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I have been making beef jerky for a few years now and have settled on a recipe I like a lot and use the majority of the time. It includes cracked black peppercorns which add a pepper flavor to the marinade, which gets absorbed by the meat, but also (ideally) sticks to the sides of the meat.

What I find is that by the time the jerky is done, at least half of the peppercorn pieces are in the bottom of the dehydrator or in the colander I use for draining the marinade.

I am careful not to dump much marinade on the beef already in the colander. I start by dumping it off to the side until most of it is gone, then the beef slides out into the colander with only a tiny bit of marinade left. I do not appear to be losing many peppercorns to the rinsing effect of dumping the liquid marinade over the peppered beef.

One or twice during dehydration I flip the beef pieces for more even drying. I try to avoid brushing off any peppercorns, but invariably I lose quite a few.

How can I get more cracked peppercorns to stick to the finished product of my homemade beef jerky?

  • Can my technique be improved?
  • Is there an ingredient I can add to the marinade to encourage the peppercorns and beef to stick together without altering the flavor?
  • Something else?

The recipe is very basic but very good: for each cut of flank steak (approximately 1.5 lbs) I add one bottle of Worcestershire, fill the bottle with water and add that, two tablespoons of salt, and two tablespoons of cracked peppercorns. This all goes in a one gallon Ziplok bag, and the bags all go in a plastic container to prevent spills/leakage in the fridge overnight. I sometimes add other spices, but I find the core ingredients are often very strong and flavorful enough.

  • Have you tried adding some extra cracked pepper to beef after draining it? Maybe press it on lightly? – Silent-Bob Mar 21 '16 at 10:00
  • @Silent-Bob I have not, primarily because of the tediousness of doing this to 4-5 lbs of flank steak cut into narrow strips. I am hoping there is another way. – user21524 Mar 21 '16 at 14:39
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I can think of two solutions, but both are just suggestions, takeoffs from other food prep.

One is to do what I do when I make peppered steak, and that is to press the cracked pepper into the meat before dehydrating. I coat the meat in cracked pepper and then use a fry-weight or press down with the side of a cleaver to impact the pepper. It makes the pepper cling through cooking, so I'm thinking it might work for drying as well.

The other is to glaze your jerky with a bit of diluted honey or brown sugar solution for sweet, or egg wash (seasoned or not) for savory, so that when it dries, it makes a glue to adhere the cracked pepper. Again, this is a method I use with something else, but I see no reason why it couldn't work with meat.

If you try either one, please let me know how it works for dehydrating meat.

  • I was originally against pressing pepper into the meat because of the tediousness: this is not one big slice of meat, but over a hundred tiny slices. I would be adverse to using egg wash due to possibly increasing the risk of food contamination since I am dehydrating, not cooking. But I might test a small batch after pressing the pepper in to see if that is effective or not. It may be a while before I make another batch, but if it works, I would accept this answer. – user21524 Mar 23 '16 at 22:33

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