I’m so excited about this new beef jerky recipe! It’s easy to make, the texture is perfect (thanks to the extra grinding step in the recipe), and the flavors complement each other really well. I took it on a multi-day alpine climbing adventure last week, and my climbing partner gave it two thumbs up. So did my housemate, and he’s brutally honest about my food projects… yeah, not all of them turn out quite as planned!
When I first created my Sage Maple Beef Jerky recipe, I didn’t try a ground beef version because ground beef can be fatty and I don’t care for the flavor. Finally, I found a local ranch that has lean ground beef that I love. I’m stoked to try more ground beef jerky flavors, and I’ll be sure to share them.
Oh, and if you prefer turkey to beef, check out my ground turkey jerky recipes:
While I love jerky made from strips of meat, using ground meat makes it easier to add other flavors that you can’t mix into solid meat, such as herbs, spices, berries, and other dried fruit. It’s simple to mix and dehydrate, and it has a softer texture than notoriously chewy whole meat jerky. In my food adventures, I find that if someone is new to jerky, it’s best to introduce them to ground meat jerky first – the texture is more like the jerky sticks that are so popular in stores.
If you want to make ground meat jerky without a jerky gun, I give instructions in my post How to Make Ground Jerky Without a Jerky Gun – but if you think you’ll make ground meat jerky repeatedly, I highly recommend spending the less than $20 and using the saved time and effort for other activities!
Here’s a link to the jerky gun I use – it comes with three different nozzles, has a sturdy lever (very important in jerky guns) and it comes apart easily for washing.
This recipe is for one pound of meat, which will fill the above jerky gun one time. The mix fills one square Excalibur dehydrator tray (14″ square).
From one pound of beef, I get:
- About 10 sticks using the round jerky rope fitting or the narrow strip fitting (see left image above)
- 5 to 6 sticks with the wide strip fitting (see right image above).
One pound raw meat will yield about 1/3 pound of jerky.
I recommend starting with the one pound recipe before doubling or tripling it for bulk production; that way you can get a sense of which style you like, and whether you want to add other flavors, such as herbs from your garden.
And again, if you want to try making it without a jerky gun, see this instructional post on how to do it by hand.
Make sure your hands are always clean during the jerky-making process; introducing pathogens to the meat during any point in preparation or drying increases the likelihood of bacterial growth and spoilage down the line.
I wash my hands a number of times as I go back and forth from handling raw meat to handling cooking utensils. Once you are handling dry jerky, make sure your hands are completely dry. Go ahead, get your OCD on!
NOTE: This recipe may seem long and full of instructions. It’s actually a very easy process – it takes me 15 minutes to prepare and lay out on the trays! Make sure to read all the way through before starting, so you are well-prepared.
Rosemary-thyme Ground Beef Jerky Recipe
Time: 15 minutes prep, 4 to 6 hours dehydration time, with monitoring every hour.
1 lb grass-fed ground beef
1 Tbs coconut aminos
2 Tbs grade B maple syrup (grade B has more flavor than A. If you prefer, substitute honey or even leave out the sweetener)
1 Tbs lemon juice (if you use fresh lemon, throw in about ½ tsp zest)
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic granules (or ¾ tsp garlic powder)
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tbs fresh rosemary, finely chopped (same volume dried – rosemary doesn’t lose much volume in drying)
1 tsp fresh thyme (or a stout pinch dried)
(NON-AIP option: 1 tsp black pepper, for some added kick)
Prep the beef
Prep the ground beef by grinding it further in a large food processor. An 8-cup size unit fits 1 lb perfectly; you need some extra room in there for it to grind properly. Grind until it’s noticeably finer than how it came from the store. You can skip this added grinding step, but I find grinding it smaller makes it easier to extrude with the jerky gun, and the texture of the dehydrated jerky is really nice.
Once the beef is well-ground, add all remaining ingredients to the food processor and mix until well-blended.
If making more than one batch and you have a standard household size 8-cup food processor, you won’t be able to mix more than one batch at a time; either divide all ingredients in half and mix as two separate batches, or, grind the meat in two batches, then put it all in a large bowl with the other ingredients and mix well by hand. I can tell you from experience that it’s not worth trying a double batch in an 8-cup processor!
Lay the jerky on trays
Jerky Gun Method
If you have air pockets, use a butter knife or your hand to ‘burp’ the air pockets out, so when you squeeze the mix out onto the trays, there are no air pockets that cause gaps in the jerky strips.
Put the tip of choice on the jerky gun, and slowly push the lever to move out any extra air.
Slowly press the lever to see how fast the mix comes out.
Lay down strips of jerky mix directly on your dehydrator trays, leaving ½ to 1 inch of space between them. Adequate air circulation is needed for proper drying. Don’t use parchment paper or impermeable dehydrator tray liners for this; you want the fat to go away from the meat, and it won’t if you use those items.
TIP: If you’re new to using a jerky gun, you may feel like you have no control over how it lays the mix down on the trays. Have patience, you’ll get better at it. And if things get crazy, you can scoop the mix back up and reload it in the jerky gun!
For instructions on how to form ground meat jerky by hand, go to this post.
Line the bottom of your dehydrator with parchment paper; fat may drip, and this makes cleanup easier.
Place the loaded trays in the dehydrator and set to 155°F. Dry for 4 to 6 hours, until the strips are dry but not brittle; they will dry further in the last step, and you don’t want blackened jerky. Trust me on this one… I’ve made my share of overdone jerky!
Remove fat as the jerky dries
Excess oils make jerky more prone to rancidity later on. As the beef dries, the fat will migrate to the surface. You can help avoid early spoilage by removing the fat as the meat dries.
1. About one hour into drying, check the meat for fat sitting on top. If you see fat, take the trays out (close the dehydrator or oven door to keep the temperature up) and use non-toxic paper towels to gently blot the fat off. Be thorough. You might be tempted to lift the pieces up and get underneath, but it’s likely the jerky is still somewhat tender, so don’t try that yet.
2. At 2 hours, do the blotting again. This time, turn the jerky strips and blot the bottom side too. Leave turned and return to the dehydrator or oven.
If the beef is very fatty, the jerky can end up sitting in fat on the dehydrator tray. If this happens, simply blotting it each hour won’t remove enough fat. If you have extra trays, just transfer the jerky sticks onto fresh trays for the second half of drying. More dishes to do, but worth the effort.
If you don’t have extra trays, it may be worth taking the strips off the trays and cleaning the fat off the trays with a paper towel. Reload and continue. Again, it’s worth it. Extra fat will make the jerky more likely to spoil.
3. Continue blotting every hour until no fat shows on top or underneath. You might need to flip it again. If your meat has a high fat content, you may need to blot until the end of drying.
4. Once the jerky is done, check for remaining fat, and do a thorough blotting if necessary.
IMPORTANT LAST STEP: Post-drying heating to assure meat safety
According to the experts, jerky meats need to reach a temperature of 275°F for ten solid minutes to kill any pathogens present. Some meat types use pre-dehydration heating, but with ground meats, post-drying heating is the easiest method of assuring food safety.
- About 20 minutes before your jerky is ready to take out of the dehydrator, preheat your oven to 275°F. You want the oven at full temperature when the jerky comes out of the dehydrator.
- IMPORTANT: The oven must be to temperature before you put the meat in; the meat needs the full 10 minutes at 275° but it’s also easy to burn, so you have to play the balance by having it in the oven for the full time at the high temperature, but no more.
- Once the meat is dehydrated, immediately place the dried strips onto a baking sheet with no overlapping. Place in the preheated oven immediately, so the jerky retains its heat.
- Heat in the preheated oven at 275°F for 10 minutes.
- Watch it closely for burning. It can go from fine to dark in a blink.
- At ten minutes (or earlier if burning) remove the jerky from the oven.
- If you have fat running in the pan, set it at a secure, slight tilt to drain all the fat into a corner.
- Right away, use tongs to move the jerky to a plate or other dry, cool surface, so the heat of the baking tray doesn’t darken it further.
- Blot fat away one more time if necessary.
- Cool to room temperature before packing for storage.
NOTE: This last step is important for maximum food safety. Personally, I skip it only because the beef I use comes from a local ranch with high cleanliness standards. I’ve visited, and know the owner. However, I would not trust a ranch I’d never been to. The choice is up to you; the food dehydration research experts recommend the post-dehydration cooking for safety.
Why don’t I include this final post-dehydration baking step in my Sage Maple Beef Jerky? Because in that recipe, much like ceviche, the meat sits overnight in a mixture of vinegar and lemon juice, which effectively ‘cooks’ it, making the post-drying heat step unnecessary.
After the post-dehydration heating, let the jerky cool completely before storing. Once completely cooled, package the jerky in an airtight, preferably light-proof container. Make sure to label it with date and ingredients.
Store in a cool dark place if you’ll be eating it within a few days. Store in the fridge or freezer for longer shelf life.
It’s very important to make sure your jerky is fully dried and fully cooled before packaging. See my Jerky 101 page for more details on meat drying techniques, storage and safety.
I hope you enjoy this jerky as much as I do! I’d love to know what you think of it, and if you experiment with any flavor additions!