DIY High Protein Snack: Beef Jerky
I love getting to spend most of my time on the road. Constantly traveling to new places is a ton of fun, but there is a big struggle with this type of lifestyle: Staying healthy. When you're constantly bouncing around from place to place, it's easy to slip into a habit of eating fast food or just snacking on junk.
One nutrient that I began to notice I was lacking while on the road was protein. I wondered what I could easily throw in my bag for road trips or flights, that didn't need to be refrigerated, or cooked, and would give me the protein I needed. I found the answer in beef jerky.
Beef jerky is high in protein, low in carbs, and contains important minerals like iron, zinc, and magnesium. The only problem with beef jerky is that the store bought variety is frequently expensive and contains a lot of things that aren't so good for you... Preservatives, added sugars, unpronounceable 13-letter ingredients.
My solution: DIY jerky. By making it myself I know exactly what type of beef I'm eating, and exactly what has gone into it. I flavor it the way I want, with seasonings and spices I trust. And it costs a fraction of the price! Now before every trip, I make a big ol' load of jerky to keep myself satisfied while on the road.
Making beef jerky is a lot easier than you'd believe, and you don't even need a dehydrator to do it! I'm pretty lax with my cooking process, so I've give you the general idea of what I do and then you can toy around with your own jerky ideas!
First step: Buy your beef
The cut of beef you use can be totally up to you. Top round is a popular option, London broil, and flank steak work too. Really, anything low in fatty bits. The fat won't dry out so try to go as lean as possible. For me, I usually find beef already prepared in "carne asada" strips. I like to do as little work as possible so if I can avoid cutting the beef, I'm stoked. This time, the store didn't have carne asada so I found a thin sliced top round and cut my own strips.
Second Step: Marinate
This is where you can have fun and let your creativity shine. Pick your favorite flavor combos and go to town! I usually use a combination of soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and hot sauce in my marinade. Check out this website for flavor ideas to spark your imagination https://www.jerkyholic.com/beef-jerky-recipes/ . Once I've picked my flavors, I pour all my ingredients into a bowl, and then massage the beef into it, making sure it all gets coated in the marinade. Then, I cover the bowl and throw it into the refrigerator for 3-12 hours.
Third Step: Cooking
Once you've given your beef time to marinate, it's time to cook. I set the oven for the lowest heat possible, which is usually 175. I take my strips out of the bag and lay then across the oven rack, with a sheet of foil below to catch drips. If I have BBQ skewers, I stab the ends of the slices and let them hang between the oven rack grates. Now it's time to wait. Sometimes I close the oven all the way, and sometimes I leave it slightly cracked to keep air circulating through. Both work and give you slightly different results. It'll usually take the jerky around three hours to dry, but starting at 2.5 check on your strips. This is another part where personal preference comes in. I will cook mine up to 4 hours because I like my jerky dry as heck. I cook it until its a cracker like consistency, but that's not for everyone. Play around with the timing and find your favorite consistency.
Fourth Step: Eating
Once your jerky is finished cooking, let it cool down before you store it to prevent steam creating moisture. The dryer the jerky, the longer it'll last. This is where the importance of lean meat comes in- if your jerky has fat bits, it'll go bad at room temp a lot faster. I store my jerky in a zip lock bag with as much air squeezed out as possible and it lasts 1-2 weeks. I've never had any jerky left by two weeks to know if it'd last longer because it's so good, I can't help snacking on it throughout the day.