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.