What Cut of Beef Makes the Best Jerky? A Guide to Selecting the Ideal Jerky Meat

Beef jerky is one of the most popular snacks around. This high-protein meat snack offers a delicious and satisfying bite. But not all beef jerky is created equal. The cut of beef used to make jerky has a significant impact on the end product.

Selecting the right cut transforms a tough piece of meat into tender, chewy jerky perfection. So what cut of beef makes the best jerky?

While there are many factors that go into crafting excellent jerky, choosing the right cut of meat is one of the most critical steps. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about selecting the ideal beef cut for jerky.

An Overview of the Best Cuts of Beef for Jerky

After extensive testing and research, these are the top recommended cuts of beef for making jerky:

  • Top Round – Also known as London broil, top round is the most popular cut used by commercial jerky producers. It’s affordable, lean, and easy to work with.

  • Bottom Round – Similar to top round, but slightly tougher. Still an excellent economical choice for jerky.

  • Eye of Round – The most tender cut from the round primal. Makes nice uniform slices and has great beefy flavor.

  • Sirloin Tip – Also called knuckle, this underrated cut is perfect for jerky with its leanness and beefy flavor.

  • Flank Steak – A flavorful cut that produces jerky with a pleasant chew when sliced against the grain.

  • Lifter Meat – Cut from the rib primal, lifter meat offers excellent moisture and beef flavor.

  • Skirt Steak – Packed with bold flavor, skirt steak makes great tasting jerky, but can have more fat than ideal.

These cuts from the cow’s rump, flank, and rib primals offer the ideal balance of leanness, flavor, tenderness, and affordability that you want in a jerky meat.

While these are the best cuts for jerky, it’s also possible to experiment with other cuts of beef. Choosing the right jerky meat depends on your priorities in terms of budget, flavor, and texture.

Why Cut Selection Matters for Making Beef Jerky

Jerky is made by taking a tough cut of meat and transforming it into something tender and delicious through the dehydration process. That’s why cut selection is so important.

Choosing the right cut of beef jerky can impact:

  • Fat content – Excess fat leads to faster spoilage. Lean cuts are essential.

  • Flavor – Some cuts offer richer, beefier flavors.

  • Tenderness – Certain cuts produce a more tender jerky texture.

  • Price – Different cuts have a wide range of price points.

  • Availability – Not all cuts are easy to find at all stores.

No single cut of beef is ideal in all of these categories. Aspects like personal taste preference and budget also come into play when selecting meat for jerky.

Understanding the key differences between beef cuts allows you to choose the right one for your jerky making goals.

Key Factors for Selecting Beef Cuts for Jerky

  1. Focus on lean cuts

    The most crucial factor is choosing cuts with minimal fat content. Fat leads to faster spoilage in jerky. Prioritize lean cuts from the round, loin, and flank.

  2. Consider cost

    Expensive cuts like tenderloin are unnecessary. Economical cuts actually make great jerky when sliced properly.

  3. Assess flavor

    Some cuts offer more pronounced beefy flavors. Cuts with more marbling can provide richer taste.

  4. Evaluate texture

    Certain cuts naturally produce a more tender jerky chew. Cuts from the loin or rib are good choices for tenderness.

  5. Check availability

    Not all grocery stores carry every cut. Specialty cuts may only be at butcher shops.

  6. Watch for sales

    Buying on sale is a great way to get quality cuts at a discounted price.

Keeping these key factors in mind helps you select the ideal beef cut for your homemade jerky.

The Best Cuts of Beef for Jerky

Now let’s take a closer look at some of the best cuts of beef for crafting jerky:

Top Round

Also known as London broil, top round is the cut of choice for most commercial jerky operations.


  • Originates from the round primal in the rear leg.
  • Available widely at grocery stores.
  • Extremely lean and fairly affordable cut.
  • Moderately tender with good beefy flavor.
  • Roasts and steaks also come from the top round.


  • Very easy to slice uniformly.
  • Minimal trimming required.
  • Produces many servings per pound.
  • Most economical cut for jerky.

With its excellent balance of leanness, flavor, and affordability, it’s easy to see why top round is such a popular pick for making beef jerky.

Bottom Round

Part of the round primal like top round, the bottom round comes from the upper back leg of the cow.


  • Excellent leanness with minimal fat.
  • Subtle beefy flavor.
  • Affordable, though pricier than top round.
  • Not as tender as top round.


  • Very easy to slice into uniform strips.
  • Tenderizes beautifully when made into jerky.
  • Yields many servings per pound.
  • Budget-friendly cut for jerky.

If you want an economical lean cut, bottom round is a great alternative to top round for crafting jerky.

Eye of Round

This small, cylidrical muscle located in the center of the round primal offers great tenderness and flavor for jerky.


  • Excellent leanness like other round cuts.
  • Most tender of the round cuts.
  • Subtle beefy flavor.
  • Only about 2-3 lbs in size.
  • Also used for roasts and kabobs.


  • Easy to slice with the grain into uniform strips.
  • Tender, beefy jerky with great chew.
  • Nice even shape for jerky slices.
  • Good value for a tender cut.

If tenderness and texture are priorities, eye of round is an excellent choice for making jerky.

Sirloin Tip

Sometimes labeled knuckle or round tip roast, this underrated cut deserves more jerky love.


  • Part of the round adjacent to the sirloin.
  • Excellent leanness.
  • Rich beefy flavor.
  • Good tenderness for a round cut.
  • Affordable, usually around $5/lb.


  • Easy to work with for jerky.
  • Tender, beefy flavor.
  • Budget-friendly like other round cuts.
  • Easier to find than some specialty cuts.

For a tender and beefy jerky on a budget, grab some sirloin tip next time you’re shopping for jerky meat.

Flank Steak

Also called plank steak or beef flank, this flat cut is known for big, bold flavor.


  • Long, fibrous grain.
  • Packed with beefy flavor.
  • Relatively low fat for its flavor.
  • Affordable, usually under $9/lb.


  • Intense beefy flavor.
  • Ideal grain for chewing when sliced properly.
  • More accessible than premium cuts.
  • Lower cost than steak cuts.

Flank steak is a great way to get steak-like flavor without the premium price tag.

Skirt Steak

This flavorful cut from the plate primal offers another steak-like option for jerky.


  • Thin, long cut near the belly.
  • Grainy texture.
  • Packed with flavor.
  • Contains more fat than a round or flank cut.


  • Bold beefy flavor.
  • Provides nice chew when sliced right.
  • Quick cooking time.

Skirt steak offers delicious flavor for jerky, but trim any excess fat before dehydrating.

Lifter Meat

Also called cap and wedge meat, this thin cut comes from the chuck and rib primals.


  • Excellent source of beefy flavor.
  • Good tenderness.
  • Contains more fat than round cuts.
  • Harder to find cut.


  • Incredible flavor.
  • Tender, moist jerky texture.
  • Intense beef taste from fat marbling.

Lifter meat is worth seeking out for its moistness, tenderness, and rich beefy taste.

Other Cuts Worth Exploring

The cuts above are excellent choices for most jerky makers, but don’t be afraid to branch out with other cuts of beef too. Here are some other cuts worth experimenting with:

  • Brisket – Famous for BBQ, brisket can make delicious jerky if sliced thin enough. Look for the leaner flat half.

  • Chuck Roast – Budget-friendly like round cuts but with more fat marbling for flavor. Trim excess fat first.

  • Tri-Tip – Has excellent marbling for tenderness and moisture. The odd shape can make slicing tricky.

  • Tenderloin – Extremely tender but expensive. Best saved for steaks instead of jerky.

  • Ground Beef – Not ideal for whole muscle jerky, but possible by forming ground meat into strips.

Part of the fun of homemade jerky is playing around with different cuts in your dehydrator or oven. Just keep the fat content in check.

Key Takeaways on Selecting Meat for Jerky

  • Focus on affordable cuts like top round, bottom round, and eye of round for lean, budget-friendly jerky.

  • Try flank steak, sirloin tip, or skirt steak for bolder, beefier flavor.

  • Look to lifter meat, brisket, or chuck roast for tender, juicy texture.

  • Watch out for excess fat content and marbling to prevent spoilage.

  • Shop for the freshest, highest-quality beef you can find and afford.

  • Befriend your local butcher for advice and harder-to-find cuts.

  • Consider sales, deals, and bulk packages from big box stores to save money.

With the right cut of beef and proper slicing against the grain, you can make amazing jerky at home. For more jerky tips and tricks, check out our guides on marinating times, slicers, seasonings, and food dehydrators. Happy jerky making!

Best Cut of Meat for Jerky – Jerky 103


What is the best cut of meat to use for beef jerky?

Top round and bottom round are lean, flavorful and – in our opinion – the best cuts of beef for jerky. Sirloin tip is extremely lean, but not as tender, and a bit more expensive. Flank steak is also lean (though you may need to trim some fat) and flavorful, but can be tough if its sliced with the grain.

What is the best thickness to cut beef jerky?

Consistent thickness is the name of the game when it comes to jerky slicing. Slicing your jerky evenly will ensure that each piece cooks and dries at the same rate. This prevents over-drying and under-drying. We recommend slicing meat for jerky at a thickness between 1/8″ and 1/4″ with the perfect thickness at 3/16”.

Does top sirloin make good jerky?

The sirloin is one of the most popular cuts for making jerky at home. It has a bit more marbling than some of the above cuts and requires a little more effort to trim the fat before you can dehydrate it. But the cut also has some of the most intense, beefy flavor.

Is brisket good for jerky?

Brisket Beef Jerky Most people don’t know that brisket is a tough cut of beef. However, but when slow cooked with the right spices and marinade it really bring out the natural beef flavor and become extra tender, making it a perfect choice for beef jerky.

Leave a Comment