Our friends, Darrin and Sylvia Isaacs, introduced us to their love of homemade beef jerky several months ago. If you are an avid fisherman, you might have heard of Darrin before. He co-hosted and co-produced several ESPN fishing shows – Big Game Fishing the World, BXRL-Billfishing Xtreme Release League, Inside Big Game Fishing Hawaii and Big Game Bites – with his father, Norm Isaacs.
The Isaacs family lives nearby – and in a twist of fate (or is it kismet?) – Scott and Darrin met at an aquaponics shop. Darrin was there, asking questions to the stop owner, looking for some equipment to set up his system. Scott overheard the conversation. Once outside the shop, as both were leaving, Scott offered to give Darrin some of our equipment that we weren’t using.
Here’s where it gets strange:
-Darrin and Sylvia met on the big island in Hawaii. So did Scott and I. In fact, they were living on the big island the same time we were there, too.
-Our sets of boys are the exact same ages, same number of months apart, same grades. They are a mixed race of Caucasian and Chinese.
-Sylvia used to work in the wine industry. So did I. Sylvia and I are both Chinese.
-They live an hour away currently, all the way on the very opposite side of the county — but it turns out Darrin and Sylvia just bought some property and it’s a stone’s throw from our home.
If I list out any more similarities, it might even give me chills. When we get together, it’s like a gaggle of dark-brown haired boys – You can’t tell them apart from each other unless you really look closely.
We’ve become good friends with the Isaacs, how could we not feel like “instant old friends” given all the crazy similarities? They’ve just launched a new website and podcast, Boats and Billfish, for sport fishing.
Anyways, we also now love making our own beef jerky, just like the Isaacs. We’ve purchased a dehydrator (though to be honest, this is the 3rd dehydrator I have ever owned, but the FIRST dehydrator to be used more than twice and not bought from a TV infomercial.)
Rather than go the traditional American style of beef jerky, I opted to try a Korean flavor, inspired by another good family friend, Diana of Eating Richly. I modified my go-to recipe for Korean Bulgogi BBQ, omitting the sesame seeds, green onion, and grated fresh pear. The grated pear is meant as a tenderizer (the enzymes break down the meat), but since we’re making jerky, there’s not tenderizing needed! Instead of the normal grated onion and fresh garlic, we used onion powder and garlic powder. Fresh grated onion would add too much moisture to the marinade.
Previously, we had the butchers slice the beef for us with their fancy machinery (we love the Publix butchers, always so kind and helpful.) But recently received a Kalorik Meat and Deli Slicer for review that’s designed specifically for the home market. The unit is affordable at less than $100, and small enough to tuck away in the pantry. We’re also giving away a unit (see end of this recipe for details.)
How to make Korean Beef Jerky
Start with the right meat. After several tests, we’ve found London Broil to be the best cut. Actually, “London Broil” is a term used to describe a method of cooking, not necessarily a butcher’s cut. However, many American supermarkets label Top Round Steak that’s cut even and flat as London Broil. Some butchers also label Flank Steak as London Broil as well, but I’m not as fond of Flank Steak for beef jerky as it’s often too thin and flat. Your beef jerky will turn out to be 1/2-inch wide strips. If you use Flank Steak for beef jerky, make sure you slice ACROSS the grain.
The London Broil a.k.a. Top Round Steak that I like to use is about 1.75-inches thick, which makes nice-sized beef jerky slices. Also, take a look at the meat. It is even in thickness and lean – very little visible fat is what you want, as dehydrated fat doesn’t taste very good. Photo source
I’ve turned the beef on its side so that you can see how nice and even this steak is.
We set up the Kalorik meat slicer on our counter, it was already assembled out of the box. The unit is surprisingly light and has suction feet on the bottom to prevent sliding or shifting. Though you really have to push down to make the suction cup stick to my counter top, which is quartz, matte and not-so-easily suction-cuppable (nice word!)
Like the Isaacs, we like our beef jerky sliced very thin. While thick hunks of beef jerky certainly gives your jaws a workout, the thinner beef jerky wins in taste, texture, ease of enjoying and marinating time.
It’s best to test out which thickness you like best. Our meat slicer has a knob numbered 0 to 10. The top photo is beef sliced at 0.5, obviously too thin. The bottom meat was sliced at 1.5. We chose 1.25.
Oh, just a quick note – if you look above at the photo of sliced meat, you’ll see a very thin stripe of fat on the bottom – I would normally trim off ALL visible fat from the steak before slicing. As I mentioned, dried fat is not appealing to eat.
The Kalorik meat slicer has nice safety features – your fingers stay safely out of the way. The unit is made of mostly plastic on the base, the area that you place the meat and the handle.
Slice at an even pace and take your time. This is the back of the unit, where the sliced meat falls.
After slicing, prepare the marinade (garlic, soy, sesame oil, sugar, grated onion) in a freezer or storage bag. Add in your meat, seal. Massage and shake the bag to get the marinade incorporated throughout. I then unseal a tiny opening in the bag, squeeze as much air out from the bag as possible and quickly reseal. This helps the marinade stay put on the meat, instead of settling back down on the bottom of the bag.
The marinade recipe for Korean Beef Jerky is below, at the end of this post.
Because the meat is sliced so thinly, I marinate only 30 minutes. I also like lightly seasoned beef jerky, not beef jerky that’s so salty you need a gallon of water to rehydrate yourself! However, if you are using thicker slices of meat, marinate for an hour or up to overnight.
We bought the Nesco SnackMaster Pro Dehydrator $69.99 and have no complaints. It works very well, it does its job. I wish the unit would have a timer built in. Tip: don’t try to wash the drying racks by hand – you’ll go crazy just trying to scrub off all the dried bits. Instead, throw the racks into the dishwasher. The hot water will help soften the bits and clean them off. Also, during the summer, place the dehydrator outside on the patio so you don’t heat up your house with all that hot air!
Lay the beef slices in a single layer, spread them out so that there are no curls or folds in the meat.
Right about now, the dogs GO NUTS. Steak? Steak? Steak? I smell STEAK!
After 4 hours-ish, the beef jerky is ready.
Final thoughts on the Kalorik Meat Slicer:
PROS: It’s affordable, less than $100. The unit is lightweight, already-assembled out of the box. Good safety features – turn the knob dial for blade to “P” to make the blade flush with the unit for storage. The handle design keeps your fingers out of the way of the blade. The blade is simple to clean, the unit wipes down easily. It also comes with a silicone blade safety cover to keep the blade edge partly covered.
CONS: Because it is so lightweight, the suction cups are necessarily to keep the unit from shifting. The suction cups didn’t work very well on my counter, and I got a little nervous until I got the hang of it. The key is to not PUSH the meat forward towards the blade (which would move the meat slicer), but rather, gently glide the meat forward while applying pressure to the left to keep the meat sandwiched against the blade area. Sorry, it’s so difficult to explain in words! I wish the suction feet would be larger, more sturdier. Removing the very sharp blade from the unit is almost too easy – just twist this little knob and the blade is loose. It is difficult to tell whether the blade is securely set in from the little black knob. Take care when removing and washing the blade – I use my trusty Pitt Mitts to handle the blade.
If you are starting out on this beef jerky adventure, have your butcher slice the meat for you. Go during non-peak hours, and kindly ask for a very thin slice for beef jerky. Most butchers will know how to slice the steak correctly, though in my opinion, they’ll slice it too thick. Once you get the slices exactly how you want them, ask the butcher, “What setting did you use?” and just remember that magic number. Next time, just say, “Slice for beef jerky, at setting number ___.”
Make a couple of batches before investing in a slicer. It’s a big appliance to store in your house. However, if you’re really into beef jerky like we are, it’s really worth it to slice the meat exactly how we like it, without bothering or waiting for the butcher. It’s a nice-to-have appliance for the serious beef jerky aficionado!
That being said, we make beef jerky a lot. It’s a healthy snack, nutritious, gives me energy, and best of all, it’s real food. The kids love it and will pack beef jerky in their backpack for a snack instead of crackers or a granola bar.
We’re giving a Kalorik Meat Slicer away! Enter the giveaway here.
Retail beef jerky “Jack Links Teriyaki Flavored”
-Ingredients: Beef, water, sugar, dried soy suace (soybeans, salt, wheat), maltodextrin, fructos, monosodium glutamate, flavorings, hydrolyzed corn protein, sodium erythorbate, paprika extract, sodium nitrate.
-Not sure what type of beef
-Contains MSG and other chemicals I can’t pronounce
-$5.99 for 3.5 ounces
Homemade Beef Jerky
-Ingredients: Top Round steak, Soy sauce (soybeans, salt, wheat), sesame oil, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar
-Substitute soy sauce with Coconut Aminos (we love this sauce!) for a wheat and soy free alternative
-London Broil (Top Round Steak) – you can choose to use organic, free range beef
-$5.29 per pound for the meat (on sale), each pound makes approx 6-8 ounces beef jerky
More recipes to explore
Steak Recipe: Turning Cheap “Choice” Steak into Gucci “Prime” Steak (Steamy Kitchen)
Flank Steak with Bloody Mary Tomato Salad Recipe (Steamy Kitchen)
1-Step, Fail Proof Prime Rib Roast Recipe on the Rotisserie (Steamy Kitchen)
Korean Kalbi Baby Back Ribs (Steamy Kitchen)
Black Pepper Jerky (Food & Wine)
Korean Beef Jerky Recipe
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours in dehydrator
I've had best results using London Broil (Top Round Steak) meat. In my Nesco dehydrator, I can fit 4 pounds of sliced meat on the trays. Your unit may be smaller or larger. The recipe calls for 2 pounds of meat, so if you have a similar sized dehydrator, make 2 batches of the marinade side by side in separate bags. To clarify, don't try to stuff 4 pounds of sliced meat into 1 bag of marinade. It won't fit.
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
2 pounds London broil, very thinly sliced
1. In a resealable freezer bag, combine all ingredients except for the meat.
2. Add the sliced meat, seal bag and massage gently to incorporate the marinade throughout the meat. Unseal just a small section, push as much air out of the bag as possible, and reseal. Let marinate for 30 minutes (on counter-top at room temperature is fine) or refrigerate up to overnight.
3. Lay out the meat in a single layer (as neat as possible) on the dehydrator racks. Set dehydrator according to manufacturer's instructions.