One of the single biggest things you can do to ensure your jerky batches are the most consistent batches possible is to have all of your meat pieces be the same thickness during the drying process.
Think about it! If you had a piece of meat that was paper thin and another piece of meat that was like a thick piece of steak...would you expect them to dry out at the same rate? Of course not!
When put through the dehydration process, the thinner piece would be dry far before the thicker piece. Not to mention, even after the thick piece dried it would have a completely different texture than the thin piece. Even though this is an exaggerated example, the point is clear:
To make sure your whole batch of jerky has a consistent texture and has a uniform level of dryness during your cook time, make sure your meat is the same thickness throughout your batch!
There are several ways to do this, depending on whether you are making your jerky from ground meat or whole muscle meat.
Ground Meat Jerky
The most inexpensive way to make jerky is to make it using ground meat, rather than whole muscle meat. With some basic tools, simple ingredients, and no experience necessary, you can have your first batch ready-to-eat in only hours!
Ground meat is generally less per pound than whole muscle meat, requires no trimming of fat which therefore yields to more jerky per pound of meat purchased. It is also usually very tender, making it easier to chew and a wide-appealing snack for even the pickiest eaters.
The only think you will need that you may not have in your kitchen already, is a jerky gun. A jerky gun is basically a food grade caulk gun or grease gun that you load your seasoned meat into, then shoot out strips or sticks of meat ready for drying in your oven, dehydrator, or smoker!
The Jerky.com Jerky Gun comes with both a 1-3/16" x 3/16" flat strip tip (for making jerky strips) and a 1/2" round nozzle (for making jerky sticks). These tips produce different textures for your jerky...so you have some options to fine tune your jerky to your preferences. These tips will ensure that all of the jerky you extrude maintains the same shape and thickness across your entire batch.
Jerky.com has 3 different Jerky Guns available for your needs. Whether you are a beginner looking to make jerky only a couple of times a year or if you want to keep your family's pantry always stocked up with healthy snacks, we have the Jerky Gun for you. With 3 different capacity levels and all of the accessories you could need, you'll be sure to find the Jerky Gun that fits your needs.
Sliced Meat Jerky
For a more traditional style of jerky, you'll want to go with a sliced meat jerky made from whole muscle meat. This requires a little bit more work than ground meat jerky...but, here are the easiest ways to do it:
1. Have the meat department do it! Seriously. They will do this (at least, the good ones will!). When you are getting your meat from your grocery store or meat market, simply ask the people running the meat counter to slice it at 1/4" for you. This is the easiest way to do this...plus, it's completely free and requires you to have no specialty tools!
2. Use a Jerky Slicing Board. This is basically a cutting board with a recessed area to set your meat. Then, using the sides of the jerky board as a guide, take a meat slicing knife parallel to the board slicing through the meat leaving a uniformly sliced piece of meat in the recess area of the board. This way uses the simplest tools possible to achieve consistent slices from a larger piece of meat.
3. Use a manual jerky slicer such as this one made by Weston to clamp onto your counter top and crank out many slices from one piece of meat. This has a little bit higher cost and is a little more specialized, but, it will last for years and years while producing very consistent results.
4. Use an electric meat slicer to cut your meat into slices yourself. This is the same type of equipment your butcher would use to do this...and they come in many different sizes, motors, and price ranges. But, this one from Weston is a good, simple meat slicer to start with. With your own slicer, you'll be able to more easily experiment with different types of cuts and different thicknesses to really fine-tune your jerky making skills. Of course, it's not necessary...but, if you plan on making jerky regularly and really enjoy the process of making your jerky unique to your tastes, it might be an investment worth considering. Plus, you can use a meat slicer like this for more than just jerky in the kitchen!