Sweet Java Beef Jerky is the newest sensation in homemade jerky. Sweet, savory, and rich with the tiniest kick, this is the jerky you can’t stop snacking on! If you have read my post for Dr. Pepper Jalapeno Beef Jerky, much of this post will be a repeat for you. If this is your first time to my site or trying out homemade jerky on your own, please read on! 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. I’m going to give you all of the info you need to know to master making perfect jerky from home.
BEST CUTS FOR BEEF JERKY:
Let’s start with the best cuts of beef for jerky-making. I try to pick a nice roast with very little fat marbling. For this batch, I used a London Broil. Another amazing 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 have one of them, as my family seems to prefer actual strips of jerky to the snack stick type. Just a personal preference!
HOW TO SLICE MEAT FOR JERKY:
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 Sweet Java 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.
SWEET JAVA BEEF JERKY MARINADE:
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 and it didn’t turn out quite right. 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 Sweet Java Beef Jerky 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* This marinade calls for Morton TenderQuick. This is an instant curing powder with small amounts of salt and sugar mixed in, usually available in grocery stores or online. The correct ratio is 1 Tablespoon per pound of meat. The recipe, as written, calls for 2 Tablespoons for 2 pounds of meat. If you like to use other curing salts in your jerky you can use 1 level teaspoon of Prague Powder #1 or instacure #1 in the marinade recipe, because that proportion cures up to 5 pounds of meat. If you increase the recipe beyond 5 pounds, you will need an additional teaspoon of the cure. If you cook the recipe as is it will last up to two weeks on your counter. If you want to skip adding the cure entirely, add one level Tablespoon of Kosher salt in place of the 2 Tablespoons of curing salt. The jerky will last 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
HOW TO COOK JERKY AT HOME:
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 F. 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. Be sure to use a thermometer, you don’t want any pieces to be removed from the oven, smoker, or dehydrator if they are under 165 degrees F. I use a good instant read thermometer (THIS ONE) to monitor my temperatures.
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.
Final note: Years ago I worked in recipe development for Traeger Grills and published a recipe for Coffee Break Jerky. That base recipe still serves as inspiration for this one, but I’ve been working on it and tweaking it for about the last 5 years and I think it’s pretty much perfect now! I hope you enjoy it!
- 2 pounds London Broil beef roast sliced thin against the grain
- 1 cup brewed coffee
- 1 cup cola
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Tablespoons Morton TenderQuick
- 2 Tablespoons molasses
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
Add all ingredients for the marinade, except the black pepper, into a non-reactive bowl (no metal) and whisk to combine.
Immerse the sliced beef roast into the marinade and stir to coat completely. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or up to 24 hours.
Preheat your oven or smoker to 170 degrees F.
Remove the meat from the marinade and dry each strip thoroughly by laying on paper towels. Transfer the strips to the grill grate, jerky rack, or cooling rack, sprinkle with the black pepper, and smoke/cook for 2-3 hours (depending on the thickness of your slices, some thicker pieces can take 4-5 hours). Check often after the first hour to be sure your jerky is drying evenly. You are looking for jerky that is firm and still slightly pliable, but not soft. If you bend your jerky and it breaks, you've cooked it a little too long.
Place the finished jerky in a gallon zip top bag while it is still warm. Don't seal closed all the way. The jerky will steam in the bag slightly and this step will make the jerky moist. The jerky will last 3-4 days on the counter or 2 weeks in the fridge.