Make the best strips of barbecue meat with our smoked beef jerky recipe. From meat preparation to spice rub, our step-by-step guide is here to show you the easiest way to make homemade jerky.
Rejoice, beef jerky fans! One of North America’s favorite meat snacks is just as easy to make at home as it is to buy.
With little more than a good cut of round steak and a backyard barbecue smoker, you can make your own delicious strips of jerky in line with your own tastes.
In this recipe, I’ll show you everything you need to know. From meat preparation to marinades, and smoking times to temperatures, here’s how to smoke beef jerky at home.
Best beef for making jerky
Beef round is perfect for making homemade smoked jerky. Coming from the rear leg region of the cow, it is packed full of muscles. This makes it lean and rich in protein, giving you a tough and chewy strip of beef fresh off the smoker.
As an added bonus, it’s easy to prepare. A cut of round might have some sinew and fat on its surface but this is easy to trim, leaving you with a lean cut of beef that’s ready to smoke.
Other beef cuts that are good for smoked jerky are shank, sirloin, and flank steak. Find out more with our guide to the best cuts of beef for jerky.
How to slice beef for jerky
Trim off any sinew or excess fat on your beef round. There shouldn’t be much, but it’s not uncommon to see some along the surface.
You will also need to remove the silverskin. If this is left on, it will shrivel when smoked and become tough. Unlike fat, it doesn’t melt away or render when smoked. Instead, it will shrink and twist, distorting your meat (source). Luckily, this is easy to do.
Just like when we remove the membrane from ribs, glide a table knife underneath the skin. Use a paper towel to get some purchase and slowly pull the silverskin off. It might come away in one go, or you might need to try several times.
With the meat trimmed, slice it into quarter-inch pieces. For the best results, slice against the grain. This will give you a good balance of chewy jerky without it being too tough to work through. Also, ensure that your pieces are sliced as uniformly as possible. If they are cut unevenly, they will cook and dry out at different rates.
For the best results, use a home meat slicer to cut the beef round into even pieces.
Using a good marinade is the best way to infuse added flavor into the beef before smoking. While the round will provide a lot of flavor on its own, it’s important to add some basic seasoning, as well as some sweetness and a touch of spice.
For our marinade, we’ll be using a basic blend of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar. We’ll also add a pinch of red pepper flakes to add a tiny bit of heat, and a quarter-cup of honey to balance it out with some sweet flavor. For the full list of marinade ingredients, check out the full recipe at the bottom of this post.
To make the marinade, simply combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Beat with a fork to break down the honey, and stir until combined thoroughly.
Add the beef strips to the bowl, covering as much of the meat with the marinade as possible. Transfer the strips to a large Ziploc bag (you might need to use more than one). Pour over any remaining marinade, before transferring to your refrigerator. Leave to marinate overnight, or for at least 12 hours, to allow the marinade ingredients to work into the meat.
How to smoke beef jerky
With the strips of beef round marinated overnight, you are good to go. Remove the meat from your refrigerator and place each strip on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. This will help to soak up any excess marinade or moisture.
While the beef rests, start up your smoker to a cooking heat of 180°F (82°C). If you are using a pellet smoker grill this should only take about 10 minutes, but if you are using a charcoal or offset smoker this might take up to half an hour.
With the smoker warmed up and your round strips ready to go, it’s time to smoke some meat!
Transfer the strips to the smoker grates, ensuring that you leave at least half an inch between each slice. Smoke for three hours at 180°F. After one hour of smoking, check the meat to ensure that it is drying evenly. If some are drying faster than others, rearrange the jerky strips accordingly. Check again on the two-hour mark.
After three hours, check to see if it’s is ready. You will know when beef jerky is done if it’s dry and tough, while still flexible enough to bend slightly. If it breaks or snaps when you bend it, your jerky is overdone. If it still seems moist, you will need to leave it in the smoker for a little longer.
When ready, remove the jerky from the smoker and leave it to cool on a cooling rack.
Best wood for smoking beef jerky
The best smoking wood for jerky is hickory. Some barbecue fans like the mild and sweet notes that both apple and cherry add to smoke meats, but hickory complements beef perfectly. It’s why we recommend pairing it with other beef cuts like brisket or tri-tip, and it’s no different for these strips of dried beef.
Hickory will stand up to the robust and deep flavor profile of beef round without overwhelming it and will allow the sweetness and spice from our marinade to come through.
How to store beef jerky
As soon as the beef jerky is done, place it on a cooling rack. Allow it to cool down to room temperature before transferring to a new Ziploc bag or airtight container. It will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, but I recommend having it within 4 days for the best results.