try it out, and get some of my beef used up so I can refill the freeze space with a half hog. Had 2 of them already and loved it, except of course not enough ribs to do a very big smoke. I would like to put an entire half hog (just the split carcass) on my SNP for about 30 hours, though. Man, goooooooood grub there!
Cube steak is actually the process itself, it's not reference to the cut of meat. In some areas of the country, and depending on your individual ethnic background, it might be called chopped steak. It is different from tenderizing as you would with a spiney mallet, or a needled process. I own and have used both of these tools. Cubed steak meat has cuts or scores (lacerations) half the way through the thickness & all the way across on one side, then like you would rotate it 90 degrees and flip over to do the other side, so the cuts are running perpendicular. The cuts are pretty close together, maybe from 1/4" down to 3/16". And, yes, it is for faster cooking and a more tender fried product, probably used mostly for Chicken Fried Steak. Very tender, and if not seared or crisped-up well on the outside it will tend to fall apart. Anyway, depending on who did the cubing and probably the actual cut of meat used will determine the type of cube process, as I have seen double cut on one side and none on the other side, and even double on both sides. Double scoring gives it a checkered or squared cut pattern, hence "cube" steak.
The meat for my jerky was cut into thicker squared fingers (not strips) of 5/8 to 3/4 inch due to the nature of it wanting to fall apart if cut too small, and also due to the additional shrinkage of the meat. I wanted a pretty dry jerky product so these are the 2 reasons for size.
Seasoning was kosher salt, coarse black pepper and garlic granules, applied fairly heavy after cutting, then just placed into a large bowl to marinate in the seasoning and it's own juices while the smoker got prepped and was ready, maybe 15 minutes. Really, the smoker was mostly set to go, but I wanted to make sure I had a nice low steady flame on that big burner, have my racks set-up for loading and placement, and get a good soak of the seasonings.
Ambient temps at start and end of smoke/drying were 53/74, respectively. Winds were very light (especially for around here), overall a really good day for smoke. One of those days that makes you wish you had more goodies ready to smoke...
Smoke was Hickory for the first 3/4 hour with very light wisps o' the thin blue. Smoker temp climbed from 115 to 145 in 35 minutes or so, and I figured much more smoke time would be too heavy. I used 2 chunks about 1" thick, 2" wide & 2-1/2" long. Not much.
Smoker temps at start of smoke were 115 and took about 3/4 hour to climb to 155. Then, she ran at 150 to 162 for the majority of the rest of the cook, total time was 6-1/2 hours. It did try climbimg a lot towards the end as the light breeze thoughout the day actually died to nothing, so I did have keep closer watch over her. Smoker rig is my modded SNP with LPG conversion, by the way. Think (no, I know) I'm gonna love working with this rig.
Taste and texture: flavor was pretty tasty, nise and light on the smoke so it wasn't over-powering, though I would have liked a bit of heat and more tang/zest, maybe some Chille powder or Cayenne (or both). I had to be careful of my wife's taste, gotta keep mama happy too ya know. Kid's will love it no matter what...homemade jerky is a serious treat here. I've only done it a couple of times. Texture was somewhat hard and some of it is actually brittle and will snap apart when you bend it. It is more dry than I really wanted, but it'll do. I was busy trying to post my week-old Brisket/Rib/Shrmp smoke pics while doing the jerky...distractions, distractions, distraction. I know better than that! Ahh, it's OK. My last batch went into the freezer for preservation, it was tieriaki/pineapple marinade with mesquite smoke and man was it good. This cube steak jerky could probably lay around on the counter in the baggie for weeks (it would never last that long), but we have a large domestic long-hair cat named "Curious". He's always into something.
Storage should be good as it is so dry, though I did not use a cure on this. I would like to try it with cure and put a small bag of it in a dark closet with the date marked on it so I could dig it out after several months to see what happens...mold growth might be a problem without the use of other commercially used preservatives. Smoking is a natural preservative, though not as effective as the chemical means.
Starting weight of the total uncut meat was 10.3 lbs and ending weight of 3.2, pretty dry. Did'nt get pics of this as I used a neighbor's kitchen scale at her house just for a quick check. Don't have my own (yet). Been looking though, and there are some good buys out there for 'em.
Edibility is OK, a bit tougher than I like but not bad. This could be improved by spritzing with water or your favorite smoking spritz juice, then just let it soften for a few minutes and basically do a partial reconstitute of the meat. It would be similar to using dehydrated foods, gotta put some fluid in it before eating, heat would quicken the process, as long as not too much heat is used.
When I do my next batch of jerky I'll be doing the bend test of the meat way sooner than I did here. Looks are very decieving when it comes to the doneness of slow heated and smoked meats. I'll also run my temps even lower than I did to slow things down more. That should give a better drying with less variances in the product. I didn't touch the meat until it came off, so, no rotations of smoker rack positions or movement whatsoever. Course, that could be a good thing, having some meat not quite as dry as other, gives some different textures to try. Though I thought soting it by texture/dryness would be a good idea if it would'nt be chilled during storage.
If you want to try this stuff, this thread should get you started. I can give you some pointers depending on your rig, and I'm sure there are plenty of others with SMF who've done their versions of jerky as well, with various smokers and dehydrators. Dehydrating would be the easiest, maybe smoke it at 120 degress for 3/4 hour, then toss in the dehydrator? I don't own one these gadgets just yet. Another one of those wish list items, but this one should be easier for me to acquire, as wifey was the first to suggest it! Hah, Hah, Hah!!!
Hope you enjoyed the reading. Thanks.