Jerkin’ off!

A blast-from-the-past article…

This was the first attempt at jerky making that fuelled a meat-curing craze.

Quite simply the set up is:

  • a cardboard box
  • a small fan heater (like you might have under your desk for warming your feet)
  • racks made from coathangers

As you can see the front flaps have cutouts so that the fan heater can butt up against the box.  What you can’t see is that there’s a hole cut in the top of the box to let the air exhaust out (and take the moisture with it).

Above are some of the ingredients that went into the marinade.  The cut of meat is topside – it is important you choose a meat that is cut with the grain.

Simply slice of long strips of meat.  Bash any flat that come out too thick – but remember that the meat will shrink as it dries.

Thread them onto bamboo kebab skewers.  Shove the pointy end into the wall of the cardboard box and rest the other end on the coathanger rail.  Close the box up and start up the fan.

I used a thermocouple attached to a multimeter to monitor air temperatures.  Remember you’re trying to dry the meat not incubate all the bacteria in it, so stay away from the danger zone around blood heat.  Also its the air flow that will dry it more so than the heat.  I think we used a temperature around 50C.  It took overnight to dry.

How does it turn out?  Very, very well.  I would take big pocket fulls of jerky up to the pub with me.

Drawbacks with this approach?  The box gets juicy and then eventually grows mould – it is cardboard after all!  It’s also pretty energy intensive (running a heater fan for many hours) – I ended up dealing with that problem when I moved to the biltong phase.  But more about that some other time…


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