Thursday, September 18, 2008

Teriyaki Beef Jerky

Welcome to Teriyaki Beef Jerky. If you're anything like me, you love the taste of teriyaki and teriyaki flavored jerky. As you may know, teriyaki is a Japanese cuisine cooking style in which the meat is grilled or broiled into a tare marinade sauce. It's a common cooking style in Japan. Many beef jerky manufacturers provide this as a flavor to dehydrated jerky. The work teriyaki actually is made up of teri, a noun meaning the luster shine given from the sugar content in the yaki, which is the cooking method. What makes teriyaki so delicious is that the beef is brushed and glazed several times during cooking. Teriyaki beef jerky can actually have multiple flavors and ingredients including ginger, onion, soy sauce, lime, sake, brown sugar, maple syrup, pineapple, shiitake, honey, sugar, salts, mirin, sesame, and more. For the dehydrating process many include teriyaki sauces such as soy sauce, Kikkoman marinades including lower sodium, basted glaze, and roasted garlic, Lawry's marinade teriyaki, World Harbor's teriyaki, Sable and Rosenfeld Tipsy (comes in a sleek little bottle), Barefoot Contessa Maple, Stonewall Kitchen Garlic, Roland Fusion, shrimp teriyaki, teriyaki chicken, barbecued beef bulgogi, and many other brands and types. You can also purchase packet teriyakis as maybe I should word that better, teriyaki sauce mixes. If you have an Asian grocery store or market you should find many great teriyaki brands. Also ask what they would recommend for beef jerky specifically. Many make their own sauces for their jerky to get the perfect flavor but if you don't have the time to cook, grab a beef complimenting marinade.

I've talked a little about teriyaki marinades but now I'll say some more about the beef jerky itself, because let's face if the beef jerky texture has to be right, or the sauce will only be covering an ingrediental disaster. To make sure we're on the right page, jerky is the beef strips that have been cut, typically not the fattier meat strips as fat does not dry. There's many different ways of cooking beef jerky. It can be salted, marinated, baked, sun-dried, and dehydrated. Jerky is mostly a snack, nobody I know eats beef jerky for dinner. It can be great for hiking, camping and exercising, though be careful of dehydrating when active by eating too much salty jerky! Btw, astronauts love beef jerky! If dried and salted properly, beef jerky doesn't need refrigerated. The drying process into beef jerky goes back to ancient times because it was simply the best and easiest way of preserving meat. Jerky could be dried around a camp fire, and as a bonus, smoke fired meat also kept insects away. Modern commercial jerky ovens are designed to get the moisture out of the ovens with insulated panels. Kitchen jerky dehydrators obviously are not that advanced, but they get the job done. Raw beef strips are sprayed with oil or lathered with teriyaki marinade, placed into a tray and are dried in the oven. Many will automatically rotate the beef strips for you. Salting the beef in usually done afterwards but brushing on the teriyaki sauces can be done while the meat is drying (though check the specific recipe and of course your dehydrators owners manual before). Organic teriyaki beef jerky is also becoming more common. Organic means that the quality of meats are better because they are more natural. The strips of meat are from cows that were not fed animal parts or byproducts or injected with hormone enhancements. (the more I read about organic foods, the more I feel like I should be eating them). They also don't have preservatives, artificial flavors, MSG or erythorbates (I had to look up that last one ha ha). Many jerky makers don't specifically advertise Organic Teriyaki Beef Jerky but many of them do use organic meats. Some jerky websites have a page dedicated to how they feed their cows or where their meat supply is from. As with most organic foods, organic beef jerky typically costs little more (but not always!). Most jerky is vacuum wrapped in plastic though some places ship in cases where they are in plastic bags. Beef jerky is typically high in protein but be aware that salted jerky is also high in sodium. Many prefer whole-muscle meat beef jerky to processed meat beef jerky. Whole-muscle meat is the traditional style of jerky in strips. Processed meat beef jerky is, well... processed. The best example I can give is "Slim Jim". It is log-shaped compressed meat. Both kinds are widely available in grocery stores or gas stations here in the United States. ADD moment: Biltong is a thicker 17th century South African beef jerky strip that is still sold today.

It takes practice to make the perfect beef jerky strip so I stick to buying ha ha, at least for now. Some sites offer wholesale prices and some jerky companies offer distributorships. Once I know a jerky is good, I don't mind buying it in bulk, as I know it'll keep. The best jerky is not too brittle. If it's easy to snap it's probably a little too dry, but that's up to personal taste. Flavor is just as important to me, which is why I like teriyaki beef jerky. I love the Oriental-style flavors and just like with Chinese food, no two recipes are the same. You definitely can't say once you've tried one teriyaki beef stick, you've had them all. Branding is not a big deal to me when it comes to jerky. I don't care if a company spends millions, if the jerky tastes bad, I don't want it. I do like to comparison shop price-wise and see what different flavors and meats are available. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith by buying the smallest amount that a company offers. Some companies will even send you free samples if they think you'll buy in bulk or give them repeat business. Again, there are many different flavors and people are dehydrating anything with legs (and some without legs). I haven't tried any meats that are too exotic yet and I don't want anything to do with fish jerky or aquatic jerky ha ha. I'll end this post for now but I'll continue to post about teriyaki beef jerky recipes, equipment, flavors, processes, etc.

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