Last week we started easy and made beef jerky. This week we are going to take it up a notch and make ground beef jerky sticks. This is a lot like “slim jims” but without the casing. This method takes a lot more attention to hygiene as hamburger can carry a lot more contaminates than a roast or steak because there is a lot more surface area and that area has been mixed during the grinding which allows surface contaminates to penetrate deeper into the meat.
I do use a cure when I make beef sticks, I like having the preservative to help combat any organisms introduced by the extra processing to make the ground beef. I buy mine in bulk from a local butcher supply shop. It comes in different spice combinations, and I like to mix the hot sausage mix with the jerky mix.
I first mix the cure into the ground meat, working it when the meat is very cold. This makes my hands feel frozen, but it helps reduce food borne illness.
I then ball the meat up and drop it in my jerky gun. This is basically a food grade calking gun. It has different shaped and sized tips for different finished products. You can use a tip that produces a strip, but personally, If I am going to make strip jerky, I am just going to cut it straight off the roast. However, I am planning on making pemmican, and I think I will use the strip tip for that. (we will see)….
I then squeeze the jerky gun and it extrudes the ground beef in the shape of the tip. I squeeze it onto a sheet pan and keep the sticks about 8 inches long and ½ inches or so apart. 5 pounds of ground beef will fill about 2 baking pans.
I used to stick the jerky directly in the dehydrator at this stage, but a co-worker baulked at eating my jerky due to salmonella concerns. I wanted to explain that the meat setting of the dehydrator ensures the meat gets to an internal temperature of 160ºF, but in the interest in overkill and good worker relations I not bake the sticks in the oven at 250 ºF for about 10 minutes before drying. A side benefit of this is that it renders out a lot of the fat which helps with storage longevity. So the extra step is unnecessary but provides a win-win.
I then fill the trays of the dehydrator and turn it on. It takes less time to dehydrate the sticks as it does “normal” jerky, as the meat has been cooked, and they have a high surface area to thickness ratio. While I like my jerky crisp and more brittle than some, I find that jerky sticks need a little moisture in them. If they are brittle they are too dry and not very appetizing to my tastes.
I like making these more than I like eating them, I like whole jerky better, but if you have freezer burned or “extra” meat you don’t want to eat, this process is almost identical to how they make dog treats… I know Bear loves my mistakes at jerky making, if you listen close in the video I don’t think I edited out all of his scratching at the door to get at the dehydrator…