Making beef jerky is one of the most fulfilling experiences you can ever have in life. Your beef jerky has your taste and style to it, and as you know, no jerky is better than homemade beef jerky. Moments aside, to make a perfect homemade jerky, you need to know your cuts correctly. There are different cuts of beef that you can use to make your beef jerky according to your preference. To end up with tender jerky, your jerky-making process has to be well informed, and we are here to let you in on the best cut for beef jerky. Read through, and you can be sure to end up with the best beef jerky that has ever touched your tongue.
If you are a first-timer and wonder what beef jerky is, this next section is for you. However, if you are a bit well-versed, you can jump to the next section, where we share the best cuts for you.
What is Beef Jerky
Storing meat has come a long way, and different inventions have been developed to stop the meat from spoiling. In the past, not everyone could access ice blocks to store their meat and preserve them for long periods. The alternative that was widely in use was salt to preserve different meats. Salt was so important and in-demand that it was used as a form of payment in some cases, hence the word "salary." Drying was another method that was used to preserve meat. These two methods were then combined with preserving meat, and before we knew it, beef jerky was here with us.
Beef jerky is a strip of meat that has been cut into thin sections and dried to preserve it. Salt is normally added to the strips to keep the meat's quality and preserve the meat further. Once you get your best cuts of beef, you can be sure to end up with great beef jerky, as that is where it all begins. This next section will guide you on how to get the best beef cuts for making jerky.
Best Cut for Jerky
Have you ever walked into your closest butchery and seen an image of a cow that seems to be divided into states as though it is the map of the USA? That image was meant to help you identify beef cuts for making jerky. Jerky meat requires decisiveness when making a purchase. Here are the cuts you should be asking for when looking for meat to make your beef jerky.
a) Top Round
You will sometimes hear the top round being referred to as "inside round steak" or the "London Broil." The meat is from a part known as the round primal part of the animal. The round primal portion is great for making beef jerky for many reasons. The top round is your pick if you are looking for economical meat for beef jerky. The inside round meat is lean meat and will give you large cuts for your beef jerky.
The top round is common among commercial jerky makers, making it the best choice you can make for your beef jerky. While you will be able to get a lean cut out of the top round, you will not get the most tender bite compared to other cuts. The meat is less expensive but simultaneously less flavorful. There is no intramuscular marbling on the top round, and that is one characteristic that should help you identify the top round.
b) Eye of Round
Eye of the round is the round to beat them all. While it is more expensive, the eye of the round is more tender than the bottom or the top round. This is because the eye of the round is found in the round primal area. The eye of the round comes from the long muscles at the center. For this reason, the beef cut is more wholesome and tender. The eye of the round has a fat cup that you will need to trim off before making your jerky. You will end up with a more tender bite if you go about the processes correctly.
When preparing your jerky, the eye of the round is easy to work with because of the long grains that make it easier to cut through the meat. You will obviously be using a sharp knife to work the meat, but you still need an easy way around the meat.
The eye of the round has no intramuscular marbling, making it easier to go about the preparation. The eye of the round is lean, and the fat content is not a lot. Some people consider the eye of the round as the best beef for jerky. However, if you try all the cuts, you may have a different perspective. You can always use marinated meat to add flavor to your recipe in the jerky-making process. Adding soy sauce has been one of the hacks to bring a rich flavor to the cuts of beef that are considered not very flavorful.
c) Bottom Round
You will see the bottom round being referred to as the bottom round oven roast or simply the round roast. The bottom round oven roast is a relative of the top round as they come from the same area. For this reason, you might expect both rounds to have similar characteristics. However, there are differences between the two when making jerky. One notable difference is that the bottom round is tougher than the top round. However, the difference in toughness does not mean that the bottom round is not great for beef jerky. On the contrary, you can make tasty beef jerky from the bottom round just as you would the top round.
Like the top round, you can expect to find no intramuscular marbling on the round roast. The bottom round is less flavorful and less tender. However, the bottom round is not expensive compared to other cuts. While the bottom round is not the best of cuts, you can get pretty tasty jerky out of the round roast.
d) Lifter Meat
Making beef jerky is never complete without trying the lifter meat as part of the recipe. Lifter meat is found on the outside of the rib. I know you definitely love rib recipes, and now you can consider the beef jerky as one of the recipes. Lifter meat is also referred to as the blade meat or the cap and wedge meat.
Lifter meat has medium leanness and is more tender and flavorful than round meats. The lifter meat has medium marbling, making for a more tender option. Lifter meat is more expensive than the top round and the bottom round roast. Lifter meat is one you have to try out the next time you are making jerky.
e) Sirloin Tip
The sirloin tip is also known as the round tip and is high-quality beef that is great for making jerky. The sirloin tip is unique and will make your jerky-making adventures worth the while. Apart from having a rich flavor, the sirloin tip is less popular but a great option for jerky nonetheless. Therefore, the sirloin tip has no intramuscular marbling and is less tender. However, beef jerky meat is more expensive than the other cuts.
The sirloin cut originates from the round primal regions instead of the sirloin region.
f) Flank Steak
The flank steak can also be referred to as the beef flank or the plank steak. Occasionally, you will hear the flank steak being referred to as the skirt steak. The flank steak comes from the flank primal side of the animal. You will enjoy working with the flank steak because of the long grains. The long grains make the beef jerky tender once you prepare it. The skirt steak is lean and has very little intramuscular marbling. Little or no intramuscular marbling makes the beef jerky less tender than other meats. Flank steak has little intramuscular fat, hence the limited marbling.
The flank steak is very flavorful, and you will enjoy these cuts of beef once you try them out. On the other hand, the plank steak is a very expensive cut of beef, and you have to enjoy them when you buy them.
g) Pectoral Meat
Pectoral meat is also known as the special trim sometimes. The pectoral meat is obtained from the chunk primal part of the animal. The pectoral meat is a portion of the brisket. Pectoral meat is decently marbled and is extremely tender because of this. The pectoral meat is not as flavorful as the other jerky cuts and is not as expensive. The pectoral meat has fat but not too much fat to spoil the fun. If you are a first-time jerky maker, the pectoral meat is your best option for learning and trying out your skills.
Does Ground Beef Count?
Ground beef works as meat for beef jerky. At least with ground beef, you will be sure that the jerky cooks evenly. Ground beef makes tender jerky that you can enjoy eating compared to the cuts of beef that can sometimes not be tender at all. The downside of ground beef is that it takes a long process to prepare compared to its cut counterparts. You will need to have extremely lean beef to work with. The meat has to be fresh meat as well as you are dealing with ground beef. Extremely lean beef is not the easiest to find in stores compared to the other meats.
While ground meat is the best meat for anyone who wants jerky that is tender to the teeth, you will need certain tools to use when making jerky out of the meat. For example, you will need to flatten the jerky before doing anything with it. Tools like the jerky gun or the cannon will come in handy when working with the jerky in such situations.
With ground beef, you do not have to worry about the dehydration process that takes forever and needs much care to undertake. Ground beef is great when you have kids or seniors. You can still enjoy beef with your family without having to worry about too much.
Can I Use Other Meats Apart from Beef to Make the Jerky?
You can use other meats to make the jerky. Beef is the common option for making jerky simply because it is more available than other meats. However, the other options make for similarly good jerkies as beef and probably better if you know how to prepare them. Here are a few meats that you can use to make jerky.
i) Deer Meat
Deer meat is known to make jerky that has incredible flavor in it. Almost any part of the deer meat can make jerky. However, some parts can make better jerky, just the same way it is in the case of beef. Deer meat will give you a heavenly taste if you aim for the eye round and the rump roast. You will come out of the experience with finger-licking memories.
Deer's hind legs are your go-to option when you want to make a bunch of jerkies. The arrangement of the muscles is in such a manner that cutting through them is easy. You can easily prevent the tough to chew muscle fibers that you find on other types of jerky. There is more to deer jerky if you go deeper into learning how to make them.
Compared to beef, deer meat is less fatty and less succulent than beef.
ii) Elk Meat
You can use the elk meat when making jerky. The elk meat has a more wild taste, which can be very nostalgic if you are a hunter. In addition, elk meat is high in protein and iron and has a low-fat content than beef. This does not mean that beef has excess fat, but the fat content is always dependent on the part of the animal you choose.
Aim at the front quarter of the animal, and you will be shocked at how you will find really good meat for your jerkies. This is because Elk meat has a taste close to that of beef. Your jerky-making process will therefore not be as different as the one you use when making beef.
Pork will pose a challenge because it is a very fatty choice. When making jerky, the idea is to always go for meat less than 10% fat. This requirement limits pork to only a few parts. You can use the pork tenderloin or loin to make jerkies. These parts have low amounts of fat compared to the other parts found in pork meat. While you want tender jerky, you do not want to deal with too much fat because of the jerky-making process. The process involves using a dehydrator, and meat fat quickly becomes rancid. The fat may start leaking into the dehydrator, which is a situation that you do not wish to happen.
How to Choose Beef for Jerky
While we already highlighted the portions that you should be going for, there are other things that you should look at when picking beef cuts for jerky meat. However, there are some characteristics that you should look for regardless of the part you are picking. These features cut across all kinds of meat that will be good for your beef jerky. Here is how to get the best cuts of beef for your jerky.
1) Intermuscular Vs. Intramuscular Fat
You need to know the difference between intermuscular and intramuscular fat. Like we mentioned earlier in the article, you will find that the eye of the round has no intramuscular fat but a fat cap at its tip. You are advised to remove this fat cap before preparing jerky using the meat. Intermuscular fat is found around the protein between muscles. This fat should be removed before commencing the jerky-making process. On the other hand, intramuscular fat is found within the muscle fibers and is sometimes referred to as marbling.
Intramuscular fat is good because it will lead to tender jerkies. The jerkies will be juicier and contain more flavor than their lean counterparts. When looking at steaks for jerky, be keen on where the fat is and how it will affect your beef jerky in the long run. Lean cuts can make great jerkies, but only if you know what to do with what you have.
Identifying the fat will be impossible when buying ground meat for obvious reasons. However, you are guaranteed that the jerky will be easy to chew.
2) Fat Content
Once you have identified where the fat is, you have to investigate how much it is available. You surely do not want to be dealing with too much fat, at least not more than 10%. Fully dehydrating fat is almost impossible, and you do not want to take that chance. Jerkies were originally invented to make the meat last longer. This will almost be impossible with too much fat as the jerkies you prepared will spoil sooner than you anticipated. Lean beef is the high-quality beef you are looking for to make your jerky.
Maybe you plan to eat the jerkies a few days or once you prepare them. In this case, you can add the fat content a little bit more compared to when you are planning to keep the jerkies for elongated periods.
3) Buy Economical Cuts
You can always find your way around with economic beef cuts. You can still make great jerkies as long as you know the tricks and have experience in making jerkies. You can use additives like soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce as part of your recipe to make the jerky more exciting. Other spices like paprika can come in handy when making the taste of the jerky more colorful. You can go for the more tender parts of the beef cuts that are more expensive if you wish to. However, there are so much more recipes that you can get out of the tender, expensive meat. You can prepare recipes like the filet mignon instead of beef on a jerky.
Jerky Beef Cuts Buying Tips
Looking at beef and deciding whether it is good for your jerkies is one thing; knowing how to buy them is another. Here are some few tips you can apply to always end up with the best beef for your jerkies.
a) Know Your Butcher
If you are into meats, the best person to make friends with is your butcher. Your butcher knows where the best cuts are, and they certainly know which meat is the freshest in the shop. If you are friends with your butcher, it will show in your medical examination because you will be consuming healthier beef compared to other cases.
Your butcher can help you slice the beef into equal sizes that will be easier to handle. You can get similar cuts of beef that have been cut using a professional machine. Equal cuts of beef mean that your beef jerky will be evenly cooked. Getting fresh meat that has been evenly cut is the best outcome when buying meat for beef jerky.
b) Buy Fresh Meat
Beef jerky is a great recipe to try out. If you want the best beef jerky, it is best to buy fresh meat for your use. How would you know if the meat you are buying is fresh? Use your gut feelings; they are always right. Evaluate what you see before buying the meat. If it has dark spots, do not buy the meat. If the meat has tendons, cartilages or ligaments, do not buy the meat. If you smell any suspicious smells, avoid buying the meat. Always be on the lookout for the tiniest signs that the cuts of beef have before buying them. Once you get home, inspect the meat some more and ensure everything matches what you had gone to buy.
Beware of butchers who wrap and package your meat below the counter.
c) Keep Track of Prices
Be on the lookout for flash sales, discounts and special offers. Big box stores always have a way of selling their products that might be cheaper for you in the long run. In addition, the prices can be lower as you go higher in your buying capacity. This is common with most products, and beef jerky is not an exception.
d) Buy Enough Jerkies
When you prepare beef jerky, you lose close to a third of what you bought at the beginning of the process. For this reason, be sure to buy enough beef jerky so as not to run out of your beef jerky serving prematurely. Just remember that if you bought six pounds of beef, the beef jerky would be about two pounds. Keep this in mind when buying the beef cuts.
Frequently Asked Questions About Beef Jerky
i) How Long Should a Beef Jerky Last?
Commercially processed beef jerky will have a longer shelf life than homemade beef jerky. The beef jerky will last up to 18 months without going bad. While you can use some recipes such as ground meat to make more instant jerky that does not have a long shelf life, beef jerky can stay on the shelf for a good amount of time.
Ensure that you get a lean cut out of every beef cut that you will turn into beef jerky. Excess fat is not good for your beef jerky as fat spoils faster than the lean cut. The best beef jerky is equally cut as each equal part cooks evenly.
ii) Why Is Brown Sugar Used on Beef Jerky?
Most manufacturers use brown sugar on the steak to bring back the weight lost during the jerky-making process. However, beef for jerky is nowhere near its weight before turning into jerky. Therefore, artificial sweeteners or brown sugar are added to the jerky to compensate for the lost weight. Otherwise, the jerky would be very expensive as the meat for beef jerky will shrink to a third its weight.
Ready-Made Beef Jerky You Can Buy
Beef jerkies are a process to make, and sometimes you are craving it, and you just want to have some jerkies. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why you might not have the time or the opportunity to buy beef jerky meat from the butcher and pick up your recipe book. Here are some beef jerky options that you can buy when you are not in a position to make some for yourself.
What is the best cut for beef jerky?
1. Jack Link's Beef Jerky
- GOOD SOURCE OF PROTEIN: Protein is an essential part of your diet and Jack Link's Peppered...
- MADE WITH 100% BEEF: Our jerky is made with lean cuts of 100% beef. The result is...
- FULL ON FLAVOR: Love a little spice. Our Peppered Beef jerky delivers. Expertly seasoned...
- PERFECT EVERYDAY SNACK: How did ancient civilizations fuel themselves to build pyramids or...
- RESEALABLE: The 9 ounce bags are resealable, so your beef jerky will always be fresh and...
Jack Link's is by far the best beef jerky brand. The beef jerkies that Jack Link's makes will leave you nostalgic for your beef jerky-making days. The beef jerkies have a pepper kick to add to the flavor and leave you wanting more. Jack Link's best meat for beef jerky and are 96% fat-free. Jack Link's will put you on tracks back to your beef jerky-making days.
2. Cattleman's Cut Original Beef Jerky
- Usda steak marinated for over 24 hours and slow cooked for a tender bite
- Clear bag because the handcrafted quality speaks for itself
- High in protein and comes in a resealable bag; Cattleman's Cut keeps you satisfied through...
- Premium steak with a robust flavor that's rooted in sweet & savory seasoning, brown sugar...
Cattleman's cut is the beef jerky you want to get for your friends, family and yourself. The beef jerky is slow-cooked for a tender bite and is Usda steak marinated for more than 24 hours. Each beef jerky in the bag is high in protein and has tremendous health benefits that you can enjoy. In addition, the bag that the beef cuts come in is resealable and will assure you of the beef jerkies staying fresh as you wait for your next bite.
3. People's Choice Beef Jerky
True to its name, People's choice is indeed people's choice. The beef jerky has all the benefits you can think of and hope for in beef jerky. The beef jerky is sugar-free, hence no additional false weight. The jerky is further gluten-free, zero carb, high protein and keto-friendly, making them the healthiest choice you can have.
4. Righteous Felon Beef Jerky
- THE ULTIMATE BEEF JERKY VARIETY PACK: This Beef Jerky Sampler has every great jerky flavor...
- ALL NATURAL INGREDIENTS: Unlike healthy beef jerky, meat sticks, or other high protein...
- BOLD FLAVORS: Righteous Felon has reinvented jerky & meat sticks with bold, innovative...
- HIGH PROTEIN HEALTHY SNACKS: You don’t need fancy snack packs or trail mix to address...
- LOCALLY SOURCED, HORMONE FREE: We use pasture-fed beef sourced from the Roseda Black Angus...
The Righteous Felon jerky tastes heavenly, leaving you with a craving for an extra beef jerky pack. The beef jerky is made with all-natural ingredients, unlike other brands with artificial additives as part of the recipe. Righteous is hormone-free and is great for anyone with health concerns. The beef jerky is a low-calorie pack, making it ideal for users of all kinds.
5. Chomps Snack Sticks
- CLEAN SNACK - Each 1.15oz meat stick has 9g of protein, low sodium, low fat, low carb,...
- DIET APPROVED - Our jerky sticks are Keto Friendly, Whole30 Approved, Paleo, Non-GMO,...
- ALLERGEN FRIENDLY – All natural, real ingredients that are dairy free, soy free, nut...
- ON-THE-GO, QUALITY PROTEIN - Our beef is 100% Grass Fed & Finished, Certified Humane, and...
Chomps are a genius idea for beef jerkies. Sometimes you simply have a craving for beef jerky. Then, Chomps is the answer for you. The beef jerky sticks come in small packs that you can enjoy while on the go. The beef jerky sticks make it possible to enjoy beef jerky without sitting down to have a full meal.
Chomps are non-GMO, sugar-free, high protein, and gluten-free.
A great beef cut will directly translate to great beef jerky. Coming up with a great beef jerky starts with identifying the best cut you can get. Remember all the animal parts that you prefer, their strengths and weaknesses. Beef jerky is a great recipe to try out. Just buy enough, keeping in mind how much beef jerky shrinks once you make own beef jerky.