The Art of Slicing Meat for Perfect Beef Jerky

Creating beef jerky is an art that starts with choosing the right meat, but it’s how you slice and prepare it that truly determines the texture and flavor of your jerky. In this guide, we’ll delve into the various slicing techniques that will help you achieve the ideal chewiness or tenderness for your beef jerky.

Eye of round beef roast being sliced in cutting board

Before we begin, it’s important to note that these instructions apply not only to beef but also to venison when making venison jerky. So, whether you’re working with beef or venison, let’s get started!

Trim the Fat

The first step in preparing your meat is to trim any visible fat. Be sure to use a sharp knife and remove as much fat as possible. This is crucial because fat causes beef jerky to spoil faster. Trimming the fat now will help ensure your jerky stays fresh for longer.

Cut with or Against the Grain?

The way you cut your meat in relation to the grain can significantly impact the texture of your jerky. Cutting with or against the grain will result in different levels of chewiness.

When you cut with the grain, your jerky will be chewier and tougher. The grain refers to the direction in which the muscle fibers run within the meat. To identify the grain, look for lines of fibers that run parallel to each other. Slicing the meat in the same direction as these fibers will yield a chewy and tough jerky.

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On the other hand, cutting against the grain will give you a softer and less chewy jerky. Slicing perpendicular to the direction of the grain separates the muscle fibers, making the jerky easier to tear apart.

To visualize this, imagine slicing a piece of meat that has vertical muscle fibers. If you slice it parallel to these fibers, you’re cutting with the grain. But if you slice the meat perpendicular to these fibers, you’re cutting against the grain.

Optimize with a Jerky Slicer

For precise and consistent results, consider using a jerky slicer. The Westin Jerky Slicer, for example, ensures even-sized strips that dry uniformly. By cutting the meat into 1 ¼” slabs and feeding them through the slicer, you’ll achieve perfectly sliced strips, regardless of whether you’re cutting with or against the grain.

Using a jerky slicer eliminates the need to remove some pieces from the dehydrator early while others continue to dry because they’re slightly thicker. With evenly sized strips, all pieces will dry uniformly, resulting in a more consistent and enjoyable jerky.

Tenderizing for Just the Right Chew

To achieve a jerky texture that falls between chewy and soft, you can slice the meat with the grain and tenderize it with a meat mallet. Tenderizing involves beating the meat with the pyramid pointed side of the mallet, breaking up the muscle fibers and reducing chewiness. This technique strikes a perfect balance between a tough chew (when slicing only with the grain) and a soft texture (when slicing only against the grain).

Tenderizing works exceptionally well when following The BEST Beef Jerky Recipe.

Now that you have the knowledge to slice your meat like a pro, it’s time to put it into practice. Choose your preferred slicing method depending on the texture you desire, and get ready to create remarkable beef jerky. If you have any questions or need further guidance, feel free to leave a comment below.

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Happy Jerky Making!

Slicing Meat for Beef Jerky