Making beef jerky at home is an entertaining and interesting way to provide your family with clean, wholesome snacks. Even for small gifts for friends, we enjoy making them, especially when we have unusual and interesting ingredients like moose meat or venison for our jerky recipes. Looking at the options at your neighborhood store might make you feel overwhelmed if you’re considering making some homemade beef jerky. The Bearded Butchers are here to assist you in selecting the ideal ingredients to make fantastic jerky products at home.
Best Cuts of Meat for Beef Jerky
The cow’s hind legs typically yield the best meat for beef jerky. However, any inexpensive, lean cut is ideal for jerky.
The eye of round, top round, or bottom round are cuts from the round primal. In addition to these, well-performing cuts include flank steak, sirloin tip roast, and brisket flat.
Eye of Round
The sub-primal cut known as “Eye of Round” comes from the cows’ hind legs.
Round cuts are among the least expensive beef cuts that you can buy in a grocery store; they are frequently quite lean and lack tenderness (thus costing less); these characteristics are excellent for jerky.
The majority of resources typically recommend eye of round as the best cut for beef jerky among the various round cuts.
Although I concur, I think it’s important for people to understand that any of the “round” roasts will be excellent for jerky because they are all essentially taken from the same region of the cow: the round primal.
Because it is the leanest of the three, people prefer the eye of round.
In terms of size, shape, and fat content, the eye round can be compared to the beef tenderloin. The tenderness is the main distinction; round eye is significantly less tender than tenderloin.
This is because the cow’s tenderloin and dorsal region are not used for movement, only the muscles of the hind quarters are.
While the eye of round typically has little to no intramuscular fat, there occasionally is a fat cap on the outside. Considering that the eye of round is used for roasts, butchers frequently leave the fat cap on. When making jerky, this fat cap is easily removed.
It should be noted that the eye of round’s natural cylindrical shape makes it simple for home jerky makers to use.
Bottom Round Roast
Additionally, the animal’s hind legs are used for the bottom round. To be more precise, it is removed from the outside of the back legs, away from the spine.
Typically, bottom rounds are smaller than top rounds; a bottom round’s entire surface is rectangular, whereas a top round’s entire surface has an egg-like shape.
Additionally, the bottom round has a finer grain than the top round. Because of this, this meat is typically used to make ground beef or pre-tenderized cube steak.
Making beef jerky is another application for this meat.
For some reason, a lot of other jerky-related articles will prioritize top round over bottom round. But from the standpoint of producing jerky, this is absurd.
According to me, choosing the right meat for jerky should be done in the following order:
- What is the fat content? The eye of round wins because it is leaner than the bottom and top rounds; the marbling of the bottom and top rounds is comparable.
- What’s the cost? – The bottom round roast is the least expensive choice among these three round roasts. I’ve occasionally seen bottom round roasts cost up to two times as much as top round.
Just to give you an example, I live in New Hampshire and frequently shop at Price Chopper.
Using their pricing data as of 12/9/2022:
- Bottom Round Roast: $2.99/lb
- Top Round Roast: $6.99/lb
- Eye of Round Roast: $5.99/lb
Therefore, Bottom Round Roast is 2x less expensive than Eye Round Roast and 2 34x cheaper than Top round. You could argue that Eye of Round costs about the same as top round due to the fat cap, which is removed.
Top Round Roast or London Broil
Top round is a cut that is additionally taken from the round primal, or the back legs; more specifically, top round is taken from the interior of the back legs.
These cuts are quite lean because the legs are used for movement, making them ideal for jerky.
Reiterating that bottom round is preferred over top round because it is more affordable Because the top round is more delicate than the bottom round, it is a major factor in its higher price.
For roasts, Swiss steak, London broil, and top round, which is frequently thinly cut, are commonly used.
I’d advise looking for meat that is free of veins or “gristle” when purchasing it as a roast. Although the majority of places will properly butcher the Top Round and remove the gristle, I have seen it with the veins in, which won’t render when used to make jerky.
Usually, only a small amount of exterior fat and silver skin need to be removed.
Gristle isnt palatable or edible. If your top round roast contains gristle, remove it.
Price differences between top round and eye of round are typically minimal at best, as was previously mentioned. Several times, I’ve observed that eye of round is both cheaper and more expensive than top round.
One sub-primal cut of beef, the flank steak, is produced by the flank steak primal.
The name “flank” comes from where the carcass of the steer is anatomically located: on the flank, just below the loin.
Like the brisket, this muscle is heavily used and supportive in nature, which causes it to be rather fibrous.
Contrary to popular belief, the fat content of the flank steak is minimal. Poor butchering may have left some exterior fat, but this steak is still very lean compared to the skirt steak.
The leanness of the meat makes flank steak perfect for jerky.
Having said that, flank steak has increased in price somewhat, especially when compared to the round roasts mentioned above.
To use my grocery store pricing once more, the cost of each cut was as follows on December 9, 2022, the date this article was written:
- Eye of Round: $5.99/lb
- Flank Steak: $13.99/lb
So youre paying double the price for flank steak.
I would always choose the eye of round or the london boril for jerky if there was a choice between it and the flank steak at the grocery store.
Round Tip Roast (Sirloin Tip Roast)
There are numerous names for the round tip roast, among them:
- Ball of the round,
- Round tip,
- Sirloin tip roast,
- Tip center,
- “Thick flank”
You get the gist.
In either case, the front side of the hind leg is where this cut is made.
Although the sirloin tip is more tender than other parts of the round (such as those above), most people wouldn’t consider it to be “tender.” Because of this, it is made into ground beef, roasts, and steaks.
To save money, look for the roasts rather than the steaks if you plan to use the meat from this region to make jerky. Granted, the Sirloin tip “steaks” are essentially just thinner roasts.
Where I’m from, this portion is typically prepared as thin steaks, with prices typically comparable to those of bottom and top round.
There is a tendency for sirloin tip roast to have more intermuscular fat and sinew. Although slow-roasted fat can render quite well, it is not useful for beef jerky.
This is more obvious near the sirloin tip, where the muscles begin to separate and articulate. More sinew will begin to develop between the muscles at the end.
Granted, most butchers are aware of this. Instead its usually cut up into stew meat.
Additionally, this muscle is divided from the “tri-tip,” which is located directly above it on the outer edge.
Although I personally have never used brisket meat to make jerky, I am aware of several artisanal jerky producers and meat processors who do.
Under the first five ribs of the steer’s breast, the brisket is removed.
The point and the flat muscles make up the brisket.
Because it lacks intramuscular fat, the flat muscle out of these two is the one that is used to make jerky. Because of this, this muscle is referred to as the “lean “.
The opposite is true, and the point is heavily marbling with intramuscular fat; it is referred to as the “fatty “.
It is possible to find flats that are separated from the point in a grocery store. Because the muscles are only separated by a seam of fat, you can also easily separate the flat with a sharp knife.
A whole brisket can weigh between 8 and 20 lbs, with the flat muscle accounting for the majority of that weight.
Slicing is very easy because the flat is simply a flat, thin muscle with a distinct grain structure.
You might need to trim by removing surface fat nodules and silverskin.
Which Cuts to Avoid for Jerky?
Reiterating that while fat content can be advantageous for larger cuts of meat like brisket or cuts of meat like steak, both of which can have their fat rendered, jerky is not one of those things.
Although flank steak and skirt steak are quite similar, their fat content makes them different. This is why skirt steak shouldn’t be used for jerky and why you should use flank steak instead.
This fat won’t render and will turn rancid when used to make jerky. Your best bet is to start with a naturally lean cut.
This is also the reason I said it was preferable if a cut was “cheap” because it eliminates the need to consider USDA grading.
Cuts that the USDA rates as Choice or Prime likely came from a steer with a lot of fat marbling in the ribeye muscle. When a cow has a prime ribeye muscle, that animal’s other muscles are also regarded as prime.
The tenderloin is most likely the beef from a cow that is leanest. The tenderloin is one of the most expensive parts of the entire animal, so while you could use it for jerky, it isn’t the best for it.
Remember, cheap and lean are best for jerky.
Slicing Any of These Cuts for Jerky
Cutting jerky against the grain is crucial, regardless of the cut of meat you select, and is even more obvious when done incorrectly.
Many resources really gloss over the topic of slicing, so be sure to read my guide.
While cutting a steak against the grain makes it more tender, doing the same with something like jerky makes the lack of tenderness obvious.
Having said that, I know a lot of people who enjoy chewy jerky, so consider your preferences and cut the meat accordingly.
To summarize these cutting methods in terms of their outcomes:
- Meat cut against the grain = soft jerky
- Meat cut with the grain = chewy jerky
How to Slice Meat for Delicious Beef Jerky. Tips from a Pro.
What is the best cut of meat for beef jerky?
One of the best meat cuts for jerky is thought to be top round. In fact, many commercial jerkies are made from this cut. This is a good cut of meat because it is inexpensive, lean, and comes in large pieces. Top round steak is also known as inside round steak or London broil.
What is the best meat for dehydrating jerky?
You can make tender, delectable beef jerky from a variety of cuts of beef. Although top round, bottom round, pectoral, and lifter are usually the best cuts, flank and skirt steak also make excellent jerky. All of these beef cuts are flavorful, lean, and affordable.
Is making beef jerky cheaper than buying it?
Making your own beef jerky at home is not only incredibly easy, but it is also significantly less expensive than purchasing jerky from a store. Additionally, you will have complete control over the ingredients used to make it; no strange stabilizers or unidentifiable additives will be used.
What meat is jerky made from?
Whole muscles or ground meats can be used to make jerky, but for home processing, whole muscle cuts are advised because they produce a more traditional, secure jerky product. Though practically any type of meat can be used to make jerky, lean cuts like beef round roasts or pork loin are most frequently used.