How To Make Homemade Beef Jerky For Backpack Hiking

Make This Hiking Backpack Treat Yourself

Making your own beef jerky is much simpler than you imagine. It is also a healthier version because you use a beef round roast which is a lean cut of beef. Some folks like to use a special gun tool to make jerky from ground beef.  I prefer to use my dehydrator, but some people like to use their kitchen oven. I'll explain both ways.  If you have a dehydrator, set it to 160 degrees, or up to 175. I rotate the racks hourly so that the meat cooks evenly.

 If you don't have a dehydrator, you could easily use a convection oven that will bake as low as 175 degrees. Place your jerky on wire racks. This method takes about 3 hours and you should rotate your racks hourly in case your oven has any "hot spots."  If you are fortunate enough to have an oven with a dehydrate setting, that's all the better. The point is you can use your everyday appliance and still make a great batch.

How Easy Is This?

Simply purchase a beef roast, eye of round or top round, either works good. Some grocers offer packages of thin sliced beef, which is also nice to eliminate slicing it. If you have to cut it yourself, you need to use a nice sharp knife and slice it as thin as you can. I tried deli roast beef once and didn't care for the outcome, so don't attempt that idea. Put your beef roast in your freezer for two hours. You will find that it makes it easier to slice thin. Always slice the meat against the grain.

Now, you will make the marinade in a bowl that you can custom make to suit your palette. You can add more Cayenne pepper than the recipe calls for if you like it real spicy. ALWAYS use fresh meat and ingredients for best taste and preservation.

For SPICY JERKY   Add to the bowl:

  • 2/3 cup Worchester sauce
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke (found in your grocer's spice aisle)
  • 1 Tablespoon Paprika (also a spice)
  • 1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (or course pepper from a can if you have no grinder)
  • 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (also in the spice aisle) or 1 1/2 tsp. if you like it hotter
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Onion powder

Mix all the above together to combine

NOTE: These spices may be an initial investment but for your next batch you'll already have them.

NOTE:  If you prefer a sweeter jerky, scroll down for another recipe. The procedure is the same, just different marinade ingredients.

Place your thin slices of beef into a gallon sized plastic zip bag making sure all pieces are coated with the marinade.  Place in your fridge overnight.


Next day, remove the beef from the marinade and pat it dry with a paper towel to speed the cooking time. Lay each piece separately on your dehydrator tray or wire racks if using your oven. It must cook for 3 1/2 - 4 hours, and you should rotate the racks every hour for even baking or dehydrating. If you slice it nice and thin it should take less than 4 hours. You will know it's done when it's no longer moist and can bend slightly. If it immediately breaks instead of slight bending, it is over cooked.


1 lb Beef Top Round

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 tbsp honey

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tsp rice vinegar

1 tsp ginger ground

2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp black pepper freshly ground

1/4 tsp sesame oil

1/4 cup water cold

How Long Will My Jerky Be Good In My Hiking Bag?

Unlike store made jerky, yours will have no preservatives however, you are using salt in this recipe which acts as a natural preservative. Due to using a lean cut of meat without the fat, your homemade jerky will last about 3 months. The dehydrating or baking process removes the internal liquid from the meat which eliminates mold or bacteria from forming. Commercial store-bought jerky lasts a year or more, but that makes me wonder, what the heck is in it?

You must understand that proper storage of homemade jerky is key.  Storing of your jerky properly keeps it fresh longer. You should use Ziploc bags and squeeze the air out before you seal them. If you have a vacuum sealer, that is ideal. If not, you can squeeze most of the air out of your bag before sealing it, or use a straw to suck the air out through a partially sealed bag with just a tiny part unsealed that's big enough to get the straw in. You can also freeze your jerky for a month if you make a big batch, then you can just grab a bag when you're heading off to the trail.

Proper packing methods will extend the life of your jerky naturally. You can recognize if your jerky has gone bad if it has a foul odor or is very hard (unfrozen). If your jerky is fresh, it has a reddish brown color to it, with slight flexibility. Not so fresh makes it hard, dark and brittle, and will break if you attempt to bend it slightly. Never take a chance on homemade jerky that is too old or wasn't sealed properly. It's not worth getting sick in the middle of your hiking adventure.

Have fun making your jerky, and even more fun eating it. You won't want store bought ever again! Happy Hiking!



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