November 28, 2015

honing in on habanero beef jerky

today i finished preparing my second batch of beef jerky.  i started with the recipe from charcuterie, but i'm still tweaking it to achieve a better result.  i got inspired to make this because i love the super spicy jerk'n pickle habanero jerky, but at about $64 / lb i don't buy a whole lot of it.  i've tried lots of other commercial beef jerkies, and frankly i think most of them suck.  so decided to try making my own.

the first batch i made was with an 2.3 lb organic eye of round roast.  i trimmed it, quartered it, and froze it for four hours before cutting it 2mm thick along the grain on the meat slicer.  i cut it along the grain because i was worried that if i cut it against the grain it would fall apart.  i then proceeded to cure it for 24 hours with:
    • 20 grams salt
    • 5 grams garlic powder
    • 5 grams onion powder
    • 60 grams chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
    • 0.5 grams ground habaneros
    i dried it in a dehydrator for for 23 hours at 95 F.   what i got was essentially tasty chewy meat paper:
    first batch.  tasty chewy meat paper.

    it wasn't very spicy, it was a bit too thin, and a bit too dry. in the end i got a yield of 12 oz, and since i started with a overpriced organic roast from whole foods, my cost was $45.90 / lb.

    before starting my second batch i got some advice from a friend who is a BBQ expert.  (actually, he has never made jerky before, but since he's a competitive BBQ'er he knows people who have so he relayed me some advice.)

    for my second attempt i started with a non-organic 2.6 lb eye of round roast from my local grocery store.  after trimming it and halving it, i cut it 5mm thick against the grain and i didn't have any issues with the meat falling apart.  for the cure i increased the heat by using 2 grams of freshly ground dried habaneros from our garden.  this time i dried the meat for 12 hours at 155 F.  here's the before and after:
    second batch going into the dehydrator

    second batch coming out of the dehydrator

    here's the first batch (on the left) compared to the second batch (on the right):
    jerky comparison.  first batch (left), cut 2mm thick with the grain vs second batch (right), cut 5mm thick against the grain.

    the flavor on the second batch is better, there is actually some heat in it now.  the texture is also better with the meat cut against the grain.  unfortunately i dried it too much.  i checked on it after about 6 hours of drying (before i went to bed), and it definitely needed more time, but by the time i woke up it was bone dry and a bit crunchy (almost like meat candy).  this time around i got a yield of 12.5 oz and my cost was $8.65 / lb.

    next time i'll probably try cutting it 4 mm thick, using 4 grams of habanero, and drying it for 8-9 hours at 145 F.