There are a variety of cuts of beef that you can use to make tender, delicious beef jerky. While top round, bottom round, pectoral, and lifter are typically the best cuts, others like flank and skirt steak can also make great jerky. These cuts of beef are all lean, economical, and full of flavor. Let’s look at a few different cuts of meat and learn how to choose the best ones to make beef jerky!
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Here Are the Best Meats for Tender, Delicious Beef Jerk
Top Round—Also called “Inside Round Steak” or “London Broil,” this cut comes from the round primal region. It’s an excellent source of lean, economical large-cut meat for beef jerky. It’s also the most popular cut used by commercial jerky companies. It’s extremely lean and affordable, but it’s not the most flavorful or tender.
Bottom Round—Also called “Bottom Round Oven Roast” or “Round Roast,” this cut comes from the same area as the top round. It’s a little tougher but still makes great beef jerky. Overall, it’s pretty similar to the top round but a little less tender.
Eye of Round—Also found in the round primal area, eye of round comes from the elongated muscles located in the center. It’s more expensive, but it’s also more tender and a little more flavorful than top and bottom round.
Sirloin Tip—Also called “Knuckle” or “Round Tip,” this is a less popular cut from the round primal but is still a great option. It’s in the middle as far as cost goes, and it has more flavor than the other cuts listed above but is also less tender.
Lifter Meat—Also called “Blade Meat” or “Cap and Wedge Meat,” lifter meat comes from the rib primal and is meat from the outside of the ribs. This cut is a little less lean and has medium marbling, making for more tender, flavorful beef jerky at a slightly higher cost.
Flank Steak—Also called “Beef Flank” or “Plank Steak,” flank steak comes from the flank primal. It’s a lean cut with long grains. It has little fat and marbling. This cut is less tender than lifter meat but has much more flavor. It’s also one of the most expensive cuts for beef jerky.
Pectoral Meat—Also called “Special Trim,” pectoral meat comes from the chuck primal. It’s slightly fatty and has decent marbling. This cut is extremely tender but less flavorful. Pectoral meat is a great affordable option, especially for first-time jerky makers.
Deer Meat—You can also make great jerky with deer meat. It’s usually very tender, lean, and flavorful. It’s a great choice for those that love the game flavor.
Elk Meat—This meat is also very lean and great for making jerky. It’s extremely tender and has very little game flavor, unlike deer meat
Pork Loin & Tenderloin—This meat is slightly fattier but works well, especially for sweeter jerkies. It’s full of flavor, relatively inexpensive, and super tender.
Related: Cutting & Slicing Meat for Beef Jerky
How To Choose the Best Cut of Meat for Beef Jerky
You have so many options available, and while there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules for choosing a cut of meat for your beef jerky, we’ll give you some general guidelines to help you make the best choice.
Fat Content—This is one of the most important criteria for choosing a cut of beef to make jerky with, and it’s the first one to look at. When making jerky, you can’t fully dehydrate the fat, meaning that leaner cuts are typically better. Too much fat can cause your jerky to spoil faster. However, if you plan to eat all of your jerky within a few days, you can choose a cut with slightly more fat without any problems.
Intermuscular vs. Intramuscular Fat—Intermuscular fat is fat around the protein, and you should remove it before starting the jerky-making process. Choosing meat with the least intermuscular fat makes making jerky easier. Intramuscular fat is the marbling, which runs between muscle fibers. More marbling is better for making jerky; it contributes to the tenderness, juiciness, and rich flavor.
Choose Economical Cuts—Fresh, high-quality beef is better than buying the fanciest cut you can find. Even relatively tough cuts of meat can be used to make tender jerky. It’s usually better to save the fancy cuts like ribeye and filet mignon for other uses.
Can You Use Ground Beef To Make Jerky?—Yes! However, it’s more difficult, and the end result is usually not as tasty as using whole muscle beef. Ground beef jerky will have a much different texture than traditional jerky. If you go this route, choose the leanest meat you can find and consider looking into a “jerky gun” to make the process easier.
Related: How To Make Ground Jerky
Tips for Buying Beef Jerky Meat
Buy Fresh Meat—The fresher, the better. Avoid buying meat with dark spots, ligaments, tendons, or cartilage. Take your time and inspect the beef before taking it home.
Buy the Right Amount—During the dehydration process, you’ll lose a significant portion of the original weight. A good rule to follow is three pounds of meat for one pound of jerky.
Find a Butcher—A reputable butcher can be an amazing resource for your jerky-making adventures. They can slice the beef for you, saving you time and ensuring that the jerky cooks evenly, which is extremely important when making jerky at home.
Know Your Cuts—Once you know what cuts you prefer, you can watch out for weekly sales and specials, allowing you to purchase large quantities for great prices.
Best Meats for Beef Jerky: Final Thoughts
Making jerky yourself is challenging, but it can be very rewarding. One of the most important parts of the process is selecting the right cuts of beef. The best part of making your own beef jerky is that you get full control over everything, and you can experiment on a small scale to figure out which cuts you prefer.
Want the best beef jerky without all of the hard work? Try out Two Chicks Jerky—Made with only the best USDA certified, grass-fed, and humanely raised cuts of beef!
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