It's been a while since I last wrote up a recipe article. I've been really busy with my new job lately and just don't have time to write as many food articles as I would like. My new boss loves bacon, jerky and bourbon. What better way to to say thanks than by serving him up with some good cooking!
Before getting started, this will either require a dehydrator or your oven needs to be able to hold a low temp at 160*F
I don't take credit for this marinade. I got into jerky making and have really been enjoying the Jerkyholic line of recipes. These guys are full of tips and tricks for great marinade recipes to best cuts of beef for jerky making. I have modified this slightly to exclude curing salt and substituted molasses for maple syrup.
Roughly half the weight of the raw meat, so 1 lb = 1/2 lb.
This is why Jerky is so expensive to buy in the store.
Cut your bacon either in half or into bite sized pieces. I went with the bite sized pieces myself. It makes for a more convenient snack. Put the cut bacon into a ziplock bag.
Next, mix all of the marinade ingredients up and pour into the bag.
Let all of the air out of the bag as you close it. Massage the bag a bit to make sure all of the bacon gets separated and that the marinade is able to coat everything as evenly as possible. Then set the bag in the refrigerator overnight.
Pre-heat your oven to 200*F
Prepare a few baking sheets with wire cooling racks on top of them. I also lined my baking sheets with aluminum foil, and then coated everything in olive oil. This will help later when the bacon is ready to come out of the oven and wants to stick to everything.
Place your bacon across the cooling racks so that they are suspended over the baking sheet. The purpose here is to help melt off as much fat as possible while they slowly cook.
Place your bacon in the oven for roughly 3 hours. I would set a timer to check once per hour to see how they are doing.
Below is a time progression of what my bacon looks like as it's cooking over the 3 hours.
You do not want them to get too crispy, or it will ruin the chewy texture of the final jerky.
Once they start to just lightly crisp up, they are done.
Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.
Heavily pat the bacon in some paper towels to remove as much grease as you can from them. This will be important for the dehydrator. You can see how much grease drained out of the fat already in the bottom of the baking sheet.
Now, there are two paths to go next, one is if you have a dehydrator, and the other is if you do not.
Finish in the Oven (if you don't have a dehydrator)
If you only have an oven, you can set your bacon back on the cooling rack pans and cook for another few hours at 160*F, checking every hour until they appear done.
My oven is a newer (I say newer, it's 12 years old now!) LG digital model that lets me dial in the temp exactly where I need it.
If you have an older analog dial oven, you will need to use an oven thermometer to make sure it can hold 160*F. Otherwise it will overcook the meat and make it too crispy for jerky.
It will still taste good, but it will be more like crispy bacon than jerky.
Finish in the Dehydrator
My dehydrator is the Nesco Professional 600W 5-Tray Food Dehydrator, FD-75PR. I paid $12 for it from Goodwill, new-in-box.
Dehydrators are easy to find at most larger thrift stores, such as Goodwill. I typically find one every other time I visit there. They run about $10-15, often in a brand new in beat-up-dusty-box condition. People buy these things, use them once, then let them collect dust. Their loss is your gain!
Place all of your bacon pieces in the dehydrator. Spread them out enough to give them room for the air to move around them. I used 2 racks for 1lb of bacon.
Set the dehydrator for 160*F and let them cook for another 2-3 hours.
As I approached hour 3, I decided they were done and took them out.
You can see here they look a bit more shriveled up and darker in color. Further grease had dripped into the bottom tray and these are about as dry as I can get them without cooking them further.
Bacon is so fatty that it's hard to get all of the grease out. Beef dries up a lot better, but then it's not bacon!
I patted them all again with paper towels to remove further grease and then stored it all in a sealed container with some paper towels in the refrigerator.
If you want to store these longer term, I suggest reading up on curing salts. Jerkyholic explains the use of curing salts if you want to get into that, but mine jerky usually doesn't last a week so it will be fine in the refrigerator.
Don't think of this as just "jerky".
Think of it also as fancy bacon bits! Put these in salads, put some in your sandwiches, dice it up and put it in recipes that call for bacon, such as baked potatoes or broccoli salad, etc. The bourbon maple flavoring adds a rich taste to any recipe!
I will be adding mine to a special mac and cheese recipe for another article soon.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Making jerky is not very difficult so long as you have time, patience and a good dehydrator. The right cuts of meat and a good marinade makes for wonderful high protein snacks.