One of the hardest things about following the paleo diet is finding snacks to eat. Since most pre-packaged snacks are off the table, you find yourself looking for new things to have on hand for a quick bite other than the standard fruit, vegetables and nuts.
Enter beef jerky. However, you can’t just simply go to the store and find a good, healthy bag of beef jerky made with quality beef and without ingredients like soy and sugar. Even in specialty health stores and online “real” paleo beef jerky is hard to find. We find that even some of the stuff labeled as paleo usually has some added sugar or soy based flavoring in it.
So instead of buying it at the store sometimes you just have to make it yourself.
Much like the when I made homemade chicken stock, the first time I tried to make paleo beef jerky I thought it was going to be a difficult task. Once again, I was wrong. All you have to do is mix up a marinade to flavor your beef, let it sit overnight and then throw it in the smoker or oven for a while to dry out. That’s it. Now that I know how easy it is to make, I like to make my paleo beef jerky regularly and have it on hand for a quick protein-based snack. It is fun mixing up different marinades and playing with some subtle different flavors to get a different version of salty, spicy, tangy and smoky flavor. This version was perfected after some trial and error to come up with a very robust seasoning mix that has a hint of spice and tangy finish.
First, you’ll start with a 2-3 lb cut of lean, grass-fed meat such as london broil, top round, flank or sirloin. I personally think that top round makes the best jerky but any of these cuts of meat will work. If you place your beef in the freezer for about 90 minutes before you slice it up it will be easier to handle. I recommend doing this because you want to be able to make your strips of jerky a consistent thickness. Personally, I like my jerky kind of thick so I cut it into about 1/4 inch strips going against the grain. You can also have the butcher slice it up at this thickness for you.
Once you have your strips of meat ready to go, mix up your marinade and toss everything together to coat well.
Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours, stirring a few times to make sure every little bit of the meat gets a good coating of marinade sitting on it.
When you are ready to go, get your smoker or oven going. You want to set your temperature at about 150 degrees in order to dry the meat out without cooking it. If you are using and oven, it is a good idea to line the bottom with aluminum foil before you heat it up because the marinade will drip some and get messy. I use a Traeger grill to smoke my jerky, so I don’t have to worry about this.
Lay your beef strips down flat directly on the oven racks or smoker grill. You want to spread the strips out evenly and flat so they dry out evenly. Once you have everything laid out on the racks, let the low heat do its thing. If you are using an oven, prop open the door with a wooden spoon or other device to let the warm air escape and circulate better around the meat and dry it out without cooking it. Here is how everything looks all laid out and starting to smoke:
Walk away and wait patiently for your meat to dry. It takes a while, but it is worth the wait.
Enjoy your smoky, beefy snack.
Place your beef in the freezer for about 90 minutes and then cut it into 1/4 inch strips going against the grain.
Mix all of the remaining ingredients together in a bowl to make the marinade. Add the meat to the bowl and mix well to cover everything completely with the marinade. Place in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours stirring a few times to get every strip coated.
Heat your oven or smoker to 150 degrees. (If using an oven, line the bottom with aluminum foil). Lay your beef strips down flat directly on the oven racks or smoker grill. You want to spread the strips out evenly and flat so they dry out evenly. (if using an oven, prop the door open with a wooden spoon or other device while cooking for air circulation)
At 1/4 inch thickness, it will take 7-8 hours total to dry out your jerky at around 150 degrees. Total cooking time depends a lot on the size and thickness of your strips so adjust accordingly and check it after about 4 hours to see how things are looking. Your jerky will be done when it is dry enough that you can rip off a piece easily but not so dry that it snaps when you bend it.