You'll never buy creepy, leathery beef jerky again once you realize how easy it is to make in your oven.
I got the recipe from a book I recently bought at Williams-Sonoma called Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it by Karen Solomon. She teaches you to make your own bacon, cheese, marshmallows and much more! I am trying to get into canning... but I couldn't resist making some beef jerky!
TIME COMMITMENT: 2 days
Remove every trace of fat from the meat if possible. This is pretty important because meat can be cured and fat cannot. If you leave the fat on the meat, it will go rancid later on. If you eat it right away, then go for it, I guess.
Lay all the meat on a couple of paper towels so you can press out moisture. Also, tenderize the meat while it's embedded between paper towels.
In a bowl, toss the meat with the salt, soy sauce, sugar and garlic. Add pepper and chile flakes if you wish (editor's note: It's really tasty with the chile. Nice kick.)
Place a rack over a baking sheet. You may want to brush the rack with oil, but I chose not to do this and it came out fine. Lay the meat over the rack in a single layer, making it as flat as you can. Don't let the pieces touch one another. (editor's note: I didn't have room in my fridge, so I just put the meat in a bowl uncovered... and then placed it on the racks when I was ready to cook. It turned out fine.)
Refrigerate, uncovered for 24 hours. This marinates the flavor and helps dry out the meat.
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees F. If your oven can't go lower than 170, keep the door ajar with a wooden spoon.
Dry the meat in the oven for 3 to 5 hours. Check on it for the first time after about 3 hours. The jerky should not be brittle, but it should tear into strings and not look raw inside. Allow it to cool completely.
I put mine in the oven and went to bed. I set my alarm but overslept. So, mine cooked for about 7 hours. Whoops... but it came out really good! So, I don't think you can go wrong.
STORE: Refrigerate in a sealable plastic bag up to 6 weeks.