The Only Ground Beef Jerky Recipe You’ll Need

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Video using a jerky gun

This ground beef jerky is a mouthwatering option for those looking for traditional beef jerky flavor with a softer, easier-to-chew texture.

This is a great snack option for sensitive chewers such as kids or older folks.

This tender beef jerky recipe has the classic components of delicious beef jerky – a robust medley of savory spices, a touch of sweetness, and a hint of heat for perfect balance.

Chopped and formed jerky has a bad reputation as low-quality, commercial jerky producers see a ground product as an opportunity to use cheap meat and artificial ingredients. By making ground beef jerky at home, you have complete control over the type of meat and ingredients.

For example, if you have a soy aversion or eat gluten free, you can use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Like things spicy? Feel free to add cayenne pepper for some kick.

The protein source for this recipe uses beef, but you can easily adapt the recipe for other protein sources such as ground venison, ground pork, ground elk, ground turkey, and ground chicken. You can even grind your own meat for the recipe.

The key, regardless of the protein source, is to use lean meat. There are two important reasons to use lean meat. First, if the meat is too fatty, the finished ground jerky will fail to bind and crumble after cooking. Secondly, excess fat can turn rancid and develop “off” smells and colors. This is why we always recommend trimming as much exterior fat from whole-muscle jerky. Learn more in our guide to slicing meat for jerky.

Pro-Tip: When working with beef, opt for a minimum ratio of 90% lean to 10% fat (or higher). You can easily find these numbers of the ground beef packaging in supermarkets and stores.

The forming step is the most important step when making ground jerky. You have two primary options for making ground beef jerky—formed by hand and using a jerky gun. This recipe will provide instructions for both.

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Looking to spice up your ground beef jerky game? Check out our beef jerky seasoning blends (Coming Soon! Sign-Up For Early Access). We conducted hundreds of batches to find the perfect all-in-one jerky seasonings. Our seasonings are perfect for ground beef jerky.

Let’s dive into the best ground beef jerky recipe.

Follow these step-by-step instructions to make the most delicious ground beef jerky.

1. Mix the ingredients with the meat.

The beauty of making ground beef jerky is you do not have to marinate the meat. This will save you between 16 and 24 hours, the typical marination type of whole-muscle beef jerky. Learn more about how long to marinate beef jerky (for traditional, whole beef jerky).

When working with ground beef jerky, fully mixing the ingredients with the meat will infuse the full flavor.

Start by mixing the dry seasonings and liquid ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Then add the meat to the mixture. Make sure to fully integrate the mixture.

Pro-Tip: Mixing the non-meat ingredients first will better distribute the flavor throughout the beef. Take your time with the mixing step to ensure that the flavor is evenly distributed throughout the meat.

2. Form the ground meat into strips.

This is where the magic happens. You have two options to form the ground meat into strips: using a jerky gun or forming the strips by hand.

Jerky Gun or Jerky Cannon

Forming beef jerky strips with a jerky gun.

A jerky gun is a terrific tool to make ground beef jerky.

Also known as a jerky cannon, this jerky-making appliance compresses and extrudes ground meat into even strips. Think of a caulking gun but for jerky.

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There are two advantages to using a jerky gun. First, you can achieve long, even strips. Each strip will have the same thickness which makes the cooking step a breeze. Secondly, most jerky guns come with a variety of nozzles so you can create a range of shapes including beef sticks.

Fill the chamber of the jerky gun with the ground meat, select your desired nozzle, and press the trigger to create long, even strips on your dehydrator racks. It’s as simple as that.

Have a pair of scissors or knife handy to trim the meat when you’ve completed a strip. You can also use your fingers to pinch the meat.

Pro-Tip: Make sure to pack the meat tightly so there are no air pockets. These air pockets will prevent the meat from extruding as a combined unit in long strips. Don’t worry, the jerky guns are very forgiving.

Want to buy your own jerky gun? Learn more about the best jerky guns on the market.

Forming Ground Jerky By Hand

If you don’t have a jerky gun or prefer to make ground beef jerky by hand. Here’s a quick and easy trick that will guarantee even strips of the same thickness.

Rolling out the meat for ground beef jerky.

Place the meat onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Place another piece of parchment paper on top of the meat. Use a combination of your hands, a rolling pin, and a large spoon to flatten the meat to an even thickness of ¼ thick.

Once the meat is spread evenly on the sheet pan, cut long strips with a knife or pizza cutter. Don’t worry if the scores do not cut all the way through the meat. As the jerky dries, it will separate and break easily.

Slicing ground beef jerky strips formed by hand.

Carefully remove the top piece of parchment paper and place your drying rack on top of the meat. With your hand on the drying rack, invert the sheet pan. Remove the sheet pan and the other piece of parchment paper. Simply place the drying rack with the meat on top back into the sheet pan and you’re ready to start cooking.

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Ground beef jerky strips formed by hand.

3. Cook the ground beef jerky.

You can cook your ground beef jerky in an oven, dehydrator, or even a smoker. The cook time will vary from device to device and even batch to batch. We recommend using a dehydrator for making any type of beef jerky at home as it delivers the most consistent results. We use the 9-Tray Excalibur Dehydrator Machine in our Test Kitchen.

Learn more about the best dehydrators for beef jerky.

Here are rough cooking guidelines for ground beef jerky.

Device

Temperature

Time

Oven

165°F -175°F

2.5 – 4.5 Hours

Dehydrator

165°F

3 – 4.5 hours

Smoker

160°F – 170°F

2.5 – 3 hours

To make sure your ground beef jerky is fully cooked, make sure to use the following signs:

  • The internal temperature of the meat should be at 165°F. If you maintain the oven temperature for the minimum times recommended above and are working with strips around ¼”, the meat will be fully cooked. We’re checking for dryness at this stage.
  • The meat should bend and break without falling apart or crumbling.
  • The color should be a rich, brownish red.

Here’s our deep dive into how to tell if beef jerky is done.

Testing ground beef jerky to see if it

5. Cool and enjoy!

There’s nothing better than warm, homemade jerky fresh out of the oven. Steal a few pieces and enjoy. Let the rest cool before storing.

We recommend storing the ground beef jerky in the refrigerator in an airtight container and consuming it within 1 week.