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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.

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  • Have you tried adding some extra cracked pepper to beef after draining it? Maybe press it on lightly?
    – Silent-Bob
    Mar 21, 2016 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, 2016 at 14:39

2 Answers 2

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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.

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  • 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, 2016 at 22:33
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The solution is to do what you are doing now, but after you pull the meet off the dehydrator, use some kitchen scissors to cut the strips into the size you want, then put those into a shaker of some kind, large plastic bowl with a lid for example, add in a tablespoon or so of a teriyaki sauce or soy sauce or some thinned out honey etc. and coat the pieces by shaking it around. Once everything has just the slightest coating of the liquid then add in ground pepper and shake again and it will stick. Works for red pepper flakes as well. Commercial Jerky makers often don't add in the large chucks of pepper until after it is cooked. They will use finely ground black pepper or Cayan powder to give it the taste and heat initially but then add the cracked pepper and red pepper flakes after.

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