Ground Meat Jerky

Jerky can be made from ground meat, choose 93% lean meat which is available in supermarket. You can grind a cut of lean meat through a ¼” grinder plate. Use only fresh lean meat. Remove any visible, sinews, silver screen, connective tissue. Those are great parts for emulsified sausages, but in jerky they will be very hard to chew. Discard any fat as in time the fat goes rancid and will lower the flavor of jerky. There are more bacteria in ground meat than in whole meat strips so use as fresh meat as possible.

The process of making ground jerky resembles making a fresh sausage. The meat is ground, mix with spices, stuffed in tube and squeezed out from a jerky gun as jerky strips strips.

Spices added to ground meat.

Spices added to ground meat.

Spices mixed with ground meat.

Spices mixed with ground meat.

1. The meat is ground and mixed with spices.

Add 1.8% salt in relation to meat weight. This comes to 18 g salt (3 tsp) per 1 kg (2.2 lb) of meat. Add salt and mix with meat well, knead the mixture hard until it becomes sticky. You may add 120 ml (1/2 cup) Worcestershire sauce, which goes extremely well with all types of jerky or other liquid ingredients. Worcestershire sauce is very acidic and like vinegar inhibits growth of bacteria. You can add tomato ketchup, vinegar or lemon juice, those are the typical ingredients of a good marinade. Those ingredients can be mixed in varying proportions, it is up to you. Although adding moisture will extend the drying time, nevertheless it provides new flavors and makes the stuffing and forcing jerky out of the jerky gun much easier.

Spices and flavorings. Liquid smoke will add smoky flavor, Tabasco or pepper will add hotness. Be careful with liquid smoke, too much will make jerky bitter. Start with one teaspoon per 1 kg (2.2 lb) of meat and taste. Do not over salt, remember that jerky will lose moisture, but the salt will remain inside. Keep in mind that adding soy sauce brings a lot of salt as well. Add spices of your choice: pepper, sugar, mustard, cumin, nutmeg, powdered garlic, powdered onion, marjoram, curry etc.

Taste the mixture, there is still time for changes.

There is no need for cure #1 (sodium nitrite), unless you want jerky to be red.

A sample recipe:

  • 1 kg (2.2 lb) lean ground beef
  • Salt, 18 g (3 tsp)
  • Pepper, 1 tsp
  • Ground cumin or caraway, 1/2 tsp
  • Nutmeg, 1/2 tsp
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 2 tsp liquid smoke

2. Jerky is formed by a specially designed jerky gun.

Weston jerky gun

Weston jerky gun.

Meat loaded into the tube.

The meat mass is loaded into the tube and the pusher makes the stuffed meat firm.

Repeatedly squeezing the trigger advances the piston forward which forces the meat out through the nozzle.

Repeatedly squeezing the trigger advances the piston forward which forces the meat out through the nozzle.

Flat double nozzle

Flat double nozzle.

Round double nozzle

Round double nozzle.

Round jerky sticks

Round jerky sticks.

3. Jerky sticks are placed on screen and dried in dehydrator. Follow the dehydrator manufacturer’s directions for drying. Drying temperatures for jerky are usually between 145° F (63° C) and 155° F (68° C). As with whole meat jerky, an internal temperature of 160° F (72° C) is necessary to eliminate disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7, if present.

Dried round jerky sticks

Dried round jerky sticks.

Dried flat jerky sticks

Dried flat jerky sticks.

It is difficult to provide an exact number of hours needed to dry jerky. This depends on a thickness of meat, temperature, humidity and the type of dehydrator. Start checking jerky after 3 hours. Dried jerky cracks but does not break when it is bent.

When drying is completed remove any spots of oil with a paper towel. Cool. Pack in plastic zip-lock bags or in glass jars. If droplets of moisture appear, jerky is still moist, so dry it for another hour or so.

Storing the Jerky

For best quality store dried jerky:

  • a sealed container for 1-2 weeks at room temperature
  • up to 6 months in refrigerator
  • up to 12 months in freezer

Vacuum package jerky to extend the shelf life of jerky.

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