Simple Beef Jerky Recipe

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Smokey, salty, and just the right amount of sweet, jerky is a classic snack out on the trail. Learn how to make beef jerky with a dehydrator with this simple beef jerky recipe brought to you by contributors Kira & Brendon of Adventure Haks!

Beef jerky on a cutting board

When Brendon and I first starting adventuring together we were finding it difficult to eat healthy. Most of the stuff we would bring was processed or loaded with preservatives. It was this that lead us to make our own meals and snacks and how we came to making our own jerky.

Making your own jerky not only tastes better but is also better for you and your wallet. The cuts of meat we use vary depending on what is available or what is on sale. Jerky is our go-to snack for any outdoor adventure. Whether packing food for an overnight camp trip or multiple-day backpacking trips we always make sure we bring some!

How to make beef jerky

How to cut the meat

Ideally, you want a lean cut of meat as free from fat as possible; the more fat, the shorter the storage life of your jerky.

When slicing the meat, it helps if you partially freeze as this makes it easier and helps in getting thin, even pieces. You can cut any visible pieces of fat off at this time too.

Cut with the grain for chewier jerky; cut against the grain for tender but more brittle pieces.

Beef jerky marinade

This jerky uses a simple marinade of Worcestershire and soy sauce (for savoriness), brown sugar (for a hint of sweet), and dried spices like garlic, onion powder, and smoked paprika (for flavor).

Once you have made the marinade and poured it onto the slices, put it in the fridge and let it marinate. You can leave it overnight or up to 36 hours. Rotate the strips every now and then to ensure even and thorough coating. We like to leave it as long as we can because we find it gives it the best flavor.

Marinated beef slices on a dehydrator sheets

Dehydrating the jerky

Once you are ready to dehydrate, shake off any excess marinade and spread the strips in a single layer on your dehydrator trays. The drying time can vary depending on how uniform and/or thick your slices are or on the dehydrator. We recommend checking your dehydrators manual.

Properly dried jerky should crack when bent, but not break. Be sure to test using a cooled piece.

Beef jerky on a cutting board

Gear spotlight: Choosing a dehydrator

From making jerky and fruit leathers to drying fresh fruits and vegetables for long term storage, or even creating dehydrated just-add-boiling-water for backpacking trips or emergencies, there are dozens of ways to use a dehydrator.

As with most kitchen appliances, there are a number of options to choose from. There are two that we see over and over again. If you’re budget-conscious (????????‍♀️) the Nesco Snackmaster Pro is probably your best bet. If you will be doing a lot of dehydrating, you’ll likely be able to recoup the cost of one of the Excalibur model dehydrators, which has long held the position of best-of-the-best in the dehydrating community.

Other recipes you’ll enjoy

Teriyaki Beef Jerky
How To Make Fruit Leathers
Trail Mix Recipes
Backpacking Food Ideas

A pile of beef jerky on a wood cutting board

Simple DIY Beef Jerky

This homemade beef jerky is savory, slightly spicy, and is easy to make with simple ingredients.
Author: Adventure Haks
4.52 from 33 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 12 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 18 hours 30 minutes


  • 1-2 lb beef roast, (lean cuts are best & will keep longer)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon meat tenderizer, *optional
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons natural hickory liquid smoke, *optional


  • Thinly slice the roast.* Cut off all visible fat.
  • Pound slices with a meat tenderizer mallet until pieces are uniform thickness (aprox nickel width).
  • Layer beef strips in dish.
  • Mix remaining ingredients and pour over beef. Lift layers with fork to ensure that all beef is covered.
  • Cover & marinate for 12-36 hours. Turn strips over several times to ensure thorough coating.
  • Spread the meat in a single layer on the dehydrator trays.
  • Dry at 165F/74C for 6-10 hours, occasionally blotting off any fat droplets that appear on the surface. Test using a cooled piece. Properly dried jerky, when bent, should crack but not break.
  • Package jerky, into individual portions, in air-tight containers (like ziplock bags) or vacuum seal. Store in a cool, dark & dry place.


*Partially freezing the meat makes it easier & helps in getting thin, even pieces. Cut with the grain for chewier jerky & cut against the grain for tender but more brittle pieces.
*Nutrition is an estimate based on information provided by a third-party nutrition calculator

Recipe adapted from

About the author

Meet Brendon & Kira – The Adventure Haks. We are avid outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy any activity that will take us outside. Most of our time is spent motorcycle touring, where we can combine the freedom to explore new places with our love for hiking, fishing, and camping. We are currently living & adventuring in British Columbia, Canada.

Follow along @adventurehaks and at

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  1. Dehydrator not required! I get great results with just an oven and some wooden skewers. Soak the skewers in water overnight, string meat onto said skewers, and drape through the bars of an oven grate (I recommend lining the bottom of your oven with foil). “Cook” at around 170F for ~4-5 hours, then let cool for at least 6 hours.

    N.B., to assist with air circulation, either set your oven to convection (if that’s an option), or wedge open the oven door a tad with a wooden spoon.

    1. Thanks for the info, Ben! Super helpful for those of us without a dehydrator. Looking forward to trying out your method before our summer road trip.

    2. Blake Smith says:

      Yup. I’ve been making jerky for 50 years. Until a few years ago it was all made in the oven. I used toothpicks. Turn it as low as it will go and crack the door open.5 stars

  2. My dehydrator does not have a temperature gauge, is that important?

    1. I am sure there is a way around it but it is somewhat important. Different foods require different temperatures and times. I would suggest checking the jerky frequently (a cooled piece should crack and not break when it is done). If your dehydrator doesn’t get warm enough you could finish it off in the oven at a higher temperature.

  3. Use toothpicks soaked in cooking oil. It is easier to remove jerky from toothpicks than water!

  4. My hubby borrowed this round dehydrator yrs ago from a friend that pasted. It’s in the shed. I am disabled n was thinking of making jerky n selling to bars, small stores ect but can I make money on it.n sell for how much. Not sure what kind it is. Thank you for any help.

  5. Thank you so much for posting this recipe. I have a friend who passed several years ago, and he made the best jerky in the world. He never would give up his recipe, but I know it contained
    Dr. Pepper. Instead of the jalapenos he used red pepper seeds. My hope is that your recipe is similar. Thanks again for sharing!4 stars

  6. On the NESCO 13 1/2 inch round tray, approximately how much raw meat can you put on each tray?

    1. It will depend on the size of your slices, but we usually use 4 trays for 1 pound of meat. You might be able to fit more on each tray, though. We like to give our jerky a lot of breathing room.

  7. BAG (Bald Army Guy) says:

    Kira and Brendon; A friend, gave me a batch of her first go at your Jerky mix. Rhi didn’t use the MSG or pound the product down to get a consistent thickness – but the product was great! I’ve got my first batch down in the brine. Had to double the brine as the 1.5 kg (2-ish lbs) Roast Beef I used seemed to need the extra juice. Anyway – cross your fingers. Rhi’s batch was a winner for me. Armed with my new Excalibur – should make a great product. Followed by Vac-seal, I should have lots of Jerky for Trekking or simply munching on in the “Man-cave”. I’ll let you know how it turns out. I gave the mix a four star but may upgrade that based on how my batch turns out.4 stars

  8. Firstly I have to say that I’m totally in love with your variety of camp recipes and guides! The entire site has been incredibly helpful. Secondly I’m wondering if you would consider putting up a vegan/veggie jerky recipe option in the future!?

    1. Thank you. We can certainly look into doing a vegan jerky option. I know there are a variety of brands that make vegan jerky, which means it must be possible to pull off. We’ll have to dig a little bit into it and see what we can find out.

  9. Joe Redmond says:

    What’s the best liquid to use for marinade for beef jerky I’ve tried several and they’re just not tasty

    1. We’ve always had success with a combo of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar for a basic marinade, but you could certainly play around to find a combo that works for you! You can add other spices in to bump up the taste (ground black pepper, chiles, jalapeno, garlic powder, etc). I would imagine you could also use some beef bullion if you want to up the savory “beefiness” of the jerky.

  10. Tommy Ramswell says:

    Do you need to cook the beef before you dehydrate

    1. We do not pre-cook our beef before dehydrating, but some people do. It all depends on how far you want to go to minamize potential bacteria.

      If you are using fresh meat, working in a clean kitchen, marinate your beef in the refrigerator (34-38 F), and then dehydrate at a temperature at or above 160 F + using a well-cleaned dehydrator, you are already doing a lot to reduce the risk of bacteria.

      160 F is the temperature where nearly all food-borne bacteria are killed off. But since dehydration takes time and the beef doesn’t immediately rise to that temperature once you turn on the dehydrator, there is a chance (very small) that the beef could become contaminated during that time.

      If you want to really follow the book, the USDA would advise you precook your beef in an oven so that it reaches an internal temperature of 160 F + much more rapidly. You can then transfer to a dehydrator to continue the dehydration process. However, this will produce a jerky texture that is unlike traditional jerky.

      So it’s really up to you how far you want to go with it.

  11. Marykays1 says:

    What cuts of beef would work best?

  12. Katherine says:

    Good flavor, but this came out painfully salty for me- I made it exactly as written without the optional tenderizer and smoke. I think the amount of salt plus the soy sauce just added up to way too much salt. I would make it again but follow salt guidelines from somewhere else.3 stars

    1. Sorry, this came out too salty for you! Salt can be really tricky to dial in. There are so many differences between regular & low sodium soy sauce, different kinds of salt (kosher, sea salt, etc), and of course individual preference. So if this was too salty for you, feel free to dial it back as much as you like.

  13. Simple, easy, common ingredients, and very tasty. I usually use an old roast that’s been in the freezer too long rather than throwing it to the dogs. 🙂5 stars