How Long To Marinate Jerky

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As flavorful as beef jerky is, it can also be quite expensive if you get it from the store! Thankfully, there are many ways you can prepare beef jerky at home without even breaking the bank, or breaking a sweat!

All you need is just a simple marinade, some thinly sliced beef cuts, and time – but how much?

How long should you marinate jerky? Beef jerky can be marinated as quickly as 3 hours and as long as 24 hours. While the minimum marination time works just as well, ideally, you should try to leave the jerky marinated for longer for a deeper and more pronounced flavor.

Read below to learn more about how to make beef jerky, how to marinate it, and how to store it for the long term!

Making Beef Jerky At Home

Jerky is an awesome and highly convenient snack. It can be consumed on the go and is perfect for preserving thin slices of meat.

The great thing about jerky is that it can be made from virtually any cut of meat.

Whether you like top round or even sirloin, depending on how much marbling (fat) you want on the jerky, you can easily adjust the quality of the meat by visiting any local butcher.

Here is how to make beef jerky at home:

Getting The Right Beef Cut

Jerky is highly forgiving and can be made out of any beef cut. However, for a balanced flavor, we highly recommend that you get either top round, bottom round, pectoral, or lifter beef cuts.

Tell the butcher that you are looking to make beef jerky at home so that they can cut the pieces accordingly. If you are particular about the thickness of the meat then we highly recommend that you adjust the thinness of the cuts accordingly. 

Once home, immediately and properly clean it under tap water and begin the process of making jerky.

After rinsing, dry the beef cuts using paper towels and set them aside on a large plate with dry paper towels to soak up any extra moisture. 

Preparing The Marinade 

Meanwhile, prepare the marinade in a bowl by adding the following ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 rounded tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 generous tablespoon honey or sugar

Mix all of these ingredients until you get a homogenous mixture. You may also add more or fewer ingredients as per your taste preference!

Once the marinade is ready, simply follow the following steps:

  1. Put all the beef slices in a large bowl and space them out so that every piece is more or less visible. 
  2. Pour the marinade over the beef slices and then slowly and gently massage the marinade into the beef slices. Make sure that you get every single piece of beef. The better the coverage, the more flavorful the pieces will be!
  3. Wrap plastic over the top of the bowl. This is to keep the beef slices safe from the environment and will also prevent your fridge from smelling like beef jerky! Marinate for at least 3-6 hours to get the most out of the flavor of the marinade. 

Cooking Beef Jerky

Once the beef has been marinated, you can begin cooking it in the oven! 

Here is how to cook beef jerky properly:

  1. Preheat the oven to 175°F.
  2. Remove the beef slices from the marinade and put them individually on a dry paper towel. Put another dry paper towel over the slices and gently press down. This step will help dry out the jerky and will cook them evenly. It will also prevent any excess moisture on the slices.
  3. Bake the jerky at 175°F for about 3-4 hours or until the slices are dry and almost leathery. If you can, try to air out the oven by opening the oven door and letting fresh, dry air in. This will help cook the meat even better. 
  4. Remove the jerky from the oven and place them over a wire rack and under a fan to cool and further dry out. 
  5. Once cool, cut the jerky into pieces by using either your hand or a pair of scissors—enjoy, homecooked, fresh, and preservative-free jerky!

Storing Beef Jerky

Beef jerky can be stored in an airtight container over the counter. Since the meat is dried and has high salt content, it will resist bacterial growth for a long time.

Ideally, you can store beef jerky in an airtight container for 1-2 months at room temperature

However, you must keep the jar away from direct sunlight. The best way to store jerky is to keep the container in a cool and dark place. 

Homemade jerky can last about a week in the fridge and about 2-3 weeks in an airtight bag. Please always check the jerky for signs of spoilage before consuming it.

3-Hour Marination Vs. 24-Hour Marination

This question comes up a lot with not just beef but with any type of meat and marinade. 

To put it simply, the longer you marinate the meat, the more flavorful it will become. However, in this case, this is only true to some extent

Keep in mind that once the meat has been saturated with the marinade, it will no longer be able to hold more flavor.

Thus, the marination time depends more on how well the meat soaks up the marinade, and this too depends on the characteristics of the meat.

For example, thin beef cuts are easy to marinate vs dense beef steak. By using this logic, you can get away with marinating beef jerky for around 3-4 hours with no discernible difference. 

But what if you don’t want to make beef jerky the same day? What if you want to keep it for longer?

In this case, you may marinate the jerky for up to 24 hours. This means that you don’t have to worry about marinating the meat overnight either. 

Here is a quick chart for the marination time for regular beef jerky:

MeatMinimum TimeIdeal TimeMaximum TimeRequired Storage
Beef Jerky (Uncooked, Marinated)2 Hours3-4 Hours24 HoursFridge (40°F)

Marinating Jerky For More Than 24 Hours

Please note that while the meat can be marinated for more than 24 hours in the fridge, it will probably start to lose its texture and may even undergo chemical changes that may affect its overall flavor after the 2-day mark.

This is why we recommend that you freeze the jerky in the freezer instead. This will preserve the meat and its texture while also keeping the marinade fresh for about 2-3 months

Remember, once frozen, the process of marination will halt until the pieces are thawed again! It is advised that you allow the meat to first marinate in the fridge for at least a day before you move the beef slices to the freezer. 

To freeze marinated jerky, first, sort it according to the appropriate serving size and then place the marinated, uncooked pieces of beef in a freezer-safe plastic bag.

Thin out the bag by gently pressing it down with your palm. This will make storage much easier!

Repeat this step until you have stored all the jerky. Freeze the jerky and consume it within 1 month for the best flavor. 

To thaw it, place a bag in the fridge and let it thaw overnight, or use the microwave at the thaw/defrost setting to quickly thaw the jerky. 

Related Questions

Beef jerky is the ultimate snack that is both nutritious and delicious! Now that you know how to make the most of it and how to properly marinate it, here are some related questions!

Can marinated beef jerky last up to a year?

Beef jerky is highly resilient when it is dry and cooked. However, with uncooked meat, you might need to be extra careful.

Frozen jerky can be stored for up to 1 year in an airtight container (such as these ones) but only under optimal storage conditions. Once the meat is thawed, it can be cooked as per usual. 

Please note that the meat may not provide the right texture or flavor, especially when you compare it to recently marinated and cooked jerky.

How long can beef jerky marinade last? 

The beef jerky marinade can be filled in bottles or be kept in an airtight container. The marinade will last about a week in the fridge and can also be frozen

The frozen jerky marinade will last about 2-3 months or longer depending on the storage conditions.

Ideally, the marinade should be frozen in a no-frost freezer to prevent ice from forming in the mixture. This ice may melt and dilute the marinade when thawed!

Can beef jerky mold?

Absolutely! Beef jerky, like any food, can grow mold, especially in bad storage conditions

While jerky is known to last a long time due to its low moisture content, it can still develop mold and go bad within just a few weeks. This is why you should always check for spoilage before consuming any type of improperly stored jerky!

If you’re interested in even more homemade jerky ideas, check out this video from the folks over at Bon Appétit!

Up Next: Can Chicken Be Marinated Overnight?

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