Tasty and Spicy: The Ultimate Peppered Beef Jerky Recipe

Are you ready to embark on a flavorful journey? Look no further! This tantalizing Peppered Beef Jerky recipe is guaranteed to satisfy all your jerky cravings, whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-time jerky maker. With its classic jerky flavor and a hint of black pepper heat, this recipe is a must-try. Plus, I’ve got you covered with adaptations for making it in an oven or classic dehydrator too.

stack of peppered beef jerky on a wooden cutting board.

The Quest for the Best Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is pure magic – a delicious, meaty treat that you can carry anywhere. Whether you’re camping, hiking, working, or studying, beef jerky is the perfect companion. But before you dive into making your own, let’s talk about the crucial step of choosing the right meat. It’s the key to achieving that perfect jerky texture.

When selecting cuts of meat for beef jerky, opt for a nice roast with minimal fat marbling. My top pick is the tender eye of round roast. However, a top round, sirloin roast, or rump roast will also work beautifully. These cuts might have a bit more fat or gristle, but they often come at the right price. Additionally, don’t be afraid to try venison with this recipe for a delightful twist!

The Art of Slicing Meat for Beef Jerky

Now that you’ve got the perfect meat, it’s time to achieve that thin, jerky-worthy slice. If you’re slicing the meat yourself, I recommend popping the roast in the freezer for around 30 minutes to an hour before slicing. The chilled roast will be firmer, resulting in more even slices. Alternatively, find a skilled butcher who will gladly do the slicing for you. Just let them know you plan to make jerky, and aim for a “2” setting on their slicer.

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Here’s a little debate among jerky makers: slicing with or against the grain? Personally, I prefer against the grain. It makes the jerky easier to chew and enjoy. However, some folks love cutting with the grain because it yields those long, tearable strands of jerky. Ultimately, it’s about making jerky that you love to eat. Have no fear, the flavor of this peppered beef jerky will be equally phenomenal regardless of your slicing choice. It’s all up to you!

slices of beef jerky on the grill grates of a smoker.

The Marinade: Elevating the Flavor

The marinade plays a pivotal role in making extraordinary beef jerky. In this recipe, the marinade brings together all the essential elements to infuse flavor and tenderness into your jerky. With hints of salt, sweetness, acidity, and bold seasonings, every bite is a mouthful of pure delight. Let’s explore a few optional and additional tips to ensure you achieve the best possible result.

  • Brown sugar: I like to strike the perfect balance between salty and sweet in my jerky. The amount of brown sugar specified in the recipe won’t make your jerky overly sweet, but it will harmonize the savory and black pepper flavors. If you prefer less sugar, you can cut it in half, but I don’t recommend eliminating it entirely.

  • Beer: Now, I understand that not everyone enjoys cooking with beer. Feel free to substitute it with beef stock instead. This substitution will add a touch of extra saltiness to the jerky, so if you choose this option, don’t marinate the jerky for more than 8 hours.

  • Curing Salts: Using instacure #1 (also known as Prague Powder or Pink Salt, note that it’s not the same as Himalayan pink salt) is an optional step. The cure acts as an additional preservative for the jerky, ensuring its shelf stability and safety at room temperature for several weeks. If you skip the curing salt, the jerky will still be partially preserved through smoking and dehydration, but I recommend storing it in the refrigerator to maintain freshness. Uncured jerky will last for several weeks in the fridge. For proper meat curing instructions, check out this informative post on Curing Meats Safely.

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The Art of Making Beef Jerky

For a detailed list of ingredients and instructions, scroll down to the printable recipe card. Here’s a quick rundown on how to create your own mouthwatering beef jerky at home:

  1. Marinate the meat: Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large zip-top bag. Add the sliced meat, ensuring all sides are evenly coated. Place the marinating meat in the refrigerator for 8-24 hours.

  2. Prepare to dehydrate: Take the meat strips out of the marinade and lay them on paper towels. Gently pat them dry with more paper towels. Preheat your smoker, oven (with the door slightly cracked), or dehydrator to 170 degrees F. Place the jerky strips on the grill grates, a jerky rack, or a cooling rack. For an extra burst of pepper flavor, you can sprinkle some additional pepper on top of the jerky (optional).

  3. Make the beef jerky: Smoke, cook, or dehydrate the jerky for 2-3 hours. Keep in mind that the cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of your jerky slices. Thicker pieces might require 4-5 hours, so plan accordingly. Start checking the jerky after the first hour. You’re aiming for firm, yet pliable jerky. If you bend it and it breaks, you’ve cooked it for too long.

  4. Store and enjoy: While the dehydrated beef jerky is still warm, place it in a fresh zip-top bag, leaving the bag slightly open. Let the jerky steam in the bag for a short while to lock in the moisture and further enhance its deliciousness. If you added curing salt to your marinade, the jerky will last for a few weeks at room temperature. Without the salt, refrigerate the jerky to maintain its quality.

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hand holding a stack of beef jerky.

Explore More Beef Jerky Recipes

If you’re as passionate about making beef jerky as I am, you’ll love the variety of beef jerky recipes available on Hey Grill Hey! From sweet to spicy, we have it all. Here are a few favorites to get you started:

  • Teriyaki Beef Jerky
  • Dr. Pepper Jalapeno Beef Jerky
  • Sweet Java Beef Jerky

The Perfect Peppered Beef Jerky Recipe for You

As a backyard griller, this recipe was specially created for you. Here at Hey Grill Hey, we’re dedicated to helping you become a BBQ hero, impressing your loved ones with better BBQ, and providing inspiration for all your smoking and grilling adventures. Feel free to browse my website for more recipes and ideas, or find me on Instagram, YouTube, or our Facebook Page.

Cooking delicious food should be simple, and Hey Grill Hey is here to make it happen! Visit Patio Provisions for time-saving sauces, rubs, and more, designed to make your grilling experiences even better. Check it out today!

**This post was originally published in April 2018. We’ve recently updated it with additional information and helpful tips, while keeping the recipe intact.