Jerky is meat or fruit that has been cut into strips and dried. Drying meat is the oldest way of preserving meat, which produces jerky. Traditionally, jerky was made by cutting meat into strips, salting the meat strips, and either drying the meat in the sun or over a small smoky fire. Jerky has been used for centuries as a highly durable source of protein.
What is jerky made of?
There are many options for jerky. Most jerky is made of meat, but some jerky is made of fruit. Some meat jerkies are made with fruit and seeds, vinegar, citrus juice, sugar and herbs, but most meat jerky is made of meat, salt, and seasonings.
Jerky can be made of the following meats and fruit:
Steps involved in making jerky
- Jerky can be made from either whole muscle meat or ground meat.
- Meat is treated initially to remove bones and connective tissue.
- A cut of premium meat is selected for the jerky production. Lean cuts of meat are easier for the jerky production process.
- All visible fat is removed. Jerky will spoil if the fat content is too high. Fat is removed from the meat in one of three ways:
- Meat is placed into a separator and spun vigorously, which separates the fat particles from the meat.
- Meat is pressed by a large industrial meat press to squeeze the fat out.
- Meat is filtered to remove the fat.
- Meat goes through additional procedures and inspections to make sure that all foreign bodies and other undesirable materials are removed.
- A curing solution is prepared for the meat. The solution typically consists of water, salt, and seasonings. Other ingredients such as sugar, herbs, vinegar, citrus juices, and more can be added to the marinade at this point.
- Meat can be frozen and cut into chunks or ground up with a machine. The meat is then placed into the marinade/curing solution. The meat is left in the marinade long enough to let the solution completely penetrate the meat. Another option is to inject the meat with a curing solution using a needle.
- Meat is then tumbled in a large stainless steel bowl to add more curing solution and tenderize the meat further for a nice jerky texture.
- After the meat is seasoned, the meat pieces are placed into molds and cooled or, if frozen, cut into strips of about one-fourth of an inch with the grain of the meat.
- The meat strips are spread evenly on large wire mesh trays and inserted into special drying ovens for cooking.
- The meat cooks for approximately twelve hours in the oven, which lowers the moisture in the meat to between twenty and forty percent. The moisture must be lowered to this level in order to prevent spoilage and mold growth.