A jar of beef jerky, ready to give to dad for Father's Day.
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Snacks & Treats

Easy Homemade Beef Jerky Kids Can Help Make

May 31, 2017

When it comes to spoiling my husband for Father’s Day, you can pretty much count on two things being involved no matter what our plans are: 1) sweet kid-made gifts and 2) delicious homemade snacks. Last year we made sweet and spicy Sriracha cashews and this year we tried our hand at making something new…jerky! If I’m being honest, I wasn’t sure what we were getting ourselves into at first, but I’m happy to report that it is a surprisingly easy task — even for me, a person who tries to avoid eating and preparing meat as much as I can. Basically if you can slice, marinate and place things on a rack, you can make your own homemade beef jerky. And the best part? Several of the steps are perfectly suited to little helpers and there’s no dehydrator required!

Ingredients needed to make jerky strips.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • approximately 1/2 a kilogram of lean steak, slightly frozen (we used flank steak)
  • 3/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 tbs of your favourite liquid oil
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp of ginger powder
  • 1 tsp of ground black pepper
  • a sharp knife
  • a large zip-close bag or air-tight container
  • 2 oven-safe wire racks
  • 2 large baking trays lined with parchment paper

Start off by inviting your little helper to dump the soy sauce, brown sugar, oil, garlic, ginger and black pepper into your bag or container. Close it up securely and let them very gently swish the ingredients together so that the sugar begins dissolving into the liquid. Now if you don’t trust your bag or container, you can certainly use a bowl and whisk for this step.

Marinade is in zip-close bag.

With your marinade prepared, it’s time to move onto slicing the beef. You basically want the strips to be as thin as possible (around 1/4 centimetre thick), so starting with a steak that’s been in the freezer for an hour or two is incredibly helpful. A super sharp knife also makes the task much easier, so be sure to pick the best one out of the drawer. Now while I’m certainly not an expert on meat, we did experiment with cutting the steak slices both with the grain and against the grain; the pieces that are cut against the grain are more tender while the pieces cut with the grain are chewier and more jerky-like. I also think the cut-with-the-grain strips look more like traditional jerky, but of course appearance isn’t everything.

Flank steak cut in 1/4 centimetre strips.

Add the steak strips to your marinade, seal it up well and invite your little one to give the container a little shake, or massage if you’re using a bag.

Child helps massage marinade into meat overtop of plastic zip-close bag.

When your steak strips have had at least an hour or more to marinate, take them out one by one and place them on oven-safe wire racks placed on top of your parchment-lined baking trays. You’ll want a little bit of space between each, but since the meat will shrink down as it’s heated, there’s no need to over space.


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When you’re ready, place the trays into preheated oven of 175° F and basically forget about them for four hours or so. Because we want to dry the meat out, we’re going for low and slow here.

Meat strips set on oven-safe baking rack.

At the four hour mark, check your jerky. You’ll want it to be firm and completely dry to the touch, but feel free to leave it in the oven for a while longer if you prefer a drier jerky. There’s really no right or wrong here, so dry it according to your preference. Just keep in mind that it may firm up a little more when cooled.

Dried jerky right out of the oven.

Allow the jerky to cool completely and then invite your little one to pull the strips up off the racks and place them into a nice jar. A hand-drawn tag is a lovely addition too — just tie it around the mouth of the jar with some baker’s twine or embroidery thread and your gift is ready to give.

Beef jerky in a jar for papa.

Happy Father’s Day!

Article Author Jen Kossowan
Jen Kossowan

See all of Jen's posts.

Jen is a teacher, blogger, and mama to a spirited little lady and a preemie baby boy. She's passionate about play, loves a good DIY project, adores travelling, and can often be found in the kitchen creating recipes that meet her crunchy mama criteria. You can follow Jen on her blog, Mama.Papa.Bubba, and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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