Beef Jerky with a Spicy Twist

Are you ready to embark on your jerky-making journey? This recipe for Peppered Beef Jerky is ideal for beginners and seasoned jerky enthusiasts alike. With its classic flavor and a kick of black pepper, it’s guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser. Whether you’re using a smoker, oven, or classic dehydrator, we’ve got you covered with adaptable instructions.

stack of peppered beef jerky on a wooden cutting board

The Finest Beef Jerky

Let’s talk about beef jerky, shall we? It’s one of those delightful treats that you can take with you anywhere—camping trips, hiking adventures, work breaks, school snacks, and more!

Before you dive into the world of homemade beef jerky, let’s discuss an important aspect: choosing the right meat. This step is crucial as it determines the texture of your jerky. Opt for a lean cut with minimal fat marbling. My top choice is an eye of round roast, but a top round, sirloin roast, or rump roast will also work well. Don’t be afraid to venture into the realm of venison; this recipe works wonders with it too!

Slicing the Meat for Perfect Jerky

Now that you’ve selected your meat, it’s time to achieve the perfect thin slice for your jerky. If you’re slicing the meat at home, I recommend popping it in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour before slicing. This slight chill will make the roast firmer, resulting in more even slices. If you prefer convenience, visit a skilled butcher who’ll be more than happy to assist you. Just let them know you’re making jerky, and ask for slices around a “2” setting on their slicer.

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Now, here’s a topic of debate among jerky makers: slicing with or against the grain? Personally, I prefer against the grain as it creates jerky that’s easier to chew and enjoy. However, some people love cutting with the grain, as it leads to those long strands of jerky that can be easily torn apart. The bottom line is this: make jerky that you love to eat. The flavor of this peppered beef jerky remains consistent, regardless of your slicing preference. It’s all up to you!

slices of beef jerky on the grill grates of a smoker

Let’s Talk Marinade

Creating a remarkable marinade is another essential aspect of making extraordinary beef jerky. The marinade featured in this recipe incorporates key elements that enhance flavor and tenderness. It combines saltiness, sweetness, acidity, and bold seasonings to ensure each bite is bursting with flavor. Here are some additional tips to help you achieve the best result:

  • Brown sugar: I use a small amount to balance the savory and black pepper flavors. You can reduce the sugar if desired, but I recommend keeping a hint of sweetness. Eliminating it entirely is not recommended.
  • Beer: If you’re not a fan of cooking with beer, feel free to substitute it with beef stock. However, keep in mind that this will increase the overall saltiness of the jerky. If you make this substitution, limit the marinating time to 8 hours.
  • Curing salts: Utilizing instacure #1 (also known as Prague Powder or Pink Salt—note that this is different from Himalayan pink salt) is an optional step. The cure acts as an additional preservative for the jerky. If you add curing salt, your jerky will be shelf-stable and safe to consume at room temperature for several weeks. Without it, your jerky will still be partially preserved through the smoking and dehydration process, but I recommend storing it in the refrigerator for freshness. Uncured jerky can last several weeks in the fridge. For detailed instructions on proper meat curing, refer to this guide on Curing Meats Safely.
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How to Craft Mouthwatering Beef Jerky

For complete ingredients and detailed instructions, refer to the printable recipe card below. Here’s a quick rundown on making your own beef jerky at home:

  1. Marinate the meat: Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large zip-top bag. Add the sliced meat, gently toss or massage the bag to coat the meat evenly. Refrigerate the marinating meat for 8-24 hours.
  2. Prepare for dehydration: Take the meat strips out of the bag and place them on paper towels. Pat them dry with more paper towels. Preheat your smoker, oven (with the door cracked), or dehydrator to 170°F. Arrange the jerky strips on the grill grates, jerky rack, or cooling rack. Optionally, season the top of the jerky with additional pepper to enhance the flavor.
  3. Create the jerky: Smoke, cook, or dehydrate the jerky for 2-3 hours. The cooking time will vary based on the thickness of your jerky slices. Thicker pieces may require up to 4-5 hours, so plan accordingly. Check the jerky after the first hour. The desired texture is firm yet pliable. If it breaks when bent, it’s been cooked for too long.
  4. Store and savor: Place your newly dehydrated beef jerky in a fresh zip-top bag while it’s still warm. However, leave the bag slightly open to allow the jerky to steam for a bit. This step helps lock in moisture and elevates the jerky’s deliciousness. If you added curing salt to the marinade, this jerky can be stored at room temperature for a few weeks. Without the salt, refrigerate the jerky.
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hand holding a stack of beef jerky

More Mouthwatering Beef Jerky Recipes

If you’re as passionate about making beef jerky as I am, you’ll fall in love with all the beef jerky recipes available on Hey Grill Hey! From sweet to spicy, we’ve got it all. Check out a few of our favorites below:

  • Teriyaki Beef Jerky
  • Dr. Pepper Jalapeno Beef Jerky
  • Sweet Java Beef Jerky

Peppered Beef Jerky Recipe

This recipe was lovingly crafted for you, backyard griller! Here at Hey Grill Hey, we’re dedicated to helping you become a BBQ hero. For more smoking and grilling recipes, visit our website (browse the Homepage for inspiration), follow us on Instagram and YouTube, or like our Facebook Page.

At Hey Grill Hey, we believe that creating delicious food should be easy. That’s why we’ve created Patio Provisions—a collection of sauces, rubs, and more to save you time and energy when you’re busy at the grill. Check it out today!

This post was originally published in April 2018 and has been updated with additional information and helpful tips. The recipe remains the same.