Lobel's Prime Meats on Manhattan's Upper East Side is known for their fine (expensive) cuts of meat, excellent service, and family-owned small-shop vibe. So it was with great excitement that I opened the new book by the Lobel's, Lobel's Meat Bible (Chronicle Books). Within its pages, the recipes that jumped out at me first weren't the Filet Mignons and Rib Eyes, although fans of the fancy stuff will not be let down by this impressive volume. Rather, it was the beef jerky.
Maybe it's because I've been thinking about a camping staycation, or maybe it's the fact that my daughter just went to school for the first time and I have after-school snacks on the brain, but I had to admit I'd never made my own jerky. And after saying that out loud, I had to remedy it.
I adapted the marinade in the Lobel recipe quite a bit, but the technique is the same. This is a great DIY recipe perfect for your fall camping trips, back-to-school lunch boxes, or cocktail hour snacks (goes great with a rich but not over-powering wine, like Chenin Blanc).
I've written the recipe out for beef, using flank steak which usually comes in big slabs of two or more pounds. If your flank steak is a two or two and a half pounder, you can adjust the seasonings, but don't fret too much over amounts. Similarly, if you aren't big on, say, sesame, leave it out. Add fresh ginger, a squirt of lemon juice, a dash of Tabasco. You know what flavors you like, don't be afraid to experiment here.
If you prefer turkey jerky, substitute turkey breast meat. For fish, a firm steak like tuna or salmon works best.
Homemade Beef Jerky
makes 1-2 pounds
adapted from Lobel's Meat Bible
3 pounds flank steak (can also use brisket or London broil)
1/2 cup tamari or other soy sauce
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered ginger
Place meat in freezer for an hour or so before you start. This will make it a lot easier to slice. If using a flank steak that is packaged folded up, unfurl it before freezing.
Using a sharp chef's knife, cut the meat into strips roughly 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. First slice across the top of the meat, such as you see salmon being sliced at a deli. (see second photo from top, above) Then cut that thin slab into strips. Most pieces will be 4 to 8 inches long. You can cut your strips either against the grain for the classic chewy jerky look and feel, or with the grain which will produce a more sinewy texture (see photo below).
Combine remaining ingredients in a doubled large zippered plastic bag or glass baking dish. Add sliced meat and coat with marinade. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight, turning a few times to distribute the marinade.
Preheat the oven to 175°F. The temperature here is really important so confirm with an oven thermometer that you are at 175°F. You may have to prop open the door an inch or two with a wadded up dishtowel or hot pad. Arrange cooling racks over foil-lined baking sheets. Remove pieces of meat from marinade, draining off liquid first, and place side by side on the racks.
Place sheets of meat in oven and allow it to dry out. This can take as little as 2 and as many as 6 hours, depending on the thickness and moistness of the meat, and how chewy you want it to be. Jerky will firm up as it cools. Check the oven temperature regularly to ensure it does not get too low (some finicky oven pilots can go out at such a low temperature) and adjust as needed.
Stored in an airtight container and kept in a cool, dry place, well-dried beef will last for a month or more. More tender beef will last a few weeks at most.
• Get the book: Lobel's Meat Bible by Stanley Lobel, Evan Lobel, Mark Lobel, and David Lobel (Amazon, $25.74)
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