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I'm getting ready to smoke a batch of beef jerky, but am setting some aside so that the only seasoning will be the salt and the smoke. 1) I normally put so much seasoning that it hides most of the smoke nuances, and 2) I have a friend who needs to taste them side by side so I plan on doing this with one batch mesquite smoked and one batch hickory smoked.

My normal recipe calls for 1/2cup soy sauce per 2lb beef. My soy sauce bottle says 15ml=.960g sodium Assuming nearly water density of 1ml = 1g, that's 6.4% sodium. Online shows salt is 40% sodium, so my math gives 2.4g salt in 15ml of soy sauce. 236.5ml per cup would be 18.92g per half/cup water.

So 1) is that right. and 2) Is that actually "the whole story". Is that enough salt without all of the other seasonings (worcestershire, which I'm sure adds more salt, plus spices and such) to aid the preservation? Or is it going to be too much salt without all of the other flavors to offset it?

Or would I be better off just enthusiastically salting the individual slices for a "dry brine" like I do a brisket or something?

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  • I dredge 2 kg of beef in anywhere between 4 - 6 kg of salt when I make biltong. The submerged method has you completely covering meat in coarse salt. Too little may be disasterous too much not so
    – Neil Meyer
    Jun 2, 2022 at 19:06
  • I used to have a recipe for salt-cured jerky, but lost it before I could use it, and that was before I had a smoker. I wonder if that much salt alone would mask the smoke as much as the spices do in my current recipe.
    – user34314
    Jun 3, 2022 at 5:20

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Beef jerky, as a preservation technique, clears safety hurdles by reducing water activity and creating an inhospitable environment for bacterial growth. Salt and dehydration accomplish this, so, it that regard, any ingredient besides salt is simply for flavor. This guy wrote a book about charcuterie (and also many other things). I count him as a reliable source. He uses 20 grams of kosher salt per kilogram of beef. You can, of course, leave out the other flavoring ingredients in his recipe. I sampled a few other sources, and they come in around the same salt percent.

A couple of other pieces of info: If you want to calculate salt from a label that specifies milligrams of sodium use this formula -- milligrams of sodium X 2.54 = grams of salt. (Got this from Dave Arnold on Cooking Issues podcast May 20, 2022 episode).

Also, FWIW - "dry brining" is just salting, as a brine is defined as being wet...sorry, it's a personal pet peeve.

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  • inches of sodium = cm of salt. o_O
    – Sneftel
    Jun 2, 2022 at 13:30
  • Dry brining is an oxymoron
    – Neil Meyer
    Jun 2, 2022 at 19:03
  • That's why it's in quotes. Although, it's sorta wet. The meat isn't completely dry. mg*2.54 = g sounds off. This harvard page says 40% sodium, 60% chlorine in salt, which would make 1g sodium = 2.5g salt. hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/salt-and-sodium
    – user34314
    Jun 3, 2022 at 4:42

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