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Making Alton Brown's Beef Jerky PDF Print E-mail
Written by Cris   
Sunday, 06 August 2006

 alton brown jerky


This weekend I decided to try Alton Brown's homemade beef jerky method.

I have made my own jerky in the past and even own a couple of dehydrators, but Alton's "ghetto" method using a box fan and furnace filters was intriguing so I wanted to give it a shot!



Here is the recipe verbatim from the food network website:

1 1/2 to 2 pounds flank steak
2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Special Equipment: 1 box fan, 4 paper air-conditioning filters, and 2 bungee cords

Trim the flank steak of any excess fat, place in a zip-top bag, and place it in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours in order to firm up.
Remove the steak from the freezer and thinly slice the meat with the grain, into long strips.

Place the strips of meat along with all of the remaining ingredients into a large, 1-gallon plastic zip-top bag and move around to evenly distribute all of the ingredients. Place the bag into the refrigerator for 3 to 6 hours.

Remove the meat from the brine and pat dry. Evenly distribute the strips of meat onto 3 of the air filters, laying them in the grooves and then stacking the filters on top of one another. Top these with 1 empty filter. Next, lay the box fan on its side and lay the filters on top of it. Strap the filters to the fan with 2 bungee cords. Stand the fan upright, plug in and set to medium. Allow the meat dry for 8 to 12 hours.



 Even though I don't usually care for "soy Sauce" jerky, I wanted to follow the recipe as faithfully as possible, so first I gathered my ingredients:

and my hardware:

then I turned my attention to the steak

This was a little more that I would have wanted to spend, so it would seem to be a good idea to wait for the meat to go on sale.  Flank steak was not the cheapest meat in the case, and I could have gotten other cuts for less, but like I said, I wanted to follow the recipe this time. 

First, I put the meat on a cookie sheet and slid it into the freezer to harden for about an hour.  A little longer would have been better, but It still worked out fine.

While that was freezing to a semi hard texture, I prepared the marinade:

1TBL honey

I TSP Liquid Smoke

2 TSP freshly ground black pepper (I ground into the measuring cup to make it easier)

1 TSP red pepper flakes. (I used one of my homegrown habaneros instead)

2 TSP onion powder

2/3 cup soy sauce

2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce

This obviously didn't take the whole hour I had to wait for the meat to freeze, but by the time I had the kitchen cleaned and the marinade made, it was just about time to slice...

The first thing I did once I took the meat out of the freezer was remove the excess fat.

I just removed the big pieces. You'll never get it all, and I just pick off the rest after it is dried.
Here's what it looked like after trimming.

After freezing for a bit, the meat was definitely easier to defat and slice into strips as promised.  After removing the excess fat above, following the grain of the meat, I cut it into 1/4 thin strips.  Not all of them were the same, but I tried to get them as even as possible.

Then I combined the marinade and strips in a ziptop bag

and squeezed out the air to get the meat totally surrounded by the marinade

At this point I had to wait.  I waited about 4 hours while the meat marinated in the refrigerator...

...after 4 hours, I patted the strips dry

and laid them into my filters.  It only took 2 filters, so I saved one for next time.  (They were not as cheap as I would have hoped- about $3-4 each- so I did not want to waste).

Then I bungeed the whole thing together and set it in the window to dry.  It will take at least the rest of the day and overnight I would guess.

Be careful when you bungee, I had a few escapees and had to repack my filters!

After 24 hours I decided to check the meat.

alton jerky

 It had shrunk down in size enough for me to get all of the strips into one filter.

The thinnest strips are completely dry at this point, but the thicker ones are not, and the fat is still pretty greasy. 

here is a close-up picture.


Since it did not seem quite done, I repacked the filters (only 1 this time) and set it back in the window for some more drying time.

After about 16 more hours in front of the fan, it did not seem like any more progress had been made so I called it done.  It had shrunk down by over half.  From my original 2lb steak, I had roughly 13 or 14 oz of jerky.

This is what it looked like!

You can see the fat within the strips in this picture pretty well.  I think next time I'll try a leaner cut of meat to see if it makes a difference.

I packed the sticks in a canister and took it to work for taste testing...

At work everyone liked it.  Some liked the habanero- some thought you couldn't taste it enough.  Nobody thought it was too hot though.

Seems like a crowd pleaser, and it did not take long before it was all gone!  In fact, most people said that they liked the fat in the meat.  They said it made it taste good :)


All in all- I think anyone who likes storebought jerky will really like the homemade stuff. For me- it is a little too "soy sauce-y" which I sort of predicted.  Be sure to get a Worcestorshire sauce that you like though, because that is the flavor that seems to dominate.  It's not bad, but I am spoiled by real smoked jerky now I suppose.  Even with the habanero, it was not noticably spicy, so if you want more of a kick, add some red pepper at the end as you pack the meat into the dehydrator. 

I'm also not convinced that Flank steak was the best choice.  It was not the cheapest meat, and not the leanest either.  Even if you meticulously picked all of the fat from the outside, there is fat through and through, which made the final product a bit greasy.  Sure it is tasty, but you need a napkin.

What about the fan method?  Well- what can I say. It DOES work and is very easy. I'm not sure why food network rates this as an "expert" level recipe! However, for the $37 I plunked down on parts, I probably could have gotten a new food dehydrator.  Granted, the dehydrator does not also help me ventilate my shop or cool down my living room when I am not using it to dry food, - so the fan method definitely gets bonus points for multitasking! It also scores for ease of cleanup.  Just toss the dirty filter in the trash!  My dehydrator always requires a lot of scrubbing to remove the dried on marinade...  One note: I was not able to find cheap paper filters in the 20x20 size, so I had to get ones that were made from some sort of spun fiber.  I do not think it was fiberglass, probably more like poylester (it looks a lot like pillow stuffing),  but anyway, I found that some of the meat was sticking to the fibers- so I'll have to be extra careful when I take everything out to make sure I don't eat any of the fabric!

The next time I made jerky, I went back to my own recipe and my dehydrators, but overall this method was very easy and tastes pretty good too.  If you've already got a fan lying around, give it a try!


Thanks for the sample
Written by blu jerkey on 2006-08-07 15:56:24
- I like the Habenero variation. Subtle but there.  
- Once it is dried, what would happen if you put it in the microwave? Would it crisp the fat? Then it wouldn't be greasy? (didn't seem greasy that greasy anyway)  
- I am supprised it took so long to dry, isn't the air like 110 degrees outside at your house? You would think your drying time would be cut in half in Hot Dry climates. 
- Using the fan to cool your house while drying, how does your house smell? Have a vegitarian over for some tea. 
Written by kimncris on 2006-08-07 16:11:28
It smelled like meat on Sat- but Sun it was gone. The fan was pretty loud though- that's one drawback. 
It might have been dry sooner, I just didn't want to chance taking it out too early! 
Thanks for the comments :) 
Written by kimncris on 2006-08-07 17:17:40
I tried the microwave trick- it did defat the meat! But now it tastes burnt :( Ah well- you win some you lose some. 
Written by Guest on 2007-04-01 15:22:00
For years I've hung jerky meat across my oven racks and dried it with the door propped open just a touch. It works, but is wasteful in electricity. THIS idea is just too cool not to try! 
Does running the fan vertically over, say, horizontally atop some props make any difference as far as air flow/ drying time goes? 
Written by kimncris on 2007-04-02 13:01:58
Hi Jerry, 
I do not think that would make a difference as long as you have good air flow. I like my "dehydrator" jerky a little better, but this method definitely works! 
Good read
Written by Guest on 2007-07-07 14:08:20
Thanks for trying this out for all to see. I love alton brown, and was going to try this. What was the ambient temp when you did this method? The one thing that stuck out in the "Good Eats" episode is the difference between dehydrating with cold/dry air as opposed to heat. Do you think it would make a difference if this method was done in the cold of winter vice middle of summer? 
Also, what is a good "forgiving" cut of meat for a rookie?
Written by Guest on 2007-07-08 09:02:23
well, I think Alton said Winter is even better because of the dry air, but who knows. It's worth a try! But now it is summer unless you are in the southern hemisphere... 
I used flank steak, but if you look at my other recipe, I used roast beef which also came out great. 
thanks for dropping a line! 
comment from Mark
Written by kimncris on 2008-06-26 14:29:40
I got this via email today 
I have fiddled and made this recipe dozens of times now and have made 
the following modifications. I admit the honey. I no longer use 
filters as they are to expensive. I use cookie racks and lay them across the 
fan as it sits horizantal (blowing down) across 2 chairs. I use a 
bottom (or top) round (which ever is cheaper). Sometimes I add the red 
pepper flakes - but I usually do not. Sometimes I just add half. I also 
always add extra black pepper. This turns out to be at least half the 
price of alton's. When I take a batch to work it disappears in a day 
and most people say it is the best they have ever had. Oh ya- if you 
add some msg or meat tenerizer to the marinade, the jery disappears even 

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Last Updated ( Monday, 28 August 2006 )
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