Finding the best cut for beef jerky is quite an odyssey, especially if you are new to jerky. You do not want to go with something that will turn out too grainy or chewy. Instead, you will want to find an affordable yet good cut of beef to use for your homemade beef jerky.
What is beef jerky?
The word jerky refers to lean meat cut into strips and then dehydrated to stop spoilage. Usually, the drying process includes adding salt or a marinade for flavor.
These days, you can find all sorts of jerky out there, from beef to chicken and turkey, and fish and mushroom. With all the endless options, it can be hard to know what to make at home and how to make it. However, the key point in dehydrating meat is choosing the right cut.
Beef jerky is a great option for a snack because it is high in protein, low in fat, and will last a long time. If you are into hiking, camping, long car rides, or want a pick-me-up at work, then beef jerky is right for you.
What are my options?
As you may know, a cow’s meat is usually divided into nine types of cut. These include chuck, rib, short loin, sirloin, flank, round, short plate, foreshank, and brisket.
You will also see other derivatives of these larger cuts, including tenderloin, rib eye, and T-bone.
What should I take into account when choosing the best cut for your beef jerky?
The first and most important thing to know is what the fat content of your cut of beef is. The higher the fat content of a cut, the harder it is to dehydrate. Choosing a fatty cut of beef may seem like a great option because of its tenderness and flavor, but it can result in quick spoilage.
Only choose a fatty cut of beef if you are preparing a batch of beef jerky that you will eat immediately. Otherwise, go with a leaner cut that will last much longer. This means that you also have to pay attention to the marbling of your beef cut. Marbling is the fat within the muscles of the cut, and it cannot be removed.
Choosing a medium amount of marbling and minimal outside fat is the best way to ensure your beef will dehydrate correctly. You also want to pick a cut of beef that looks healthy, which means no dark red or brown spots, no ligaments, or tendons.
You should also take into account that your beef will dry out, which means it will shrink. You should always buy about double what you want for beef jerky. If you are lucky enough, you can talk your local butcher into pre-slicing your beef for you. A butcher slicer is more precise and will create pieces that are all the same length and width, ensuring that they dehydrate well.
Here are the 7 best cuts
Cut #1. Eye of Round
This cut is not only cheaper, but also lean and comes in large cuts. The eye of the round is the most tender of the round cuts. It comes from the single oval muscle in the back leg of the cow.
The advantages of this cut are that it is lean, has little marbling, is very accessible and cheaper, and can be easily cut either along the grain or against it. However, you will need to cut off the outside fat.
Cut #2. Flank Steak
Even though this cut is more expensive than others, it makes for a great choice for beef jerky. You should make long strips and cut against the grain, slicing the meat as thinly as possible.
Because this is a more expensive and thicker cut of beef, it can hold both the flavor and marinade better. Flank steak has more marbling, and it is less tender as well, so the jerky will turn out a little tougher. You may also need to trim some fat from the outside.
Cut #3. Top Round
The top round is very similar to other rounds, but it comes from the muscle on the inside of the leg. It is a more tender cut than other rounds but less so than the eye of round.
This cut is cheaper, flavorful, and contains less fat. Because it has less fat, it can also dehydrate better and dries somewhat quicker than other cuts of beef. You can also add a marinade to keep more flavors in.
Cut #4. Bottom Round
The bottom round cut of beef comes from the outermost muscle on the upper part of the back legs of the cow. Because of where it comes from, it is the least tender. This is what makes it great jerky meat since it is very lean.
The bottom round sometimes has some interior marbling, and it is relatively cheap. While it is a lean cut of beef, it is also tough, but this makes for a good texture when you dehydrate it.
Cut #5. Brisket
Not many think of brisket as an option when it comes to making beef jerky. While this is a premium cut of beef, it is also lean and has a good texture. It may result in a chewier texture, but it can be tasty.
Your brisket will have to be sliced evenly and marinated ahead of time to retain the flavor. This cut of beef is more expensive than most, so it may not be sustainable for the long term. Still, it can be a good choice for a small batch of beef jerky.
Cut #6. Ground Beef
This cut of beef is probably the cheapest of all these options, and it can be a good choice if you are unable to find other cuts. Ground beef will result in a chewier and grainier texture, which is not everyone’s favorite.
You will also have to choose the leanest ground meat available, which is usually 90%. To make ground beef jerky, you will also need a jerky gun to form the meat into a thin strip. Otherwise, you can also flatten the meat carefully into a flat strip, but it may not turn out evenly.
Cut #7. Rib Steak
A rib steak is probably one of the most popular cuts of beef when making beef jerky, but it can be tricky depending on the amount of marbling in the meat. The best part is probably the outside of the rib, sometimes called the blade meat or cap.
This cut of beef is flavorful and tender, but also somewhat pricier. You can also find some tougher cuts and others that are softer, leading to a weird texture at times. If you choose this cut of beef, you may want to check for the amount of marbling in the rib steak.
What is the best beef jerky cut?
If you are unsure about the cut of beef to use in your jerky, then you should refer back to this list first. You should also consider the type of marinade you are using and how much time you have to spare. Be careful with how you slice your beef and the way you organize it on the dehydrator or the oven.
Enjoy your homemade beef jerky for a quick snack, full meal, or treat!
If you enjoyed reading this article, why not check out these 9 Tips to Find The Best Meat for Beef Jerk?