The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe - Once Upon a Chef (2024)

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This is the best homemade beef jerky recipe, and it’s easy to make without any special equipment.

The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe - Once Upon a Chef (1)

After road tripping with my family and sampling jerky from gas stations along the way — and spending a small fortune on it — I resolved to come up with a good homemade beef jerky recipe. The good news is that beef jerky is surprisingly easy to make and doesn’t require any special equipment other than a standard oven, baking sheets, and wire racks. However, most homemade jerky isn’t nearly as tender as the store-bought kind. That’s because commercial jerky producers use special equipment and curing preservatives to make their signature jerky. Finally, after falling down an internet rabbit hole of pitmaster video tutorials, I learned the secret to making tender jerky at home: adding plenty of sugar to the marinade. The extra sugar not only helps preserve the meat but also locks in moisture. This recipe makes a salty-sweet, smoky jerky with a chewy yet tender texture, similar to the well-known brands.

What You’ll Need To Make Homemade Beef Jerky

The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe - Once Upon a Chef (2)When making beef jerky, it’s important to start with a well-trimmed, lean cut of meat, as fat does not dry out and accelerates spoilage. An eye of round roast is ideal; it’s affordable, accessible, lean, and easy to trim. Before slicing, pop it in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours; it will be much easier to cut.

The marinade contains soy sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, seasoning, and unseasoned meat tenderizer. Meat tenderizer contains bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down meat tissue. You can find it in the spice section of your supermarket (I use McCormick).

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Slice the Meat

The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe - Once Upon a Chef (3)
Slice the meat between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick with the grain. If the roast is too thick to slice easily, cut it in half horizontally before slicing.
The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe - Once Upon a Chef (4)

2. Make the Marinade

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, smoked paprika, meat tenderizer, black pepper, red pepper flakes, onion powder, and garlic powder.

The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe - Once Upon a Chef (5)

Whisk until evenly combined and the sugar is dissolved.

The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe - Once Upon a Chef (6)

3. Marinate the Beef

Add the meat to the marinade and toss until all of the pieces are evenly coated. Cover with plastic wrap (or transfer to a large ziplock bag) and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or overnight. Toss the meat (or flip the bag) once or twice to be sure the meat marinates evenly.

The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe - Once Upon a Chef (7)

4. Dry Out The Meat

Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Place a wire rack over each pan. Preheat the oven to 175°F and set two oven racks in the centermost positions.
Arrange the marinated meat on the wire racks in a single layer.

The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe - Once Upon a Chef (8)

Bake, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom midway through, until the meat is dried out, 3 to 4 hours. To determine if the jerky is thoroughly dried out, take a piece out of the oven and let it cool to room temperature. It should be dry to the touch, leather-like in appearance, and chewy but still somewhat tender.
The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe - Once Upon a Chef (9)

Store the jerky inside an airtight plastic container, Ziploc bag, or airtight glass jars. Properly dried jerky will keep at room temperature for about one week.

video tutorial

The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe - Once Upon a Chef (10)

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The Best Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe

Metric Cup Measures

By Jenn Segal

This is the best homemade beef jerky recipe, and it’s easy to make without any special equipment.

Servings: 12 to 14 servings

Prep Time: 30 Minutes

Cook Time: 3 Hours

Total Time: 3 Hours 30 Minutes, plus at least 12 hours to marinate

Ingredients

  • One 3-pound eye of round roast (see note), trimmed of fat and silver skin
  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon unseasoned meat tenderizer (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

  1. Slice the meat between ⅛ and ¼ inch thick with the grain. (If the roast is too thick to slice easily, cut it in half horizontally before slicing.)
  2. Make the marinade: In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, smoked paprika, meat tenderizer, black pepper, red pepper flakes, onion powder, and garlic powder. Whisk until evenly combined and the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add the meat to the marinade and toss until all of the pieces are evenly coated. Cover with plastic wrap or transfer to a large ziplock bag and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or overnight. Toss the meat (or flip the bag) once or twice to be sure the meat marinates evenly.
  4. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Place a wire rack over each pan. Preheat the oven to 175°F and set two oven racks in the centermost positions.
  5. Arrange the marinated meat on the wire racks in a single layer. Bake, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom midway through, until the meat is dried out, 3 to 4 hours. To determine if the jerky is thoroughly dried out, take a piece out of the oven and let it cool to room temperature. It should be dry to the touch, leather-like in appearance, and chewy but still somewhat tender.
  6. Store the jerky inside an airtight plastic container, Ziploc bag, or airtight glass jars. Properly dried jerky will keep at room temperature for about one week. Refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.
  7. Note: Pop the meat in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours before slicing; it will be easier to cut.
  8. Note: Meat tenderizer contains bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down meat tissue. You can find it in the spice section of your supermarket. (I use McCormick.)

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Comments

  • This is really just a question. Does anybody know when/where the idea of adding sugar to beef jerky come about? We used to live in Detroit, and in the 1970s, whenever we went up north on vacation, there was a grocery store in Rose City MI where we’d stop and load up for the season. Nobody we asked ever suggested adding sugar. It just wasn’t done.
    Eventually we figured out how to make it ourselves, but once we relocated to AZ in 1986, we never saw a jerky that wasn’t loaded with sugar. We still make our own, of course, just because you can’t buy jerky anywhere that doesn’t have sugar. We thought it was an AZ thing, but friends back in MI are also making their own now b/c they can’t find any without sugar, either.
    Thanks!

    • — Trudy Schuett on June 7, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Trudy, this recipe is truly great. We’re on third batch; each time modifying slightly to suit our tastes. In attempt to watch our sugar levels we did not add extra sugar to this batch; relying on the natural sweetness of the pineapple juice. We also added an extra bit of heat this “go around”. No one is missing the sugar; loving the added heat. Maybe give the recipe a try and see how you might want to modify it for you and your family. We found the recipe very easy and friendly to some variation.

      • — BJHK on June 29, 2024
      • Reply
  • This is so good! I’m marinating my third batch now. I don’t think I could buy commercially made ever again.

  • Jenn, thx so much for a great, fool proof, jerky recipe. Made first batch exactly as you shared and it was super good. In fact, the process and method have given flight to my confidence and I ventured forth with a second batch delving into my own iteration. Jenn’s recipe is easily adaptable to personal tastes and the method is replicable with other “tastes”. Thank you.

    • — BJHK on April 23, 2024
    • Reply
  • This is excellent. Really tasty! I was wondering though how to work out he calorie content of this. Any ideas?

    • — Kris on April 16, 2024
    • Reply
    • So glad you like it! I didn’t include the nutritional info for this intentionally. It’s hard to know how much of the marinade gets soaked into the beef and I didn’t want to provide inaccurate information – sorry!

      • — Jenn on April 19, 2024
      • Reply
  • Those of you looking for a jerky recipe look no further. I did a batch of elk and a batch of beef. this makes the best jerky you’re going to find. I did mine in the smoker with 1 pan of chips. It really is the best.

    • — Kelly Corbett on March 14, 2024
    • Reply
  • FANTASTIC RECIPE… BEST ONE YET! Followed recipe exactly with two small additions to the marinade to satisfy my heat demands Added 1 tsp of liquid smoke (hickory), and 1 tsp of Tabasco sauce and I confess, I also went a little heavy on the crushed red peppers. 4 1/2 hrs for perfect texture.
    Really was much better than any store bought, and at 80 years young, I’ve had a few.
    👏🏻😋👏🏻😋👏🏻😋👏🏻😋👏🏻😋👏🏻😋👏🏻😋👏🏻😋👏🏻😋👏🏻😋👏🏻😋👏🏻😋👏🏻😋

    • — Mel Stewart on March 10, 2024
    • Reply
  • I have made numerous beef jerkey recipies and this is the best so far. Everyone says to have foil for dripping, but prop your oven open a pinch with a wooden spoon or something to let the moisture escape. No foil needed and it cuts down on drying time a tone.

    • — Duane on February 28, 2024
    • Reply
  • I’ve tried making this recipe 3 times now. The first time the slices were closer to 1/4 inch thick and the last 2 attempts I sliced them as thin as I possibly could and they still took way longer than 3 hours at 175. First batch took 9 hours. 2nd and 3rd batch took close to 8 hours. Flavor is delicious though!

    • — Kara on February 20, 2024
    • Reply
  • This recipe is awesome.. sweet with a little heat. It will be my go to from now on.

    • — Bruce Byrum on February 20, 2024
    • Reply
  • This has become my go-to for beef jerky made in my air fryer (dehydrator mode). It’s so good. Thanks so much for the fantastic recipe. I sometimes add a bit of pineapple or pineapple/orange juice to the recipe, too. My son brings a bag of it to school and all of his friends beg him for some.

    • — Nathaniel on February 6, 2024
    • Reply
  • U need to flip jerky halfway through cooking ! This helped tremendously…

    • — Ebone on January 28, 2024
    • Reply
  • Simple recipe and the flavor is good. I would cut back on the brown sugar 3/4 to half, half will be good for me. Tastes vary. I used a flank steak as the grocer had no round roasts. Should have held out for the round or some other lean, lean roast. I used a raw onion as I had no onion powder I discovered. I also used my dehydrator as that is what I aways used to make jerky with in the past. Took 6 hours. Delicious.

    • — Mark Rollenhagen on December 14, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is the first jerky I’ve ever made. Did it yesterday. Turned out good. A little to spicey for my taste so cutting back on the hot pepper flakes. I read that in a lot of the other comments that it was too sweet. I used a cup of brown sugar but didn’t pack it. I’ll be making more jerky.

    • — Lori Nagle on December 4, 2023
    • Reply
  • Well…. You knocked that outta the park! I’ve been making jerky for years and never really settled to standardize. I make a different recipe (however slight) every time. This is quintessential beef jerky 101. You nailed it! Thank you for sharing.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on a “jerked” jerky.

    Johnny Klink

    • — Johnny on December 2, 2023
    • Reply
    • So glad you liked it Johnny! I’m not familiar with jerked jerky. If you want to elaborate, I can try to weigh in.

      • Jamaican jerk. I’ve toyed around but haven’t locked it up. I used chicken and beef. Great flavor, just does not pop like the recipe you put together. Thanks for getting back. 🙂

        • — Johnny Klink on December 8, 2023
        • Reply
        • Hi Johnny, I’d use my recipe and add the following to the marinade: 1 to 2 Scotch bonnet or Habanero chili peppers, stemmed (and seeded, if desired) and roughly chopped, ½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder, ¼ teaspoon allspice, ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, and ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg. Hope you enjoy if you try it!

          • — Jenn on December 15, 2023
          • Reply
  • Awesome easy recipe. I put 1/4 cup teriyaki instead of soy sauce. Best tip is prefreezeing meat for even slices. Get your hands into the meat to make sure all meat is getting marinade.

    • — Skibbs on November 28, 2023
    • Reply
  • I made this and it turned out perfect, so good. When I took the meat out of the marinade, I put it on paper towels and blotted it a little to get some of the wetness off. Made a huge difference and dried out nicely.

    • — Glenda on November 25, 2023
    • Reply
  • I use a recipe very similar to this. The only differences are I use pineapple juice for the bromelain. It gives it a slightly fruity taste. I also add a teaspoon of liquid smoke. Turns out great every time.

    • — Joe from Philly on October 14, 2023
    • Reply
    • Great Idea with the Pineapple Juice! Thanks!

      • — Alee on November 30, 2023
      • Reply
  • I like the ingredients that were in it thinking it would be great. I was not impressed. I did add a teaspoon of liquid smoke as I like smoky meat. Everything smelled good. Marinated about 36 hrs then smoked it in smoker with Hickory smoke chips. I don’t know what happened but there wasn’t much smoke to it.

    • — Kevin on October 6, 2023
    • Reply
  • I always use a dehydrator, which is the best way to make consistant beef jerky. I also am surprised that this recipe says to cut your beef with the grain?? Against the grain will provide you with a more tender piece of jerky, just like cutting any quality steak. I use about 1/3 of the brown sugar that it calls for, add hot sauce with the liquids and use a decent amount of cayenne pepper along with the other seasonings suggested here. All in all this is a good recipe to get you started and one that can be easily tweeked to the individuals taste and heat tollerance. I also use low sodium soy sauce to decrease the amount of salt in the recipe and it turns out great everytime. I made the mistake of sharing and now I get asked to make it all the time!! It’s fun but it is a process!!

    • — Tom on September 13, 2023
    • Reply
  • Too sweet, not enough spice. Maybe next time cut back on brown sugar, add some cayenne pepper.

    • — Bill F. on August 27, 2023
    • Reply
  • Wayyy too sweet. Will halve the sugar next time.

    • — Huey on August 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • Delicious

    • — Shmily on August 6, 2023
    • Reply
  • Very good flavor, but not spicy enough. I threw in two habaneros (threw in a blender with the soy sauce) and it was perfect.

    And don’t just toss the meat in the marinade, make sure to massage in for at least a minute. Found it made a pretty big difference.

    • — Dan Kritzer on August 3, 2023
    • Reply
  • Instead of using an oven, could you dry it out using a wood pellet smoker on the same temperature?

    • — Scott on July 31, 2023
    • Reply
    • I haven’t made this on a smoker, but I think it should work. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on August 1, 2023
      • Reply
  • This is verry good. A little bland though. I added a teaspoon of cayenne . After it was dried, I cut it into 1 inch squares with scissors. I then added 2 teaspoons of KC bbq rub and a quarter teaspoon of Willis Heat Wave to sprinkle in baggie. Then shake and put in freezer. Fantastic stuff. I make a 1 gallon baggie per month. I’m addicted.

    • — Mark Magnani on July 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • how long can it last up to?

    • — Maison parker on July 15, 2023
    • Reply
    • It will keep at room temp for about a week. You can refrigerate or freeze it for longer storage.

      • — Jenn on July 17, 2023
      • Reply
  • Outstanding on 3 lb London broil in an Excalibur, 155F for 5 hours.

    • — Denise on June 28, 2023
    • Reply
  • OMG! This takes me back nearly 50 years when we could buy tender, tasty jerky from the corner store – with COINS!

    • — Dexter on June 22, 2023
    • Reply
  • I’ve used this recipe for my pork jerky and it is the best I’ve had. I use the leanest portion of the loin, trimmed to nearly zero fat. I soak the pork loin in my own brine recipe for two days then slice it with or against the grain to a thickness between an eighth and a quarter inch, then basically follow the directions in this recipe. The only difference is the source of meat and the brining process. It’s a less costly alternative to beef and you won’t be disappointed.

    • — Mark R on May 24, 2023
    • Reply
  • This recipe for Beef Jerky, was absolutely the best I ever had! Easy, Sweet, Salty, Spicy all rolled into a mouth watering treat! Thank you for sharing!!!

    • — Jamie Rhea on May 1, 2023
    • Reply
  • This recipe is delicious, but to help cut back on the very salty recipe, we added 1 cup of apple juice, and used eye of round with our first batch with the apple juice, and this turned out really good. We made it again, and used London Broil this time, with the apple juice, and it turned out even better! We just adjusted some of the seasonings (not the salty meat tenderizer) to make up for the added apple juice, and it turned out absolutely delicious, and it more closely resembles the stuff you get in the store as far as texture goes. The taste of this recipe is far superior to the stuff in the store, and has more quality ingredients than all the high fructose corn syrup and other unpronounceables in it! We also store in the refrigerator to maximize shelf life, and can get it to last about a month. That is, if we do not eat it all, first! Great to take camping!

    • — Patricia on April 24, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is the only recipe I use for beef jerkey!! It is amazing!! I use a smoker instead of the oven for that smoke flavor!!

    • — Mindy on April 18, 2023
    • Reply
  • Tasty tender and my favorite jerky recipe.

    • — Dale Grantham on April 18, 2023
    • Reply
  • Nice recipe. But no help in the ingredient list and measurements. It kept sending me to a website for products to purchase.

    • — James on April 7, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi James, It sounds like you are just looking at the portion of the page that has the pictures with some instructions underneath. If you scroll down a bit to under the pictures, you’ll find the full recipe. Alternatively, at the very top of the page, to the right of the recipe name, you’ll see an orange/red button that says Jump to Recipe – if you click on that, it will take you directly to the recipe. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on April 10, 2023
      • Reply
      • I am going to make this today for my hubby and 3 boys , but just wondering would turning the convection oven on speed up the cooking process?

        • — Colleen on January 19, 2024
        • Reply
        • Hi Colleen, it may speed up the process a bit – I’d reduce the oven temperature by 25°F. Hope the boys enjoy!

          • — Jenn on January 19, 2024
          • Reply

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