Monday, April 8, 2013

Dried meat: Homemade beef jerky

You can dry many types of meat, including beef, pork, goat, deer, and even some types of seafood, such as mussels. Drying meat tends to significantly increase the meat’s protein content per gram, often more than doubling it. It also helps preserve the meat, as bacteria need an aqueous environment to grow; adding salt helps further prevent bacterial growth.

Dried meat preparation and consumption was common among the Plains Indians (e.g., of the Cheyenne, Comanche, and Lakota tribes), and also a valuable trade item for them. They often ground the dried meat into a powder, mixing fat and berries with them; the result of which was pemmican. Many other hunter-gatherer cultures around the world have incorporated dried meat into their diets.

Below is a recipe for homemade beef jerky, which is very close in terms of nutrition content to the dried meat of the Plains Indians's time; that is, the time when the Plains Indians subsisted mostly on bison. Commercial beef jerky typically has a lower nutrient-to-calorie ratio, in part because sugar is added to it. The recipe is for beef jerky, but can be used to make jerky with bison meat as well.

- Cut about 3 lbs of beef muscle into thin strips (see photo below). Ideally you should buy it partially cut already, with most of the fat trimmed. Cutting with or against the grain doesn’t seem to make much difference, at least to me.

- Prepare some dry seasoning powder by mixing salt and cayenne pepper.

- Season the strips and place them on a tray with a grid on top, so that the fat that will come off the meat is captured by the tray and doesn’t drip into the oven.

- Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees Fahrenheit, and place the strips in it until you can easily pull a piece of the meat off with your fingers (see photos below, for an idea of how they would look). This should take about 1 hour or so. You will not technically be “baking” or "cooking" the meat at this temperature, although the digestibility of the final product will be comparable to that of cooked meat – i.e., greater digestibility than raw meat.

- Leave the strips in the oven until they are cold, this will dry them further.

Homemade beef jerky, prepared as above, is supposed to be eaten cold. In this sense, it could be thought of as a bit like salami, but with a higher protein-to-fat ratio. If your kids eat this on a regular basis, I suspect that their future orthodontist needs will be significantly reduced. Homemade beef jerky, like the commercial one, requires some serious chewing.

The dried strips of meat can be kept outside the fridge for a long time, but if you intend to keep them for more than a few weeks, I would suggest that you keep them in the fridge. Interestingly, adding sugar apparently increases the non-refrigerated shelf life of beef jerky even further. It doesn’t improve the flavor though, in my opinion.

This is a zero-carbohydrate food item, which may be a good choice for those who are insulin resistant or diabetic, and also for those on low-carbohydrate or just-enough-carbohydrate diets. Often I hear bodybuilders who eat multiple meals per day to say that it is hard for them to prepare high-protein snacks that they can easily carry with them. Well, beef jerky is one option.


Unknown said...

What is your opinion of this

"A compound abundant in red meat and added as a supplement to popular energy drinks has been found to promote atherosclerosis -- or the hardening or clogging of the arteries -- according to Cleveland Clinic research published online this week in the journal Nature Medicine.

The study shows that bacteria living in the human digestive tract metabolize the compound carnitine, turning it into trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), a metabolite the researchers previously linked in a 2011 study to the promotion of atherosclerosis in humans. Further, the research finds that a diet high in carnitine promotes the growth of the bacteria that metabolize carnitine, compounding the problem by producing even more of the artery-clogging TMAO.

Prior research has shown that a diet with frequent red meat consumption is associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, but that the cholesterol and saturated fat content in red meat does not appear to be enough to explain the increased cardiovascular risks. This discrepancy has been attributed to genetic differences, a high salt diet that is often associated with red meat consumption, and even possibly the cooking process, among other explanations. But Hazen says this new research suggests a new connection between red meat and cardiovascular disease.

"This process is different in everyone, depending on the gut microbe metabolism of the individual," he says. "Carnitine metabolism suggests a new way to help explain why a diet rich in red meat promotes atherosclerosis."

While carnitine is naturally occurring in red meats, including beef, venison, lamb, mutton, duck, and pork, it's also a dietary supplement available in pill form and a common ingredient in energy drinks. With this new research in mind, Hazen cautions that more research needs to be done to examine the safety of chronic carnitine supplementation.

"Carnitine is not an essential nutrient; our body naturally produces all we need," he says. "We need to examine the safety of chronically consuming carnitine supplements as we've shown that, under some conditions, it can foster the growth of bacteria that produce TMAO and potentially clog arteries."

Unknown said...

"What this suggests is that maybe there really is a major mechanism associated with red meat consumption that's associated with cardiac risk factors independent of effects on blood cholesterol. Based on this data it makes sense to eat red meat in moderation at most even if your cholesterol is well-controlled."

While the connection between a diet high in red meat and heart disease is well established, the association can't be entirely explained by the amount of cholesterol and fat in the foods, Rader and Hazen explained.

"The risk of heart disease is disproportionately high to the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in the meat," said Hazen.

Carnitine seems to account for some of that unexplained risk, he said.

In this most recent study, published April 7 in Nature, Hazen's group tested the carnitine and TMAO levels of omnivores, vegetarians and vegans to see if there were differences in the levels of the two substances due to diet.

They also took blood samples to test for carnitine and TMAO from more than 2,500 patients undergoing elective heart evaluations, and examined the effects of a carnitine-heavy diet on mice.

One of the study's biggest surprises, Hazen said, was how large an impact vegan and vegetarian diets had on the formation of TMAO from carnitine; people in the study who did not habitually eat red meat did not produce the plaque-forming TMAO even when they were given large doses of carnitine in the form of a steak or a supplement.

Yet even those who eschew red meat may not be immune to the effects of carnitine, Hazen warned, because of the substance's frequent use as an energy-boosting supplement.

"It's everywhere," he said. "The amount of carnitine in many energy drinks is equivalent to a porterhouse steak, or more. Especially if you're talking about kids who are being targeted with all this advertising, drinking these drinks is like eating steaks every day and they're getting it in a can and don't even realize it."

While it's going to take a lot more research to be sure what the long-term effects of supplemental carnitine intake might be, Hazen is concerned.

"It's shifting their [gut] flora to one that's more likely to promote atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries," he said. "I wouldn't want my family members drinking these."

"I do think that's a second source of carnitine in the diet that people aren't aware of and don't think of being deleterious," Rader said. "This suggests that if you're a habitual consumer of supplemental carnitine you may being putting yourself at higher cardiovascular risk."

Eating a lot of red meat can cause heart disease | Health | News | Daily Express

A very small amount of red meat such as beef, pork or lamb, may be beneficial. But the latest study, carried out at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, concluded high consumption of red meat can be dangerous.

Dr Stanley Hazen, head of cardiovascular medicine at the clinic, said: “Discovery of a link between L-carnitine ingestion, gut microbiota metabolism and cardiovascular disease risk has broad health-related implications.”

The study found vegetarians and vegans had a lower ability to metabolise L-carnitine. They had lower levels of certain types of gut bacteria, suggesting that eating red meat encourages the growth of bacteria which use L-carnitine as an energy source.

The results point to L-carnitine, rather than saturated fat and cholesterol, as the link between red meat and cardiovascular disease.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Charles. Regarding the purported negative effects of red meat, I am completely unconvinced, as you can see here:

This new study links TMAO with atherosclerosis, but TMAO seems to counter a negative health effect associated with destabilization of proteins:

Whenever I see a study suggesting that a protective compound (let us call it P) is associated with disease (D), I tend to always consider the possibility of reverse causation.

That is, instead of P > D, we may have D > P. The more you have disease (D), the more you also have of the protective compound (P), to counter the disease.

Aaron Blaisdell said...

Thanks for sharing your jerky recipe. I'm fortunate to be able to buy unadulterated jerky from grass-fed cows from my pastured beef vendor at my local farmers market. But I may have to try making my own when I have more time this summer.

I agree, it is great travel food.

Paleolithic diet plan said...

The one that is home made is always so delicious and mouthwatering!! Thank you for sharing this one with us!! Take care!

Unknown said...

It looks rather tasty. Want to try sometime.
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Anonymous said...

How thick were your slices? Butcher cut my roast to about 1/4 inch and after 3 hours at 200F, it's not jerky. Thanks for all the information.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Anon. I think the ones on the photo were about 1/4. What do you mean by “it's not jerky”?

Anonymous said...

Hi Ned. I meant that it hadn't dried enough, but I sliced it into thin strips, waited another hour, and it's good. Looking back, the original pieces were probably close to 1/2 inch. Thanks again for the site and the information.

Unknown said...

I prefer my jerky not heat dried but air dried:

Cut strips about 3/4" square with the grain. Season to taste. Cut an opening into the top of a cardboard box and hang the strips from an oven rack placed over the opening. Make an opening on one of the sides of the box for a small fan - a computer fan works well - and turn it on. Place the box anywhere convenient with a room temperature between 60F and 80F. After 2 to 4 days the jerky or biltong is ready. Cut into .5 to 1" pieces before eating. It will last several weeks. It tastes much more like real meat than the oven dried stuff. I like just a bit of salt for seasoning.

Ned Kock said...

The main difference between biltong and jerky is that the former is cut in thicker pieces.

Ned Kock said...

Has anyone tried sun-drying meat?

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Unknown said...

I just finished drying a batch of elk jerky - I made a drying rack that hangs over our wood-stove. With the eco-fan blowing we get dry jerky in about 36 hours. We dry fruit etc. It never gets too hot, but the heat from the wood stove makes the fan spin and the convection heating creates air flow too. We live in a cold dry climate at high altitude.

The optimal way to make Jerky is to hang it in colder air with excellent air flow - ie wind. I have always wanted to make jerky on a cold fall day with a good wind! but we We don't dry outside due to the likely hood of attracting bears etc.

The sun over will work but hight heat will cook the meat, instead of drying it. :)

ps - hers is my favorite recipe:

marinate for 4-6 hours in apple cider vinager, fresh or dry sage and thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, maple syrup, salt. I grew sick of the soy/terryaki sauce type long ago!

PS - jerky was used by the NA indians as an ingredient in other dishes like soups and stews, and as you poin out - pemmican. It was not to be eaten alone, too much protien - not balanced with offal, bone/cartilage, fat.

Great blog!!

Mary said...

I tried this today, perfect to when travelling!

best healthy products online said...

Fantastic recipe, with regards to that, how can I many days is the curing time? Love to try it out.

Website Link to Honey Teriyaki Beef Jerky said...

How cool is this, I love your hack dIy jerky drying technique, brilliant really.

Anonymous said...

great Site

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