What Meat to Use for Beef Jerky: A Quick Guide

Last update on 2021-11-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

There is no easier way to preserve food than dehydrating it. Dehydration removes 98% of the water and moisture in your food, ensuring it doesn’t spoil as quickly. Aside from making delicious snacks that can last without refrigeration, you can dehydrate almost anything

One of the most beloved dehydrated snacks? Beef jerky! 

According to a U.S Census conducted, nearly 160 million Americans reported consuming jerky on a regular basis. 

Because of the cooking process making the meat much denser per pound purchased, the price of picking up jerky at the grocery can be steep. Not to worry, because if you have your own food dehydrator, and you know what meat to use for beef jerky, then making it yourself can be done with ease!

If you’ve been wanting to make your own homemade beef jerky, but keep getting hung up on questions about what kind of meat to use for beef jerky, and finding the best cuts, we’ve got you covered

What Meat to Use for Beef Jerky

When you walk into your local grocery store, you might feel a little overwhelmed with the meat selection. Finding the perfect, quality cut of beef should be easy.

Here’s a rank of the top 5 cuts to put in your food dehydrator. 

1. Round Cut 

The round cut is from the rear and is sometimes referred to as the rump cut and is the best meat to use for beef jerky. You might also find it labeled as the top round, bottom round, or eye round. The eye round is what most jerky companies use, but any of these should work.

When working with a round-cut, you should be able to easily see the ‘grain’ of the meat. The grain is referring to the direction in which the muscle tissue is running. If you cut against the grain you can get a more tender piece of meat, cut with the grain, and your result is a chewier piece of jerky. 

When choosing your meat for beef jerky, you want to go for a leaner piece of meat or something with less fat. This also makes the round or eye cut the top choice, as it is one of the leanest cuts you can find.

Simply cut to your desired tenderness, season to your taste, and voila! The perfect homemade beef jerky. 

2. Flank Steak 

Although the flank steak tends to be a pricier cut, we can’t deny how well it works for making beef jerky. The grain of the meat is coarser than most other cuts, so you can get some of the most tender pieces from it.

The steak alone has a very bold flavor to it, which is only enhanced once you dehydrate it. Not only that, but the meat takes well to any marinade or seasoning, so you can make some very flavorful jerky from it!

As stated above, just be prepared to spend a little extra for it at your local butcher. Aside from the price point making this cut number two on the list, the flank steak is a great choice for making your own jerky. 

3. Sirloin 

Sirloin is a very popular cut of meat, used in a variety of beef-based recipes. Its affordable price and availability in markets make it very common to have. In fact, most of the cuts of steak are taken from the same section. 

The sirloin cut is taken near the rear or round cut, right above the tenderloin. Even though the beef does have a lining of fat, it can easily be trimmed off to leave little to no marbling, making it a lean, perfect cut for turning into jerky. 

4. Short Loin 

The short loin is located right behind the rib and above the flank. It’s also an undeniably flavorful and tender cut of meat, as it’s the same cut our t-bone and porterhouse steaks come from. So why is this great cut ranked number four? 

When you’re picking meat for your beef jerky, you want to go towards the leaner cuts. What makes the steak from this section so flavorful is the marbling found in the meat. It’s not impossible to have great jerky from this cut, but it isn’t the best cut to make it from. 

It’s also one of the pricier cuts of meat, with most porterhouse steaks coming in at $14.99 per pound. If you’re on board with the price tag, it can make delicious beef jerky! 

5. Tenderloin 

The tenderloin is another cut that many are familiar with. As the name of it implies, it is the most tender piece of beef you can get. It’s also where our beloved filet mignon comes from. 

You may be surprised to see what’s usually ranked the top choice of beef, ranked number five. We’re not saying this cut isn’t tender and delicious, in fact, the opposite! Many love jerky for its chewy, heartier taste.

Tenderloin cuts are so tender, that even when dehydrated, they’re often still too tender for many’s tastes. It’s not impossible to turn into jerky, but it’s best reserved if you’re looking for a much tender bite of jerky. 

Quick-Tips To Remember When Making Your Own Beef Jerky 

The same as wanting the best quality of anything else in life, don’t skimp on the quality of meat you choose. Remember, the leaner, the better! Throw everything you thought you knew about picking the best steaks out the window.

The truth is, dehydrated fat just isn’t good. The tender bites won’t be coming from the marbling when you dehydrate it. 

You also want to be sure you have the proper equipment. Now that you know what meat to use for beef jerky, make sure you know the best dehydrators to use as well! 

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