As a dedicated carnivore, I've had my fair share of beef jerky meat. Throughout my 4 years of experience trying out different jerky recipes, I've learned that the key step in getting the most flavorful beef jerky is using the right cuts of meat.
But with different meat cuts available, picking the right one for your recipe can be challenging, especially if you're making jerky for the first time.
Luckily, I've curated a list of the best meat for making beef jerky. I'll also share my proven tips and tricks for buying the best meat for your jerky recipe.
Let's get started.
- The best cut of meat for beef jerky includes a sirloin tip, the eye of round, top round, and bottom round oven roast.
- When buying meat for beef jerky in a local grocery store, get a lean cut of fresh meat with low-fat flakes.
- Rib and skirt meat aren't recommended for beef jerky because they're tough and have a lot of fat.
8 Best Cuts of Meat for Jerky
Here's a roundup of the best cut of meat for making classic jerky.
1. Sirloin Tip
The sirloin tip, also known as the round tip, is a fantastic middle-range meat for beef jerky.
This cut will provide you with excellent-tasting jerky at a reasonable price, even though it isn't particularly good for tender beef jerky.
2. Pectoral Meat
The pectoral meat, which comes from the chuck primal, is comparable to flank steak in texture and contains a modest degree of marbling.
Even though pectoral flesh is cheaper and produces tender beef jerky meat, you will have to season this cut of meat generously for extra flavor. Use ingredients like soy sauce, garlic, and dried herbs.
3. Top Round
The top round is a cut of meat used to make commercial jerky. The top round originates from the cow's round part and is the most affordable choice you can select.
But since it's the leanest, don't anticipate it to be as delicate as other cuts like venison jerky.
4. Lifter Cut
The meat outside the cow's ribcage is known as the lifter cut. Lifter lean meat has a medium level of marbling, making homemade beef jerky that is tasty and soft.
In my experience with this cut, pricey lifter meat doesn’t necessarily yield the best jerky.
5. Bottom Round
The bottom round, which is likewise from the round area of the cow, is somewhat more costly than the top round but results in a more tender and flavorful jerky.
6. The Eye of Round
The most valuable of the round cuts is the eye, which is taken from the center of the cow's round area. If you have the extra cash to pay, this raw meat cut will be more delicate and tasty than the top and bottom round. Also, make sure you slice these uniformly so that your jerky cooks evenly.
7. Flank Steak
As the name suggests, flank steak is derived from the cow's flank. Although this cut is lean and has minimal marbling, the taste is unmatched. Beware of the steep price if you're working with a slim budget.
Since flank steak is a tougher cut of beef, it jerks up a little harder than the other cuts.
You'll feel the toughness in your jaw if you decide to make jerky meat with flank steak.
However, I believe it enhances your culinary experience hugely; you learn how to get around tougher cuts in different recipes. For example, with flank steak, you have to either pound it with a hammer or tenderize it with different marinades.
8. Ground Beef
Ground beef jerky is the ideal choice for those who find it difficult to chew tough meats. However, eating ground meat is a pretty different sensation if you're used to whole-meat jerky.
If you're frequently making jerky with minced meat, I recommend purchasing a jerky gun. This excellent purchase transforms ground beef into thin, savory nibbles for your jerky.
Also Read: How Much Protein Is in a Pound of Ground Beef?
Other Meat Types Suitably for Jerky
Apart from beef, there are other meat types that you can use for jerky meat, such as:
- Deer meat
- Pork meat
Due to their greater fat content, elk and pork jerky are exceptionally soft, but all four will produce a tasty jerky dish. Be aware that they could taste a little gamier than the beef jerky you are used to, particularly if you decide to make it with deer meat.
If you plan to prepare jerky with these exotic meats, you should visit a butcher and inquire when they stock them up, so you can buy them fresh.
Cuts to Avoid When Making Jerky
Here are two cuts that aren't suitable for making jerky meat, even with a jerky gun.
1. Rib Meat
The fine grain of ribs makes cutting the beef into thin strips difficult since the meat crumbles under the blade.
Additionally, even if you can cut nice strips, they will nearly disintegrate in the dehydrator, leaving you with small pieces of beef that more closely mimic bacon chunks than jerky.
Rib meat is not suitable for jerky due to the pronounced marbling that gives it such a rich flavor. Jerky with a high-fat level is challenging to prepare, has an unpleasant taste, and expires rapidly.
Rib slices are also quite thick, which might not dry out equally, giving them a peculiar feel and texture.
Read More: Types of Beef Ribs
2. Skirt Steak
Skirt steaks are often used in fajitas and stir-fries because they erupt with flavor.
However, skirt cuts, renowned for their hardiness, become inedible when dried into jerky.
Even if you succeed in biting through a piece of skirt jerky, the interior is filled with an uncomfortable quantity of fat.
Tips for Choosing The Best Meat for Beef Jerky
Here are a few pointers to help you select the best cuts of meat for your beef jerky.
1. Buy Fresh Beef
One key thing that most people overlook is the freshness of the meat for beef jerky. Purchase only fresh beef at all times.
Avoid purchasing meat that has expired or is almost expired; the fresher, the better. Also, steer clear of beef with black stains, strange odors, torn-apart tendons, or cartilage.
Preparing beef jerky at home is fantastic because you have complete control over what meat goes into it. To guarantee you get the perfect meat for your jerky, scrutinize each piece before buying it.
"When buying meat, go for those with red color as this means the present myoglobin is healthy and fresh."
- Kristy Norton, Chef
2. Buy Lean Cuts
The fat in a beef cut is another crucial factor to consider when choosing a beef cut to make homemade jerky. The cut with the least amount of fat is the one you want to select.
When making jerky, fat cannot be wholly desiccated due to its chemical makeup. Also, the extra fat in a pack of jerky might speed up the jerky's rancidity and spoilage.
A beef cut with little to no fat will guarantee a long and secure shelf life. But you can pull off a little fattier piece of meat if you plan to consume the jerky immediately or within two to three days.
3. Check The Marbling Degree
A meat cut used to make beef jerky shouldn't have too much fat, but it should have some marbling in the muscles. Thanks to this intramuscular fat, you’ll get incredibly delicious beef jerky.
To produce tender and soft beef jerky, I recommend going for pectoral or lifter cuts, as these have a good level of marbling.
Additionally, flank steak has a good marbling degree that may produce incredible, tender jerky, but note that it is considerably more expensive.
4. Consult Your Butcher
Talk to your butcher because they might be a great source of information for all your jerky-making endeavors.
You can request that your butcher pre-slice the meat, so you don't have to do this at home.
Another great thing about pre-slicing the meat is that the butcher will slice the meat into equal slices that meet your specific requirements using an industrial slicer.
This will guarantee uniform cooking of jerky.
5. Price Points
Buying and making beef jerky can be quite costly. Because of this, as a skilled jerky maker, I strive to balance the quantity of fat I want in the meat with the cost per pound.
If you are just getting started, I recommend choosing a less expensive variation, such as a pectoral cut or lifter meat. This way, if you make a mistake on your first or second attempt, you won't have wasted a costly chunk of meat.
Once you master the skill, you can try experimenting with more expensive meat cuts.
What Meats Can You Make Beef Jerky With?
You can make beef jerky with meats like flank, lifter cut, filet mignon, and eye of round.
What Animals Make the Best Jerky Meat?
Cow, pig, and deer are animals that make the best jerky meat.
What Meat is Best From a Deer For Jerky?
Filet mignon and top-round roast meat are best from a deer for jerky. You can also use butts and eyes of the round that are easier to cut.
What is the Most Popular Beef Jerky Flavor?
Old Fashioned Original beef jerky is the most popular beef jerky flavor because it follows a traditional family recipe that calls for all-natural, premium ingredients, and it’s handmade.
Best Beef Jerky
The process of making jerky can be difficult, but it is gratifying.
The wonderful thing about preparing your own beef jerky is that you have absolute control over the process and can explore on a small scale to determine which beef cuts work perfectly for your recipe.
When making homemade tender jerky, one of the most important steps is choosing the right cuts of beef to use.
You want to ensure you have premium, fresh meat sourced from a tried and true delivery service like ButcherBox.
I highly recommend ButcherBox because it delivers 100% grass-fed beef, free-range organic chicken, and heritage-breed pork right to your doorstep.