Jerky Facts

What is Jerky?

Jerky is meat that has been cut into strips trimmed of fat, marinated in a spicy, salty or sweet liquid and then dried with low heat (usually under 70°C/160°F) or occasionally salted and sun-dried. The result is a salty, stripped, semi-sweet snack that can be stored without refrigeration. Jerky is an early application of food preservation techniques.

History of Beef Jerky

The word “jerky” comes from the Quechua term Charqui, which means “to burn (meat)”.

Beef jerky is thought to have originated in South America during the 1800s. The Quechua tribe, who were ancestors of the ancient Inca empire, produced a meat similar to beef jerky called ch’arki, or charqui. It was made by adding salt to strips of muscle tissue from game animals such as deer, buffalo, and elk, and allowing them to dry in the sun or over fires for extended periods of time. This method of preparation enabled the people to preserve meats during times when it was readily available and eat it when food was scarce. When the Spanish encountered this method of meat preservation, they adopted it and made it available to the rest of the world. It became a staple foodstuff for American cowboys and pioneers. Early explorers built smoke huts and hung cuts of meat over a fire to smoke cure the meat. True jerky was made when the meat was first flavored and then cured. Over the years, people discovered that the meat could be made more palatable by the addition of various spices.

Methods of making Jerky:

Smoke house

Food dehydrator

Oven

Microwave

Meat selection:

The secret to making good jerky is starting with good meat. Quality meat means quality jerky. When headed to the supermarket to buy your meat, keep in mind the following 3 tips:

* LEAN MEAT:  The less marbling and fat, the better because fat will turn rancid very quickly and ruin your jerky in a matter of days!
* FRESH MEAT. Fresh beef should be a nice ruddy red. Pork should be a healthy light pink (that is, if you’re wanting bacon) and chicken should be a flesh tone shade. Dark spots or old smells are bad so make sure the meat you pick is fresh.
* QUANTITY. It requires about 3 to 5 pounds of meat to produce one 1 pound of jerky. Therefore, to get more for your money, range fed, 100% premium, visually lean, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspected, flank steak is your best buy. There is no waste with this type of meat because it is all lean, pure red meat with consistent straight grain making it easy to prepare. If you do happen to get meat that you have to trim, use those trimmings to make ground beef!

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