For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of planning a camping trip is preparing the various meals and snacks! While the occasional treat is unavoidable, I try to make sure that the great majority of my food items are organic, simple and clean for my body. After all, the last thing you want to worry about out in the wilderness is an upset stomach from processed dried food. 

Whether it’s backpacking or car camping, a staple item for my ultimate packing list (more on that in a future article) is jerky! While you can buy jerky in almost any grocery store, it’s not surprising that a vast majority of these store-bought brands contain chemicals and preservatives that can have a negative impact on your body. Given that I have enough time to prepare and I’m not rushing around trying to pick up last-minute supplies, I actually prefer to make my own jerky at home. Contrary to popular belief, this actually isn’t as hard as it sounds and is totally worth it. Without further ado, here’s my recipe for the best homemade jerky! 

The Meat

While the most common meat used for jerky is beef, I have also successfully made pork and venison jerky using the same procedures I’m about to describe to you. However, for the purpose of this recipe, we will be using beef. I suggest using top or bottom round steak, as it’s the perfect mix of leanness and flavor. As beef jerky is best made when the thickness is consistent, I would definitely suggest asking your butcher to slice the meat at ¼ inch thickness. 

The Marinade

Now, just like choosing the meat, this next step is all about preference. Some people like their jerky flavored with teriyaki sauce, while others prefer it with plain with black pepper (not my thing). For this recipe, we will be using a marinade passed down by my grandfather:

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 ½ tablespoon cracked pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder

Feel free to add additional herbs to your marinade as well, but this is my standard go-to marinade. You’ll want to combine your meat and marinade into a large gallon resealable plastic bag or bowl and let it refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours (overnight is best, I’ve found).

The Drying

Now comes the fun part: the drying! You’ll first want to take a baking sheet and cover it with aluminum foil to catch the dripping sauce. After this is done, place your wire rack on top of the sheet and evenly place your marinated meat on the rack. Make sure that no pieces of meat are overlapping to expose as much of the jerky to the air and heat as possible. Preheat your oven to 175ºF and bake for 3 to 4 hours. 

Patience is key here! After about 3 hours, you’ll want to pull a piece out, let it rest and then test it for dryness but also to make sure it doesn’t get as hard as a rock. Once the drying process is complete, remove your slices of jerky, uses scissors to cut to desired size and enjoy!

Seeing your messy slices of meat turn into perfect pieces of jerky can be an incredibly satisfying experience, especially since the process takes so long! But as they say, “Nothing worth having comes easy!” Feel free to get creative and experiment with different meats and marinades as you master the process of making your own jerky.