Last Friday (the 13th!) Percolate had our Inaugural Jerky Jam with three of our own jerky masters offering up their finest creations for a blind tasting contest. With five flavors to choose from, the tasters had a tough time deciding on their favorite. In the end a winner was chosen, and they received the people’s ovation and fame *forever*.

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It all started earlier this year when I decided to vote with my wallet. Being a lover of jerky, I was excited by the recent renaissance in jerky by small makers. After the dark ages of mass-produced garbage it was a great change. However most of the new products were, while tasty, far too bougie at $12 for a mere 4 ounces.

A bit of research led me to discover that I don’t need any fancy dehydrating equipment to make great jerky at home. All you need is an oven and the following formula:

# Lean Beef + Great Marinade = Awesome

I came up with a simple marinade by including the spices that sounded yummy from other online recipes. I brought a batch into the office that I thought turned out well, and everyone seemed to really like it. A few other folks were inspired when they heard how easy it was and made their own too. When they brought theirs in to share we had critical mass and the Percolate Jerky Club was born!

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After a few weeks of swapping stories and ideas among the members, we organized our first competition. Everyone had a week to prepare, and on the big day we asked everyone in the office to sample the flavors and vote on their top three favorites.

The flavors presented were:

* Whiskey
* Classic
* Thai
* All American
* Chipotle Cayenne

The winners were Classic in 1st place, Chipotle Cayenne in 2nd and All American in 3rd. Everyone had a great time and we’re looking forward to the next round!

Here is the recipe for the winner, Classic:

Ingredients:

* big block of lean beef
* lots of chopped onion
* lots of minced garlic
* generous blob of honey
* so much soy sauce
* plenty of liquid smoke
* dash of nutmeg
* dash of cinnamon
* dash of cumin
* healthy dose of cardamom
* dangerously large pile of cayenne pepper
* plenty of peppercorns

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There are no amounts, because nothing was measured. :-) Feel free to choose your own ratio according to how spicy or savory you prefer the result. The meat can be any super-lean cut such as top round, sirloin tip, brisket, etc. Freeze the meat before cutting to make slicing easier, but either way you can choose your own thickness. Thicker cuts will mean a more meaty flavor and chewy texture (but a longer drying time).

Marinate the sliced meat for 24 hours in the fridge, and then lay the slices out on a rack of some kind. Metal cooling racks for baking are ideal because they’re cheap, durable and the grid size is perfect for keeping a nice shape to the finished jerky.

Set the oven to the lowest temperature and put the racks in for four to six hours. Keep the oven door open a crack with a kitchen utensil of some kind (e.g. that big serving spoon the junk drawer). This lets the excess moisture out, and further reduces the max temperature. The drying time is pretty variable, so start checking after four hours and pull them out when you have a nibble and your mouth says: “Jerky!”.