If you’re reading this post, then you have probably watched Alton Brown’s episode on how to make beef jerky with a box fan. I decided to give this a try and along the way I encountered a few key learning moments. Many of these moments simply cannot be covered in a 30 minutes show, so I’m here to try and fill in the gaps.
Spoiler: It turns out better than you’d think!
Tips and Tricks:
- Filters: If you live in a bustling suburb, your local department store may not carry “paper” air filters like Alton Brown recommends. Brown’s only rule is to not use fiber-glass filters. I ended up purchasing the only one that looked safe, 3M’s Filtrete filters – which, as far as I can tell, is some bastardized mix of paper and fiber, no glass. I did have a moment where I panicked as I was laying the jerky in the grooves. I ended up researching it more and found this guy that had gone with the 3M filters too.
- Flank Steak: If you’re like me, you’re probably a little disgruntled with the surge of popularity of flank steak. Once considered a trash meat, Mexican restaurants and a whole variety of recipes have boosted this meat’s popularity, and therefore its price. A good alternative for flank steak is the top round cut , or round steak, which is comparable to flank due to the low fat ratio.
- Marinade: Brown’s basic marinade rivals the typical store bought flavor, but for whatever reason I think his is better. For your first round, I would recommend giving his a go and just following it exactly. You’ll probably end up wanting to experiment more afterwards.
- BlowHard 4000: If you want to feel like a fool (and don’t always pick up on sarcasm) go up to your local home improvement store and ask an associate if they have the BlowHard 4000 box fan, “as seen” in Alton Brown’s episode. I just ended up going with the Lasko Box Fan – it was $16.
- Bungee Cords: I went with 22″ cords…wish I had stepped it up a few more inches. I didn’t consider stacking four 1″ filters on top of the fan. So it was a stretch to say the least. If you do 24″, you should be able to get away with just one cord, because it’ll still be tight enough to hold all 4 filters.
- Patting Your Meat: When you pat your meat “dry”, don’t Hulk it. You’ll force the marinade out of the meat and lose flavor. And if you’re OCD like me, you’ll try to lay out your meat all nice, pat it, and then realize that afterwards, it looks “wet” again. Just get it on your filters.
- Laying Meat On Filters: When you do this, make sure your filter size is the same as the box fan, if not, then adjust accordingly. I missed mine by 4″ (wasn’t thinking that day) and I had to scoot all my meat down in the filter slats. Also, stupid me, I didn’t check the side to see which was the airflow was supposed to go. You’ll see an arrow on the side of the filter. Make sure to lay accordingly. I didn’t and it was a pain pulling all the meat up. The 3M fibers ended up sticking to my meat.
- Drying: Just go the full 12 hours. Put it on the night before and go to bed. I really recommend setting it up on a patio if possible, the odor is stronger than you would think. After it’s done, be prepared for the meat to stick to the fibers. It isn’t a big deal, pull it off and take 10 minutes to just examine each piece, pulling off the fibers.
And enjoy! It’s pretty simple and you’ll feel accomplished afterwards. I was skeptical, no heat plus raw meat, but hey, I haven’t died yet. Still kicking!