The Definitive Guide to Picking the Best Meat for Beef Jerky

In this guide I'm going to share my old family secrets to picking the best meat for beef jerky that I learned from my papaw. Papaw was a butcher back in the olden' days.​ 

Some of my best memories of Papaw are from that butcher shop. Anyways.. I'm not going to take you on a trip down memory lane today. We're here to talk jerky!

Let's begin!​

You want the leanest cut available to avoid having your jerky spoil later on due to the fat contained in the meat. Nobody likes spoiled jerky!

Only buy fresh meat when making jerky. Meat with dark spots, expired meat, or even meat that is reaching its expiration date are not good choices for jerky. Gross. A nice lean cut of meat is the best meat for beef jerky.

Make sure you account for the meat shrinking when you plan your meat purchase: after being dehydrated, meat will be only 1/3 the size. For one pound of finished jerky, purchase 2.5-3 pounds of beef.

Take on the extra expense of getting the freshest beef possible instead of risking a spoiled batch.

Remember to ask your butcher for help!

I remember when I would sweep the floors in my papaw's butcher shop customers would always ask him for advice! He was happy to help.

Most butchers will help you inspect cuts of meat for fat content, and even cut the meat for you if you ask. Get friendly with your local butcher and get ready to make some great beef jerky. Some butchers will even trim the fat for you, giving you the best meat for beef jerky possible. Yum!

The 4 best cuts of beef for jerky​

best meat for beef jerky

Shout out to Arnold Gatilao for the great sirloin top photo

Once you've read the top section, you'll need to decide your budget for your meat. You can make great jerky with a number of different cuts that vary in price. I have arranged these in order from most expensive cut to least expensive.

1. Flank Steak

Flank steak is a very lean cut of beef, which is exactly what you're looking for when you're making jerky.

Flank tends to be more tender and flavorful than other cuts, so it's worth the slightly higher price to pay for quality jerky.

Flank steaks can sell for about $7-8 per pound.

2. Brisket Flats

With this cut, you'll want to select the individual cut that has the least fat and marbling on it.

Don't be afraid to ask your butcher to see both sides of the cuts before making your selection. Again, the less fat the better when it comes to jerky.

Brisket cuts typically sell for about $5.00 per pound.

3. Eye of Round, Bottom Round, and Top Round

These three cuts all come from the same area of the cow, and provide less expensive, but still flavorful jerky. The drawback with these cuts is that they will require a bit of fat trimming before use, so keep that in mind.

Round cuts will vary slightly in cost, averaging around $5.00 per pound.

4. Ground Beef

Yes, it is possible to make jerky from ground beef. Make sure you choose the package with the lowest fat content, and you're on your way to a cost-effective, tasty batch of jerky.

Ground beef is the most affordable of the bunch, selling for around $3.50 per pound at many grocers.

Once You've Gotten the Meat Home

After you've purchased the meat, you'll want to prepare it to get the best jerky possible. Wrap the meat tightly in plastic and freeze for 30 minutes to an hour to firm it up for cutting. This creates an easier cut than totally thawed meat.

When it comes time to cut the meat, you have a big decision to make: against the grain or with the grain?

If your meat is more tender, you will want to cut with the grain so that the cut of beef doesn't fall apart during the drying process.

However, if your meat is less tender, you will want to cut against the grain to produce finished jerky that is easier to chew.

Once your meat is prepped and cut, you can move on to marinading your meat overnight to seal in your favorite flavors. Then you can dry it using your oven or a home dehydrator.

The Easiest Beef Jerky Recipe Ever!
(Thanks BBQ Pit Boys)

Hope you enjoyed our guide to picking the Best Meat for Beef Jerky

You now have all the information you need to create delicious beef jerky at home on any budget.

Remember to look for the freshest cuts of meat that contain the least fat, and keep your cuts in mind when deciding whether to cut with the grain or against it. We suggest using a good dehydrator for making jerky at home.

Don't forget to give your meat a quick trip to the freezer before cutting to make your life easier.

That's all there is to it! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. I hope you enjoy trying some new jerky recipes, or even creating your own!


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