Tender Jerky (Homemade!)
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Tender Jerky at home
Learn how to make Tender Jerky Using Home Equipment with Walton's and Meatgistics. Watch the video, read the guide, and then post your questions or comments below.
What Is Tender Jerky?
Have you ever noticed the difference between your jerky and the jerky you get from the big processors, especially the stuff labeled something like “tender bit(e)s”? Well, part of it is the smoking schedule, but an even larger part of it is the ingredients that they use. We have duplicated this in the past with our video How to Make Tender Jerky at Home, but in that video, we used a vacuum tumbler, and as Parksider pointed out most home users don’t have access to a vacuum tumbler, so we decided to see if this was possible without one.
Eye of the Round split into 3 - 3 lb batches.
Walton’s Bold Jerky Seasoning
18% of meat’s weight in brown sugar
20% of meat’s weight in water
Walton’s Bold Jerky Seasoning 1
With a Walton’s Slicer, cut your meat into slices between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Weigh out the seasoning and cure for your batch and then add 18% of the weight of the meat in brown sugar and mix that all into 20% the weight of the meat in water. This is where we split off into 3 different processes:
Marinating - In this, we took a foil pan and poured in the solution, then laid out the meat. We laid the meat after the solution was in it so that the meat would suspend a little more than if we had done it the other way. This also sat in the refrigerator for 48 hours.
Vac Sealing - We mixed the solution until everything was fully dissolved and then put it and the meat in a vac bag and pulled a vacuum that was fairly strong, but since we were using a chamber-less machine, we could not pull a total vac. We then let this sit in the refrigerator for 48 hours.
Vac Sealing and Massaging - We did the exact same thing as above, but then I massaged the meat through the bag every few hours. It sat in the refrigerator for 48 hours, and we massaged it about 12 times during that period.
This is going to be where this battle will really be won or lost. The more of the solution that we can pick up, the more tender our jerky is going to be. When we just marinated the meat in the solution, we started out with 3 lb of meat, and after 48 hours, we ended up with exactly 3 lb of meat! This means we achieved 0% pickup with this method, which is obviously not a good thing, and there is a lot going on here that caused this2. When we vac-sealed it and let it sit for 48 hours, we started at 3.2 lb, and we ended up at 3.7 lb, so that is just about 15%. The batch that we vac sealed and massaged started at 3.2 lb and ended up at 4.35, so we got 36% pick up, which is by far the best.
Thermal Processing & Smoking
Stage 1 - 20 Minutes at 110° (dampers wide open)
Stage 2 - 30 Minutes at 135° (begin adding smoke)
Stage 3 - 10 Minutes at 140° (dampers wide open again for drying)
Stage 4 - 30 Minutes at 150°
Stage 5 - 175° until internal temperature is 160°
Advanced Thermal Processing & Smoking
Stage 1 - 20 Minutes Dry at 110° 0 Relative Humidity(RH)
Stage 2 - 30 Minutes Dry at 135° 0 (RH)
Stage 3 - 10 Minutes Dry at 140° 0 (RH)
Stage 4 - 30 Minutes Dry at 150° Wet at 126° 50 RH
Stage 5 - 30 Minutes Dry at 155° Wet at 130° 50 RH
Stage 6 - Dry at 175° Wet at 155 RH 60 until internal temperature is 160°
On the batch that we marinated, we had a 44% loss during the cooking process; on the batch where we vac sealed it, we lost 41%, and on the batch that we massaged, we only had a 37% loss. Now, when doing a normal jerky, you generally expect to see around 50% loss, so all of the numbers were fairly good.
Marinating - This was very similar to normal homemade jerky, with just a little extra sweetness and almost no noticeable increase in tenderness. The only advantage was that we lost around 6% less than we would normally expect.
Vac Sealing - Slight improvement in tenderness, though still more similar to regular homemade jerky than to the tender jerky you buy from commercial processors.
Vac Sealing and Massaging - A very obvious improvement over either of the other two methods. Massaging the meat helped to relax the muscle fibers and let the solution penetrate the meat more fully, and since it had such a high sugar content, the water was bound up and didn’t easily evaporate.
There is no shower or ice bath recommended for jerky, just let it sit out at room temperature for at least an hour before vacuum packing.
Of these 3 methods, Vacuum Sealing and massaging was by far the best, but it still is not as effective as using a vacuum tumbler. So, this can be done at home with basic equipment, but if you have the ability, I would still recommend that you use a vacuum tumbler when trying to make homemade tender jerky.
1. You can use any Excalibur Seasoning you want, just make sure it will taste good with some extra sweetness (Return to text)
2. A few of those factors were that the meat was probably already pumped with as much water as it would accept and that the pH of the meat was probably lower, which means that it is not in a state where it is going to try to absorb water. (Return to text)
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