How to Slice Beef for Jerky: A Step-by-Step Guide

Slicing beef is one of the most important steps in making delicious jerky at home. The way you slice the meat will directly impact the texture of the final jerky. This article will explain how to properly slice beef for jerky, including the right tools, techniques, and slicing with or against the grain.

Follow these steps and tips for perfectly sliced beef jerky every time.

Choosing the Right Cut of Beef

The first step is selecting a good cut of beef for jerky. Here are some top choices:

  • Eye of round – Very lean and affordable. Most popular cut.

  • Top round – Also lean and budget-friendly. Great choice.

  • Flank steak – Lean with good beefy flavor.

  • London broil – Similar to flank with rich taste.

  • Sirloin tip – Leaner but still flavorful.

  • Chuck roast – Well-marbled for juiciness when sliced thin.

Go for affordable cuts that are lean but still somewhat tender. Well-marbled cuts add juiciness.

Proper Tools for Slicing Meat

Having the right tools makes slicing easier and more consistent:

  • Sharp knife – A quality chef’s knife works well for hand slicing.

  • Meat slicer – Electric slicers quickly slice meat very thin and evenly. Great investment for jerky lovers.

  • Freezer – Partially freezing meat firms it up for better hand slicing.

  • Cutting board – Choose a large, sturdy board that won’t slip.

  • Meat tenderizer – Tenderizes meat and makes slicing easier.

Prepping and Trimming the Meat

  1. Trim any fat or silver skin – Use a sharp knife to remove all visible fat from the beef. Fat causes jerky to spoil faster.

  2. Partially freeze the meat – Placing meat in the freezer for 1-2 hours firms it up for easier, thinner slicing. Not frozen solid, just firmer.

  3. Cut into manageable sizes – For hand slicing, cut the beef into smaller 3-4 inch segments or have the butcher do this.

Slicing With or Against the Grain

  • Slicing with the grain makes the jerky chewy and fibrous.
  • Slicing against the grain makes the jerky tender but able to be torn.

The grain of the meat refers to the direction the muscle fibers naturally run. Identify the grain first.

Then decide if you prefer a tougher, chewy jerky or a more tender, tearable texture and slice accordingly.

How Thick Should Jerky Slices Be?

  • 1/4 inch thick – This is the standard thickness for most jerky. Provides the best texture.

  • 1/8 inch thick – Thinner slices will dry faster if you want your jerky done quicker.

  • 3/8 inch thick – Slightly thicker slices stay tender and juicy in the center.

  • 1/2 inch thick – Very thick slices will require long dehydrating times but some love the juicy centers.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Manual Slicing

Follow these steps for evenly sliced jerky using a knife and cutting board:

  1. Identify the grain – Look for the lines running through the meat and note the direction.

  2. Slice with or against – Align your knife to cut either with the grain for chewy jerky or against the grain for more tenderness.

  3. Cut very thin slices – Slice the beef as thinly and evenly as possible, between 1/8 to 1/4 inches thick. Take your time.

  4. Trim slices – Trim any uneven edges or fat from the slices to create uniform slices.

  5. Optionally tenderize – Use a meat mallet to gently pound the meat and tenderize if desired. Don’t overdo it.

  6. Cut into strips – For traditional jerky strips, slice the meat into 1-2 inch wide strips.

Follow the same grain direction that you initially sliced in.

Using a Meat Slicer

Electric meat slicers provide razor-thin, very even slices in seconds:

  • Partially freeze meat – Meat firms up better for clean slicing through a slicer.

  • Secure the meat – Spear a piece on the prongs to hold it securely as you slice.

  • Set slicer thickness – Adjust to your desired thinness, normally 1/4 inch.

  • Slice with the grain – Feed meat into the slicer in line with the grain for chewy jerky.

  • Slice against the grain – Rotate meat 90 degrees to the grain if you want softer jerky.

  • Cut into strips – If needed, cut the full slices into strips manually.

Storing and Marinating the Sliced Meat

  • Layer between parchment – Place slices between sheets of parchment paper and store in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to marinate and dehydrate.

  • Marinate in batches – Only marinate enough sliced meat that you can dehydrate at one time for food safety.

  • Refrigerate marinade – Keep meat refrigerated as it marinates in the flavorful liquid.

Proper slicing is crucial for great textured jerky. Now that you know how to slice beef for jerky, you can customize the chewiness and experience the joy of homemade jerky. Enjoy!

How to Slice Meat for Delicious Beef Jerky. Tips from a Pro.


Is it better to cut jerky with the grain or against the grain?

When you slice your beef with the grain, the texture of your jerky slices will be tough and chewy, making it harder to bite through. However, cutting against the grain will result in softer jerky, making it more appealing to those eating your final product.

How long to freeze meat before slicing for jerky?

Just a few hours in the freezer will work, he says. You’ll know your meat is ready to slice when it begins to form ice crystals. You may want to trim the fat on the beef before you freeze it, because it’s easier to do when the meat isn’t frozen, and fat is what makes jerky spoil faster, says Thomas.

What is the best meat for sliced beef jerky?

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.

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