Dr. Pepper Jalapeno Beef Jerky. I mean, really. What else is there to say after that? You can basically just skip to the recipe now and pass over the rest of the post. JUST KIDDING!! Don’t even think about it! This post is so full of jerky knowledge, it should probably be a book. We are going to be talking cuts of meat, slicing tips, marinating basics, and dehydrating vs. smoking.
Let’s start with the best cuts of beef for jerky-making. I try to pick a nice roast with very little fat marbling. My first choice is an eye of round roast. After that, I think a top round, sirloin roast, or rump roast would also work well. These cuts do have a bit more fat/gristle, but a lot of times the price is right so I don’t mind. I also know of some people getting jerky guns and making jerky out of ground meats because the price on ground beef can be great. I don’t personally have one of them, as my family seems to prefer actual strips of jerky to the snack stick type. Just a personal preference!
Now that you’ve got your cut of meat selected, let’s talk about getting that perfect jerky thin slice. I own a meat slicer, and have sliced my own meat for jerky before. If you plan on slicing your own meat, I recommend putting your roast in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour before slicing. The chilled roast will be more firm and you will get a much better result with more even slices. If you aren’t slicing at home, find a good butcher and buy your roast from them. They will be more than happy to do the slicing for you! Now, here is a point of debate for jerky makers. Slicing with or against the grain?? I slice my jerky against the grain. In my opinion, this makes the jerky easier to chew and eat. I’ve got a bunch of little kiddos who would eat their weight in this Dr. Pepper Jalapeno Beef Jerky if I let them, and I don’t want to worry like crazy that they are going to be choking on unchewable chunks of jerky. Some people prefer cutting with the grain because once it is dry you get those nice long strands of jerky that you can tear off and work through. I’ve also heard people mention that slicing with the grain can cause your jerky to fall apart, but I haven’t experienced that personally. In fact, all of the pictures for this recipe are of jerky that is sliced against the grain and it held up great with an awesome bite.
Next, let’s chat marinades! My favorite part! There are a million jerky marinades out there, plenty that you can buy pre-made and just dump on your sliced meat and go. There are some good ones and some not so good ones and I am mad every time I waste money on a pre-made marinade AND a big pile of meat. Additionally these marinades have a little something extra (preservatives, MSG, etc.) but lack that little extra something (love) you get with a homemade marinade. Specifically, the sweet, savory, heat flavors from this Dr. Pepper Jalapeno marinade. It’s like a meat party in your mouth! But the good kind, with jerky (get your mind outta the gutter). The real basis for any great marinade, in my opinion, is a good combo of flavors. Savory, sweet, spice. Perfection!
*PRO-TIP* For this marinade I want to emphasize the importance of the reduction step. Take the time to reduce the marinade properly. If you don’t, the final result can be a little bland. Also, this isn’t super spicy as prepared. If you want more jalapeño flavor, slice your jalapeños very thin or even add in a third jalapeño to the marinade.
Finally, cooking method. I have several smokers at my disposal and my favorite for jerky is my pellet grill. I can maintain temperatures around 160-180 degrees. This allows the jerky to slowly cook through while smoking. If you’re without a smoker, you can still dehydrate your jerky in your oven by laying out your jerky on a cooling rack before cooking. Follow the same time and temperature listed in the recipe, but leave the door of your oven slightly cracked so the moisture can escape and your jerky can dry properly. It’ll just be missing that reddish color and smoky flavor. If you are using a dehydrator, please read the instructions accompanying your machine. Every dehydrator works differently and the timeline will be unique to your machine. The real secret, whether smoker or oven. is to prep your jerky before drying. Removing the meat from the marinade and patting off the excess moisture is crucial for even cooking. I like to layer my jerky strips between paper towels and thoroughly pat dry. If you want a little extra spice, now is a great time to dust with some additional black pepper.
Last notes: If you like to use curing salts in your jerky you can use 1 level teaspoon of Prague Powder #1 or instacure #1 in the marinade recipe. If you cook the recipe as is, it will last in your fridge for up to two weeks in a zip top bag (if you don’t eat it all before then). If you use curing salt, it will last up to two weeks on your counter.
You made it through my jerky novel! You may very well now be an expert jerky maker! If you have any questions beyond what we talked about above, feel free to leave a comment here or jump on over to find me on Facebook or Instagram.