How to Make Dried Beef: From Brine to Bite

September 8, 2022

I learned to make dried beef from my grandmother. It was a popular method of preserving beef when refrigerators weren't quite so reliable. I have also put my own, modern spin on things.

In this post, I will show you how to make dried beef, complete with important pointers. I will also offer up some important guidelines on how to use it in your food. Let's get started!

How to Make Dried Beef

Dried Beef vs. Beef Jerky

If you are a bit confused by the concept of dried beef, then you aren't the only one. Also known as chipped beef, this food was popular among the military. It is a type of salted and cured meat that was then dried so that it would last for a very, very long time.

Essentially, it was a way of preserving meat. This is why you can make dried venison instead of using the recipe that I have provided here.

These days, dried beef is used in dishes like creamed chipped beef, but it can also be eaten alone as a snack or an appetizer.

Of course, once you have learned about chipped beef, you will realize that it sounds a lot like beef jerky. So, is jerky and dried beef one and the same, or do they refer to different kinds of meat?

Well, dried beef and jerky are both types of cured meats. However, jerky is often marinated in a flavorful solution. This isn't the case with chipped beef, though. You will use only the basic flavors. The dried beef can then be used as a base for a wider variety of dishes.

Dried Beef On Wooden Board

What Cut of Meat is Used for Dried Beef?

The only thing to know when choosing a cut for dried beef is to choose a lean beef cut. The leaner it is, the better.

The thing is, fat adds moisture to the meat. Since you are trying to dry out the beef, too much fat in the beef is going to get in the way of the dehydration process.

The other issue with fat is that it can cause dried beef to spoil that much sooner. So, if you want to improve the shelf life of your chipped beef, look for the leanest cut possible.

There isn't a specific cut that you need to buy. Personally, I like the eye of round roast for dried beef. It is affordable, lean, and has a great flavor profile to boot!

Wet vs. Dry Brine

When curing the meat, you have two options - you can either use a wet brine or a dry brine.

Personally, I prefer the dry brine and this is the method that I will be showing you in this dried beef recipe. Not only is the dry brine method easier, but it requires less time and space as well.

What Curing Salt Should You Use?

Unlike with other recipes, you have to use curing salt for dried beef instead of regular or kosher salt.

Now, I know that a lot of people aren't familiar with this type of salt so I do want to provide you with some guidelines for using it.

The first thing that you need to realize is that there are lots of different options out there. From pink curing salt to Morton Tender Quick, the choices are endless.

However, all of these mixes can be quite potent and, as a result, quite salty.

This is why it is so important to follow the instructions for each brand or type individually. Each brand will tell you just how much salt to use per pound of beef.

While you can get away with using a little less, you should never use more than recommended. It can make your beef overly salty and you may end up having to throw away your dried beef.

How is Dried Meat Made - Dried Beef Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1lb of lean beef
  • 1 tbs. of Tender Quick
  • 1 tsp. of brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. of black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. of onion powder

Method

Step 1

Trim any excess fat from the meat.

Step 2

Combine the Tender Quick and brown sugar in a bowl.

Apply to the beef, making sure to cover it completely.

Place the seasoned beef into a Ziploc or freezer bag.

Step 3

Place in the refrigerator.

Let the beef stay there for between 8 to 10 days - the longer the better.

Step 4

Take the meat out of the refrigerator and remove it from the freezer bag.

Rinse the meat under water until the rub is completely gone.

Pat dry.

Step 5

Combine the black pepper, garlic, and onion powders in a small bowl.

Apply to the beef and cover completely.

Step 6

Preheat the smoker.

Set the smoker temperature to 140 degrees F.

Insert a meat probe into the thickest part of the beef and place it in the smoker.

When the internal temperature of the meat registers at 120 degrees F, increase the smoker temp to 160 F.

When the internal temperature of the meat reaches 135 F, turn the dial to 200 F.

Once the internal temp of the dried beef reaches 160 F, take it out of the smoker.

Let the meat cool before placing it in a freezer bag and refrigerating for 2 days before using.

dried meat snack on a bowl

Can You Make Dried Beef in the Oven?

Yes, you can although you may not get the same effect as if you smoked the beef. This is because a smoker does a better job of really dehydrating the beef. A smoker is also great for infusing the meat with a delicious smoky flavor.

If you do decide to use an oven, you can use the same temperature guide as mentioned in the recipe.

However, I would advise you to flavor the meat with some liquid smoke as the oven doesn't add much in terms of flavor.

The other thing that you will need to change is how the meat is arranged.

To properly dry out the beef, there needs to be proper airflow throughout the cut of meat.

Therefore, place the beef on top of a wire rack that has been placed on a baking tray. To make cleanup easier, line the tray with aluminum foil.

Don't just place the beef on a baking tray as that will cause the meat touching the surface of the tray to cook or even burn.

As with the smoker, you need to keep monitoring the internal temperature of the dried beef throughout the cooking process.

Related Reading

How Long Does It Take to Cure Dried Beef?

There isn't a set timeline for curing meat. Some say that you should let the meat cure for about two days per inch of meat.

In general, I do like to cure a pound of meat for about 10 days. In the past, this has produced the best results for me.

The longer that you can cure the meat, the better. I would advise against curing it for anything less than a week as you will not get the right texture or the flavor.

In this instance, your patience will pay off. If you do want to make chipped beef, I suggest starting a bit earlier than you need it. This will give you some wiggle room.

What Kind of Wood Chips or Pellets Should You Use?

As you are dealing with beef, you can afford to use a smoker or stronger wood. Hickory pellets and chips are a favorite to dry beef and I would advise you to use these as well.

They offer the right level of smokiness and are strong enough to balance out the saltiness of the dried beef.

Monitoring the Internal Temperature

This is not a recipe that you want to rely on guesswork. When smoking chipped beef, it is important to use an accurate meat thermometer.

This is the only way to track the rate at which the meat is cooking. What's more, it is the only way to know when the chipped beef is fully cooked as well.

Considering how much effort is going into making dried beef, you wouldn't want to make any mistakes along the way, would you? A meat probe can help you to prevent this from happening.

Grilling Steak

Slicing the Dried Beef

The final step in the dried beef process is slicing the meat - this is how you get chipped beef.

You are going to need to slice the dried beef very finely. Due to this, I suggest freezing the dried beef for several hours.

This makes the meat even more firm and allows the knife to glide smoothly through.

How Long Can You Store Dried Beef?

This is a bit of a tricky question. As you have used curing salt and smoked the meat, you do have some leeway here. However, as you haven't used the same kind of preservatives as delis or companies, I would advise against storing the meat for too long.

Always store the chipped beef in the refrigerator in an airtight container. If you are planning on eating it within a week, then keeping the meat cool is enough.

In case you want to store it for even longer, though, I would suggest freezing the meat. You should then be able to store it for a couple of months, maybe even longer.

How to Use Dried Beef?

Here is the million dollar question - how can you use dried beef in your meals?

If you want to use it as an appetizer, then you can use it along with a cheese ball. This is a great option if your cheese ball is mildly seasoned and you want to punch it up with some crunchy flavor.

You have two options here. Either, the dried beef pieces can be mixed in with the cheese ball. Or, once you have created your cheese ball, you can simply roll it in dried beef.

You can also turn dried beef into an appetizer by adding it to your charcuterie board. It can be eaten with cheese or fruit.

Just make sure to point out what it is to other guests and to mention that it can be fairly salty. A lot of people may not know what it is so it is always best to prepare them for what to expect, taste wise.

Another way to use the beef is to make a sandwich out of it. Now, this meat is really salty so I wouldn't make it the main ingredient in your sandwich. Instead, use a little bit of it to add flavor and texture to an otherwise traditional setup.

You can even add it to your scrambled eggs. If you like to make your eggs a bit more exciting, then sprinkle in some of the dried beef when the dish is almost done. This helps to keep it crunchy.

Adding some cheese to your eggs before adding in the dried beef can help to take things to the next level - definitely something that you want to try.

The trick to using dried beef is to get creative with it. There really are no limits to how you can use it. So, if you are curious about what it may taste like in a particular dish, go ahead and add a little bit of it and take a bite.

You may just end up with your new favorite combination!

Tips for Using Dried Beef in Dishes

While dried beef can certainly be used in almost any kind of dish, you do have to be careful about how you do this.

For one thing, this meat is pretty salty - so you should only add it to foods that don't have much salt already added to it. Otherwise, you could end up with an overly salty dish on your hands.

Always taste test the dried beef before adding it to anything. This will give you some idea of how much of the chipped beef to add in without overwhelming the other components of the dish.

If you feel like your dried beef is just a little too salty, soak in the water ahead of time. When it is a little less salty, you can pat it dry and then add it to the dish.

Slices of Meat on a Wooden Chopping Board with Lime and Salt

Creamed Chipped Beef Recipe

By far, the most popular way to eat dried beef is creamed chipped beef. It is eaten with toast and is a similar dish to biscuits and sausage gravy.

Here is how you can make it at home:

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs. of butter
  • 2 tbs. of flour
  • 1 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/2 tsp. of Worcestershire sauce
  • 8 ounces of dried beef
  • 1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper

Method

Step 1

Add the butter to a pan and heat over a low flame. When melted, add in the flour and whisk until well mixed.

Step 2

Slowly add in the milk, stirring all the while. Make sure that there are no lumps in the mix and all the ingredients are completely combined.

Step 3

Turn the heat up to medium high and bring the mix to a boil. Make sure to keep stirring consistently.

Once the sauce has thickened, add in the dried beef, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne pepper.

Cook while mixing until the dried beef is warmed.

Take off the heat and serve it over toast.

Wrapping It Up

If you have ever wanted to know how to prepare dried beef, you now have step by step instructions. Yes, it can be a bit time consuming but the flavor and texture that you get at the end does make it worth your while.

So, go ahead and try this dish out. It will soon be your new favorite addition to everything from dips and soups to eggs. Happy cooking!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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