Homemade Pepper Beef Jerky Recipe: Four-Step Guide

June 29, 2023

Peppered beef jerky is the perfect snack for meat lovers who love some spiciness. As the name suggests, this recipe involves using ground black pepper and other savory and sweet condiments like brown sugar, fresh garlic, soy sauce, etc.

In my experience, black pepper is the key to the tastiest jerky. In fact, I often sprinkle pepper on the jerky after it’s done cooking for even more pepperiness. I’ve tried several jerky recipes, and nothing tops this one. Coming up with this recipe took some hard work and experimentation. However, I guess all those extra hours in cooking school paid off.

Continue reading to find out how I make this tasty peppered beef jerky recipe and prepare it for your friends and family.

pepper beef jerky

Black Pepper Beef Jerky Recipe


  • 1 pound of eye of round roast
  • ¼ cup of cold water
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup of Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon of garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of maple syrup
Dried Peppered Beef Jerky Cut in Stripes on the Black Board


Step 1: Slice the Meat

For this recipe, I bought an eye of round because it has less fat marbling and produces jerky with an excellent texture.

First, trim all the fat from the cut before slicing it into strips for jerky. 

After trimming the fat from the meat, I advise covering it in plastic wrap and placing it in the freezer for a few hours. This makes the meat stay firm while slicing and makes it easier to cut even pieces.

Be sure to slice the meat using a sharp knife. Bear in mind that slicing the meat against the grain gives it a more tender texture when you cook it. Alternatively, you could use a jerky slicer for more even cuts. This nifty appliance also saves you all the stress of cutting.

Step 2: Tenderize the meat

The next step is ensuring your meat is properly tenderized. You can tenderize the meat manually with a mallet or with a powder.

The muscle fibers in the beef will break down when you pound it with a meat tenderizing mallet, giving it a more tender texture. Although a little time-consuming, this technique is incredibly effective.

Another advantage of using this technique is that it ensures the slices are all pounded to the same thickness. However, don’t over tenderize and mash them up with the mallet.

Alternatively, you can use meat tenderizing powders to soften the meat. The ingredients in tenderizing powders are enzymes, mostly from bromelain, which is derived from pineapples, or from papain, which comes from papayas.

As soon as the beef is put into the smoker, you can sprinkle these powders on it to begin breaking down the fibers.

Step 3: Marinate the meat

Personally, I don’t enjoy most commercially sold beef jerky because of its overly sweet flavor. I prefer my beef jerky to be spicy. That’s why I’ve used Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, onion powder, black pepper, and garlic powder in my marinade.

Mixing these condiments produces a spicy and savory jerky that honestly tastes better than anything store bought. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl or a large zip-top bag and stir thoroughly.

Then, add the jerky slices to the marinade and leave it in the fridge to marinate for 6 to 24 hours. The flavor gets stronger the longer you marinate. After marinating, drain the jerky in a strainer and use paper towels to pat the strips dry of excess marinade.

Moreover, I strongly suggest adding some extra black pepper to them if you enjoy pepper as much as I do. If you ask me, the more black pepper, the better.

If you want your jerky to taste a bit sweeter, add 1/4 cup of maple syrup to the marinade 

Step 4: Dehydrate or Smoke the Meat

Set your dehydrator to 160°F to begin dehydrating your jerky. If you’re using an oven, preheat it to 160F or lower.

Place the marinated beef jerky strips in the trays of the oven or dehydrator, making sure that no pieces of meat are overlapping.

The amount of time it takes for the beef to dry will depend on the thickness of the slices, the total load, the humidity in the kitchen, and your specific dehydrator or oven.

In my experience, jerky typically requires 4-6 hours to cook completely. To ensure the meat dries evenly, wipe away any fat with a paper towel at intervals. You can also rotate the trays for more even drying.

Bend the meat to see if it is done after it has finished cooking. The jerky should be pliable and slightly cracked, but it shouldn’t break. If the jerky isn’t done yet, dry it for an additional hour and then repeat the process until it gives the desired results.

A Pile of Hot and Spicy Beef Jerky with Red Chili Flakes

Pepper Beef Jerky Smoking Tips

Here are a few extra tips to help you get better tasting black pepper beef jerky.

  • If using a smoker, be sure the smoke is clear or blue in color rather than white. Increase your smoker’s temperature if you see white smoke. Since white flames indicate incomplete combustion, it can impact how well the meat cooks.
  • Let the jerky cool for five minutes before checking to see if it is done.
  • Use apple and cherry wood for this black pepper beef jerky recipe. These wood chips produce a delicious fruity aroma.

How to Store Beef Jerky?

Jerky should be kept in a cool, dry place to last a long time. Somewhere like a pantry will make the beef jerky last longer because sunlight and heat can damage its flavor and freshness. Let’s discuss more ways you can store jerky below.


Refrigeration can make your jerky last longer. Put the jerky in a zip-top bag and squeeze out all the air before storing it in the refrigerator to keep it fresh for up to a week.


It’s preferable to freeze beef jerky if you won’t be eating it right away. If properly frozen, beef jerky can stay good for 6 months.

To avoid freezer burn, you can wrap the jerky in plastic wrap and place it in a container. Don’t forget to date and label the container to help you remember.

My Recommended Beef Cuts for Jerky

Any lean beef cut will be excellent for making jerky. In fact, the leaner the cut, the better. The simple reason is that fat does not dehydrate.

During the dehydration process, the beef’s moisture will evaporate, but the fat will stay. Also, too much fat increases the risk of your jerky going bad. Selecting a lean cut of beef lowers the amount of fat you must cut off. In addition, leaner cuts are generally less expensive. 

My preferred beef cuts for jerky are:

  • Eye of round
  • Top round
  • Top Sirloin
  • Flank steak

You won’t regret using any of these beef cuts for your jerky strips.

Oven vs. Dehydrator

You can make homemade black pepper beef jerky using an oven or a food dehydrator. However, note that you’ll get more consistent results if you use a dehydrator.

Dehydrators offer better airflow and temperature control, especially at the lower temperatures required for dehydration. An oven is a more common alternative found in most kitchens. Ovens can give you similar results, so don’t fret. You can use them to make tasty jerky strips.

Stripes of Beef Jerky Drying

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Beef Jerky Made of?

Whole muscles or ground meat can be used to make jerky. However, whole muscle cuts are advised for home processing because they produce more conventional jerky. That said, any type of meat can be used to make jerky; even though lean cuts are most frequently used.

2. Is Beef Jerky Healthy?

Jerky is a delicious protein snack that contains good amounts of zinc, and iron. These vitamins and minerals are necessary for overall wellness. However, note that processed and red meats aren’t great for your health long term, so only eat beef jerky in moderation. 

3. How to Tell if Jerky is Bad

If your jerky is bad, you may see signs of mold or dark specks on the meat’s surface. Ensure you discard the jerky if you notice any of these signs.

Bad jerky also smells bad and can feel extremely hard. Changes in texture and color show that the meat’s quality is rapidly degrading. Moreover, the meat may also give off a weird smell. And if you’re not sure the meat is bad, throw it away.


That’s all for today, folks! I hope you now learned how to prepare delicious black pepper beef jerky with this recipe. Feel free to play around with this recipe and add more spices that suit your palate. Share these flavorful strips with your guests, and remember to store them properly.

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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