This is one I have been wanting to try out for a while, so it finally happened this weekend due to a poor cut of meat I got from our grocery delivery service. It goes without saying, but since I didn’t take my own advice, I’ll write it down for future reference: Rule #1 = shop for your own meat when making jerky!
It was a somewhat honest mistake. I placed an order for everything we needed for our South Beat Diet Week 1 and while I was in there I made a request for “about three pounds of trimmed Top Round for making jerky” because I stumbled upon some Keto jerky marinades that looked interesting and healthy. What I got were two, one pound prepackaged steaks that in no way resembled leaner hunks of Top Round that I often use. As soon as I started trimming them it was obvious there was far too much marbling within the meat to make shareable jerky from. When I finished trimming out as many usable pieces as I could I was left with little more than one pound of strips to marinate. Rather than try a new healthy marinade, I opted to try something I’ve been noodling for a while – what if I don’t pat the strips dry after marinading?
Most recipes that I’ve read include a step to pat the strips dry and it makes perfect sense – get the excess moisture out of the picture to enable an efficient and even drying process. The purpose of the 24 hours or so in the fridge is to get flavor into the strips so in theory, leaving the marinade on should only complicate matters. But I needed to see for myself what would happen. So, after spending the night chilling in a ziplock of bottled sauce, I emptied the bag into a colander and gave it a cursory shake to get the extreme excess out of the way, and then went straight to the racks for dehydrating.
The results were not entirely predictable, but fairly conclusive. You can indeed leave the marinade on and skip the step of patting each strip dry and you will have edible jerky. My drying time was 7 hours, up from the usual 4 hours for the same quantity and you could visually see the marinade slowly trying to let go of its moisture along the way. I could have probably easily gone another hour, but the pieces were cracking properly and I was nearing the end of my patience with this one. The jerky itself was very sticky and you really need a napkin handy to keep yourself clean. The flavor wasn’t as intensely different as I expected it to be compared to a piece that was thoroughly patted dry before dehydrating, so it seems that the extra sauce doesn’t equate to extra flavor. What I created was more of a candied jerky, like candied bacon you get at a restaurant, covered in maple syrup, brown sugar, and pepper. So, not entirely a waste 🙂
At the end of the day, we had edible jerky that tasted good but sticks to the hands and teeth, which is no good for most applications. So at an absolute minimum, please take some time and energy to pat off your marinade before dehydrating for more spectacular jerky. Oh, and pick out your own cuts of meat, too!
Using the recipe for Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory & Brown Sugar jerky, here is how this test went in pictures: