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Best Beef Cuts for Jerky

Best Beef Cuts for Jerky: The Best 5 Beef Cuts and Why

Beef jerky may be very popular or a completely new concept to everyone reading this. Either way, it’s a fantastic snack. If you are looking for the best beef cuts for making your own beef jerky, look no further. Whether you are creating homemade beef jerky or you want to buy some already made there are a few things you should consider.

The best beef cut for Jerky is the cut that has the least amount of fat. The leaner the meat, the better your homemade beef jerky will be. Too much fat content will spoil your jerky and go rancid. Leaner cuts mean you’ll have jerky with a longer and safer shelf life.

Find out which beef cuts are best for making beef jerky at home. We’ll talk about recipes, appliances, how to slice the meat, and tips for how to make jerky in the smoker. We’ll also talk about the popular black pepper beef jerky – a taste sensation you can’t do without when eating this snack.

The Best Cuts for Beef Jerky

Making your own beef jerky at home can be rewarding. Known for its delicious taste, this snack is also popular for being low in fat content and high in protein. It’s also low in carbs and sugars. People on the Keto diet often turn to jerky when cravings set in!

But, to ensure your beef jerky snack is the real deal, you need to use the right beef cuts. The meat needs to be lean, with low-fat content. This includes both the inner and outer fat.

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Intermuscular fat, also known as marbling, is the fat running between the muscles. This can’t be removed. The outer fat layer can be trimmed when you’re preparing your meat.

While marbling and high-fat content contributes to meat being tenderer, juicier, and more flavorful, you want to avoid too much of it in beef jerky. Remember, this snack needs to have a long shelf life. And, too much fat causes rancidity and spoilt meat.

For a great, long-lasting snack that can be taken anywhere, you want to select a leaner cut with some level of marbling. This will mean you’ll still get a tender and flavorful beef jerky.

Buy fresh and good quality beef. This doesn’t mean you have to go with the more expensive, high-grade beef cuts options. But, make sure they have no ligaments, tendons cartilage, or dark spots.

Meat shrinks during the dehydrating process. Buy enough to give you a decent quantity of jerky without running out too soon. A butcher will advise you to go with 3 pounds of raw meat to get up to 1 pound of beef jerky.

We recommend the following beef cuts to make beef jerky at home.

1. The Round Primal Cuts

The round is the rear part of the cow above the shank. There are three cuts from this part most often used to make beef jerky.

  • Top Round: This is from the inner leg muscle on the other side of the bottom round. It’s a lean, economical cut with good flavor. The top round is not as tender as most other beef cuts but it gives you large quantities of meat. There’s minimal marbling. Your butcher sometimes refers to top round as the London Broil.
  • Bottom Round: This comes from the upper, rear leg and is the outer muscle. It’s not as tender as the other round options but it still gives you good flavor. Some marbling is present but it’s otherwise a leaner cut. It’s cost-effective for producing large quantities of beef jerky.
  • Eye of Round: An oval-shaped, single muscle found in the rear leg. This is a popular choice among jerky connoisseurs. It’s lean but you’ll need to trim the outer fat layer. This is an easy cut for slicing during the preparation stage. 

Watch this video for the eye of round beef jerky.

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2. Rib Primal Cuts

Cuts from the rib primal area are also known as lifter meat. Other names include wedge, blade, or cap meat. It comes from the outer side of the rib. This is a more costly cut but offers more flavors with medium leanness and marbling.

3. Flank Steak

The secret to using flank steak is to ensure it’s sliced against the grain. Otherwise, your jerky is going to be tough. It’s also recommended to marinate the beef for up to 48 hours to help give a tasty and tender snack.

It comes from the rear stomach area. It’s lean, with little marbling. You may need to trim some outer fat during preparation. While not as tender compared to some other cuts, it’s got the flavor you want for good-tasting beef jerky. This is also a slightly more expensive option.

4. Pectoral Meat Cuts

This is part of the brisket and is known for giving a real beefy flavored jerky. It’s found between the rib and neck of the cow. It has a tough texture. The pectoral or brisket cut is relatively lean, with medium marbling. It’s less expensive and tender compared to other beef cuts.

5. The Top Sirloin

This is not the most popular cut to make beef jerky but you won’t be disappointed if you decide to go with this option. It comes from the part next to the round, under the tenderloin part of the cow. It’s a tender piece of meat, very lean and often, the most expensive cut to buy.

If your butcher suggests a sirloin tip don’t get confused! It’s another name for top sirloin.


Beef Cuts for Jerky


What You Need to Know to Make Homemade Beef Jerky

You’ve bought the beef. Now, you’re ready to make your jerky. But what do you need to know when making this popular snack at home? Before heading into the preparation part let’s talk about recipes and appliances.

  • Recipes: You won’t run short of recipes on how to make great beef jerky. Type in “recipes for beef jerky” and Google will upload all the recipes you ever need. Until you’ve mastered the art of making this beef snack, using recipes will give you ideas and guidelines to follow. You’ll discover marinades, seasonings, and other useful tips to help you make your favorite snack on the go.
  • Appliances: If you’re new to this game, you’re going to hear a lot about an appliance called the dehydrator. But, you can also use an oven or a smoker to make beef jerky.

Different Appliances

The dehydrator has been designed to dry out meat quickly bypassing airflow over it. It helps to evaporate any moisture in the meat. Together with the right temperature, you can rest assured your beef jerky snack is safe to eat and has a long shelf life.

The pros of using a dehydrator include the following:

  • You can produce large quantities in this appliance as they have lots of racks for fitting more slices.
  • Controlling the temperature is easy and you can maintain the required 160 degrees F.
  • They’re versatile and can be used for drying out other food types.

The oven is something most kitchens have. This means you can start to make beef jerky straight away. The oven is a quick way of making this protein snack. If your oven is small, with fewer racks, you may be limited by how much you can make in one go.

Most ovens don’t have air fans so you’ll have to keep a close eye to make sure the strips don’t burn or dry out quickly. Some ovens may not have a setting for the required temperature of 160 degrees F. This is important to ensure your jerky is properly prepared.

If you’re a fan of smoking food, your smokercan also be used for making jerky. Electric smokers are best for helping to control the exact temperature you need for safe consumption when eating this snack.

The smoke is not only great for flavor but it also helps to eliminate any moisture in the meat. Strips can be hung vertically in the smoker and laid out on racks. Smokers have been used for years to dry meat for preservation purposes so they’re well-designed for making jerky snacks.

How to Slice Meat for Jerky

Preparing your meat goes a long way to ensuring your beef jerky snack is a success. How to slice meat for jerky is often the first step you need to consider. You could ask your butcher to slice it for you.

If you’re slicing it yourself, you’ve got two options:

  • Slice against the grain for a tougher, chewier jerky.
  • Slice with the grain if you prefer a softer, less chewy jerky.

Make sure you’re using a sharp knife and a cutting board. The average thickness of each strip should be around 1 to 2 inches. Then, slice into thinner strips of about ¼ inch thickness. Try and keep the strips evenly cut so they’re dried at the same time in batches.

Tips from Recipes When Making Beef Jerky in the Smoker

Here are some great tips from recipes using the smoker for making your favorite beef jerky snack:

  • You need to keep the temperature low and consistent. The optimal temperature setting should be between 150 and 165 degrees F.
  • Marinate the meat overnight before drying. You can get creative here and use a combination of spices and seasonings. Add some lime with ginger or go crazy with the Cajun spice. Basically, this is how you can make your own unique jerky taste by getting adventurous
  • Start without smoke by hanging the strips at 140 degrees F.
  • Wood chips can be added to the smoker but don’t go overboard. You don’t want to have a beef jerky that tastes over smoked. You want to be able to enjoy the natural beefy taste of the meat.
  • Estimate 6 to 8 hours for drying out the meat perfectly for safe consumption. An electric smoker is often the better smoker to use as it’s easier to manage over long periods of time.
  • Beef Jerky can be ready after 3 to 4 hours. You can remove the strips when they bend and shred easily. For longer shelf life, you can keep the strips in longer until it snaps when bent.
  • This process doesn’t allow the meat to be completely dehydrated so make sure to keep the snacks in the fridge.

The best meat for beef jerky in smokers is either the top or bottom round.

Which Beef Cut for Black Pepper Beef Jerky


Beef Cuts for Jerky


Black pepper beef jerky is one of the more popular protein snacks. The recipes vary slightly. But the beef jerky marinade includes the following combination:

  • Cracked black peppercorns and ground black pepper
  •  Worcestershire and soy sauce

The best cuts for this recipe is top or bottom round sliced at ¼ inch thickness. It can be done in the oven and takes about 4 hours to be done.

The Best Cut of Meat for Making Jerky

Jerky can be made with a variety of meats, not only beef. Let’s take a look at your other options:

  • Deer: This kind of meat is great for jerky because of its lower fat content. It’s also a tender cut. The game flavor of venison is popular with jerky eaters. This is a great way of using up meat from your last hunting trip.
  • Elk: it’s worth pointing out elk for its milder game flavor. This is another lean meat and the perfect organic option for a healthier jerky.
  • Pork tenderloin: While this is slightly fattier meat for jerky, it’s an economical cut. You can use pork tenderloin when using sweet recipes.
  • Poultry: Chicken or turkey breasts are great for making a leaner jerky. You do have to put extra care into using chicken. Cooking at the right temperature is essential to ensure it is cooked properly to avoid bacteria causing food contamination.

These options are great when you want to try out something different from beef jerky.

Final Thoughts

Getting the right beef cut for homemade beef jerky is essential. It needs to be lean with minimal fat content to avoid your jerky from going rancid and spoilt. Knowing which beef cuts work well for making this snack, gives you peace of mind your jerky will having a long shelf life while still tasting good.

Best Beef Cuts for Jerky: The Best 5 Beef Cuts and Why