It’s been a while since I made my own jerky. But a couple weekends ago, it was just time again. I started with a package of USDA Choice top round from my local Costco. The package weighed in at ~5.6lb. But I used one of the two top rounds from this package, so it was probably ~3lbs of meat. I really like that there isn’t too much or too little marbling in this cut of beef. And there isn’t a ton of work required to get manageably-sized jerky pieces. The top round went into the freezer for about four hours in preparation to slice it. It was good and firm but without being frozen solid. I cut across the grain at about 1/4″ thickness. I don’t like really thin jerky – it just gets too tough, in my opinion. But too thick and it takes forever to dry. Those slices then sat in the fridge overnight.
First thing the next morning, I used my very simple brisket rub – just a 50/50 mixture of coarse sea salt and 16-mesh black pepper – and then I added just a little bit of cayenne pepper for some kick. I’m still trying to work out the right amount to apply. The truth is, you just don’t need tons for these thin slices of jerky – not nearly as much as you would rub on a brisket. I’ll dial in back again next time around, as I still went a little too heavy.
Once the jerky all had a good coating of S&P, I loaded up my Traeger Smoke Shelf and then put the whole thing in my Traeger Texas Elite 34 grill. Lately I have been using B&B’s Championship Blend, and I really like it, with the great blend of post oak, cherry and pecan. B&B is a Texas company, and I love supporting local companies. I set the Traeger to the “smoke” setting (~180°F) and let it go for around 4 hours. Some pieces were done a little earlier, so I pulled them off sooner so they didn’t get crispy.
The results were everything I had hoped for. They were not too dry or too wet. They have a deep smoky flavor with the right amount of kick for me from the black pepper and cayenne. And I love that I know everything that went into this jerky – no preservatives, no unpronounceable chemicals. Nothing but beef, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and smoke.