I was pretty despondent after my miserable failure with my own recipe. I got cocky and flew too close to the sun. What does that get ya? Ruined jerky, that’s what! I mentioned in my previous post that research seemed to indicate that salt content was very important. While lean ground beef was still on sale I wanted to experiment with a very simple recipe and alter only the salt content. I measured out carefully four 1 pound batches of meat. Each got 1/4 tsp of cure, 1 tsp of garlic powder, 1oz water, a different amount of salt. No flying high here, we are staying well grounded with this recipe.
Of the previous two recipes, the simpler one had roughly 1/2tsp of salt per pound. It also had a ton of other ingredients which may have mucked up the results. I started with a 1tsp of salt version and moved up in increments of a whole teaspoon. The 4 tsp/lb version might be way too salty, but I would know the upper limit in that case. I noticed when mixing the 1tsp batch that my gloves came back very clean (left picture), but the 2tsp version (right) started getting rather sticky. Progress!
1tsp salt, not sticky
2tsp salt, much stickier
I continued mixing up batches going slowly and carefully so as not to miss anything. I don’t currently time how long I mix up the meat, but a voice activated smart phone timer might have to be in order. These 4 batches will go in the fridge for an overnight rest just like all my previous versions have.
The dehydrator load showed the difference again. The lowest salt batch wouldn’t hold together (left), while the 2tsp (right) and above stayed continuous and made great spirals.
They all got the same trip through the dehydrator. The results were quite different. It is hard to see in the image below, but the 1tsp jerky is dry and crumbly like my previous batches. The 2-4 tsp versions all came out pretty chewy and with a proper texture. It seems 1-2 tsp per pound of meat is the required threshold.
I cut up each batch and bagged them with a number, leaving out batch 1. I gave all my coworkers an opportunity to try them without comment and gathered feedback. Most considered 4 too salty, though one guy really liked it. It was kind of a toss up between 2 and 3 as to which one was more favorable. 2 was maybe a touch blander. The 1tsp of garlic powder was very subtle, most didn’t detect it.
- You need more than 1tsp of salt per pound of ground beef, 2 is safer
- 4tsp per pound is excessive for most people
- more than 1tsp of garlic powder per pound is needed to have it taste like garlic
Why buy a spice packet when you can just gin up your own flavors for a lot less? Failed jerky apparently! I thought I was going to be cute, and make my own seasoned jerky from now on. I may still, but I hit a huge setback. Everything started nice, I looked at a few recipes online and came up with two ideas to try on my own. A basic traditional style, and a taco seasoning style.
I mixed them both and ran into my first difference. Normally, the meat is really sticky. Even wearing nitrile gloves it sticks like crazy. These didn’t seem to leave much of anything on my gloves.
I left them overnight for the flavors to mingle, then fired up the jerky cannon. Another odd feature, they don’t hold together well at all. Normally I can get long continuous strands, but these fall apart immediately.
One thing I remembered after firing up the dehydrator was that I forgot the curing salt on the taco version. That was going to hurt the shelf life, but no reason to stop. The final results were garbage.
Instead of being chewy this stuff was dry and crumbly. I did some reading and found a few possible explanations that could apply to my batches.
Don’t use acids: I didn’t use any in the traditional recipe, but my taco version had a few tablespoons of hot sauce. Lots of vinegar in that sauce. That one was worse than the traditional.
Low salt: This is possible with both batches, I didn’t want it to be too salty. Checking around, salting ground beef can do important things. Serious Eats has an article on the subject.
My next experiment will be with a simple recipe of just ground beef, salt, and maybe a single seasoning like garlic powder. I will increase the salt content and see how that goes. An early indication of stickiness while mixing might help bound the lower end of salt. Too salty won’t be clear until I have cooked and eaten some.
This is my 4th round of jerky and I feel like I am still learning a lot every time. My co-worker uses a 3/8″ nozzle, where as my jerky gun came with only a 1/2″ nozzle. Thankfully the sell these little road cone looking things that you can cut to size. I switched jerky seasoning brands because I had run out of the original stuff and wanted to try something different. They recommended mixing their seasoning with water first, then mixing with meat. This is a great idea, it helps ensure that the seasoning and cure are well mixed and distributed throughout. I am feeling confident enough to wager 5 pounds of extra lean to make this happen. In retrospect the seasoning should have been mixed in the big metal bowl before adding meat. It saves a bowl.
Loading can be tricky. One clean hand, one dirty. You ball up a small wad with the dirty hand and load while holding the barrel with the clean hand. They make a tool that helps tamp it all down. Which hand holds that? My new 3D printed hand of course! I came up with this clip to hold the barrel while my clean hand tamps. The overnight print came complete with a really good game of filament chicken. About 2 wraps left before I would have been in trouble.
The mix and extrusion went well. I used every tray I had and in 5 hours was able to dry a pretty good looking batch of jerky.
I weighed the final product and came up with about 2.5lb. That is probably at the low end of dry enough, but it shouldn’t go bad in the 4 days it will take for me and everyone around to eat it. It occurs to me that I could monitor the progress of my jerky simply by taking the initial weight and weights throughout the process.